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Medina Azahar, Córdoba

A rare window into the Caliphate

I admit that my city, Madinat Al-Zahra, now known as Medina Azahar in Córdoba, has been carefully excavated and partially reconstructed but, I must let you know that it is not as it was.

When I was there, the city was the most splendid that the world had seen. Capital of the independent state of Al-Andalus, it was a bright beacon, a place where the world came to marvel and to throw themselves at the feet of my lord, the unsurpassable and most powerful Abderramán III who created the Caliphate of Córdoba to rule independently from the Caliphate of Bagdad and so bring stability to an empire in crisis.

In the year 936 A.D, in calendar with which you are familiar, Abderramán III ordered the construction of what was then the most magnificent of palace complexes; a veritable oasis of pure luxury and the seat of enlightenment and innovation. He ordered it built next to the magnificent city of Córdoba, the heart of our kingdom. I was an understudy of the great architect of the complex, master Maslama ben Abdallah and it was my task to source the many unique materials used to construct the many halls, living quarters, kitchens and reception rooms that made up this sublime structure.

Work was hard, days were long but our labours resulted in a great achievement for my lord Abderramán and Medina Azahar was the focus of many a royal visit by the Christian kings and emperors, all seeking favour from my lord.

A picture painted by one of your modern artists, Dionisio Baixeras, captures in some respect the magnificence of the city but, even then, only a small glimpse of the palatial work can be appreciated.

With the death of Abderramán, Al Andaluz started to lose its strength and beauty. Time soon removed all traces of the splendour of his court and, less than 100 years after his death, the city was on its way to ruin.

Nowadays, archaeologists still uncover many of our secrets but only time will reveal the true meaning.

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