A blend of cultures: Who was Ziryab?
Ziryab was the nickname given to Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali Ibn Nafi,’ was a young musician born in Baghdad in the 8th Century. When it became known that Ziryab’s musician talents had surpassed those of his musical professor, he knew it was time to flee Mesopotamia, to avoid persecution. And so it was that he embarked on a long journey which brought him to Cordoba in 822, aged 33. Cordoba at that time was part of Islamic Spain and under Moorish rule. Ziryab was taken in by the Abbasid Caliph and became a special advisor to the royal court of Cordoba.
The Court of Cordoba soon realised that Ziryab possessed an unusual plethora of talents: not only could he compose and play exquisite music (hence his nickname Ziryab, which means “blackbird”) but he was also an avid poet and artist, knowledgeable in the latest fashions, and educated in geology, chemistry and astrology. Apart from bringing new music styles and instruments to moorish al-Andaluz (he created his own 5-stringed lute which quickly became popular in the royal court), Ziryab also revolutionised the hispanic cuisine of the time, introducing new concepts such as glasses actually made of glass from which to drink, the concept of the three-course meal (starters, main course & dessert), the use of asparagus in cooking, as well as bringing new spices and flavours from Mesopotamia that highly influenced the Spanish cuisine forever after.
With all these innovations Ziryab brought in through his presence in Spain and in particular his culinary innovations, it could be said that he created a new and exciting blend of cuisine, where flavours picked up from his various voyages were mixed with the Spanish tapas to create a whole new fusion concept…
This concept of blending cultures and flavours, and taking you on a culinary and cultural journey, is the concept behind Ziryab.