To be or not to be. They’ve been gunning for it for 10 years and finally the decision will be made this afternoon – at 5 pm Spanish time which is two hours from now. Cordoba really wants to be European Capital of Culture 2016, with a vengeance, and of all candidate cities, I think easily deserves the accolade..(more)

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Where else in Spain do you have such extraordinary, multi-faceted history, including several centuries at the head of the legendary, prosperous and intellectually harmonious Al-Andalus? The picture above shows an element in the 10th c royal city of Madinat al-Zahra in the hills above Cordoba – ignominiously sacked & abandoned barely 50 years after being built. It’s still a fantastic relic & in Cordoba’s run-up to European glory has now been discreetly restored and a sleek museum built in the plain below….

I was in Cordoba last week when the temperature hit 40 degrees – wooofmph. But strolling through the shady, winding streets of the Juderia, the old Jewish quarter, I was cool as a cucumber – well almost. Let’s say a salmorejo – that divine Cordoban chilled soup. Ducking into the 14th c synagogue, I admired the spectacular stuccowork of the Moorish artisans then went a few doors further to immerse myself in the reconstructed ambiance of a 12th c Casa Andalusi – tinkling fountain, library, leather poufs, very cool cellar and all.

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Lofty palm-trees cast shadows on the Alcazar, or royal palace, Andaluz horses strutted round the royal stables, and later, the beautiful bronze doors of the Mezquita finally closed for the night. It’s a magical place, even better on a sizzling hot day when few people are around. Everything in the city looked spick and span, scrubbed up beautifully, barely recovered from an all night flamenco fest a few nights earlier. Andalucia might have over 30% unemployment, but Cordoba felt fresh and dynamic, ready to roll. So I’m crossing my fingers for this afternoon’s result.

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ADDENDUM: It was not to be. In the face of a fair dose of controversy, it was San Sebastian that swung it and will be European Cultural Capital in 2016. More later…