Los Patios de San Basilio

Spain

We travelled to the 13th century today. We went to whitewashed houses, organised Arab style around central courtyards, ranged along – for the period – wide streets, designed to accommodate wheeled traffic. These were houses at one time lived in by crossbowmen and their families, ready to defend Córdoba as and when. Before that Jewish converts lived there, and later, Catholic working families.

What pleasant houses! Just right for a modern family! No, not so. These houses accommodated up to ten families, one to each room. Maybe a hundred people then….

Each house had a well. Each house had three or so small shared kitchens. Each house had a laundry room. And each house decorated its courtyard with flowers. I suggested that this was a modern idea, but was assured that the evidence is that these houses were always bright with cheerful blooms – the women’s job.

We visited several houses, all different. Here are some housekeeping tips.

Look. These are unglazed jugs. Water gradually drips from the top ones to the layer below, then the layer below that. At each stage the water becomes purer and cooler. Drink from the lowest jug.

Here are cobbles from a fairly affluent household. These are river stones, and arranged like this so that on the rare occasions that it rains, your feet will stay dry.

These overcrowded houses can’t have been as pleasant as they seem now. But given the choice between one of them and a tenement in Manchester during England’s Industrial Revolution, I know what I’d choose.