No Andalucían visit is complete until you have been to see the wonders Granada holds.
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located on the southeastern border of the city of Granada. It was constructed during the mid 14th century by the Moorish rulers in al-Andalus, occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica.
The design of the complex included plans for six palaces, five of which were grouped in the northeast quadrant forming a royal quarter, two circuit towers, and numerous bathhouses. During the reign of the Nasrid Dynasty, the Alhambra was transformed into a palatine city, complete with an irrigation system for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress. Previously, the old Alhambra structure had been dependent upon rainwater collected from a cistern and from what could be brought up from El Albayzín (see below). The creation of the Sultan’s Canal solidified the identity of the Alhambra as a palace-city rather than a defensive and ascetic structure.
The Palacio de Generalife was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid Emirs (Kings) of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus, now beside the city of Granada. The palace and gardens were built during the reign of Muhammad III (1302–1309) and redecorated shortly after by Abu I-Walid Isma’il (1313–1324).
The complex consists of the Patio de la Acequia (Court of the Water Channel), which has a long pool framed by flowerbeds, fountains, colonnades and pavilions, and the Jardín de la Sultana (Sultana’s Garden). The former is thought to best preserve the style of the medieval Persian garden in Al-Andalus.
Originally the palace was linked to the Alhambra by a covered walkway across the ravine that now divides them. The Generalife is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens.
The Alcazaba or citadel is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and is built on the precipitous foreland which terminates the plateau on the northwest. The massive outer walls, towers and ramparts are all that is left. On its watchtower, the Torre de la Vela, 25 m (85 ft) high, the flag of Ferdinand and Isabella was first raised in token of the Spanish conquest of Granada in January 1492. A turret containing a large bell was added in the 18th century and restored after being damaged by lightning in 1881. Beyond the Alcazaba is the palace of the Moorish rulers, or Alhambra properly so-called; and beyond this, again, is the Alhambra Alta (Upper Alhambra), originally tenanted by officials and courtiers.
Unfortunately due to the time of day we arrived, we weren’t able to see much more of the Alhambra than the Generalife and the Alcazaba. After our visit, we wandered down into Granada town centre to catch the bus to the Albayzín.
El Albayzín (also Albaicín or El Albaicín) is a district of present day Granada that retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past. It was declared a world heritage site in 1984 along with the Alhambra. El Albayzín rises on a hill facing the Alhambra and many people journey into the area primarily for the spectacular views from the church of San Nicolas and the bars immediately below.
The square or plaza by the church of San Nicholas is host to street entertainers and small make-shift stalls selling hand-made jewellery and crafts. At the time of our visit there was a group of medical students holding their “rag week” with improvised tom-foolery and high jinks a-plenty. Purely by chance some street musicians met with the students for a fantastic and impromptu display of flamenco which roped in some of the more “senior” visitors to the area, one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever witnessed – what an absolutely fantastic afternoon!
There are some amazing and unexpected photography opportunities to be had in Granada, I have been there about four or five times now and each time has been wonderfully different. So if you’d like a personalised tour of the area and you have a whole day to spare, contact me and we can make it happen! My email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about Alhambra, please visit their website http://www.alhambra.org.