Madinat al Zahra is one of many wonderful attractions located in or around the Spanish city of Cordoba. A former palace city, this ruined site, which is also known as Medina Azahara, dates back to the tenth century. The first caliph ruler of the al-Andalus region, Abd ar-Rahman III, had it constructed in an effort to demonstrate his superiority, and it must have been one dazzling place when it was in its prime.
Work on the Moorish palace city of Medina Azahara started in 936. The reigning Caliph Abd ar-Raham III mostly wanted to display just how powerful he was, and before the city was sacked by Berber invaders and then plundered over the years, it was truly magnificent. Exotic gardens, beautiful arches, and stunning stuccowork were just some of the things that Medina Azahara boasted, and the ruins that can be admired today offer wonderful insight into this former glory. So glorious was this palace city that many refer to it as the Moorish Versailles.
It is fascinating to consider that the Madinat al Zahra palace once had around 400 different houses and some 300 baths. Thousands of workers, most if not all of whom were slaves, were required to complete the building of the palace and its surrounding city. The sacking of Madinat al Zahra by the Berbers in 1013 is a big reason why the former palace town now lies mostly in ruins. According to some scholars, parts of the palace and city that were subsequently plundered were used to adorn the Giralda and to help build the Alcazar, both of which are found in the Spanish city of Seville.
There is a small admission fee for those who wish to tour Medina Azahara. Buses that depart from Cordoba's Avenida de la Victoria and Paseo de la Rivera streets offer convenient and budget-friendly transportation. The address is Carretera Palma de Río Km 8. The Madinat al Zahra visiting hours vary according to time of year. From early May to mid-September, tours of the ruins can be enjoyed between the hours of 10 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. On Sundays, the hours change to 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. From mid-September to late April, the Medina Azahara closes two hours earlier Tuesday through Saturday, but maintains similar Sunday hours.