At the lookout, binoculars facing different parts of Granada, offering a panoramic view of the city, Sierra Nevada and Vega. Some Skylines provide information on the most representative. The tower had height of 50 meters and viewing point is based at 37 meters.
When I came out in the open area, there were few kids playing there. Two young girls from a family (which looked like Middle Eastern) were playing with the water vortex. One girl was spinning the wheel and other was watching the water to swirl around. There was also huge chess in the area and an old machine to extract the olive oil. There were beautiful fountains, which had small stones or wooden blocks on top of them which were moving; next to it was a restaurant which was closed already.
There was a small garden next to it, and inside the garden was a giant turtle (of course not the real one). On one side of the garden was a tall tree and it was full of noise birds, I didn’t see any birds, may be it was just the sound effects.
Now I entered the main building, there was a robot in the middle of a lobby, it had few command displayed on the screen, once pressed, he would talk and move in the same manner as a human would do. There were statues of a zebra and the elephant on one side. Then I went to one of the room upstairs, which was full of the skeletons. One was a full skeleton of a whale. There was another room with the history of different types of the typewriters. I looked at the watch; it was getting closer to the closing time. I came out of the building and took bus number 1, which brought me to Gran Via. I took bus number 33 to bring me back to the hotel. When I was inside the bus, I saw an exercise area in the middle of the two roads. It had few machines and some people were exercising. It was a great idea to get fit and staying outdoor in the Spanish weather. After coming back to the hotel, I went to next door supermarket to buy some grocery. After reading my notes for a while, I started to realise that sleep was knocking at my door.
The Alhambra (Al-Hamra)
As expected, I woke up early, after writing the diary and the breakfast; I came out of the hotel. It was still dark outside. I took bus number 3 which brought me to the city centre. It was only 7:30am, as soon as I came out of the bus; there was bus number 30 in front of me, which was going to bring me to the Alhambra.
After two minutes, the bus moved and it started to climb upwards, the engine was roaring. It took fifteen minutes to reach the main entrance of Alhambra. I was surprised to see so many people in the queue, it was still pitch black. There were two queues, one was for the people who still had to buy their tickets and second queue was for the pass holders. I joined the smaller queue and there were only five or six people in front of me.
Then a security guard came to the queue and asked if we were there to buy tickets? I told him that I had the pass. He advised me to go to the new line on the far side, he said that the pass was treated as a ticket and I didn’t need to buy a ticket. There were only three people in that queue.
There were people from all walks and colour and the nationalities. Some of them were yawning while others went to the cafe to get a bit caffeine inside their body to kick start the day. There was a couple on my left hand side who were talking to each other and they had sleepy voice, they were like someone had just woken them up from the deepest sleep. There was a brown coloured cat and she was moving between the feet of the tourists, maybe she was hired as a part time staff to welcome the tourists.
Now it was almost 8'c clock and the queue had stretched on the footpath and went further down on the road. There were more than 200 people in the queue. There was a girl in front of me, she turned to me and asked;
Do you know what time this door is going to be opened?
I told her, it will be around 8:30am.
OK, thank you, where are you from?
I am from Ireland.
Very nice, I am from Canada.
I was hoping that she wasn’t going to question me like the American guy did in Toledo and it was too early to discuss drinks. I started to look at the map which I had in my hand. At 8:15am, the front door opened and ticket office was on the left hand side and people went there to buy their tickets. The next counter to the ticket office was for the audio guide, I was allowed to take one after paying a small fee and a deposit. Then I looked at the queue which was to show the ticket to the staff after purchasing them (yup, that's right). I told one of the girls that I was in the queue because I had purchased the pass already and I only went away to lend the audio guide, If I needed to join the entry queue again? She saved my soul and let me in through the main door.
The Alhambra, declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, is a palatial city on the Sabika hill, near the Darro River. Its name comes from the colour of its walls (Al-Ahmar, red in Arabic) which were made using the clay found locally, and the reddish tint this gave the bricks. This last and greatest Moorish palace is one of Europe's top attractions. Attracting thousands of visitors a day, it's the reason most tourists come to Granada.
The moment I entered inside, I felt little cold, and it was due to the fact that Alhambra was located on a hill. There were cypress trees on both sides, and in front of me were two signs, one pointing towards the Generalife while other towards the Kasbah or the old medina.
When I reached the first part of the palace, I entered a numbered which was displayed on a signboard. The audio guide woke up and it started to run commentary in English about that particular place.
Also known as the upper Alhambra, this was where the nobility of the court lived. It also housed the administrative and religious centres as well as the palaces and gardens. The citadel had several public baths, ovens, workshops, silos and tanks and of course, the homes of senior officials, employees and servants of the court.
Today, there are only the foundations of the buildings and the wall from the inside, with the steps of the round turrets and battlements and a great view of the Generalife from the east.
The Door of the Seven Floors was on my left hand. It is believed that the last king of Granada Abu Abdullah (Boabdil) used this gate to come out of the Alhambra for the last time.
Door of the Seven Floors (Puerta de los Siete Suelos)
This door gave access to the upper area of ??the Medina of the Alhambra, the palace area of ??the city mainly artisan character. It was built in the fourteenth century over a previous one, was partially destroyed, as is this whole area of ??the wall, by blowing up the Napoleonic troops in their retreat from the fort in 1812.
Its current name comes from the belief that there are seven underground floors under the bastion that defends it. Only two underground floors have actually been discovered.
Then on one side of the walkway was a sign of a hotel. If someone wanted to stay closer to the action, this was the place to pay and stay. I had checked prices online before my visit. It was beyond poor man’s budget.
The Monastery of San Francisco
Constructed over a small Muslim palace in the 16th century, today it is a Parador National hotel. Other remains on the site include the attractive observation point, easily identified, that extends from the building, where the Catholic Monarchs had been interred until the Royal Chapel, which houses their remains to this day, was built.
Then on my left hand side, there were few cannons, pointed over the Alhambra defensive walls. On the other side of the wall was a small forest and in the distance, I could see Granada. Then I came to the old baths of the Alhambra on the right hand side and Santa Maria church was opposite to it.
Baths of the Mosque
There were old bath or ablution area of the mosque or it may have served the both purposes in the past.
Church of Santa Maria
This church, dedicated to Santa Maria de la Alhambra, was built on the foundations of the great royal mosque of Alhambra. Beside the church was an imposing building of Charles V and opposite the Charles’s Palace was the Door of the Wagons.
Door of the Cars or wagons (Puerta de los Carros)
This door is located almost opposite the Santa Maria Church. This door was opened after the conquest, and obviously allowed entering the Alhambra cars to transport the materials used in the construction of the Palace of Carlos I of Spain and V of Germany.
Charles V's Palace
The palace is square in shape, and the main façades are 63 metres wide and 17 metres high. In the centre it has a unique circular courtyard. The Carlos V Palace was financed by a salt-in-the-wound tax on Granada's defeated Muslim population. When Muslims refused to pay the tax the construction of the palace came to halt.
Charles' palace was designed to have a dome, but it was never finished - his son, Philip II, abandoned it to build his own palace, El Escorial. Inside are two museums Museo de Bellas Artes (upstairs) and the better Museo de la Alhambra, showing off some of the Alhambra's best surviving Muslim art, along with one of the lions from the Nasri Palace fountain (on ground floor). Inside the museums, there was an old lamp of the mosque and some coins from the Muslim era. Photos were not allowed and all rooms were not only monitored by CCTV cameras but there was also staff in each of the rooms.
Only the western and southern façades are totally decorated. The northern and eastern ones are only partly decorated, owing to the fact that the building is connected to the Nasri Palaces. The western façade is Doric in style and is decorated with friezes of military victories, whilst the South facing side is of Ionic style and its friezes describe mythological scenes.
After coming out of Charles V’s palace, I sat down on a bench which was opposite the building. Then I walked to the Door of the Justice.
The Door of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia)
The Justice Tower is located on the southern rampart of the fortress, next to Charles V Palace and it is one of the main entrances to the complex of the Alhambra. As indicated by the inscription on the arch of the inner gate, the tower was built by Yusuf I (1333-1353). The façade has a great horseshoe arch, set within an irregular quadrilateral made of bricks, with a vaulted lintel and a marble hand carved in the hole.
On my way back, I saw the Door of the Wine on my left hand side and next to it was the Square of the Cisterns.
The Wine Door (Puerta del Vino)
This is one of the oldest gateways. It led into the citadel, and gave access to the inner section of the fortified upper Alhambra.
Since 1556, the inhabitants of the Alhambra left at this gate the wine they drank that was not submitted to taxation. This is one explanation which makes clear where the name of the gateway came from, although another theory exists which says the name is the result of mixing up two similar sounding words. But there is another theory that its name comes from a simple mistake, a confusion between 'Bab al-Hamra' "(Red Gate or Gate of the Alhambra), which is represents the original name of the door, "Bab al-Jamra" (Puerta del Vino), which also prove that this was the door allowing access to the Alhambra. Its non- military character explains the ornate decoration.
Place or Plaza of the Cisterns (Plaza de Los Aljibes)
The name of the square comes from rain tanks that Count Tendilla built in 1494 in the ravine that separates the Alcazaba and the palaces. These wells, 34 meters long, 6 meters wide and 8 meters high.
Now I wanted to go to the Alcazaba. There was a small coffee kiosk on one side, before I could enter the Alcazaba. I was asked by a staff member at the entrance to show the ticket. He also told me that I could only visit the area once with the ticket. There were two cats just in front of the main wall; one was black while other was white. It seemed they were working as guards of the old fortress.
This is the defensive area of the Alhambra, originally called "red castle" or "Al-Ahmar" - is the oldest part of the complex, offering fine city views. The building, which stands here today, comes from the mid-13th century. Mohammed I built a wall around the castle and built three towers; the Keep, the Broken Tower and the Watch tower. The king moved his residence to the royal palaces when they were completed, and Alcazaba remained as a military fortress. It offers panoramic view of Granada and the surroundings. From the top (looking north), is Plaza Nueva and the San Nicolas (Albaicín). To the south are the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
The Tower of the Cube (Torre del Cubo)
This tower is part of the defensive belt of the Citadel and was constructed by the Christians. For this space is accessed from the Citadel to a flea market or souk. It is a tower wall for to cushion the impact of cannon balls that were used frequently. It is attached to the wall that connects the Alcazaba with the Nasri Palaces.
There was a couple there, who were trying to take their photos with one arm extended to hold the camera. I felt sorry for them and offered them if they wanted me to take their photos together? They were more than happy.
The Tower of Homage (Torre del Homenaje)
This tower stands at 26 meter high and also is a tower dedicated to housing. This was the original entrance to the Alcazaba. It is next to the Torre del Cubo. In its low there is a dungeon that was also used as grain store, salt and spices.
There was an old man who was finding it very hard to reach on top of the tower. In comparison he was worse offender than the lady in Cordoba.
The Arms Square (Plaza de la Armas)
The Arms Square was the original entrance to the Alcazaba <http://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/placesandspots/alcazaba.asp>. It consisted of a series of constructions where different services were carried out for the inhabitants of the fortress. On the right side there is still a big cistern with two sections, which must have been a rainwater cistern but which, in the 17th century started receiving water from the Alhambra's irrigation channel. Near the cistern, to the left of the entrance to the Alcazaba, there is a bath.
In the middle of the square and in part of the wall archaeologists have discovered the foundations of several Arab houses, which were the dwellings of the civil population who worked at the service of the dignitaries and military people who were there.
The Tower of Gunpowder (Torre de la Pólvora)
This tower is located near the Torre de la Vela, and as the name suggests it was used to store gunpowder.
Garden of the Ramparts (Jardin de los Adarves)
The Garden of the Ramparts is near the entrance of the Alcazaba <http://www.alhambradegranada.org/en/info/placesandspots/alcazaba.asp>. It was so called because it was located on the parapet walk by the ramparts under the fortress. I saw an old water tank there and then small channels would bring that water to the garden.
The wall that goes to the Vermilion Towers (Torres Bermejas) starts at that point and a famous poem by Francisco A. de Icaza can be read on the wall:
Dale limosna, mujer,
Que no hay en la vida nada
Como la pena de ser,
Ciego en Granada
Give him alms, woman, for there is nothing in this life, like the grief of being blind in Granada
When I came out of the Alcazaba, there were the bathrooms on my right hand side. Inside the area, there were wending machines where one could buy water, chocolates and the soft drinks. There was a long queue in order to buy the stuff. Now the café kiosk was very busy. Four staff was working inside the tiny place. Then I came to a help desk, which was inside the Charles V Palace. The guy at the counter showed me how to change the language on audio guide and it was back to the English commentary.
After coming out of the Charles V’s Palace, I came to the same bench where I was sitting earlier. While I was sitting there, I saw an old man, who came to the bin, he put his hand inside the bin and took out empty water bottles. After removing all the caps from the bottles, he put all the bottles back in to the bin. He took plastic caps with him and walked away. Another interesting character of the Alhambra, I thought.
It was little bit cloudy that day but I saw a group of Japanese tourists coming to the area, nearly all of them had umbrella above their heads. I would say it was more of a fashion than a necessity. Few guides passed with their group in tow, they were from different countries and spoke different languages. There were two guys working to collect the dry leaves in front of the cafe, now they were putting them in the bags. It was 10:50am; I came to the Nasri Palace's entry entrance (by guess, there was no sign). There were lots of people sitting on a small wall. I stood next to a line; the time for the entry to the Nasri Palace on my card was 11:00am. A guy came over and asked me, why I was waiting there. I told him that it would be entry for the Nasri Palace, he stood behind me. Then rest of the crowd started to join as well. I was the first in the queue, at 11:05am, a woman came to the queue and she said something in Spanish which I couldn’t understand. After waiting few more minutes, the rope was removed and entry to the palace was open. I entered through a small door into the Mexaur.
There are three basic sections: royal offices, ceremonial rooms, and private quarters. Built mostly in the 14th century, this palace offers the best possible look at the refined, elegant Muslim civilization of Al-Andalus.
Named after the Arabic term Maswar, Sura or where the Council of Ministers met. It was also the place where the Sultan dispensed justice. The decor was adapted by Yusuf I (1333-1354) and later by Muhammad V in his second term (1362-1391), both responsible respectively for the two Palaces of the Alhambra best preserved.
It originally had a central body that served lantern overhead lighting and remain only four columns and entablature. In the sixteenth century the whole space is modified to add an upper floor and turn it into a Chapel.
The Court of the Myrtle (Patio de Arrayanes)
After coming out of the Mexaur, there is a big rectangular courtyard with a pond lined by a myrtle bush hedge - the Court of Myrtles. Muslims in the past loved their patios and this is the perfect to explain their love for a garden and water, all under the sky.
Boat Room (Sala de la Barca)
Going to left (north) from the entry into the long, narrow chamber to the throne room, called the "Boat Room." It's understandable that many think the Boat Room (Sala de la Barca) is named for the upside-down-hull shape of its fine cedar ceiling. But the name is actually derived from the Arab word baraka, meaning "divine blessing and luck" (which was corrupted to barca, similar to the Spanish word for "boat," barco.
The Hall of the Ambassadors (Gran Salón de Embajadores)
A visitor from outside would have stepped from the glaring Court of Myrtles into this cool, incense-filled world, to meet the silhouetted sultan.
There are Arabic decorative messages on the walls but one phrase - "only Allah is victorious" is repeated 9,000 times throughout the palace. In 1492, two historic events likely took place in this room. Culminating a 700-year-long battle, the Reconquista was completed here as the last Moorish king, Boabdil, signed the terms of his surrender before eventually leaving for Africa. And it was here that Columbus made his pitch to Isabel and Ferdinand to finance a sea voyage to the Orient. Ferdinand and the professors laughed and called Columbus mad. But Isabel said accepted his proposal and Columbus fell to his knees.
The Comares Façade (Fachada de Comares)
The Comares Palace was ordered to be built by the ruler Yusuf I, combining the representative function of the monarchy and the official management of affairs of State with the private living quarters of the monarch.
The Tower of Comares (Torre de Comares)
This is where the monarch, in the company of his viziers, gave official audiences. The hall is square-shaped, and there is not a single inch of wall that is not decorated with Kufic plasterwork as decorative calligraphy motifs, plant motifs and latticework comprised of geometric shapes. The cupola with stars represents the heavens.
To the East of the palace are the Comares Baths, built in the Moorish style following the models of the Roman thermal baths. All the remaining decoration is from Christian times, as these baths have been in a poor state of repair over the centuries, and they have therefore been restored and rebuilt several times.
Till now, it had been overwhelming experience of Alhambra but things were going to get more interesting or jaw droppings (it is safe to say).
The Courtyard of the Lions (Patio de Los Leones)
The Patio of the Lions features a fountain that's usually ringed with 12 lions. One of the lions is on display in the Museo de la Alhambra inside the Charles V palace. It is believed that the fountain was a gift from a Jewish leader celebrating good relations with the sultan. During Muslim times, the fountain functioned as a clock, with a different lion spouting water each hour. After the conquest, the Christians disassembled the fountain to see how it worked, and it's never worked since.
The area is an allegory on paradise, an oasis in stone in which water flows, and 124 columns of supporting arches symbolize a forest of palm trees. This courtyard is the first in which a new architectural model is used: Two channels of water that flow out of streams found in two large rooms: the halls of the Abencerraj and of the Two Sisters.
The Ibn Seraj Room (Sala de Abencerrajes)
Its name comes from the popular tradition says that in this room were beheaded the men of Abencerrages family. Although the authors do not agree on what monarch ordered his execution. This room was the Sultan’s bedroom. Being private room there are no windows to the outside. The walls are richly decorated. Stucco and colours are original. The tiled plinth is the sixteenth century, the Seville tile factory. The dome is decorated with stalactite, on the floor, in the centre, a small fountain that reflected the muqarnas dome, that being richly decorated, getting an enchanting and magical light, for entering the light at the top was changing according to the different times of day.
The Hall of the Kings (Sala de los Reyes)
This hall is on left hand side of Abencerrajes room. It has the ceilings of the three chambers branching off this gallery. Breaking from the tradition of imageless art, paintings on the goat-leather ceiling depict scenes of the sultan and his family. The centre room shows a group portrait of the first 10 of the Alhambra's 22 sultans. The scene is a fantasy, since these people lived over a span of many generations. The two end rooms show scenes of princely pastimes, such as hunting and shooting skeet.
The Hall of the two Sisters (Sala de dos Hermanas)
The next room, the Hall of the Two Sisters has another stucco ceiling lit from below by clerestory windows. The room features geometric patterns and stylized Arabic script quoting verses from the Quran, but no figures.
There were two women, who were carrying out renovation of the wall and the ceiling. They were sitting on a high ladder with chair on top (I hope, it was fixed) and they were using small brush to paint the area slowly but surely.
The Court of the Lindaraja (Patio de Lindaraja)
It was built as a result of the reforms carried out in order to house the Emperor and Empress in their visit to Granada during their wedding trip. The courtyard is comprised of a central fountain, six rooms that surround it, and the Lindaraja Tower. Besides, one can gain access to the Tower of Yusuf I, known as the Peinador de la Reina, or the Queen´s Dressing Room, because the Empress Isabel had her rooms there. They house a series of interesting paintings.
The Queen’s Dressing Room (Peinador de la Reina)
The Queen's Dressing Room also known as Boudoir (Tocador) or Mirador, was built around the year 1537 at the top of Abu al-Hayyay's Tower (Torre de Abu al-Hayyay) and it is so called because the Empress Isabel, Charles V's wife, lived there
Till now, I had been following a certain path in order to visit the different paths of the palace. Now I came to more open space of El Partal area.
This is a construction of Muhammad III of which remains a wide pool, a portico with five arches, and the Ladies Tower. Next to the tower is an attached house from the Fourteenth Century with interesting mural paintings. In the gardens of the Partal are the ruins of the Palace of Yusuf III.
The Palace of Partal (Palacio del Partal)
Of the old palaces constructed on this site, only the “Portico” Palace has partially remained, of which the “Damas” tower still exists. This palace, probably from Muhammad III period, is the oldest that remains at the Alhambra. This fact makes us think that the first Nasri kings established their residence on this area. The palace is built above the wall and it consists of a square hall, inside the “Damas” tower, a five arched porticoe before a large pond and a small “mirador” over the building.
Oratorio of Partal
This is an oratorio with its mehrab, properly oriented and, as is traditional in the Alhambra, built-in mounted landscape on the general wall of the enclosure to encourage meditation Sultan on the identity of nature, creation and prayer.
The Archaeological Area of Yusuf III (Area arqueologica Yusuf III)
Besides the gardens of Partal lies the ruins of several palaces, since in this area the Muslim nobility resided. The most important one was the Palace of Yusuf III or “de los Condes de Tendilla”, with a similar floor plan as the Comares Palace. This palace was demolished in the 18th century; it was said of being one of the most magnificent palaces of the Alhambra.
The gardens were kept in good condition and in one of the ponds, there was beautiful koi fish. Here my camera’s battery died after taking the last picture. I hadn’t finished the tour of the palace yet. But it was a good lesson to learn because after coming back to Dublin, I bought a better camera with a spare battery.
The Tower of the Spikes (Torre de los Picos)
The Tower of the Points (Torre de los Picos) received this name because its end in brick pyramids. It was built in the late 13th century or beginning of the 14th. It helped defend one of the entrances to the fortress that was connected to the Generalife. A passageway that ends up at the Gate of the Poor Quarter.
The Suburban Door (Puerta del Arrabal)
Arrabal door, communicating with the Medina of the Alhambra and the Generalife. After the conquest, the Earl of Tendilla, governor of the Alhambra fortress, he built outer stables to protect the Torre de los Picos, closing the set with the so-called Iron Gate which replaced the Puerta del Arrabal as input to the Alhambra
The Tower of the Captive (Torre de la Cautiva)
The Tower of the Captive is located on the path along the ramparts. During the 16th century it was called Tower of the Woman Thief (Torre de la Ladrona) and Tower of the Sultana (Torre de la Sultana). The name of the tower was changed to Tower of the Captive by the Christian conquerors because it was thought that Lady Isabel de Solís lived there. She converted to the Islam and became Mauley Hassan's favourite wife and called the Sultana.
The Tower of the Princess (Torre de las Infantas)
Although the Tower of the Princesses is conceptually similar to the Tower of the Captive. Its construction was carried out by Muhammad VII (1392 - 1408). In the sixteenth century this tower was called Ruiz and Quintarnaya, after the name of its inhabitant. From the seventeenth century its name from the legend of Washington Irving on Zaida, Zoraida and Zorahaida princesses.
Now, I was walking to the Generalife; there was another ticket scan there.