Decision : 42 COM 8B.33
Caliphate City of Medina Azahara (Spain)
The World Heritage Committee,
- Having examined Documents WHC/18/42.COM/8B and WHC/18/42.COM/INF.8B1,
- Inscribes the Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, Spain, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (iii) and (iv);
- Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:
The Caliphate City of Medina Azahara is an archaeological site of a newly-founded city built in the mid-10th century CE by the western Umayyad dynasty as the seat of the Caliphate of Cordoba. The city was destroyed shortly afterwards, and from that time remained hidden until its rediscovery in the early 20th century CE.
The site is a complete urban complex including infrastructure, buildings, decoration and objects of daily use, and provides in-depth knowledge about the material culture of the Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus at the zenith of its splendour but which has now disappeared. In addition, the landscape features which influenced the city’s location are conserved.
The hidden character of the site over a long period has contributed to its preservation and it has not been rebuilt or altered in that time. The rediscovery has led to excavation, protection and conservation which has continued for a century, promoted by public institutions.
Criterion (iii): The abandoned Caliphate City of Medina Azahara, being a new city planned and built as a state initiative, attests in an exceptional way to the Umayyad cultural and architectural civilization, and more generally to the development of the western Islamic civilization of Al-Andalus.
Criterion (iv): The Caliphate City of Medina Azahara is an outstanding example of urban planning combining architectural and landscape approaches, the technology of urban infrastructure, architecture, decoration and landscape adaptation, illustrating the significant period of the 10th century CE when the Umayyad caliphate of Cordoba was proclaimed in the Islamic West.
The site includes the entire Caliphate city, and its buffer zone preserves the context of the city in its natural environment, as well as the remains of the main infrastructure of roads and canals that radiated from it. The quarries where the building material for the city was extracted and the major country villas (munya) have also survived in the buffer zone.
Because the city remained hidden from the time of its destruction in the early 11th century CE to its rediscovery in the early 20th century CE, and since the area was used for grazing livestock, the remains are very well preserved. Only 10% of the site has been excavated and the remainder offers an exceptional opportunity for future research. As for the excavated part of the Qasr or fortified palace, continued excavation and conservation work has brought to light a set of well conserved buildings whose original walls reach a height of several meters.
The site meets the conditions of authenticity in relation to materials, design and location. As regards the authenticity of the materials, as noted most of the site has remained unchanged and hidden below ground. As for the excavated areas, the work of consolidation, made necessary by the fragility of the materials, has been progressing under the philosophy of minimal intervention, in order to ensure the stability of structures, protect them against the elements and conserve the information produced during the excavation process.
This policy of minimal intervention has ensured that any new additions clearly differ from, but also blend in with, the original. Identifying the original position of the different materials used in building the city has made this work possible.
The authenticity of the site is also guaranteed by the conservation of its natural environment, where little has changed since the destruction of the city, except for a few small recent alterations. In addition, the descriptions of the buildings in a wide range of historical sources, the epigraphic evidence and the quality of research work carried out for over a century reinforce the authenticity of the site.
Protection and management requirements
The Caliphate City of Medina Azahara and its buffer zone have been protected almost continuously by the Administration since 1911, and the site has had its own management body since 1985. Accordingly, the site has a general framework of protection and management that guarantees the future maintenance of its Outstanding Universal Value.
Protection is assisted by the site being mostly in public ownership. The legal protection of Medina Azahara and its surroundings is also at the maximum level afforded by the Law of Spanish Historical Heritage, as a Property of Cultural Interest, under the category Archaeological Site.
The Special Plan for the Protection of Medina Azahara was approved in 1998, providing an urban planning law that regulated the boundaries of the protected area and established possible land uses for each defined category.
Various government and legal departments ensure strict compliance with this law, and thus avoid any potential threats.
The institutional framework for management is provided, since 1985, by a specific institution that manages the property and the buffer zone: the Archaeological Ensemble of Medina Azahara (CAMA). This institution has an organizational structure including areas of Administration, Conservation and Research/Publicity.
There are two planning instruments which have been developed and implemented to different degrees (the programmes of the Special Protection Plan and the Master Plan), which provide a solid basis for strategic guidelines to guarantee that Medina Azahara continues to be protected and appreciated.
The expected long-term results for management are to consolidate and increase human and budgetary resources for management, consolidating the public institution with its technical expertise as the main instrument for managing the site, providing it with greater functional autonomy and encouraging greater participation and coordination with other agencies and interested parties.
Another essential aim to ensure the preservation of the site is to update and have approved the Operational Plan for Medina Azahara.
- Recommends that the State Party give consideration to the following:
- Securing the appropriate and timely funding for the property,
- Clarifying the timeframe for the implementation of the mitigation of the edges of the illegal settlements with hard and soft landscaping,
- Carrying out special monitoring on the portion of Las Pitas beyond the Guadalmellato River Canal, where urban plots are still empty, with a view to avoiding development or at least ensuring development has minimal impact,
- Improving the monitoring by developing indicators which directly measure the state of conservation,
- Elaborating in detail the evidence of the evolution of conservation doctrine and criteria in the baseline documentation about the site,
- Updating and approving the Operational Plan for Medina Azahara in order to ensure the preservation of the property.