The Door of the Caliph : Concepts of the Court in the Umayyad Caliphate of al-Andalus book cover
1st Edition

The Door of the Caliph
Concepts of the Court in the Umayyad Caliphate of al-Andalus

  • Available for pre-order on April 14, 2023. Item will ship after May 5, 2023
ISBN 9781032207155
May 5, 2023 Forthcoming by Routledge
296 Pages 29 B/W Illustrations

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USD $160.00

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Book Description

This book focuses on the conceptualization of the court, palace and ruler of the Umayyad Caliphate of al-Andalus. Western terminology still plays a normative role in the representation of foreign courts, determining concepts that fit poorly into chronologies with their own dynamics and specificities, which is the case of Muslim courts. While Court Studies is a well-developed field for modern Western societies, Muslim medieval courts lack a consistent field of research.

Sources elaborate a specific terminology for medieval Muslim court societies. In the specific case of the Umayyad Caliphate of al-Andalus, the court is usually articulated as Bāb Suddat al-Khalīfa ("The door of the Sudda of the caliph") – a reference to the symbology of the main city gate of Cordoba – or simply as Bāb. Bāb Suddat al-Khalīfa became the most emblematic concept to name the Umayyad palace and its society, which will be additionally interpreted in the framework of the performance of ceremonial. The strong conceptualization of the Umayyad court of Cordoba was highlighted through the articulation of ceremonial, as the mis-en-scène of the conceptualization, expressed by gestures, insignia and hierarchies.

The preliminary comparative perspective with the Umayyad Caliphate of Damascus, the ‘Abbasid and Fatimid Caliphates, and the Byzantine Empire further discusses the Umayyad Andalusi model in relation to other dynasties. While the book focuses on the Umayyad conceptualization and articulation of ceremonial, this model will be discussed within the Mediterranean and Eastern framework of the tenth and 11th centuries, which broadens the interest of the book to other fields of research.

Table of Contents


Foreword (Maribel Fierro)

Part I

  1. Introduction
  2. Sources and State of the Art
    1. Sources
    2. State of the Art
      1. Muslims courts
      2. The Byzantine court

  3. Concepts
    1. The invented court: a Western imagery
    2. The concept of court
    3. The Umayyad Caliph: a Sun-Caliph?
    4. Bāb Suddat al-Khalīfa or the court of the caliph: an Umayyad Sublime Porte?
    5. Qaṣr al-Khilāfa: space and society

    Part II

  4. A ceremonial common language in the Mediterranean: rituals of court in a comparative perspective
    1. The bayʽa: an introduction to palace ceremonies
    2. The caliphal and imperial insignia
    3. Religious festivities, processions and military parades: an assessment of palace and public ceremonial
    4. A liturgy of blood? An assessment of ritualized public executions under the rule of the Caliph ‘Abd al-Raḥmān III

  5. Conclusion


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Elsa Cardoso is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Languages and Cultures of the Mediterranean and the Near East (ILC) of the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), in Madrid. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Lisbon in 2020. From April 2021 to March 2022, she was as postdoctoral fellow of the German DFG Center RomanIslam, at the University of Hamburg. Her research focuses on history of Islam and history of al-Andalus. She has worked and published on court, diplomacy and ceremonial of the Umayyads of Cordoba, considering a comparative perspective within the Mediterranean. She is also developing her research on historiography of al-Andalus, as well as on history of the Gharb al-Andalus.


Drawing on a painstaking and insightful reading of the literary sources and the material evidence, Elsa Cardoso takes on the first academic approach to the concept of "court" in Umayyad Cordoba. A fresh and novel book that opens new avenues for historical knowledge.

Alejandro García Sanjuán (University of Huelva, Spain)


Elsa Cardoso offers us a renewed vision of the representation of power in the Umayyad Caliphate, through the study of the multiple manifestations of ceremonial and an innovative approach to the concept of the court, based on textual and material sources.

Antonio Vallejo Triano (Director of the Archaeological Complex of Madinat al-Zahra’, Cordoba, Spain)