Medina Azahara. It’s such a beautiful name. Legend goes that Abderraman III who ordered the construction of this town named it after his favorite concubine, to whom his heart truly belonged. After being proclaimed Caliph, he decided to build a separate city from the ground up to demonstrate his power and glory. Typical.
As romantic as the story, the site itself is equally romantic. Even on the cold and cloudy day that I first visited it.
Thanks to the clouds, we were unable to see the entire scope of the ruins and the stunning landscape that lay beyond, but in spite of this, the story of this small city constructed on the outskirts of Cordoba, left me feeling incredibly inspired and refreshed.
After traveling through the majority of the Iberian Peninsula and seeing my fair share of ruins of cities, buildings, walls, etc., after a while, it can all start to look the same. But Medina Azahara was different. The combination of the history of the place, the weather, and the dramatized tour came together into a great story.
That’s right. A dramatized tour. My first ever. And hopefully not my last.
Even knowing that it was an actor standing in front of me, the man who guided us through the remains of Medina Azahara brought the city to life in way that I did not think possible. Though only stones lay at my feet, with the help of our humble guide who lived during the peak of the city’s brief 80 years of existence, I saw before me the massive walls, the towering gates, the lavish animal skins that covered the marble floors. I heard the horses hooves galloping down the cobblestone streets, imagined the diverse population of Jewish and Muslims living together.
Our guide was amazing, hilarious, and informative. He was an older man, keeping warm only with his thin robes. As he shuffled along in front of us, making his way down the steep slopes of the uneven floors with difficulty (with me sticking close to his side to absorb every single word he said), he continued to tell us about life in Medina Azahara and asked us questions to see how much we knew and even quizzed us on the way back out of the city.
What I write here doesn’t do this city justice. Suffice it to say that Medina Azahara is simply a must-see site when visiting Cordoba. And if my old friend is there to take you on a guided tour, even better.