The Moorish masterpiece, The Alhambra, sits on its hilltops overlooking Granada. The outside is deliberately plain in appearance. Part of the effect was to enter those plain walls and find oneself in wonderland. The Moors invaded from North Africa, but were not all one, cohesive people. The man who led their invasion in the 700’s had fled to Africa after being on the losing end of a dynastic war in Baghdad. He gathered an army and crossed to Spain. Thus began nearly 800 years of Muslims ruling parts, or almost all, of Spain. (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
The Generalife Palace (built by Christians after they re-conquered Granada) as seen from the Alhambra. (Notice the brown Alhambra tower on the left.) (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
The Generalife Palace sits across a narrow canyon from the Alhambra. A gardened walkway at the end of the canyon connects them
Inside the Alhambra gardens, looking across at the Generalife Palace.
Here you begin to see the size of the Alhambra.
The Catholic conquerors added a church and made sure that the cross on top is higher than the Islamic buildings. They were symbolically claiming precedence after seven centuries of Islamic domination. (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
Here we are inside the Alhambra. In a dry land, the vision of paradise was greenery and water. The Moorish kings diverted part of a river from high in the mountains and ran it downhill to their hilltop masterpiece. Notice the perfect placement of the tree in the middle window.
The American author Washington Irving (Rip Van Winkle; The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) was first America’s leading diplomat in Spain. He lived for a year inside the Alhambra before it was fully restored to its present glory, and wrote a wonderful book, Tales of the Alhambra. He looked at this ancient tree and speculated on the intrigues and wonders it had witnessed. (Rip Van Winkle/Gulliver’s Travels and Story of the World, Vol. 3)
In 1492, Ferdinand and Isabella conquered Granada, the last Moorish stronghold in Spain. Only then did they turn their attention to Columbus’s plans. Their heir and grandson, Charles V of Germany (Carlos I to Spaniards), built a Christian palace inside the Alhambra to celebrate their triumph. The palace is rectangular, but the central court is rounded. (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
Approaching the entrance to the Moorish palaces in the Alhambra, we were taken by these trees!
Islam allows no “graven images” representing human or divine forms, so the Moors became astonishing abstract designers. Here, the lower section is tiles. The upper section is intricately hand carved, rather fragile stucco. (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
One of the most beautiful vistas inside the palace shows greenery, water and blue, blue sky, the Moorish vision of paradise. Women were not allowed to walk here with men, but the upper windows looked out from the women’s quarters. (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
Inside this room, Queen Isabella told Columbus that she would underwrite his voyage westward. Here she also contemplated the fate of Spain’s Jews and remaining Muslims after the Catholic re-conquest. The Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition, Tomas’ Torquemada, demanded she exile both Jews and Muslims, or force them to convert. She agreed. Unfortunately, they were the two most advanced, best-educated people in Spain, and when they fled, they took their learning with them. (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
A wall plaque in the room Washington Irving (Rip Van Winkle) occupied when he lived in the Alhambra while serving as America’s representative to Spain. Here he wrote his first famous book.
Yes, it’s all hand crafted! The Moorish artists were masters.
From another angle, one sees the amazing stained glass at the peak of the room in the previous photo.
Heavy, metal-studded doors were beautiful AND functional: they remind us that during certain eras, Spanish homes had to be fortresses.
Even a simple corridor becomes a thing of beauty in the Alhambra.
It’s fun to compare the architecture in Europe from different eras and place. Moorish arches are smaller and more graceful than those typically found in Christian European cathedrals.
Ferdinand and Isabella originally were buried in a chapel inside the walls of the Alhambra, as they felt that reunifying Spain under Catholicism was their greatest achievement. Their grandson, Charles, later built them a grand royal chapel down the hill in Granada, where they now rest. (See photo’s in the Granada section.) Their first burial site is now inside a gorgeous parador, or inn, run by the Spanish government, where one can stay INSIDE the Alhambra! (Story of the World, Vol. 2)
Two very happy people having lunch in the parador at the Alhambra. (We didn’t stay there. Next time!) Behind us: the Generalife Palace and gardens.
A wall fountain inside the Alhambra. Remember, water in a dry land was the ultimate luxury.
Gardens at the parador (inn) inside the Alhambra.
Here’s Jim on a very hot day at our lunch table at the Alhambra.
There are so many paths to stroll on in the Alhambra.
Even photos cannot describe the beauty of the Alhambra gardens. Flowers and water features can be viewed throughout the Alhambra.