The archaeological remains of Medina Azahara, near Cordoba, built in the 10th century by Abderramán III, have been made a Unesco World Heritage Site. The international organisation's committee announced in Bahrain last Sunday that it had agreed to add the ancient Islamic complex to its list of protected areas.
Unesco said that the site serves as a "testimony to the Umayyads as a cultural and architectural civilization, and more generally, to the development of Western Islamic civilization".
With the naming of Medina Azahara as a World Heritage Site, Cordoba has become the first place in the world to have four areas with this prestigious Unesco status. The archaeological remains join the Mosque-Cathedral, the old town and, most recently, the Fiesta de los Patios flower festival, which was chosen as an Intangible Cultural Heritage Site in 2012.
Medina Azahara's 112 hectares of walled land make it the largest archaeological site in Spain. The area has two particular features that stood out to the Unesco specialists. Firstly, it is an example of ancient cultural traditions and secondly, the impressive architecture is representative of an important historical period.
The complex was constructed in 936 by the Umayyad dynasty when Cordoba was the capital of an Islamic Caliphate and a centre of Western civilisation. According to ancient writings discovered by archeologists, it was a gift from the monarch to his love, Azahara, who never got used to the place, despite the beauty of its garden of almond trees. The splendour barely lasted a century, destroyed by the Berbers during a civil war in 1010. It wasn't until the 19th century that the ruins were identified, six kilometres away from Cordoba city centre.
After Unesco's announcement, the regional president of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, highlighted the importance of this "artistic and historical jewel".