A Historical Gem

Brent Graham ’09 - I apologize for the delay in getting this posted. I had midterms this week and had to study and finish a paper. Sunday, however, I visited the crown jewel of Granada, its claim to fame. When a Grenadino introduces himself, it is sure to come up when you tell them you’ve never heard of Granada. Last but not least it is a lasting reminder of the Arab and Islamic heritage that many Spaniards, especially from the south, would not see otherwise. I am talking of course about the Alhambra. We also visited the General Life which is not pronounced like it looks (pronounced: Hen-er-al Leaf-A or with IPA [ xe ne 'ral 'li fe ] )





The General Life is the white building above and the reddish brick building that takes up the rest of the photo is the Alhambra

The history of the Alhambra is linked with the geographical place where it is located: Granada. On a rocky hill that is difficult to access, on the banks of the River Darro, protected by mountains and surrounded by woods, among the oldest quarters in the city, the Alhambra rises up with reddish tones in its ramparts that prevent the outside world from seeing the delicate beauty they enclose. The red color of the clay in the walls is also the origin of its name. In Arabic it is Al-Ħamrā’ or literally “the red”.

Originally designed as a military area by the third Ziri king, the Alhambra became the residence of royalty and of the court of Granada in the middle of the thirteenth century, after the establishment of the Nasrid kingdom and the construction of the first palace, by the founder king Mohammed ibn Yusuf ben Nasr, better known as Alhamar.

Throughout the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the fortress became a citadel with high ramparts and defensive towers. There are three main areas: the military area, or Alcazaba, the barracks of the royal guard, the palaces including the famous Nasrid Palaces and the remains of the houses of noblemen and plebeians who lived there, and the medina ore the administrative zone of the palace which is now in ruin. The Charles V Palace (which was built after the city was taken by the Catholic Monarchs in 1492) is also in the medina. In reality the Alhambra is a small city within what was the city of Granada. Within the walls there were also homes for 2-3000 residents. When the Catholic Monarchs took over it was converted into palatial gardens.

The complex of monuments also has an independent palace opposite the Alhambra, surrounded by orchards and gardens, which was where the Granadine kings relaxed: the Genera Life.

The only bad thing about the trip was that one of the most famous courts in the Alhambra was under construction, The Court of the Lions. The court gets its name because there is a giant fountain in the middle with lions holding up the basin at the bottom. This is a strange feature because normally Islamic are void of any depictions of living things other than vegetation. The fountain however is in the private part of the residence so would not have been seen by many. One of my professors tells us that the lions are actually there thanks in part to a man named Samuel Ibn Nagrela, a Jew who was a minister to the Taifas Kings of Granada. The lions had been removed temporarily for study and preservation. While disappointed I still enjoyed the trip snapping around 200 photos of the amazing beauty of this historical gem. Though I can not post them all here I have included a few of my favorites that show the beauty and detail in the decoration of the Alhambra.

This is a photo of the soldiers barracks in the Alcazab.  In the lower left corner there were once baths.

The tile in the center is the slogan of one of the Nazarid Kings and translated it means “Only God is the victor”.  There is tile work like all over the Alhambra in squares as well as in these geometric patterns.

One of the pools in the Nazarid Palaces.  Beautiful.

This ceiling is made of Cedar which when it was built was expensive to use because it had to be imported.  This is the ceiling in the throne room which is supposed to represent the sky over the Islamic kingdoms.

This is a part of the Court of the Lions.  The stone trough that goes toward the right is connected to the fountain with the currently missing lions.  The detail on the buildings around the fountain is intricate and beautiful though.

This is one of the gardens in the palace and example of the natural beauty that can be found.

This is one of the fountains in the General Life.  It was once more of a garden for food than for pleasure but the christian family that lived there after the fall of the islamic kings changed it to look more like the gardens of France and Italy in the early 1900′s.

A beautiful covered walkway in the General Life.

That is all for now.  Thanks to all who have read and have written me about the blog.  Until I write again…

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One Response to A Historical Gem

  1. Jane Hardy says:

    I’m enjoying your blog, Brent, and I’m happy to see you getting so much out of this experience. I was also especially pleased to see you put your SPA 376 skills to work and transcribe “Generalife” in phonetic transcription!