The Califal City: Medina Azahara

The Califal City: Medina Azahara (Madinat al-Zahra) or the ‘’Brilliant City’’, for the Muslims, was built on the slopes of the Córdoba mountain range (on the Chabdál al-Arus or «Monte de la Novia») to the northwest of Córdoba capital. It is one of the most important archaeological sites in Spain, the first Cordovan Caliphate, Abderramán III, an-Násir (“The Victorious”) ordered the construction.

The Califal City: Medina Azahara
By Turismo de Cordoba

The history of the Califal City: Medina Azahara

Abd al-Rahman III ordered the construction in 936. As part of the political, economic and ideological program launched after the establishment of the caliphate. As a personal residence and seat of government, the palace area housed the homes of the most important dignitaries and all the administrative bodies of the State, which were transferred from Córdoba.

During the reigns of Abd al-Rahman III and al-Hakam II, the city became the capital of al-Andalus. What’s more, ambassadors from Mediterranean countries and what is now Central Europe paraded through its halls.

Medina Azahara is considered one of the peaks of Islamic art, both for its structure and urban layout and for the diversity of its materials, the architectural solutions used and the extraordinary richness and quality of its decorative programs.

Unesco has included  the Caliphal City of Medina Azahara, in Córdoba, in its World Heritage List. With the incorporation of this site, Spain has 47 properties in the World Heritage List. Furthermore, it remains the third country in the world with the most registered properties.

The Califal City: Medina Azahara
By Rafael Sacasa

What to see in The Califal City: Medina Azahara

The castle known as the Alcazar stands in the top terrace. This is where the royal family resided. As such it is known as the dar al-mulk or the house of power. A wall separated the Alcazar and the rest of the city.

On top of that, the crown jewel of the site, the royal reception hall known as the Salón de Abd ar-Rahman III (or Salón Rico) It’s the most valuable part of the archaeological site in both its historical importance and also its artistic beauty. 

Furthermore, this hall has exquisitely carved yaster work and it is decorated with gold and silver tiles, arches of ivory and ebony, and walls of multicolored marble.

In addition, The casa de Yafar (house of Yafar) has only the foundation remaining. The house belonged to Ya´far ibn Abd al-Rahmán who was the hajib (prime minister) in 961.

Finally, The museum takes you through the history of Medina Azahara, with sections on its planning and construction, its inhabitants and its eventual downfall, all illustrated with beautifully displayed pieces from the site and interactive displays. There are English translations of every writting, as well.

Inside the museum you will also find bathrooms, a café-restaurant, and a book and souvenir shop.

The Califal City: Medina Azahara
By Piet Theisohn

How to get there

Medina Azahara is located only 8 kilometers from Cordoba on the slope of Jabal al-Arus, facing the Guadalquivir valley.

We leave you with the different options to get to Medina Azahara:

  • Car

Coming from Cordoba, you should take the A-431 road from Palma del Rio until you reach the sign indicating Madinat al-Zahra.

Once you arrive at the site, you should leave your car in the museum parking lot, the first traffic circle.

Note that the archaeological site is 2 kilometers from the museum. The only authorized transport to get there is the shuttle bus, which leaves every 20 minutes and for which you have to buy a ticket at the museum. 

  •  Bus

To get to Medina Azahara from Cordoba, you can take the tourist bus from Avenida Alcazar, next to Alcazar. Besides, the trip duration is only 20 minutes one way.

The price of the rounrip id ts as follows. It also includes the shuttle bus within Medina Azahara:

General: 10€

Children (5 to 12): 5€

Children (under 5): free

  • By taxi

Taking a taxi is a very comfortable but yet affordable way to get to Medina Azahara. Taxis from Cordoba have a fixed rate to Medina Azahara:

  • Weekdays: 3 people for 5€/person, 4 people for 4€/person
  • Holidays & weekends: 3 people for 6€/person, 4 people for 4.5€/person

Moreover, you can also go from three Andalusian capitals like Malaga or Seville. It has very good road connections. Therefore, the car is a great option if you are not coming from far away.

Malaga is 160 kilometers from Medina Azahara. It takes almost 2 hours to get there, depending on the traffic.

Sevilla is 127kilometers from Medina Azahara. It takes about an hour and  40 minutes to get there.

Cadiz is 243 kilometers from Medina Azahara. It takes around 2 hours and 40 minutes to get there.

The Califal City: Medina Azahara
By Patronato Provincial de Turismo de Cordoba

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