The Caliphate city of Medina Azahara is an archaeological site of a city built in the mid-10th century CE by the Umayyad dynasty as the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba. After prospering for several years, it was laid to waste during the civil war that put an end to the Caliphate in 1009-1010. The remains of the city were forgotten for almost 1,000 years until their rediscovery in the early 20th century. This complete urban ensemble features infrastructure such as roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, decorative elements and everyday objects. It provides in-depth knowledge of the now vanished Western Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus, at the height of its splendour.
The Caliphate City of Medina Azahara is an archaeological site of a newly-founded city built in the mid-10th century CE by the western Umayyad dynasty as the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The city was destroyed shortly afterwards, and from that time remained hidden until its rediscovery in the early 20th century CE.
The site is a complete urban complex including infrastructure, buildings, decoration and objects of daily use, and provides in-depth knowledge about the material culture of the Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus at the zenith of its splendour but which has now disappeared. In addition, the landscape features which influenced the city’s location are conserved.
The hidden character of the site over a long period has contributed to its preservation and it has not been rebuilt or altered in that time. The rediscovery has led to excavation, protection and conservation which has continued for a century, promoted by public institutions.
The abandoned Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, being a new city planned and built as a state initiative, attests in an exceptional way to the Umayyad cultural and architectural civilization, and more generally to the development of the western Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus.
The Caliphate City of Medina Azahara is an outstanding example of urban planning combining architectural and landscape approaches, the technology of urban infrastructure, architecture, decoration and landscape adaptation, illustrating the significant period of the 10th century CE when the Umayyad caliphate of Cordoba was proclaimed in the Islamic West.
The site includes the entire Caliphate city, and its buffer zone preserves the context of the city in its natural environment, as well as the remains of the main infrastructure of roads and canals that radiated from it. The quarries where the building material for the city was extracted and the major country villas (munya) have also survived in the buffer zone.
Because the city remained hidden from the time of its destruction in the early 11th century CE to its rediscovery in the early 20th century CE, and since the area was used for grazing livestock, the remains are very well preserved. Only 10% of the site has been excavated and the remainder offers an exceptional opportunity for future research. As for the excavated part of the Qasr or fortified palace, continued excavation and conservation work has brought to light a set of well conserved buildings whose original walls reach a height of several meters.
The site meets the conditions of authenticity in relation to materials, design and location. As regards the authenticity of the materials, as noted most of the site has remained unchanged and hidden below ground. As for the excavated areas, the work of consolidation, made necessary by the fragility of the materials, has been progressing under the philosophy of minimal intervention, in order to ensure the stability of structures, protect them against the elements and conserve the information produced during the excavation process.
This policy of minimal intervention has ensured that any new additions clearly differ from, but also blend in with, the original. Identifying the original position of the different materials used in building the city has made this work possible.
The authenticity of the site is also guaranteed by the conservation of its natural environment, where little has changed since the destruction of the city, except for a few small recent alterations. In addition, the descriptions of the buildings in a wide range of historical sources, the epigraphic evidence and the quality of research work carried out for over a century reinforce the authenticity of the site.