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The Palace of the Arabian Nights

If you asked any local person what they think it is the most beautiful building in Granada, you would get one reply only, and that is the “Alhambra”.

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Built in the mid-14th century, the Alhambra is the red fortress which sits on the hill overlooking Granada and consists of gardens, fortifications and sumptuous palaces. The name comes from the Arabic words “qa’lat al-Hamra”, meaning “red castle”, referring to the dusty red stone that was used to build the thick walls around the castle.

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Once the residence of the Muslim rulers and their court, the Alhambra is now one of Spain’s major tourist attractions and a prime example of the country’s Moorish heritage. Now we’ll skip the rest of the boring historical part (which you can find on Wikipedia if interested), and go directly to a short description of the palace.

First of all, just to make things clear, have a look at this map that shows the layout of the entire site.

There are mainly three parts to the Alhambra:

  1. The ornate Nazrid Palace, with the Palacio de los Leones being its most striking feature. This is a beautiful courtyard where water trickles from the mouths of 12 marble lions. The Quran depicts the idea of Heaven being a marvelous garden with running water and, from this perspective, we could say the Alhambra is the attempt of the Moors to recreate that Heaven on earth.
  2. The Alcazaba (the battlement): this is truest “castle part” of the Alhambra which dominates the city from the top of the hill. Many of the buildings have been destroyed, but there are two towers to climb and from there you can view a panorama of all Granada and its surroundings, including amazing views of Sierra Nevada.
  3. The Generalife (“the garden of the architect”): originally it was an architect’s house that later passed to the Kings and was remodeled as a location that served as a retreat for the sultans when they were off-duty. To escape the heat of Andalucian summers, the sultans and their wives would flock to the shady patios and lush gardens surrounding the villa.

As you can see from the pictures, ceilings, walls, floors and every tiny bit of the Alhambra is covered with beautiful carvings, rich plasterwork, wooden frames and marvelous tiles.

Unfortunately pictures are not enough to recreate that feeling, but believe me when I say that this is the most evocative palace I’ve ever visited in my life so far. The entire building has a magical feeling to it and feels like a creation from an Arabic fairytale brought to life.

These certainly are the moments that make you think that you were born in the wrong historic period…

Tharusha, from Granada (Spain)

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