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Explain the reasons for the construction of the Madinat-al-Zahra and Document the measures of its splendour

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Introduction

Explain the reasons for the construction of the Madinat-al-Zahra and Document the measures of its splendour The city of Madinat-al-Zahra was founded by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al Rahkman III, and later completed in 936 during the time of his son Hakam II, after nearly 40 years of construction. Situated 5 km from Cordoba, it was an extravagant and grand city, built by over 10,000 workers at a time when art, philosophy and culture were flourishing in Islamic culture. It is easy to understand why it was later to become know as the Radiant City1 , as it contained beautiful gardens , rich treasures and extravagant decorations. The cost of building such a grand city was of course high, estimated in some quarters to be almost a third of Cordoba's total revenue. It was however, until its eventual destruction, unmatched in beauty and splendour2. It was created as a new capital, as a seat of government and state functions, but it had a short albeit glorious life. The decline of Madinat-al-Zahra essentially began during the reign of the young caliph Hisham II. At that time, the prime minister al-Mansor, (who was known for his dictatorial style of governing, and his continued successful attacks on the Christian North3,) ...read more.

Middle

the ground was covered with brocades. At intervals servants would be places in richly dressed clothes and jewels, whom would be mistaken for kings, before informing the dignitary they were servants. This leads to the impression that if even the servants, or lesser important people were dressed as such, then the Caliph must be incredibly powerful. When they saw him, he would be seated on the ground wearing simple clothes, holding a Koran. This unexpected sight showed a pious, spiritual side to him.7 In the centre of al Rahmans palace was the 'Room of the Caliphs' described as having walls of marble, floors of transparent alabaster covered with rich carpets; 8 ebony doors on each side of the hall inlaid with gold and precious stones and a golden swan, holding in its beak a pearl the size of a dove's eggas just a snippet of the total splendour8. Elsewhere, striking bronze statues poured perfumed mountain spring water into large marble fountains, huge and lush gardens were surrounded by wonderful pillars, ornaments and glorious statues. Finally, carefully directed sunlight reflected against a central fountain filled with mercury, dazzling royal visitors as when the pool was disturbed, the whole room shimmered with reflected light. ...read more.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the function of the Madinat-al-Zahra was to serve as a royal residence, a seat for the government and a popular dwelling area for the Emir. The magnificence of decoration was designed to create the impression of, and offer a perfect setting to portray a divinely ordered hierarchy and prove to all that the caliph was supreme ruler over his people and gods true emissary. Other reasons surely played a part in the construction of Madinat al-Zahra; vanity, excitement in creating vast new citadels, the expression of love to one of his concubines and as something to take the caliphs mind from previous failures, but I believe that pure symbolic expression provided the main reason for the construction of this wonderful city. Although one could, and many have, describe the caliph's efforts as an ill conceived, devastation of resources, as a shrine of power and home for ceremonial and deeply important displays of absolute authority, Madinat al-Zahra was brilliantly constructed. From authoritative dominance over guests, enemies and potential allies to imposing a great ethos of subordination in the divine surroundings on the military to the state and all individuals to him, Ceremonial acts, vivid imagery and total grandeur were the vital instruments used by the caliph to establish his position clearly to other people. Madinat al-Zahra was a perfect symbol, and instrument, of power. ...read more.

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