Sunday, November 16, 2014

Alhambra, Granada

 Tue 26/8/14


Alhambra, together with Albayzin are listed under one of Unesco's World Heritage sites due to its unique artistic creations and bear exceptional testimony to Muslim Spain of the 16th century. It has to be noted that for the visit to Alhambra, it is advisable to buy the entrance ticket in advance as the entry to the Nasrid palace is limited to a certain number of people at a time and visitors are only allowed 30 minutes in here as the next batch of visitors would be coming in (you can still stay actually, but the amount of tourists in the limited space would keep building up). You need to choose your entry time to the Nasrid palace and would have to adhere to the time indicated on your ticket based on your selection. We bought our ticket online here and collected the tickets at the Alhambra bookstore located very near to our hotel. To retrieve the ticket, you must bring your credit card which you used to purchase the tickets. The entrance ticket cost EUR 15.40/ person

collect ticket at tienda libreria de la Alhambra

Alhambra history

Alhambra, or Al-Hamra in Arabic means the red one, referring to the reddish brick walls  located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro and in front of the neighbourhoods of the Albayzin. In 889, Sawwar ben Hamdun sought refuge in the Alcazaba, a fortress which is the oldest part of the Alhambra. This site subsequently started to be extended and populated. The complex is surrounded by ramparts and has an irregular shape.

The castle of the Alhambra was added to the city's area within the ramparts in the 9th century. 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 which was the beginning of the Alhambra's most glorious period.

We entered from the Puerta de las Granadas which is near to our hotel. Then it is the climb up the lightly forested al-Sabika hill where we passed the Washington Irving monument who visited Granada in 1829 and was inspired to write "Tales of the Alhambra". We continued on to the Puerta de la Justicia of the Justice Tower (Torre de la Justicia).  The tower was built by Yusuf I (1333-1353). From here, we moved to the Palacio de Carlos V

Puerta de las Granadas

woods of al-Sabika

Puerta de las Justicia

Palacio de Carlos V

After the reconquista of Granada, Charles V ordered the construction of the palace which was built between 1527 and 1957 next to the Alhambra in order to enjoy its wonders. Its circular patio is the first in Renaissance architecture. There is the Museum of the Alhambra and Museum of Fine Arts in here. 

Palacio de Carlos V facade from outside

the inner circular patio of the Palacio de Carlos V

As it was then nearing 2.30pm which was our scheduled time to enter the Nasrid palace, (the morning session was already fully booked although we bought the ticket about a month before the visit) we proceeded to queue at the designated place which is near to the Palacio de Carlos V

Nasrid Palaces

There are three independent areas in the Nasrid Palaces (Palacios Nazaríes): the Mexuar, which corresponds to the semipublic part of the palace or selamlik, for justice administration and State affairs; the Comares Palace (Palacio de Comares), which was the official residence of the king; and the Palace of the Lions (Palacio de los Leones), which was the private area of the palace, where the Harem was located.


Mexuar is derived from the Arabic term Maswar, the place where the Surah or Counsel of Ministers met. It was also the place or hall where the Sultan dispensed justice. Its decoration was adapted by Yusuf I (1333-1354) and later by Muhammad V  (1362-1391).

geometric tiles at the Mexuar

ceiling at the Mexuar

khat and geometric inscription
khat inscription on the walls

Oratories where worshippers pray have windows that allowed worshippers who were kneeling on the floor with their arms leaning on the window sill to observe the landscape and reflect on the greatness of nature and divine creation.

the oratory
view of Albayzin and the landscape from the oratory

Comares Palace 

The Comares Palace was the official residence of the king and it comprises several rooms that surrounded the Court of the Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes). Some examples of the rooms are the Hall of the Boat (Sala de la Barca) to the north and the Hall of the Ambassadors (Salón de los Embajadores) inside the Comares Tower (Torre de Comares), from which a view over the valley of the river Darro may be enjoyed.

Court of the Myrtles
Hall of the Ambassadors

Palace of the Lions
This palace comprised the private chambers of the royal family built by Mohammed V.  Some of the halls here are the Hall of the Mocarabes (Sala de los Mocárabes), the Hall of the Kings (Sala de los Reyes) t, the Hall of the Two Sisters (Sala de Dos Hermanas), the Hall of the Ajimeces (Sala de los Ajimeces), Daraxa's Mirador (Mirador de Daraxa), the Hall of the Abencerrajes (Sala de los Abencerrajes) and the Harem (Harén) to the south.

patio of the Palace of the Lions

ceiling at Hall of the Kings

ceiling at Hall of Two Sisters

Daraxa's garden


The Generalife was a leisure place for the kings of Granada when they wanted to get away from the official affairs of the palace. It was built in the 13th century and it was redecorated by the king Abu I-Walid Isma'il (1313-1324). Nowadays the Generalife is formed by two groups of buildings connected by the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch (Patio de la Acequia), a channel that carries the water from the irrigation ditch of the Alhambra. The channel is surrounded by several little jets and has a stone basin at each of its ends.

 The modern addition to the Generalife are the Lower and High Gardens. One of the oldest staircases in these gardens (it already existed in the Muslim period) at the Patio of the Cypresses is especially beautiful  and original. It is divided in three flights, each with a fountain and handrails that are channels with running water.

Patio of the Cypresses
Patio of the Cypresses

water stairway - the handrail is a channel with running water
Patio of the Irrigation Ditch
view of the Alhambra and landscape from the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch
Lower Gardens
Lower Gardens

High Gardens

underground water from the Sultan's Royal Water Channel


The Alcazaba was a fortress and is the oldest part of the Alhambra. The current complex was built by Mohammed I, who constructed the ramparts around the previous castle, defences and three new towers: The Broken Tower (Torre Quebrada), the Keep (Torre del Homenaje) and the Watch Tower (Torre de la Vela). The Arms Square (Plaza de Armas) was the original entrance to the Alcazaba.

Alcazaba fortress

Watch Tower

bell at the Watch Tower

Arms Square

View of the Alhambra palace from Alcazabar fortress

view of the surrounding Albayzin from Alcazabar fortress

All facts are excerpted from Alhambra official website and here. Do check out the websites for more in-depth information about Alhambra. Although pictures tell you a thousand stories, however, you have to visit Alhambra to immerse yourself in the beauty of the architecture and natural landscape. Another note is that it gets really hot during summer so bring sufficient water to hydrate yourself (there are shops selling drinking water in the complex but they are very expensive) and wear sunscreen.



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