In the heart of the old medina of Cordoba, a few meters from its great Aljama Mosque, between white and cobbled alleys, in the most important patrimonial area of the Historic Site, World Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO, and next to the Environment Protection of the tower of the House of the Marquises del Carpio (s.XV), is the Hotel Madinat, in a protected building with category four stars where the essence of the ancient city emerges and whose name pays homage to the three medinas that Hosted the Cordoba Caliphate: Madinat al-Zhara, Madinat Al-Sira and Madinat Qurtuba.
Its foundations tell us about a Roman past, close to the largest theater in Hispania, whose remains can be seen under the current Archaeological Museum. Its Arab past is visible in every corner, since we are in the southeast part of the old medina. An elliptical well from the Arabic period, located at one end of the courtyard, makes us imagine the water-wheel that supplied water by collecting it as it passed under the house on its way to the great river Al-wadi al-Kabir (now known as the Guadalquivir). The Castilian context is also present on the same street, in the form of a medieval Gothic tower belonging to the fortress house of the Marquises del Carpio, whose origins date back to the time of King Ferdinand III. The king donated the building to the Mendez de Sotomayor family to defend the eastern wall of the city after its conquest in 1236. The story of the Siete Infantes de Lara (Lara’s seven children) took place in front of the hotel; in what is now a museum known as Casa de las Cabezas (the house of the heads). This house was in the old Alcazar of Almanzor, and here, according to legend, Gonzalo Gustioz was imprisoned. In the small alley next to the house the heads of his seven unfortunate children were hung, hence the name of the street.
Today, Hotel Madinat maintains the appearance of an old-style Manor House, whose structure and walls date from the 18th Century. Its current beauty goes back to the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, where, run by the bourgeoisie of the time, it adopted a modernist and eclectic style that is present in many elements of the house. The vestibule, for example, has a tiled floor that makes colorful geometric patterns, a doorway with metalwork that evokes orientalism in an attempt to emulate the Califal filigree and whose grid allows fresh air to flow through, cooling the house. The staircase, flanked by twin effigies, has a carved wooden banister in rich, dark wood which draws the eye up to the ceiling and the four caryatids, representative of the rich ornamental plasterwork. The traditional tiles resemble an exhibition of tapestries designed to dress the floors, and the windows long for a nearby sea. As the twentieth century progressed, the house was flooded with darkness, leaving only shadows of its past buried amongst dust and memories, almost resigned to suffering the same fate as its soul mate. However, it somehow summoned up the strength to resist decay and in the 80s flirted with a wild side; hiding its opulent past and apparent neglect, it became known as a ‘meson’ – a bar frequented by university students and other locals eager to break with the status quo. Today, the house wears a new suit, rescuing the best of each period, celebrating the splendor of its past while offering the comfort, technology and innovation of the present. New and old sit side by side. Nothing is standard, every space and moment is unique, continually updated by those who feel compelled to discover and celebrate the cultural and historical diversity of a city like Cordoba.