Visit Madinat al Zahra

Rafael Jesús Álvarez Córdoba (Lic. Nº1111)


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Discover Madinat al Zahra

Madinat al Zahra, the city palace of Abd al Rahman III.

During your guided tour to Madinat al Zahra you will have a voyage to the most glorious past of the city of Cordova when the Umayyad caliphs controlled the destiny of the inhabitants of al Andalus. Al Andalus is an expression used to denominate the Islamic territories of the Iberian peninsula. Medina Azahara or “the medieval Versailles”, as some authors have called it, was built between the 40`s and the 70`s in the Xth cent. a.d. It was the permanent residence of the caliph and the seat of his government.

Today Madinat al Zahra has two areas which can be visited: the reception centre-museum and the archaeological site.

Madinat Al-Zahra


The visit to the archaeological site

The visitor will have the possibility of getting to know, by means of his private tour guide, in a pleasant way, the real reasons hidden behind the decision to construct this city-palace, separating legends from the true reasons: gesture of love or gesture of power? Besides, we will analyse the reasons which led to its destruction less than one hundred years after its construction. Although Medina Azahara was within a walled space of some 112 hectares, during the tour, other elements concerning the surrounding landscape will be pointed out, such as roads, hydraulic infrastructures and quarries. Today only the palace area has been excavated which represents approximately 11% of the total. We will begin at the northern gate of the palace or “the service entrance”.

Medina Azahara zoomorphic ceramics


The Residential Area

Once inside, we will visit the two areas in which the palace was divided: the western side which was residential and the eastern side which was administrative and public dedicated to government buildings. They were both separated by stables and a curious trough. A common denominator throughout our guided tours to Medina Azahara will be the buildings with a basilical layout, either used for religious functions or administrative purposes. The visit to Ya`far`s House, whose restoration was awarded the Europa Nostra Prize will allow us to know the importance of eunuchs in the Umayyad court. Before we go into the public sector we will pass by one of the kitchens which existed there with its well preserved brick oven where all we need now are lamb chops!

The Residential Area


The Administrative Area

We will visit the so-called “upper basilical building” which was part of a wider area used for bureaucratic purposes. The visit continues with the ceremonial entrance to the palace constituting a parade ground and a large gate from which the caliph passed review of his troops. Continuing on we will look out onto a terrace on a lower level where the city or “medina”, which is still underground, was built. Here was also the Friday mosque whose orientation towards Mecca is undoubtedly why we know its function. Finally, the Throne Room with its gardens, is the most outstanding place of the palace where the grand receptions of ambassadors coming from different states of Europe and the Mediterranean were celebrated. This space, a true symbol of paradise according to the Quran, is characterised by the luxury of the materials used in its construction.

The Administrative Area



About me

Rafael Jesús Álvarez Córdoba


My name is Rafael Jesús Álvarez Córdoba. I am a licensed tour guide in Cordova, Andalusia (Spain) in English, French, Italian and Spanish (lic. num.1111). My experience in the field of the interpretation of artistic sites and wide knowledge of the moslem and jewish heritage of Cordova are key factors to creating an unforgettable experience for the visitors.


During my tailor-made private tours, visitors will have the possibility of having a close interaction with me as well as the different places we will visit together in a relaxing way.


My wish is to share with you the love and knowledge I have about the moslem/jewish heritage of Cordoba so as to make you feel like coming back here! Take a private Cordova tour with a knowledgeable local guide and get ready to be charmed by this ancient city.