Calat Alhambra or the “Red Fortress” in Granada, Spain, is a complex of royal palaces, mosques, baths, shops and other buildings surrounded by an imposing two kilometre fortified wall.
History of the Alhambra
Originally established in 1238 by the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, Muhammad Ibn al Ahmar, it was expanded in the 13th century by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada of the Nasrid Dynasty, who passed the project onto his son and heir, Mohammad V. Mohammed completed the Alhambra in the 14th century, including the Palacio Nazaríes. Thus the Alhambra became the royal residence of the Nasrid ‘emirs’ or princes until 1492, when it was conquered by the Christians.
In fact, Arabic texts show that there was a fortress at the Alhambra from the 9th century and evidence even points to it being inhabited during Roman times, but the work of the Nasrid Dynasty was the first incarnation of the Alhambra fortified palace complex as it is known today.
The Alhambra area, known as Albayzin, was also an important stronghold for the eleventh century Zirid Dinasty and for the Andalusians in the twelfth century.
The Alhambra today
Today, the Alhambra is open to the public. Visitors can tour its palaces, including the Palacio Nazaríes and the 16th century Palace of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. The Alcazaba or “citadel” is another highlight of the Alhambra, this being the main element of the complex’s fortifications.
The Alhambra is centred on two main courtyards, the Court of the Lions and the Court of Myrtles, the former with a fountain and the latter with a long pool. Its beautiful Generalife gardens and buildings are also worth visiting, while the Alhambra Museum offers everything from Nasrid art to archaeological finds.
The Alhambra contains a wealth of building and monuments and a visit usually lasts around 3 hours. The Alhambra’s website is very useful for downloading tours onto mobile devices as well as maps and itineraries. Audio guides are available on site.
Getting to the Alhambra
The Alhambra is atop a hill in the east of Granada. It’s a short uphill walk from the centre of town, but don’t do it at midday in the summer nonetheless unless you want to get very sweaty! Fortunately there’s parking close by and several bus stops on the Paseo de Generalife if you don’t fancy the walk.
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