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Upper Terrace of the Alcázar, al-Madinat al-Zahra’

Andalusian Gardens
953/957 1010
Antonio Almagro;
Luis Ramón-Laca


The construction of al-Madinat al-Zahra’ (Medina Azahara) in the place called al-Djabal al-‘Arus (Bride’s Hill), located on the southern slope of the Sierra, began in 936 during the reign of ‘Abd al-Rahman III (912–961) and continued during the reign of his son Al-Hakam II (961–976). It was burned in 1010 by the Berbers. Al-Madinat al-Zahra’ was organized on three terraces descending toward the river Guadalquivir and occupied a surface of 115 ha, of which only five percent has been excavated. Although in ruins, the terraces were still visible in the twelfth century: al-Idrisi referred to gardens and orchards in the middle terrace. He was probably referring to the Upper Garden, the ceremonial garden where ambassadors were received, and to the Lower Garden, most likely the Caliph’s private garden. According to al-Maqqari, the Upper Garden pools, which may have held up 1,000 cubic meters of water, were used to raise fish.

The Upper Terrace was a quadripartite garden with a pavilion in the center surrounded by four pools and another pavilion overlooking the Lower Terrace Garden.



  • Court Chronicle, 10th century
  • Archaeological Analysis, 20th century