The Umayads were the first Muslim dynasty — that is, they were the first rulers of the Islamic Empire to pass down power within their family.
According to tradition, the Umayyad family (also known as the Banu Abd-Shams) and Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) both descended from a common ancestor, Abd Manaf ibn Qusai, and they originally came from the city of Mecca. Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) descended from Abd Manāf via his son Hashim, while the Umayyads descended from Abd Manaf via a different son, Abd-Shams, whose son was Umayya. The two families are therefore considered to be different clans (those of Hashim and of Umayya, respectively) of the same tribe (that of the Quraish).
Eight kilometres west of Córdoba stands what’s left of Madinat al-Zahra, the sumptuous palace-city built by Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III in the 10th century. The complex spills down a hillside with the caliph’s palace (the area you visit today) on the highest levels overlooking what were gardens and open fields. The residential areas (still unexcavated) were set away to each side. A fascinating modern museum has been installed below the site.
The bathhouse of the 10th-century caliphs, part of the Moorish Alcázar complex that was later replaced by the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, is the most impressive of the few Arab bathhouses that still survive from the 600 that Córdoba boasted by the early 11th century. With the typical arrangement of cold, warm and hot rooms, the now-underground complex has been partly restored to its original appearance with horseshoe arches, elegant pillars and star-shaped skylights. You can also see remains of the underfloor heating system.