Granada - Moorish palaces perched over modern Granada (29 May)

Interesting Facts about Granada

IN THE 13TH CENTURY, Muhammad I Ibn Nasr, al-Ahmar, the first ruler of the Nasrid dynasty (the last Muslim dynasty in Spain), spotted a red-rock plateau in the foothills fronting the Sierra Nevada. He had a monumental idea, and over the next 300 years the outcropping was transformed into an imposing palace-city: the Alhambra. It was endowed with wondrous works of engineering and covered with elaborate Moorish decoration. The visionary king had water diverted from the Darro River to fill fountains and pools, and to sustain elegant gardens. The rosy-hued fortress was constructed of clay-and-gravel bricks strong enough to last for centuries. Its plain, heavy walls belie the exquisite cavernous, domed Islamic palaces within. Latticed, arched windows admit natural light that illuminates the geometric carved and tile patterns of interior rooms. These ornate spaces represent the height of the Nasrid reign. They are so fantastical that after the Reconquista, the Christian rulers that assumed reign of the Iberian Peninsula imitated the Moorish design in their own buildings.
The Alhambra fell into neglect in the 18th century, and it wasn’t until American writer Washington Irving visited in the late 1820s, writing effusively of its grandeur, that restoration efforts were seriously undertaken.
Today, visitors to the Alhambra can trace its architectural evolution atop Al Sabika hill, on which it sits. The Alcazaba on the promontory’s westernmost point has military watchtowers, terraces, and the Plaza de Armas, all of which date to the mid-13th century. The inner sanctums of the Nasrid rulers include the Mexuar, which once served as a reception and meeting room; the Comares Palace, the official residence of the king; and the Palace of the Lions, the private chambers of the royal family.
In the magnificent gardens, porticoes, and pools of the Generalife, the Moorish kings found respite and rest. The Palace of Charles V—built after the Catholic conquest of Granada in 1492—was the Alhambra’s last great construction. The early 1500s-era palace blends Roman influence with Moorish symmetry and is considered one of the most important architectural achievements of the Spanish Renaissance.
Tickets to the Alhambra are available in limited quantities and for certain time slots, and sometimes sell out weeks in advance during the busy summer season. Local tour operators can often get discounts, and they can give visitors an alternative to the standard self-guided visit.