Ooops Christmas made me forget the most important post of all – the actual Alhambra visit! Full disclosure, the potted history below of this immense site comes mainly from Wikipedia!
The Alhambra is one of the most famous icons of Islamic architecture, and one of the best-preserved palaces of the historic Islamic world.
The building of this impressive complex started in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Emirate of Granada which was to be the last Muslim state of Al-Andalus.
It was built on the Sabika hill, part of the Sierra Nevada which had been the site of earlier fortresses due to its long ranging views and imposing stance.
The complex contained at least six palaces, most of them located along the northern edge where they look over the Albaicín quarter of the city.
Below is the Court of the Myrtles (Spanish: Patio de los Arrayanes) the central part of the Comares Palace which forms part of the Royal Palace complex.
Significant changes, which gave the royal palaces much of their definitive character, took place in the 14th century.
After the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella and further alterations were made to the palaces before they fell into disrepair for many years.
The Alhambra was a self-contained city separate from the rest of Granada below.
It contained a Friday mosque, hammams (public baths), roads, houses, workshops and a water supply system.
The architecture of the stunning royal palace complex – the Nasrid palaces (which you need a timed ticket to enter) – reflects the tradition of Moorish architecture developed over previous centuries.
It uses a courtyard as a central space around which other halls and rooms were organized. Courtyards typically had water features at their center, such as a reflective pool or a fountain.
The royal complex consists of three main parts: the Mexuar, the Comares Palace, and the Palace of the Lions. Above and below you can see the ornate Court of the Lions.
The place halls feature some incredible examples of Muqarnas. This is a form of ornamented vaulting in Islamic architecture. Sometimes called “honeycomb vaulting” or “stalactite vaulting”.
The video below captures just a little of this incredible architectural detailing.
There are lots of green oasis to be found scattered around the complex including The Patio de Lindaraja below that was created on the site of a former Nasrid garden just north of the Palace of the Lions.
Below is the serene Partal Palace (Spanish: El Palacio del Partal ) with its tranquil reflecting pond. The name Partal comes from Arabic al-Barṭal or al-Burtāl.
This word was an Arabic version of the Latin word portale (‘portal’) that was used in Old Castilian to mean portico – a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls.
The Partal Palace was built by the Nasrid ruler Muhammad III who ruled the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state in Al-Andalus (the Iberian Peninsula), from 1302 to 1309.
This makes it the oldest remaining palace in the Alhambra today. It was also the first of several palaces that were eventually built along the northern perimeter of the Alhambra.
Below is The Church of Saint Mary – Iglesia De Santa María de la Encarnación – which stands on the site of the former Alhambra Mosque, the congregational mosque of the Alhambra complex.
To the east of the Alhambra and outside its walls is the Generalife, a Nasrid-era summer palace and country estate which was first built by Muhammad II and Muhammad III in the late 13th and early 14th centuries.
It underwent multiple modifications under later Nasrid rulers and then by Christian Spanish builders in the 16th century.
It features several rectangular garden courtyards with decorated pavilions at either end as well as stunning views back towards the main Alhambra complex.
The origin of the name Generalife is debateable, varies suggestions include Garden of the Architect, Garden of the Artist and Principal Orchard.
Below is The Patio de la Acequia in the Generalife, a peaceful spot to enjoy the sounds of delicate fountains and the hum of insects.
In total we spent about five hours exploring the Alhambra complex – it is a huge monument that you could spend days visiting.
A brilliant entry ticked off the bucket list!!