Madinat Al-Zahra: A Significant Early Islamic Archaeological Site in Spain (936-1010)
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Madinat Al-Zahra: A Significant Early Islamic Archaeological Site in Spain (936-1010)

The Umayyads Dynasty in Spain (675-1031) reached the peak of its power at the time of the caliph Abd al-Rahman 111 (929-961). The caliph Abd al-Rahman 111 initiated the construction of the city in 936 and after his death in 961, his son, Al-Hakam 11 continued the work in the city. In 1010, Medinat Al-Zahra, which was once the symbol of the caliphÂ’s power, and flourished for approximately 80 years was destroyed by rebellious Berber clans from North Africa. The city was buried for almost 900 years, and in the late 19th century, the city was rediscovered and excavations began in 1911.

The Umayyads Dynasty in Spain (675-1031) reached the peak of its power at the time of the caliph Abd al-Rahman 111 (929-961), who decided to construct number of buildings and projects to express his power as well as the wealth of his dynasty such as Madinat Al-Zahra (936-1010). The caliph Abd al-Rahman 111 initiated the construction of the city in 936 and after his death in 961, his son, Al-Hakam 11 continued the work in the city as well as the completion of the great mosque of Cordoba. In 1010, Medinat Al-Zahra, which was once the symbol of the caliph’s power, and flourished for approximately 80 years was destroyed by rebellious Berber clans from North Africa. The city was buried for almost 900 years, and in the late 19th century, the city was rediscovered and excavations began in 1911.

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Madinat Al-Zahra lies about 13 kilometers Nort-West of the city of Cordoba and its site featured a rectangular shape with about 1.52 kilometers length and 745 meters width. The city was intended to be a palace-city, which would house the caliph’s palace as well as the administrative and governmental buildings. Medinat al-Zahra was built on a terraced site below the Sierra Morena area. According to the archeological excavation, the city consisted of three terraces, each one of them was separated from the other by an arcaded wall, and the whole site was enclosed by fortified walls.

 

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The palace of the caliph was situated on the top of the higher terrace to be isolated from the other buildings as well as to enjoy the maximum view of the surroundings. The ruins of the palace featured an imposing decorated and ornamented wall spaces and floors covered by mosaic-like tiles. The palace was also characterized by large halls with horseshoe-arches porticoes. On this high location, the palace was intended to be a symbol of the power of the caliph.

 

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SalóN Rico, Madinat Al-Zahra

 

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The middle terrace was also very important and came second to the caliph’s palace, where it included the government buildings, the caliph’s family members’ palaces, and the reception halls as well as accommodation for important individuals in the caliph’s court. The reception hall was characterized by a large pool, which was a common feature of the palaces of Granada. It was also positioned on the main axis of the city to emphasize its essential role as the main ceremonial hall. Middle terrace was separated from the upper one by a massive horseshow-arches arcade. The lower terrace occupied the market, number of simple dwellings, and the mosque of the city whose design is likely to be inspired by the Great Mosque of Cordoba.

 

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Now, Madinat Al-Zahra is considered as one of the most significant early Islamic archaeological sites in the world. Excavations at the city’s site are still ongoing and a museum was built to be the place, where the archaeological findings can be preserved, as well as exhibited. However, about 10 percent of the fortified area of the city has been excavated. In 2010, the museum of Madinat Al-Zahra received the prestigious award of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

References:

  1. Main article image credit:
  2. http://www.akdn.org/architecture/project.asp?id=3732
  3. http://classes.colgate.edu/osafi/images/andalusian_images.htm
  4. http://elliefarr.blogspot.com/2011/02/crusing-around-cordoba.html
  5. http://www.mcah.columbia.edu/ma/htm/dj_islam/ma_dj_image_daj01.htm
  6. http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/uncle_davros/the_world/1228081080/105-salxxn-ricox-madinat-al-zahra.jpg/tpod.html
  7. http://www.upbustleandout.co.uk/1/zahara-de-la-sierra-the-palace-city-of-medina-al-zahra-cordoba-spain.html

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Comments (30)

An excellent discussion about Madinat al-zahra.

Thanks Phoenix for your kind comment. much appreciated

Beautiful presentation and a great history lesson!

Thanks Sir for your kind and valued comment. much appreciated

I am always in awe of Islamic architecture. Very beautiful.

Another great place I'd like to visit someday!

Seeing these old sites is fantastic, very stunning what the did back then.

Thank you ladies and gentelmen for your kind words and valued comments. much appreciated

Spain's Islamic study is really interesting. Thank you dear Abdel

Outstanding write-up and the images are beautiful. Thanks for sharing

Amazing location, very well presented, thank you for this post.

Looks like it would be an interesting place to see, great presentation Abdel-moniem!

Ranked #10 in Architecture

A very interesting place to visit in Spain. You did a very patient research in doing this work my friend.

Thanks very much everyone for your kind and supportive, and valued comments. much appreciated

very interesting thanks so much for the article

Ranked #1 in Architecture

Again, a fascinating discussion of cross-cultural influence.

The architecture of the past shows the splendour of great leaders.

Thank you all respected fiends. your valuable comments are much appreciated

Excellent article touching my fondness for the Spanish and their skills.Thank you, very much enjoyed.

Thanks Roberta for reading and kindly commenting

very good presentation, voted

Thanks deepa for your kind comment. much appreciated

Re-visiting. : )

Thanks again. I was afraid if our connection has been technically cut. Always in your friendship and support.

Ranked #11 in Architecture

Excellent article with great images as always Sir.

Great piece of work.

I'd love to visit! What an amazing example of Islamic architecture...

Hope you are doing well.

What a thorough review, composed well with the photos.

I always enjoy reading your articles and seeing the stunning images you provide x

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