|Medina Azahara. Palace of the favourite wife|
Medina Azahara. Palace of the favourite wife
10th century Caliph Abdurrahman 3 was a most amorous man, and nobody pleased him more than his favourite wife az-Zahra. His love and lust took total control over 1/3 of the annual state budget from 936 until 961, in order to build her a city he believed was fit for a woman like her.
For modern visitors, the Medina Azahara can look like never was completed and then abandoned. But this condition is actually a product of looting for building materials over centuries. Both the Alcazar of Sevilla and the nearby Monastery of San JÚronimo were served with pieces from az-Zahra's palace city.
It was not before 1944 that excavations and restoration of the area was begun. Many areas are still in such a poor condition that your imagination will have to do all of the reconstruction. The nicest parts are also the most important, the palace.
The Medina Azahara was 2000 metres long and 900 metres wide. It climbs down to the Guadalquivir river by 3 terraces. In order to entertain az-Zahra, a zoo, an aviary, 4 large fish ponds and 300 baths were added to the palace. The employees of the palace filled 400 houses,and there were weapons factories and several mosques as well.
The wealth of the area was stunning to contemporary visitors. Many of the public rooms were decorated with visual effects. One conference room had crystals creating an inner rainbow when lit by the sun. Another room had a mercury bowl in its centre, that would send sunbeams around the room if rocked.
The life span of the Medina Azahara was short, less than 100 years. Its demise would not come from abandonment, rather it became virtually a prison for the caliph. With the vizier al-Mansur in Cordoba and the caliph in Medina Azahara, control moved from the caliph, and Medina Azahara was unable to protect itself from a mob in 1010, and was subsequently burned.
Medina Azahara should be taken under a Cordoba visit, the way to get out here is actually with local buses. If you like to move slowly, the walk out here takes slightly more than an hour. Probably a little bit too long during summer, but nice the rest of the year. For anyone with limited time, taxis out here are quite affordable.
There are no options for anyone wishing to spend the nights right close to the sight.