La Alhambra

At long last, I visited the Alhambra. Twice in eight days.
La AlhambraVisiting the Alhambra means touring the Alcazaba, or fortress, which existed in some form as early as the 9th century, but probably even earlier (scholars say some foundation stones look Roman). Muhammad I, who founded the Nasrid Dynasty in Granada in 1238, improved and expanded the fortress, as did subsequent rulers.

It means being surpised by the heavy-looking Palacio de Carlos V, commissioned by the Catholic Emperor in the early 16th century.

Visiting the monument means showing up at your appointed time slot to tour the Nasrid Palaces, a wonder of public and private royal spaces.

It means walking through a preserved hamam (like a sauna with hot, warm, and cold rooms) and past a few building foundations and trying to imagine a palatine city of about 2,000 people.

And it means walking uphill to the summer palace, the Generalife, and looking back across gardens and fountains and orchards toward the rest of the monument with modern Granada in the distance.

My guide book says it well:  the Alhambra is not a single building born complete and perfect at a particular moment in time; it is much more the product of three centuries of construction at the end of Mulsim rule in Al-Andalus, continued throughout the Christian period until almost modern times.

Below are a few pictures.

Tile work: solid-color pieces of tile were cut, shaped, and composed based on mathematical formulas that create a repetitive rhythm also found in Islamic poetry and music. The two compositional styles in tile work are mosaic (one or more element is repeated) and alicatado (shapes are rotated, scale and depth are altered).

Below are some examples of stunning carpentry, including coffered wooden ceilings that were polychromed.


My guide book says that Nasrid builders preferred permeable materials—brick, wood, and gesso (stucco)—for their ability to balance changes in seasonal dampness and absorb contaminating elements. Stucco being more malleable than stone, it also lent itself to the intricate carvings that cover so many surfaces in the palaces.


Windows and doors

Water—especially moving water—is everywhere, even in a handrail.


The Generalife, or summer palace


The Palacio Carlos V


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