Tales of the Alhambra – We can’t wait to explore the Alhambra with you!The monumental Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens is considered nowadays as one of the most beautiful and meaningful cultural landscape in the world. The Alhambra Palace is the most visited monument in Spain, receiving even more visitors than El Prado in Madrid and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
The Alhambra is a real Palace City of the Nasrid dynasty that is perfectly harmonized with its gardens and fountains, distributed along the majestic complex. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Alhambra is the most visited monument in Spain – more so than El Prado in Madrid and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
This monument is clearly divided into four areas: the Palaces, the Alcazaba (military area), the Medina (the city), and the Gardens of the Generalife, created by Aben Salid Ismail in 1319. It joint military functions with architectural elements such as walls and towers and with residential elements such as courtyards, halls, rooms for the harem, baths, etc. Its gardens, fountains, ponds, etc. are also spectacular.
The Alhambra was so called because of its reddish walls (in Arabic, («qa’lat al-Hamra’» means Red Castle). It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the River Darro, to the west of the city of Granada, and in front of the neighborhoods of the Albaicin and the Sacromonte in the city. The Alhambra is located o n a strategic point, with a view over the whole city and the meadow (“la Vega”), and this fact leads to believe that other buildings were already on that site before the Muslims arrived.
The first historical documents known about the Alhambra date from the 9th century and they refer to Sawwar ben Hamdun who, in the year 889, had to seek refuge in the Alcazaba, a fortress, and had to repair it due to the civil fights that were destroying the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada then belonged. This site subsequently started to be extended and populated, although not yet as much as it would be later on, because the Ziri kings established their residence on the hill of the Albaicin.
The castle of the Alhambra was added to the city’s area within the ramparts in the 9th century, which implied that the castle became a military fortress with a view over the whole city. In spite of this, it was not until the arrival of the first king of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed ben Al-Hamar (Mohammed I, 1238-1273), in the 13th century, that the royal residence was established in the Alhambra. This event marked the beginning of the Alhambra’s most glorious period.
- Patio of the Lions – “Patio de los Leones”
- Court of the Myrtles – “Patio de los Arrayanes”
- Hall of the Abencerrages – “Sala de los Abencerrajes”
First of all, the old part of the Alcazaba was reinforced and the Watch Tower (“Torre de la Vela”) and the Keep (“Torre del Homenaje”) were built. Water was canalized from the River Darro, warehouses and deposits were built and the palace and the ramparts were started. These two elements were carried on by Mohammed II (1273-1302) and Mohammed III (1302-1309), who apparently also built public baths and the Mosque (“Mezquita”), on the site of which the current Church of Saint Mary was later built.
Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391) are responsible for most of the constructions of the Alhambra that we can still admire today. From the improvements of the Alcazaba and the palaces, to the Patio of the Lions (“Patio de los Leones”) and its annexed rooms, including the extension of the area within the ramparts, the Justice Gate (“Puerta de la Justicia”), the extension and decoration of the towers, the building of the Baths (“Baños”), the Comares Room (“Cuarto de Comares”) and the Hall of the Boat (“Sala de la Barca”). Hardly anything remains built from after the period of the Nasrid Kings.
However, from the time of the Catholic Monarchs, Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand, until today, we must underline that King Charles V build the palace which bears his name, after ordering the demolition of a part of the complex in order to build it. We must also remember the construction of the Emperor’s Chambers (“Habitaciones del Emperador”) and the Queen’s Dressing Room (“Peinador de la Rein”a) and that from the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned. During the French domination part of the fortress was blown up and it was not until the 19th century that the process of repairing, restoring and preserving the complex started and is still maintained nowadays.