Qurtuba is situated at the foot of the ridge of mountains called the Sierra Morena, forming a semicircular amphitheater on the right bank of Guadalquiver. During the Ummayyad rule of Spain, there were 3,800 mosques, 60,000 palaces, and mansions, 200,000 houses inhabited by common people, 700 baths, 80,000 shops, and 70 libraries in Qurtuba.

When Abdur Rahman fled to Spain, one of his first acts was to build an aqueduct for the supply of pure water. His successors continually added to the number until the water supply was better than any other city's. The Muslims loved water and no mansion was without a garden, running rills of water, and a fountain. Abdur Rahman III constructed another great aqueduct. It was made over arches scientifically designed and conveyed the water from the neighboring mountains to the water works of the city. There the water was discharged into a vast reservoir in the middle of, which was the figure of a lion covered with plates of gold spouting waters from its mouth. Then famous garden of Russafa was packed with rare plants from around the world. The great mosque of Qurtuba was started during Abdur-Rahman's reign. It ended during the reign of Abdur Rahman III. It had rows of orange trees outside in the courtyard. The wall facing Makkah had been pushed out three times. The third time, it had almost reached the river so the fourth extension was only made in one side.


The Ummayyads loved literature and sciences. They were great collectors of books and always enriched libraries with rare books. The libraries catalog had 44 volumes. Muslims brought thousands of books to Spain. The largest library housed 500,000 books. At this time, a Christian monastery would be proud to house several hundred books. Men and women attended the university and law school in Qurtuba. A host of clerks hand-copied about 70,000 books a year. Christians and Jews worked with Muslims to translate books. Hakam, one Caliph, converted Spain into a great market where literature from every country was immediately brought for sale there. He established many elementary schools where also poor children received great knowledge for free. At this time in Christian Europe even rich people could not read or write. At the time of the Ummayyads, 1 million people lived in Qurtuba. Now it does not pass 350 thousand.