As the sun breaks through the thick canopies of the trees surrounding the climb up to the entrance of the majestic Moorish castle of Alhambra, I am struck by the presence of history. It surrounds this quite magical place and oozes in through every pore.
Although it’s early in the day, it’s already littered with tourist, being the foremost reason people visit the Granada region. Alhambra stand proud at an altitude of 738 meter above sea level, looking out over the sprawling city beneath it. Built in the 9th century for Moorish emirs of the Nasrid dynasty and taken over by the Reyes Catholica in 1492, this palace is breathtaking.
The Alhambra outer walls span 800 meters, surrounding the unorthodox layout of the castle. Unorthodox perhaps because Alhambra was originally a smaller castle, which has grown exponentially through random add-on’s. The castle is richly decorated according to the Moorish standards of the 9th-11th century – architectural details, such as mosaics or lime stone carvings, can be found literary everywhere but the floors: due to the exceptionally large amount of visitors, no part of the site has remained it original flooring. Only place to see original floor tiles is at the center of the throne room, where relatively unharmed edge-pieces from all over the castle have been gathered into a sort-of mosaic, bordered by ropes to remain unharmed.
The view over Granada, from any one of the many patios and balconies, is purely breathtaking. The small, hidden-away gardens, encapsulated by palace walls offer a welcome breather – moments in time to just exist, breathe and marvel over the beauty of life.
If you enjoy the splendor of nature, the garden following the palace will make your heart sing for joy – an abundance of flowers, plants and trees create a leafy, shadowy oasis in the hot spring sun, filling the air with an amazing cacophony of fragrances. Home of amongst others about 40 sorts of figs, this garden segways over to the neighboring structure of Generalife.
Generalife was built at the summer residence for the Nasrid dynasty, and serves today as lush gardens for visitors, as well as offering the best panoramic view over Alhambra from one of its plateaus.
Focal point is the Patio de la Acequia, or the Water-Garden Courtyard, with the main channel and spring fountains, bordered by flowerbeds and shrubbery, famously the best preserved Persian garden in Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain). It must, however, be remembered that the current gardens tourists get to visit, don’t date back to Moorish times – instead, they were completed between 1931 and 1951, by Francisco Prieto Moreno.