Medina Azahara, The Unknown Treasure of Cordoba


Medina Azahara (In Arabic spoken as Madinat az-Zahrã: literal meaning “the shining city”) is the ruins of a vast, fortified Moorish medieval palace-city built by Abd-ar-Rahman III (912–961), the first Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, and located on the western outskirts of Cordoba. It was a medieval Moorish town and, de facto, capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls.

This unique Historical Heritage has just become part of UNESCO World Heritage Sites this year 2018.

Built beginning in 936-940, the city included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences and baths. Water was supplied through aqueducts.

The main reason for its construction was political and ideological: the dignity of the Caliph required the establishment of a new city, a symbol of his power, imitating other Eastern Caliphates. It was built in Córdoba because it had been the capital of the region (Betis) in Roman times; this made it easier for the Emirate and Caliphate of Cordoba to rule, while they existed, over al-Andalus. Above all, it demonstrated his superiority over his great rivals, the Fatimids of Ifriqiya in Northern Africa, as well as the Abbasids in Baghdad. Legend also says it was built as a tribute for the Caliph’s favorite wife: Azahara.


The city of Medina Azahara has a practically rectangular floor plan. It was built on raked terraces which made use of the slope of the mountainside. Each terrace was separated from the others by walls, which divided the city into three parts. The Alcázar Real palace is located on the highest and intermediate levels, while the lower part stood outside the walls and was used for dwellings and the mosque. There are still remnants of tiled borders, paintings and columns in the composite and Corinthian styles. Visitors should not miss a visit to the two recently restored rooms. It was declared a National Monument in 1923.


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