Medina Azahara is something like a huge puzzle, everywhere are capitels and colums waiting to being restored. Archeologists have a big work triying to find the location of some stuff like this interesting capitels forgotten in a lost part of a building.
The site is very well indicated, all the most important buildings are easily recognized, but one of the highlights of the place is wandering through the not designated areas, discovering spots and details unknown. We found this small patio with a marble basin not described in the information guide given in the entrance.
The Plaza de Armas was another protocolary entrance, mostly used for military parades. The Portico is really an impressive construction that shows how important was the city. This Portico was the main Façade of the Plaza de Armas building and consisted of 14 arches.
The house of a senior official of the Calypt´s administration. Maybe the most beautiful carved façade in the whole city, i really liked this building. Behind the façade there are some small buildings that belonged to the servants of the Official.
This façade belongs to a private house located in the Residential area, is the only structure that has the peculiar Arab style of room organised around a central garden. Again the beautiful horseshoe arches sustained by columns.
Just after the viewpoint is located the Basilical building, that consists in a big patio surrounded by five rooms supported by beautiful columns with Arab style motifs. This building was used for protocolary ceremonies. This building is maybe one of the best preserved parts of the complex.
After passing the main entrance there are two possible ways to visit the Site turning right are the residential buildings, we took the left one in the direction of the Plaza de Armas, the administrative area. Just after the Gate, there´s a viewpoint that shows you the beggining of the wonderful things that you´ll see.
This gate is now the main entrance to the complex, in the X century the main entrance was located in the South gate opposite to this one, so the views of the main Palace were more impressive showing the richness and power of the Calypth.
Finally at the end of the street is located the building that houses the Abd al-Rahman III Hall. The main building is surrounded with beautiful gardens, ponds and fountains all decorated in the typical Arab style.
This is the main Buidling of the site, very well restored it housed the Oriental Salon, this hall was used for political receptions held by the Calypth. The building has three corridors decorated with arches and a main section. The interior is really impressive, i specially liked the stone carved pannels in the walls.
Beautiful, I guess that is a word that I use a lot, need to find some alternatives....
But if the Taj Mahal is todays leading architectural structure built for love, then Medinat a-Zahara may well be the middle ages triumph to love. At one time this structure was the governmental center of this city, today in ruins, but you can still see the effort here to make even the mundane process of law into a place of beauty.
Here in the Hall of Abd al-Raman the progress of restoration is well underway. During our visit an archeologist was working on the "puzzle", or how to put back together all the thousands of pieces laying on the floor into some semblence of order so that we today could enjoy the splendor that was Medinat a-Zahara before it was destroyed.
Also visible from the viewing area at the “House of Ya’Far” you can see the impressive “West Wall of the Upper Garden”. Although it looks like a structure build to defend the Madinat al-Zahra, it’s main purpose is actually more to give support to the hold up the artificial terrace of the Upper Gardens. In the photo you can only see the first part of the wall, but if you look clearly you can see the wall structure continue below on a lower level. As the upper part, the lower part also consists of a regular pattern of towers.
The viewing area over the gardens was the last part of our visit to the Madinat al-Zahra, a visit that I enormously enjoyed and was grateful to be able to combine it with my visit to Cordoba. Although I was doubtful in the beginning if I should visit or not, I am so happy that I did in the end as there is so much more to see here and preserved then I originally thought.
From the viewpoint over the gardens a last climb up the slope to the parking area remains, and yes, you might want to gasp for air on a hot day when walking up the hill again. But without a doubt you’ll think a visit to this ‘lost city’ was worth it! I certainly did!
If you manage to drag your eyes away from the "House of Ya'Far", which I found quite difficult, I have to admit, you shouldn’t forget to walk to the other side of the street. From here you'll have a really nice overview over the "Upper Garden". The garden is located around 10 metres below the view point allowing for a perfect overview of the area. Unfortunately you can't get into the gardens from here. So early in spring the gardens are still relatively bare, but the formal structure of the garden is clearly visible (see photo).
Together with the Lower Gardens, which are located beside the Upper Garden, they formed the largest garden area in Al-Andalus. What you see today is only part of the original gardens as a large part of the gardens haven’t been excavated yet. Both the Upper and the Lower gardens share a similar design. Water for the garden was provided by the four large ponds at the Upper Garden. The current layout of the gardens was designed in the 1960’s.
By far the highlight for me of the residential area of the Madinat al-Zahra is the "House of Ya'Far". This house is a good example of a residence of a senior official of the caliph's administration; most likely this was the house of the hayib (prime minister) of the Caliph State from 961 to 972.
For me personally the highly intricate plaster relief-work took my breath away and I couldn't get enough of it. The façade is so beautifully and abundantly decorated with atauriques; which is a plasterwork decoration of leaf and flower motifs. Atauriques are common in Spanish Moorish architecture and I saw many beautiful examples of it during my visits at the Mezquita Mosque / Cathedral in Cordoba and at the Alhambra in Granada, although I never imagined in seeing such wonderful examples here at the Madinat al-Zahra.
The façade is made up of three horseshoe arches as seen in photos 2 and 3. The central parts are supported on columns and the outer parts on pilasters.