Its name describes it, also known as “Alhambra de Granada”, it is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world. In fact, it is a palace complex with a fortress and numerous gardens, located in Granada, a city which was under the muslim domain for more than seven centuries. In 2016, it was the second most visited place in Spain, just after Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. It is also considered a World Heritage Site.
Alhambra comes from the arabic name “al-Qal’a al-hamra”, which means Red Castle. Located on a hill, at the feet of the mountain of Sierra Nevada (Snowed Mountain) it dominates the city of Granada. Its strategy location for defensive purposes may have helped Granada (Gharnata) to be the last emirate to be reconquered in 1492 by the Catholic Kings of Spain.
We started our visit with the Generalife, which was the family house and gardens during Nasrid times of the royalty of Granada. Its Hispanic-Nasrid style is something unique in Europe and the atmosphere in a hot August day was refreshed with fountains and water jets in all its gardens. From Generalife you can also have some of the best views of Granada, with the Albaicín quarter just on the opposite hill, looking to the north.
After the views and water gardens we went to the Escalera del Agua (Water Stairs). They have this name because there are water channels on the railings and under your feet and there are fountains after each rest, something really appreciated in a typical summer day above 40ºC. Our next stop was going to be not so pleasant: the Alcazaba had almost no shadow.
The Alcazaba was the military zone of the Alhambra. Its purpose was to defend the different palaces. Nowadays, only the walls and towers of the fortress remain while inside you can see the basement of the old royal house, which was abandoned when the Nasrid Palaces were finished. The walls and towers, built with red bricks, are some of the most iconic features of the Alhambra because they are seen from everywhere in Granada, like in the featured image of this post, a photo taken from the Sacromonte. From the different towers of the Alcazaba you have some of the greatest views, to all directions, of Granada.
Then, after the Alcazaba we headed towards the entrance of the Nasrid Palaces, the heart of the Alhambra, a pure travel to the arabic and muslim past of the Iberian Peninsula. After conquering Granada, the Catholic Kings of Spain, decided to fix the residence in the Nasrid Palaces, which, probably, helped to keep in good shape all the complex.
The first Nasrid Palace is the Comares one. Here don’t miss the Patio de los Arrayanes and the Ambassors Room, one of the most beautiful constructions in the Alhambra.
From Comares Palace we moved to Palacio de los Leones (Lions Palace), where we could see one of the most famous images of the Alhambra and Granada itself: the fountain with 12 lions. From the mouth of each lion, a waterjet falls to the channels on the floor, distributing the water to different directions inside the Patio de los Leones. The fountain is made of white marble and includes a sculptured poem by Ibn Zamrak:
«May The One who granted the imam Mohammed
with the beautiful ideas to decorate his mansions be blessed.
For, are there not in this garden wonders
that God has made incomparable in their beauty,
and a sculpture of pearls with a transparently light,
the borders of which are trimmed with seed pearl?
Melted silver flows through the pearls,
to which it resembles in its pure dawn beauty.
Apparently, water and marble seem to be one,
without letting us know which of them is flowing.
Don’t you see how the water spills on the basin,
but its spouts hide it immediately?
It is a lover whose eyelids are brimming over with tears,
tears that it hides from fear of a betrayer.
Isn’t it, in fact, like a white cloud
that pours its water channels on the lions
and seems the hand of the caliph, who, in the morning,
grants the war lions with his favours?
Those who gaze at the lions in a threatening attitude,
(knows that) only respect (to the Emir) holds his anger.
¡Oh descendant of the Ansares, and not through an indirect line,
heritage of nobility, who despises the fatuous:
May the peace of God be with you and may your life be long and unscathed
multiplying your feasts and tormenting your enemies!»
After being amazed by the beauty of the Patio de los Leones, like it happened to Ibn Zamrak, we ended our visit to the Nasrid Palaces and continued walking to the gardens next to them and the beautiful porch of El Partal. We also had time to visit the Carlos V Palace, the first palace built in the Alhambra after the reconquest. It has a square plan with a circular interior patio and has temporary museum exhibitions.