The 10th-century Moorish site provides “in-depth knowledge of the now vanished Western Islamic civilisation of Al-Andalus, at the height of its splendour,” said Unesco's World Heritage Committee, which is meeting in Bahrain.
After prospering for several years, the magnificent palace-city, which was the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, “was laid to waste during the civil war that put an end to the Caliphate in 1009-10,” the committee said in a statement.
The city was built as a symbol of power to rival the caliphate of Baghdad, but lasted less than a century before it was destroyed in an uprising which ended the Cordoba caliphate at the beginning of the 11th century. The remains of the city were forgotten for almost 1,000 years until their rediscovery in the early 20th century.
The site is a treasure trove for archaeologists, presenting “a complete urban ensemble” including roads, bridges, water systems, buildings, decorative elements and everyday objects, the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) said.
A far more recent historical site was also added to Unesco's Heritage list on Sunday. The Italian industrial city of Ivrea, which was developed in the 20th century as a testing ground for Olivetti, manufacturer of typewriters, mechanical calculators and office computers, was also rewarded.
Unesco described the city as “a model social project” expressing “a modern vision of the relationship between industrial production and architecture”.
On Saturday the Unesco heritage committee added six other sites to its list, including Inuit hunting grounds in Greenland, ancient Korean mountain Buddhist temples, pre-Islamic sites in Iran, and Mumbai's Art Deco buildings.