A Mediterranean cruise afforded my son, Patrick and I with an opportunity to visit the Alhambra in 2007. When Patrick and I arrived in Granada our excursion took us straight to the Alhambra. It was very interesting to see this elaborately decorated palace. I have interest in Spanish history, since living in Barcelona for several years.
Why visit the Alhambra?
Firstly the location is absolutely breathtaking – set against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range of Spain. Alhambra can be seen for miles around. Translated as “The Red Fortress” in Arabic, due to the colour of its walls, The Alhambra of Granada, one of the best preserved Arabian palaces of its era, is alive with history and romance. It has inspired poets, writers and artists for centuries, including Washington Irving’s ‘Tales of the Alhambra’, written in 1832.
Where is the Alhambra?
The Alhambra palace and fortress complex is located on a hill named al-Sabika, on the south-eastern side of the city of Granada, overlooked by the awesome Sierra Nevada mountain range, Granada is situated in the South of Spain in Andalucía.
What Is The History of Alhambra?
There are Alhambra references from the ninth century onwards, the Alhambra was originally the capital city of a series of city-fortresses intended to protect the last Muslim state in the Iberian Peninsula.
The current complex, including the palace, however, was built in the middle of the fourteenth century during the Nasrid dynasty, as the residence of the Muslim emirs and their court, and is ornately decorated according to the styles of that period; featuring intricate details such as carved cedar-wood and delicate mosaics.
The significance of Granada to Moorish history in Spain is tremendous. Granada was the very last stronghold of the Moors in Spain when in 1492 it fell to Ferdinand and Isabella, marking the very end of almost 800 years of Muslim rule in Iberia. Upon completing the Reconquista, Ferdinand and Isabella presided on their throne from the Alhambra, where Christopher Columbus had his audience for the financing of his voyage West.
After the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) conquered Andalucía in 1492, parts of the Alhambra were used by the Christian rulers, and eventually the mosque was replaced by a church. In 1527, the palace of Charles V was built within the complex as a permanent residence for the Monarch. Eventually the complex fell into disrepair, inhabited by vagrants, and even being used as soldiers’ barracks during Napoleonic times.
For several centuries it lay abandoned, until being declared a national monument in 1870. Alhambra palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Now, it is the most popular tourist attraction in Spain, with over 2 million visitors a year.
Richly coloured tiles, delicate sculptures and unique Arabic artwork…. Courtyards filled with cypress trees and flowers, set among cool ponds and fountains…… Walls lavishly decorated with Arabic calligraphy and poems…. Imposing towers, palaces fit for a king, and sumptuous gardens. The place was absolutely gorgeous: luscious gardens, breath-taking views over the city of Granada, and impressive Arabic architecture. The massive structure was also very cool because it featured signs of Arabic science, the most visible being the water system that flowed through the Alhambra. The Palaces of the Nazaries were astonishing palaces that featured beautiful water fountains and The Generalife garden was just as amazing as the Alhambra.
Overlooking the Alhambra, the Generalife has a picturesque view of Granada. The garden featured a maze of greenery that canopied over us. The water fountains and ponds added to the beauty of the luscious Generalife. The grounds featured a type of waterfall, with a stream of water flowing down a staircase in the Generalife. Our guide explained to me that the Generalife was designed by the Muslims to resemble Heaven, or paradise. She also said that the numerous palm trees in Granada were a symbol of paradise. The Generalife was definitely a very peaceful and breathtaking place to visit.
One can see all the three elements of Islamic art in the Alhambra: geometrical patterns, vegetal patterns, and Arabic calligraphy. The calligraphy is simple stuff and is just two words, literally, Help and God. The Alhambra may be the most inscribed building in the world. There may be no other building that has the word God or Allah inscribed on it as many times as in the Alhambra.
The last Muslims rulers of Spain, the Nasirids, were well aware of their position and decorated the Alhambra fittingly: imploring God for His help and protection. Everyone interprets the Alhambra as royal palace, a secular place, but it is a masterpiece of the Sufi artists and a significant piece of Islamic religious architecture and decoration. The Nasirids held on until 1492 and the years that followed saw the holocaust of Muslims in Europe.
The gardens are particularly beautiful and relaxing, with pretty flowers, fountains and ivy-covered walls. We walked around the Generalife Gardens, and visited the Nasrid Palaces. Dome of the Hall of the Two Sisters – Most impressive and recognizable architecture element of the hall is the dome of mocarabes, a decorative element present throughout the monument.
In the month of December, the Alhambra gardens look winter bare in some places.
Princesses, often locked up in a lofty tower by their fathers to stop them from communicating with unsuitable young men! No longer at place to lock up their daughters, many choose the Alhambra as a place for their wedding. We we were there to catch a bride and groom getting ready to take their wedding photos.
There is much that can be said about the Alhambra, but there is also a magic in finding out for yourself about this amazing place. It is a place of exquisite beauty and I will always treasure my visit there.