Medina Azahara

Medinat al-Zahra, better known as Medina Azahara in Spanish, Córdoba, is one of the most important collection of Hispanic-Muslims historic buildings in the Iberian Peninsula. Furthermore, it has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2018.

The collection of historic buildings corresponds to the palatial city founded by Abd al-Rahman III only 8 kilometres far from Córdoba.

Plan your cultural visit to Medina Azahara

Along the lines of other caliphates, Abd al-Rahman III ordered the construction of a palatial city. It was aimed to become the seat of the caliphate. The power was then shared between the Medina in Córdoba and Medina Azahara.

The construction work run by Maslama ben Abdallah began in 936. Nine years later, the move was made from the caliphal alcázar. Many buildings such as the mosque and the mint were finished around 948.

Al-Hakam II continued extending the city. He ordered some constructions such as the Yafar House.

The life of this new capital was actually pretty short. When al Hakam II died, Almanzor, the hajib of the Caliphate Hisham II, got all the power. He built Medina Alzahira, his own palatial city, on the opposite site. In addition, the caliph without any power was confined in Medina Azahara.

The city was abandoned with the breakup of the Caliphate. The war situation meant the end of the city. Moreover, during next decades it suffered from numerous attacks and sacking.

The Muslim city was totally forgotten until the 20th century. First excavations that still go on today began in 1911.

Medina Azahara has an octogonal plan. It is completely walled in its whole perimeter and organized in three patios.

The first one, that is the highest, is the alcázar and the royal rooms. The second corresponds to the administrative area. Lastly, the inferior patio has a great area with gardens and houses both sides.

The so-called North Gate, that was connected with Córdoba, gives access to the complex. It is arranged in a bend to facilitate the defense.

Within the complex there is a row with huge arches that will call your attention. It is the Great Arcade, the eastern entrance to the alcázar. It is a large arcade made up of fifteen arches. The one in the middle is a horseshoe arch, but the others are segmental arches.

Medina Azahara
North Gate.
Medina Azahara
Large Portico.

In the middle of the complex is the Rich Hall or Abd al-Rahman III Hall. It is the most important spot in the city and it was aimed to received embassies. It also fitted the functions of throne room and ceremony room.

The hall is popular because of its rich decoration e.g. the marble columns in blue and pink tones.

Capitals have the shape of a wasps’ nest. Skirting boards are decorated with arabesques and the roof with a marvellous wooden coffered ceiling.

Medina Azahara
Exterior of the Salón Rico.
Medina Azahara
Interior of the Salón Rico.

The great mosque of Medina Azahara was its main temple. It is facing the Mecca and it has its own arcaded patio.

It has an haram with 5 perpendicular naves to the qibla. On the north is the minaret.

Medina Azahara
Congregational Mosque

Ya’far house is a complex located in the area of the alcázar. It was built during the work on expanding the city by al-Hakam II. It received the name of its hajib Ya’far Ibn Abd al-Rahmán.

Despite its name, it is not clear enough if it was the residence of the high mandatory. The structure had three areas: public, private and that for servants.

Private rooms are based around a patio with a water fountain. Its walls are decorated with almagra (red ochre), that gives amazing red tones.

In addition, it had a private toilet or hamman with three naves opened to a transversal.

Medina Azahara
Ya'far House.

On the east of Ya’far house there is another similar structure. It consists on a main patio presiding over a reservoir.

The highest area is the Royal House or Dar al-Mulk. Investigators think it was the residence of Abd al-Rahman III. It is popular because of its decoration and arabesque.

Medina Azahara
Alberca House.

In the southern area of the alcázar, there are the gardens of Medina Azahara. The Jardín Alto, which precedes the Rich Hall, has a building surrounded by four large reservoirs. In an inferior level is the Jardín Bajo, that is still in the process of being excavated.

The mosque of Medina Azahara is located in the south of the palatial city. It also has three perpendicular naves to the qibla wall. As well as the Aljama mosque, it is located to the Mecca. 

The mihrab is inspired by that of the mosque of Córdoba. It is a room with a polygonal plan.

Medina Azahara
Medina Azahara gardens.
Medina Azahara
Inside the museum.

In the vicinity of the collection of historic buildings is the Museum of Medina Azahara.

It is a building designed by Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano. It was inaugurated in 2009 and one year later, it won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Moreover, it was decorated in 2012 the European Museum of the Year Award due to its advances and innovations in the field of museums.

It has three floors, two of them on the underground. There are pieces founded in the site, as well as other remains from the Archeological Museum of Córdoba.

Location: Carretera de Palma del Río, km. 5,5. 14071, Córdoba.
Phone: +34 699 34 11 42
Email: [email protected]

Opening times changes through the year. Find them updated here.

If you plan to visit Medina Azahara, we recommend you to stay longer and visit Córdoba too. Here you have some recommendations on where to sleep, as well as the best restaurants to eat.

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