Under the Omayyad Caliphate, when the Moors were at the height of their power in Al-Andalus, Córdoba was their capital. It was a jewel of a city, the epicentre of the civilised world at a time when the rest of Europe was in the Dark Ages. It was a centre of learning and a shining example of peaceful co-existence among races. Because Córdoba was so densely populated and compact in those days, today’s visitor can enjoy its architectural heritage from the Romans, Moors, Jews and Christians – all within one square kilometre. The road into this historic treasure trove crosses the Guadalquivir River over a superbly preserved 250-metre long Roman bridge, immediately in front of which stands the 1,200-year-old Mezquita or mosque for which Córdoba is so famous. Inside is a vast panoply of painted Moorish columns and arches adorned with the most intricate marquetry and carvings. The Roman Catholic Church began the building of a Gothic-Baroque cathedral inside the Mezquita in the 16th century but the king at that time ordered the destruction to be halted, the result being a startling juxtaposition of these two very different cultures. Just around the corner is La Judería, the Jewish quarter whose labyrinthine narrow streets enclose a 14th-century synagogue. Reflecting the various cultures of its past, Córdoba’s cuisine is rich in dishes rescued from Arab and Hebrew manuscripts as well as regional specialities. The most typical local fare includes gazpacho, salmorejo (thick vegetable soup served cold), bean casserole, scrambled eggs with wild asparagus, and game dishes based on wild boar, duck, partridge and venison. Throughout the city there are thousands of workshops producing jewellery and silverware, an age-old traditional skill, and the local shops also sell beautiful ceramics. The area around the Mezquita is a souvenir-hunter’s paradise. There are just two golf courses in the province: Córdoba (18 holes), located 10 kilometres from the city in a picturesque natural setting, and Pozoblanco (nine-hole municipal-developed course).