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Despite it being a Roman architectural heritage the term itself has its roots in the Arab word istawán which then acquired its current significance and use in the XVIth century. For instance, it was documented for the first time by Cristóbal de las Casas in 1551. In Al-Andalus architecture the zaguán served as a hallway or an open passage from the main entrance to the patio. There are many old traditional houses in Córdoba, Sevilla and Granada that still preserve that disposition.

The zaguán was used as a key architectural element to organize houses around the Mediterranean. Muslims kept this zaguán-patio structure inherited from the Romans and made it their own; that mixture resulted in the Andalusian houses that from the XVIth century has reached our days. The main door opens to the zaguán and from there one enters the traditional patio of columns from which the rest of the house grows: stairs, rooms, more stairs…

A zaguán also serves as a way of ventilating the house for it creates air flows between the different rooms in the house that cools the heat. As of late though, due to the great appetite for other people’s belongings of small time thieves, some zaguanes have been closing their entrances. There are hundreds of them in Córdoba, many of them exhibit an appearance of luxurious palaces or austere yet elegant monasteries. However I am particularly touched by the smaller ones, they are more intimate and more to oneself, so to speak. Nonetheless most of them preserve the beautiful ancient balustrades and the excellent wrought-iron works. I have never quite understood how when Patios open their doors in May all voices seems to ignore or not see the wonder of balconies and window frames and just focus on the patios.

I have selected various pictures from my own personal collection to specifically show you twelve magnificent zaguanes so you too can begin to appreciate the beauty of these passages that have linked for centuries the street, the city, the outer world to the familiar intimacy of everyday life. BUT HEY! I woke up a bit playful today so there is one picture that does not belong in Córdoba, would you be able to recognize it?

SOME ZAGUANES OF CÓRDOBA

Zaguanes De Cordoba 001
Zaguanes De Cordoba 002
Zaguanes De Cordoba 003
Zaguanes De Cordoba 004
Zaguanes De Cordoba 005
Zaguanes De Cordoba 006
Zaguanes De Cordoba 007
Zaguanes De Cordoba 008
Zaguanes De Cordoba 009
Zaguanes De Cordoba 010
Zaguanes De Cordoba 011
Zaguanes De Cordoba 012

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