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La Alhambra

La Alhambra is a magnificent Arabic, walled citadel in Granada.  It is a fortress and a complex of palaces and gardens.  Its name comes from the Arabic qa'lat al-Hamra meaning 'the red castle'.  It is one of the most visited places in Spain and has the status of a UNESCO World Heritage Site - un sitio del Patrimonio Mundial.  

There are two possible reasons why the building is called 'red':

1.  The brickwork can appear red, depending on the light.
2.  It is named after Ibn al-Ahmar, the Arabic ruler of Granada who initiated its construction in the year 1238.  He was red-haired.  His Arabic name means 'Son of the Red One'.  He is also known as Muhammad I, Sultan of Granada.

Below is a photo of la Alhambra.


There had been an old fortress for many centuries on the site of la Alhambra.  It had a good strategic position on top of a hill overlooking the city of Granada.   The hill is called Sabika Hill and it is near to the mountain range called Sierra Nevada.  

This original fortress area was chosen and rebuilt by Muhammad I, commencing in 1238.  It was the first part of la Alhambra that he and his descendants built and it is known as la Alcazaba (meaning- the citadel).  Therefore, it is the oldest part of la Alhambra.

The construction work initiated by Muhammad I established his family's royal palace and official residence.  The walled citadel of la Alhambra also provided shelter and living space for the royal family's workers and followers.  The walled residence, high on the Sabika Hill, gave protection from the Christian soldiers based further north who were trying to take control of the Muslim area of southern Spain. 

Below is an image of the oldest part of la Alhambra: la Alcazaba.  You can see the remains of the houses and buildings that were constructed for the King's workers.



The building work marked the foundation of King Muhammad's new kingdom: the Emirate of Granada.  This great kingdom ruled in southern Spain until 1492.   It is also known as the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada - el Reino Nazarí de Granada

Throughout la Alhambra, there is the motto of Muhammad I and his dynasty, engraved into the walls. The Arabic motto means:   No hay otro vencedor que Alá  - God / Allah (SWT) is the only victor. 

Below, you can see an image of a typical inscription at la Alhambra and a bust of King Muhammad I.


Muhammad I of Granada_edited.jpg

The building work developed further, with the addition of more palaces.  A famous palace within la Alhambra is called el Palacio de Comares.  It has a patio with a pond called the Patio of the Myrtles - el Patio de los Arrayanes and a tower called la Torre de Comares, (pictures below). 

The photos below were taken from opposite positions: 
1.  Looking out from an arch beneath the
Comares Tower.
2.  Looking towards the Comares Tower.


Comares Palace

Another famous part of la Alhambra is the Palace of the Lions el Palacio de los Leones and its courtyard called el Patio de los Leones.  It is a beautiful building decorated with ornate Arabic carvings.  In the courtyard there is a marble fountain featuring twelve lions.  Image below.


A building that was added to la Alhambra at a later date (initiated in 1526) is the great palace called el Palacio de Carlos V - the Palace of Charles V.  It was constructed by Carlos, the King of Spain, to be his royal residence after his marriage to Isabel de Portugal - Isabella of Portugal.   Carlos had two titles:  Carlos I (King of Spain) and Carlos V (the Holy Roman Emperor). 

El Palacio de Carlos V hosts two museums:  el Museo de Bellas Artes de Granada and el Museo de la Alhambra.

Below is an image of el Palacio de Carlos V.

Alhambra Palacio Carlos V, Charles V Palace

The various arched gateways to enter la Alhambra complex were built into the surrounding wall - la muralla.  The main entrance is la Puerta de la Justicia (the Gate of Justice), built in 1348.  The other gateways are: la Puerta de las Armas (the Gate of Arms), la Puerta de los Siete Suelos (the Gate of the Seven Floors), and la Puerta del Arrabal (Arrabal Gate).

Alhambra Puerta de la Justicia_edited.jpg

la Puerta de la Justicia (the Gate of Justice)


la Puerta de las Armas (the Gate of Arms)

The Water of la Alhambra

The complex of la Alhambra is on top of a hill and yet it has an abundance of fountains and ponds.  How did they manage to bring water upwards from the nearby River Darro?  The answer is that the workers built a dam to re-route the flow of the river and also an aqueduct to take the water straight into la Alhambra.  The tower where the water entered is called la Torre del Agua - the Water Tower.

The 6 km long canal that re-routed the water from the river is called la Acequia Real

Below is an image of the Water Tower with the aqueduct and an image of a section of the canal.  It was a great and most valuable piece of engineering!  


Torre del Agua Alhambra_edited.jpg
Acequia Real_edited.jpg
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