Granada is a city situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace, is one of the most famous items of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian historical legacy that makes Granada a hot spot among cultural tourists in Spain.
Initially the kingdom of Granada linked the commercial routes from Europe with those of the North Africa. Granada controlled only a small territory on the Mediterranean coast. Arabic was the official language, and was the mother tongue of the majority of the population.
On January 2, 1492, the last Muslim leader, Muhammad XII, surrendered complete control of Granada, to Ferdinand and Isabella, Los Reyes Catolicos (“The Catholic Monarchs”), after the city was besieged.
The fall of Granada holds an important place among the many significant events that mark the latter half of the 15th century. It ended the eight hundred year-long Islamic presence in the Iberian Peninsula.
Freed from conflicts with the Muslims, a united Spain advanced to first rank among the nations of Europe, and embarked onto its greatest phase of expansion around the globe leading to the ‘discovery’ of the Americas by Isabella’s prodigy Christopher Columbus and followed by what was to become the Spanish Empire, one of the largest empires of the world for the coming centuries.
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex of the Moorish monarchs of Granada, occupying a hilly terrace on the south-eastern border of the city of Granada. It was the residence of the Muslim kings of Granada and their court, but is currently a museum exhibiting Islamic architecture.
The name Alhambra, signifying in Arabic the red, derives from the colour of the red clay of the surroundings of which the fort is made. The buildings of the Alhambra were originally whitewashed, seen today are reddish. Over the reign of Nasrid Dynasty, the Alhambra was transformed into a palatine city complete with an irrigation system composed of aqueducts for the lush and beautiful gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress.
It remains the most perfect example of Moorish art in its final European development. Within, the palace is unsurpassed for the detail of its marble pillars and arches and ceilings. Elements of the sun and wind are freely admitted, and the whole effect is one of the most airy lightness and grace. Blue, red, and a golden yellow are the colour’s chiefly employed. The decoration consists of Arabic inscriptions, and geometrical patterns, painted tiles are largely used as paneling for the walls.
The outlying buildings in connection with the Alhambra, is the Palacio de Generalife. Its gardens with their clipped hedges, grottos, fountains, and cypress avenues, are said to retain their original Moorish character.
The Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzen of Granada are listed as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.