With a dash of imagination–and the very real, hovering scent of rosemary–it’s easy to be transported back several centuries within the ruins of Madinat al-Zahra.

This ancient space, located a thirty-minute drive** from Córdoba, was half-residence and half-business. The air was dry and the ground was dusty as we wandered around the king’s quarters, stables, mezquita, and private houses. Along the way, however, a few patches of rosemary climbed between the cracks, reminders of the lives that were once rooted here.

Starting the tour at the north door (La Puerta Norte)

View from the north door (La Puerta Norte)

Dar al-Yund, aka La Casa Militar

La Casa de Ya’far

Another section of the Casa Militar

El Gran Pórtico, 1

La Casa Militar

El Gran Pórtico, view 2

We could have easily wandered around the complex more than the scant hour we had to work with. Later we read that an estimated 90% of the city remains to be unearthed. Maybe there will be more excavated for our next visit…!

*PS. The New York Times has an illuminating article on the history of the site here.

** Travel notes: Unlike the Castillo de Almodóvar, Madinat al-Zahra is easily accessibly via public transportation. Buses leave daily, save for Mondays, from the center of Córdoba. Once at the complex, you’ll have to collect a ticket. These slips of paper are free if you’re an EU citizen; if not, fellow Americans, you’ll have pay €1.50. Next, you’ll catch a bus up to the top of the neighboring hill (€2.10). Everyone pays for that. Please factor in more than an hour for your visit. Por favor.