The complex of palace, fortress and garden of Alhambra is the most harmonious and beautiful Muslim building in Europe.
I've been there four times till now, and... am not tired, yet. There's no way to perfectly describe it: it's something you have to feel in location, so... let's go!
muhammad V constructed this beautiful palace between 1362 and 1391 during the zenith of the nasrid dynasty. pictured is the courtyard of the palace of the lions. in this courtyard is the famous fountain of the lions however, it is a copy, the original fountain is in the alhambra museum.
The Patio of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) is probably the most famous place of the Alhambra. It is so called because of the twelve lions that throw jets of water and which are part of the fountain in the middle of the patio.
Visitors have no access to the central part of the patio; they are kept by a barrier on the sides under the gallery.
A ginger cat shares the patio with the twelve lions that don't really look lion like. I suspect that the sculptor never saw a real lion.
The figurative representation is rare in the Islamic world so that these animal figures are exceptional. Actually it seems that these lions are prior to the time that the Alhambra was built. They are from the 11th century and were located in a palace belonging to a Jewish vizier. They were probably given to the Sultan by the Jewish community of Granada.
The ginger cat on my photo is drinking water from one of the marble channels, which start inside the pavilions and have jets that send water to the central fountain. They symbolize the four rivers of paradise.
Islamic architecture is shown here in all its beauty.
Al-Ahmar was the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty and The Alhambra became his residence.
The Royal House is made up of several palace groups with courts etc... but there are 3 divisons : Mexuar - a reception hall for the public and for the administration of justice.
Cuarto de Comares - offical residence of the king/emir.
Cuarto de los leones - intimate family apartments (of the royalty).
Mexuar : Twice a week justice was adminstered here. To the rear is a small mosque with a niche to indicate the east (Mecca). There is an inscription " Be not among the negligent. Come and pray."
From the rear you can go into the Patio del Mexuar (court). There is a Gilded Chamber and a small courtyard with a huge marble basin in the centre.
Cuarto ed Comares : The workmanship is stunning. In the Court of Myrtles there are small double windows, glazed tiles and arches of beautiful latticed fretwork with a pool reflecting everything in it's waters. The wooden roof in Hall of the Boat and the wooden dome in Salon of the Ambassadors show remarkable carpentry.
Cuarto de los leones : It has a central courtyard which is simply exsquisite. There is the fountain of lions (which was being restored whilst I was here). Each side of the courtyard has a hall - (1) Sala de Abencerrajes(2) Sala de los Reyes (3) Sala de les Dos Hermanas (4) Sala de los Ajimeces. There are dressing rooms, baths, balconies... and an incredibly peaceful atmosphere.
These building were the private residences of the sultan and all the court, and so they are considered the core of the Alhambra and probably the best part of it. They can be visited only in groups with advance reservations (you can do it online, when you buy the tickets). You are given a fix hour when you can enter and visit it, this way they avoid crowds and make the visit relatively easier.
It's a real must when visiting Granada.
Located next door to the Mexuar is the impressive water-filled Patio de Arrayanes, named for the densely-leafed rows of Myrtle hedges that adorn both sides of the pool. In addition to just simply looking beautiful, the pool of water also provided some cooling from the hot sun as well as reflecting the suns rays into some of the darker corners of the surrounding alcoves and windows. Once again those Moorish arches are used for effect. The second photograph shows how closely the buildings are packed in the Alhambra, with the walls and roof-top of Palacio Carlos V actually sticking above the Patio de Arrayanes.
After walking the length of the pool we turned for a view in the opposite direction where the Throne Room is located and from which we had entered the area. However, our early morning visit combined with brilliant sunshine resulted in too much contrast for a decent shot (3rd photo). We managed to recover from that disappointment by looking skyward from the patio (4th photo)!!
We had been exploring the various royal rooms and patios for almost an hour by the time we made it to the Jardin de Linaraja, a sort of interior garden enclosed on three sides by rooms for the Royal family. In this case, because it was built between 1526-38, after the fall of Granada to the Christians, it served Emperor Charles V and his family. The various arcades surrounding the shrubbery below were removed from other parts of the Alhambra by the Emporer to have this little residence constructed.
I'm an outdoors type of guy so it was nice to see some shrubbery decorating the garden, consisting of tall cypresses as well and orange and acacia trees. Lower to the ground were trimmed box bushes and the Jardin was rounded off with nice central marble fountain that had been moved from the Patio del Mexuar that we had earlier passed through.
We also had a quick look at the adjoining rooms noted for briefly being the home of American author Washington Irving, before we continued onward to the interesting looking Palacio del Partal.
Sala de Dos Hermanas is one of the rooms that opens onto the Patio de los Leones and is reputed to be the "ultimate example of Spanish Islamic architecture" because of its intricately carved ceiling. We took a look ourselves at the delicate work involved in finishing the eight-sided dome, with its small windows allowing in just enough light to show off this work of art.
The honeycomb effect of the roof-top stonework detail was amazing as the Moorish artists must have gone all-out on this one! Many of the rooms (including this one) or patios we had passed through served as places where the Sultan's harem could have some freedom to relax away from prying eyes, as was the custom.
A five minute stroll through a few more interior rooms soon led us to the Sultan's private living area around the Patio de los Leones, located next door to Patio de Arrayanes. The trouble was, as can be seen by the small fountain enclosed by a large glass-box, the famous statues of lions supporting the water fountain had all been removed for maintenance!
These rooms were built in the 1360s surrounding the 120-ft (35-m) long 'Courtyard of the Lions' and its water fountain. The first two photos show a few of the 124 beautifully carved slender columns that support the arches surrounding the patio. Unlike the previous patio, this one only has a few small trees to provide a touch of greenery.
The bowl of the fountain that still remained for our visit normally is supported on the backs of the twelve lion statues, however we just had to imagine them. Originally, the fountain served as a clock by means of a mechanism that made water flow out of each of the lions in sequence. However, after Granada fell to the Christians in 1492 someone had the bright idea to take it apart but could not figure out how to put it together again!
After walking through a garden area, we first arrived at a building known as the Mexuar, whose construction was completed in 1365 and served as a sort of council chamber by the ruling Sultan where he could hear requests from his subjects or meet with his officials. This was our first real glimpse into the world of the Moorish rulers, who built the Alhambra in an elaborate fashion to give viewers an impression of power and wealth, even as their grip on Spain was beginning to falter.
The arched windows in the building (now known as the Nasrid-style) were quite fascinating, with this horseshoe form of architecture having been adapted by the Moors from its first use by the Visigoths of southern Europe at around 500 AD. It was the Visigoths who ruled this part of Europe until their defeat by the Moors in 711 AD. The Moors paid the same attention to architectural detail when it came to doors, with the last two photos showing some of the intricate stonework that was involved in making them appear impressive as well. We did not have much time to linger here because our guide was hurrying us a long a bit as we started the tour.
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