12.8.14

Medina Al Azahara, Cordoba and the road to Seville

A visit to the ruins of the palace-city built by Caliph Rahman III in the outskirts of Cordoba. 

After a full day in Cordoba, we woke up the following morning and drove for less than 10 km. to the archaeological site called Medina Azahara, the medieval palace-city built by Caliph Rahman III around the year 936 to promote the new image of the recently-created independent western Caliphate as a one of the strongest, most powerful kingdoms in Medieval Europe (the legend however, says that he decided to build it in honour of his favourite, Azahara).

The site was completely destroyed by the succession of Civil Wars which ravaged al-Andalus at the turn of the 11th century, and Madinat al-Zahra was sacked and then forgotten. Its ruins were excavated around the 1910s. Only about 10 percent of the 112 hectares have been excavated and restored and there's now a nice museum and visitors center built underground to minimize disruption of the area (which has already been threatened by unauthorized construction) where one can learn more about the Medina's history.
We arrived a bit after noon and headed to the visitors center to get our tickets and watch a short documentary about the Medina, which I strongly suggest you to watch, since everything is pretty much destroyed or in ruins and if you're not familiar with its history you might not realize what you're seeing up in the archeological complex.
After that we took the shuttle bus (no cars allowed to go up) to the entrance of the site and walked around for less than an hour. It was really warm and sunny so we tried to be fast. Unfortunately the impressive Reception Hall of the palace was closed for our visit and we couldn't see it.
After we were done, we took the bus back to the parking area and started the short trip to Seville.
Perhaps I had too high expectations about the Medina so I was not very impressed about it. It is definitely a place to see if you're staying in Cordoba for some days, but if you have reduced time I guess there are other places in town that might be worth checking out first (like the Alcazar, the Synagogue, the Roman Temple - when it'll reopen, etc.), and also try to skip it in the middle of a summer day, where it gets especially hot.
Anyhow, on the road to Seville (and staying on the subject of hot places) we stopped at Ecija, a town also known as "the frying pan of Andalucia" due to its high summer temperatures which are said to be Andalucias highest. Its origins date back to the Roman times when it was an important town of Hispania Baetica (the hispanic part of the Roman empire).
 
We stopped for a quick lunch in the main square of town at Bar 4 Puertas, a tiny bar offering yummy (and cheap) tapas in a very local atmosphere. When we entered the bar, everyone turned to look at us "foreigners", but we were soon served by the nice staff and enjoyed a huge portion of snails and some anchovies tapas with a fresh tinto de verano. Nothing better to freshen up in the "frying pan".

A few more kilometers and then Seville... TBC

Medina Azahara
Carretera de Palma del Río Km. 5,5 14071 Córdoba
Fees:
UE citizens, free. Others €1.5 - Shuttle Bus (everyone) €2.10
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday 10.00 to 17.00 (closed Mondays).
(Abd al-Rahmán III closed for restoration)
http://www.museosdeandalucia.es/culturaydeporte/museos/CAMA/index.jsp?redirect=S2_1.jsp&lng=en

Bar 4 Puertas
Plaza de España, 3, 41400 Écija
Tel. +34 954 83 00 34

Font:
http://english.turismodecordoba.org/seccion/medina-azahara