As everywhere else, the palaces are a preserved but dead testimony of an ancient culture and artists' skills.
The gardens are a living element, that adds harmony to the whole, and helps to fade that sensation of absence and emptiness in the palace.
Generally, Muslim gardens are always part of the best in their palaces.
This much seems certain, the Abencerrages were an influential family, close to the throne in Granada. Number 7 on the Alhambra tourist map indicates the Palace of the Abencerrages, now an archaeological site that most visitors (including us) pass by.
There also is a Hall of the Abencerrages in the Nasrid Palaces (unfortunately closed for restoration work when we visited), where several of the Abencerrage noblemen are said to have been killed by the order of the sultan. But did the killing really happen, if so why and when, and by order of which sultan?
One version can be found in the Court of the Sultana in the Generalife. Here is preserved the trunk of a cypress tree that “was witness to the romantic involvement of an Abencerrage knight with the wife of sultan Boabdil”. He is supposed to have been caught climbing up to her room.
But that version would place the affair between 1482 and 1492, when Cártama had already fallen to the Christian advance. Whereas the Tale of the Abencerrage and the beautiful Jarifa would have occurred between 1410 and 1424, when Cártama was still part of the Granada emirate, while referring to a previous killing of the Abencerrage noblemen “on false accusations” (probably by their rivals of the Zegri family). That tale was printed a hundred and fifty years after the event, so it makes sense to suppose that the various sultans got mixed up in the oral tradition.
Their actual history being blurred by the fog of time, the Abencerrages become a popular subject of fiction and even of an opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer.
Gardens Generalife (Jardines de Generalife) are stretched on a slope of another Alhambra hill. Sultans spent here the hottest summertime among blossoming acacias and bushes of a jasmin, under murmur of a fountain.
Generelife means on-arabian "a garden of the architect", was a vacation spot of Nasrid kings. It is dated XII - XIII centuries.
After the Generalife was definitively attached to the Alhambra, public opinion was mustered to build a public park. The area between the Alhambra and the Generalife Palace was built up and landscaped gardens were added.
You can watch my 7 min 33 sec about Video Granada Alhambra Generalife part 2 out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
The amazing view at Granada and being near to Alhambra ancient fortress Alcazaba opens from Generalife. The fortress is on the western part of La Sabica hill. Unfortunately, the fortress while is closed for visitings.
The Promenade of the Oleanders is a long path, covered with oleander, that crosses the upper wall that separates the vegetable gardens. It runs into the Promenade of the Cypress Trees.
You can watch my 4 min 01 sec about Video Granada Generalife out of my Youtube channel or here on VT.
Generalife gardens are divided on bottom (gardens of the sultan) and the top gardens (gardens of sultanian wife). In the top gardens there is a remarkable cypress, which is more than 700 years age. It is considered that if to touch a cypress and to think of desire it will by all means come true.
The Promenade of the Cypress Trees, which as its name suggests is lined with cypress trees, starts at the end of the Promenade of the Oleanders and ends at the place of exit.
El Generalife gardens are the image of a Muslim paradise: cool, shady and tranquil with abundant running water. That's what the architects wanted for the Nasrid Sultan in the 13th century, to complement his summer residence, since Granada is ferociously hot and dry in summer. Trees, hedges, bushes, plants and flowers were planted on the Alhambra hill and the river Darro was diverted upstream to provide a constant source of water to the complex. It's still the sort of place where you can spend a relaxing day, appreciating the patios, enclosed gardens, walkways, fountains and pools as well as the views over the Albayzín
In the rush to see the wonders of the Nasrid Palaces it is easy to overlook the graceful beauty of the Generalife Gardens of the Alhambra. The gardens are on a hill called Cerro del Sol and have some great views of the palaces as well as the City. We found them to be a most relaxing place to walk around, sit on a bench and just enjoy before our time stamped visit to the Nasrid Palaces.
While one web site is certain that the term Generalife translates into "Garden of the Architect," others have called it the, "Governor's Garden," and the "Vegetable Garden." It was built during the 13th century but substantially reconstructed in the early 14th century by King Abu I-Walid Isma'il .
The Generalife Gardens basically comprise two sets of buildings and are connected by the lovely name, "Patio of the Irrigation Ditches." This of course is because there are several small ditches that run through the gardens supplying water.
Compared to the intricate buildings of the Nasrid Palaces, the buildings and the fountains in Generalife are very simple. There are only some special designs on the fountains and plasterwork that attest to the craftsmanship of the time.
TIP: Unless you are late for your assigned time at the Nasrid Palaces, I recommend making the gardens your first stop when you visit the Alhambra.
In 1964 I took a tour of the Alhambra. One of the things we were told was that the fountains made the air cooler. Later when I was working on heat stress problems, I found that this was indeed true. A water curtain with a fan blowing through it makes the air cooler. I was particularly impressed with the fountains and flowers of the Court of la Acequia (water garden courtyard), but I also took photos of the clipped hedges of cedar which were like walls, and a photo of an orange tree.
This was the Summer Palace, so heat was a concern. The palace and gardens were built during the reign of Muhammad III (1302–1309) and redecorated shortly after. The Generalife is one of the oldest surviving Moorish gardens
Generalife - has been translated "garden of paradise" "garden of feasts" "house of delights" and "garden of the architect"
"Generalife garden that had no match"
"the noblest and most exalted of all gardens"
...Who could disagree?
beautiful gardens with beautiful flowers and with the beautiful use of water... they are wow!
"the waters speak, and they weep beneath the white oleanders; beneath the rose oleanders, the waters weep, and they sing, for the myrtle in bloom, above the opaque waters. Madness of singing and crying of the souls, of the tears!"
The Alhambra complex includes:
1. Generalife gardens with all the waterfalls, buildings, plantations, etc
2. The Carlos V Palace (a modern, though incomplete addition)
3. The Alcazar (fort & gunnery)
4. Nasrid Palaces
The Gardens are huge and beautifully laid out. Each corner has a story behind it, just listen to the multimedia kit!
Our first stop before entering Alhambra was at the beautiful Generalife gardens. These gardens surround a country house used by the Arab sovereigns of Granada, on the Hill of the Sun, which was a strategically placed vantage-point.
These gardens are so beautiful, with cypress-trees and hedges of laurel, myrtle and orange-bushes and wonderful fountains. These gardens were built around the 13th century.
From Generalife gardesn you have a wonderful view of Alhambra and Granada.
All over you will notice the aquaducts.
After visiting the gardesn you enter the Generalife palace, The Pool Court "Pateo de la Acequia" and the pavilions. It is lovely, with a pool stretching along the center with fountains on each side and with stone basins with fountains at each end, just lovely.
The pavilions are beautifully adorned.
The name Generalife derives from the Arabic Gennat-Alarif, meaning Gardens fo the Master-Builder - and they sure live up to that name with their poetic elegance and beauty.