Near Córdoba, Spain are the ruins of the palace of Medina ah-Zahra, the jewel of Al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. The analogy has been used that, during this period, Córdoba was to the rest of Europe what New York would be if compared today to a tiny rural village in Mexico (no offense intended...I love small villages in Mexico). Running water, paved and lighted streets...and during a period when large collections of books were scarce in Europe, Córdoba had about seventy libraries, the largest containing some 400,000 books. The culture of Al-Andalus was intellectually alive and was responsible for introducing Europe to, among other things, paper, algebra, advanced irrigation techniques and translations of many of the classic works of both Greek and Latin philosophy.
Medina ah-Zahra was brimming with ideas and beauty, creativity and activity, attracting musicians, astronomers, poets, doctors, botanists and mathmaticians. Stanley Lane-Poole, in his book "The Story of the Moors in Spain," wrote that "Travelers from distant lands, men of all ranks and professions in life, following various religions - princes, ambassadors, merchants, pilgrims, theologians and poets - all agreed that they had never seen in the course of their travels anything that could be compared to it."
It had a short life. Construction began in 940, and just seventy years later, in 1010 it was destroyed by Muslim purists from North Africa who felt that its culture was too far away from what they felt was the true interpretation of the Koran.