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by Owen Lipsett
New York, New York
January 24, 2006
The Medina was no mere pleasure-dome, however, but a working regnal complex along the lines of Louis XIV's Versailles, opulently furnished to impress both courtiers and foreign emissaries alike. In its brief heyday it stretched a full kilometer from a rocky outcrop to the banks of the Guadalquivir, incorporating three terraces, a zoo, aviary, and separate villages for both the garrison and the civilian employees. The putative locations of these sights are marked on the complimentary photocopied map provided in each major European language at the entrance, although unfortunately the room studded with pure crystals that turned sunlight into a rainbow described by chroniclers is nowhere to be found. Indeed, these ruins are primarily just that, although painted horseshoe arches similar to those inside the Mezquita and fairly well-kept gardens reflect the reconstruction program the Spanish government has recently commenced.
The site's sole reconstructed (using the term loosely) building of any size is the Royal House whose stuccowork, while fragmentary, is mesmerizing in part because it incorporates natural and even animal forms, the latter in apparent violation of the Koran, in contrast to the more literalist decorations within the Mezquita and Granada's Alhambra. This beauty may have been the artists' undoing, however, as it likely served to further incite the mobs and Berber mercenaries who ransacked the palace in the early eleventh century as the Cordoban Caliphate disintegrated into a collection of autonomous taifas. The Medina Azahara's demise prior to the Catholic Reconquista meant that it was not retrofitted for Christian use as the Mezquita and Alhambra were, although its ruins were ransacked as a source for building materials â€“ with Seville's Alcazar (Europe's oldest continuously used royal palace), the most famous and perhaps appropriate recipient of its stones. There is limited parking at the Medina Azahara, which is signposted from CÃ⊃;rdoba. The best way to get there, however, is by buses that leave from beside the River Guadalquivir at 10 am and 11 am. Costing €5, they provide an informative DVD presentationen route and a glossy informational booklet that is a welcome addendum to the photocopied map of the site provided at the entrance. Admission to the site is free to EU citizens and €1.50 for others.
From journal Cordoba: Where History Takes a Siesta
Todmorden, England, United Kingdom
February 18, 2004
However, an [apparently new] excursion has been introduced. A tourist bus leaves the city most days at 1100 and €5 pays for the return trip, a guidebook, and 1.5 hours to spend at the site. Entry is cheap but separate. The trip can be booked through hotels or at the tourist office.
It is an archaeological site containing the ruins of a fabulous city built in Moorish times by one of the sultans and named after a favourite wife. There are remains and extant arches and walls from both residential and official parts of the city and yet it will be many years before the excavation is complete; there is so much there. I hope my photos give some impression of its interest and beauty.
From journal Cordoba - favourite revisited.