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03/06/2005: "La Alhambra, El Generalife and El Albayzin"

In the shelter of the highest peaks in the Iberian Peninsula, the Mulhacen (3,481m) and the Veleta (3,392m), lies the beautiful Andalusian city of Granada with its Parador called "San Francisco".

The city witnessed the end of Arab rule in Spain when Boabdil, the last Nasrid king, surrendered and handed the keys of the city to the Catholic Monarch on January 2nd, 1492. Legend has it that the Arab king could not help bursting into tears when for the last time he turned to look back at the city of Granada. his mother reproached him with a sentence that has become famous: "Weep like a woman since you couldn't defend yourself like a man".

La Alhambra is the most important civil building preserved of Muslim civil architecture. All the refinement, wealth and delicacy of Islamic art and architecture reached its last climax in the West in this unique building which is a fortress, residence and royal city all in one and finds an extension in the gardens of El Generalife.

Alhambra means "red castle", a name derived from the colour of its walls made from the clay that was extracted from the very hill on which it stands. This military enclosure, flanked by massive towers, is entered by five well-protected gates. Separate from the rest of the enclosure, the "Alcazaba" or Moorish fortress had its own entrance, which is closed today because of later fortifications.

In 1238, Muhammad I, Ibn al-Ahmar, the Nasrid King of Granada, repaired "La Acequia Real" (an irrigation channel) which brought water the River Darro to the top of the Red Hill and began the construction of today's Alcazaba. Muhammad II (1273-1302), his son, continued the works, but the most important driving forces behind this Arab palace-cum-fortress were Yusuf I (1333-1354) and Muhammad V (1354-1391).

After dethroning Boabdil, the Catholic Monarchs refurbished the palace, but retained the Muslim style. In the times of Emperor Carlos V, part of the Arab palaces was destroyed making way for the palace bearing his name, which was built by Pedro Machuca.

"La Casa Real Vieja", ie, the Old Royal House, consists of a series of rooms called "Cuartos a Palacio", a peculiar name given to a number of rooms that make up La Alhambra and were built one after another as the need for them arose. There are four main patios or inner courts: the one at the entrance, Machuca, Comares and the one of Los Leones (ie, the Lions). Only the last two have survived intact to our days. Between the Machuca and Comares Patios lies El Mexuar, a large hall of justice, and El Patio del Cuarto Dorado (ie, of the Golden Room). The buildings surrounding each of the patios are accurately and symmetrically distributed, but each complex by itself is organised more freely.

The towers of the curtain wall have richly decorated rooms and some of them are small, sumptuous palaces. Outstanding are the Tower of Las Infantas, the Tower of La Cautiva (ie, the Captive One) and the Tower of Las Damas.

The decoration of La Alhambra is of great importance. Among the most significant decorative elements are the skirtings of glazed tiles, the walls, friezes and series of arches covered with "atauriques" (ie, plaster or stucco decorative plant motifs characteristic of Caliphal art) and the ceilings decorated with bows, stalactites or "mocarae" (ie, designs of several prisms on a concave base) which in combination give the halls of these palaces an appearance of dazzling sumptuousness.

El Generalife, the summer palace of the Nasrid kings of Granada, stands on top of the hill of El Sol (ie, the Sun), which is twin to the one of La Alhambra and also towers over the River Darro. unlike the great palace, its construction date is known with accuracy (1318) as is its master builder: Aben Walid Ismail.

Today, all that remains of El Generalife are two buildings, one at each end of El Patio de la Acequia through the centre of which a channel runs with pipes along both sides and a stone bowl at each end. There are countless little channels, fountains and water jets everywhere in the lovely gardens.

La Alhambra and the gardens of El Generalife, which were included in the World Heritage List in 1984, are masterpieces of Nasrid architecture and belong to the last period of Arab art in the Iberian Peninsula. They embody the strength of rich and sumptuous Muslim tradition based on lavish decoration, which is one of the most outstanding elements of these unique buildings. Though tiring for the legs with its steep, cobbled streets the Albayzín district is well worth a visit. Mosques converted into churches, Arab water cisterns still in use, Moorish palaces and tranquil villas hidden behind lush greenery give a sensation of harmony and suspended reality where the spirit can savour total peace of a few hours.

Source: World Heritage Sites in Spain

Panoramic view of the Alhambra

Where and how to get a ticket


Replies: 1 Comment

on Tuesday, June 21st, rica07@yahoo.com">rica said

:) :cool: :satisfied:


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March 2005