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In this clip from The Story of the Jews, Simon Schama journeys to Córdoba, once the capital of the Islamic Umayyad dynasty, and under their protection, one of the great centers of Sephardic Jewish life in Muslim Spain.
This is place the Arabs called el Andalus, and we now know as Andalusia. The region is located in the deep south of Spain, the country the Jews called Sepharad, and at its heart is the city of Córdoba.
Córdoba was a city of gardens; fountains, canals, and post delivered by carrier pigeon. The Mesquita, the great mosque built by the Umayyads, stands as the architectural consummation of their ambition.
But in the shadow of the mosques were the synagogues, and they too wove worldliness with holiness to create patterns of intoxicating beauty, an impulse that endured for centuries. Inspired by Arabic models, that same note was sounded in the poetry of the Sephardim, a literature that gave the Hebrew language a startling new life outside of the synagogue.
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