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Madinat al-Zahra: the past made future

The Unesco World Heritage Proclamation can enable Cordoba to become a universal benchmark in the study and preservation of the historical heritage

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Madinat al-Zahra: the past made future

The incorporation of archaeological site of Madinat al-Zahra to UNESCO World Heritage List can allow Cordoba to become a universal reference in study and preservation of historical patrimony. Its famous mosque had already been included in 1984 on that prestigious list, and in 1994 this declaration extended to its historic center. Now, it is city founded a few kilometres by Caliph Abd al-Rahmaan III around 936 which joins formidable monumental legacy recognized by UNESCO in Andalusian city. Very few places in world can boast of such wealth.

The report, which has served to approve this new declaration, underlines that Madinat al-Zahra is a singular case, for it is " only city built from scratch that testifies to Islamic civilization in Europe", and which has also reached us in an "exceptional State of conservation both of its remains, and of adjacent areas. " Thus it rewards long and, sometimes, misunderstood work of recovery and preservation of old Caliphal city, that generations of archaeologists, arabists and historians have carried out on site since excavations began in 1911.

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It should be remembered that Madinat al-Zahra today would not exist without work of those who have consecrated ir lives to study texts that mention it, to unearth and make sense of ir archaeological remains, to rebuild ir complex decorative programs, to Recover ir materials, or to read with infinite patience fragments of Arabic inscriptions that adorned it. It is to m and to those who with ir daily work make possible preservation of this complex archaeological joint, to whom declaration of UNESCO makes fair recognition.

Thanks to this huge work it has been possible to rescue from oblivion a city with an existence as splendorous as ephemeral, because it was destroyed during civil war that ended with sovereigns Umayyad at beginning of 11th century. Since n, its walls, witnesses of great receptions of caliphs and operation of its powerful administration, were abandoned and converted into quarry of which many cordoban buildings were filled. In modern times place was known as Córdoba la Vieja, because it was believed to be a Roman city. Only when first arabists of second half of nineteenth century began to publish ancient Arabic texts was it possible to show that se ruins corresponded to majestic Caliphal city that its authors described with great luxury of details.

After more than a century of work, what visitor now contemplates is only one third of total city, which means that future generations still expect many surprises in investigation of Madinat al-Zahra; Surprises that we will not see – this is long way of science – but that are possible thanks to fact that city and its environment have guaranteed maximum patrimonial protection, that declaration of UNESCO confirms and obliges to reinforce.

In fact, Caliphal city is not just an archaeological complex; It is also a splendid landscape at foot of Sierra Cordoba, whose protection is also assured thanks to its wide territory was declared good Cultural interest by Junta de Andalucía in 1996. Time has shown that this declaration was not a whim, but a great bet for future: without it, exceptional landscape, historical and archaeological elements that extend between Madinat al-Zahra and Córdoba would have been engulfeded by voracious Urban growth of last decades and of which illegal constructions emerged toger with archaeological complex by desidia of competent administrations are exponents.

The universal recognition that Madinat al-Zahra has obtained today encompasses, refore, an invaluable lesson that society and public authorities would do well to incorporate: in face of calculation based on particular short-term benefit or immediate political revenue, The serious and rigorous recovery of our historical heritage results in long social and economically profitable. It is not a question of converting this heritage into a mere tourist attraction, as has been proposed lately, in my opinion with excessive lightness, but to prioritize ir research as a way of joining knowledge society, and as a way to increase a Social structuring at present more necessary than ever. Today, when Madinat al-Zahra has finally been declared a World Heritage site, we have all achieved not only that his past can be our own, but also that his future belongs to us.


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