Thursday, December 17, 2009

Inside the Alhambra, Granada, Andalucía

The Alhambra has got to be the most visited monument in Granada (possibly even the whole of Andalucía). My experience visiting it is the most unique among all the other Spanish attractions that I’ve ever been to. Besides the pure beauty of the architecture, this unique experience I’m referring to, is also about a tiny piece of paper - the Alhambra entrance ticket.

Personally, I’ve learnt that if you’re visiting especially during the Spanish holidays (as it were in my case) or any peak season, the safest bet apart from booking a tour is to buy your tickets online in advance, collect them from any Caixa points and turn up at the Alhambra at least half an hour before the stipulated time on the ticket. You will be denied entrance if you're late or too early! If the General visit tickets are sold out at the entrance (only 30% of the tickets for the day are sold on site & 70% are for advance online purchases), you can try the Evening tickets or the tickets for just the Garden visit. Our tickets were purchased online in advance by a thoughtful Spanish friend, thankfully!

When I arrived there around 7.30am, it was still a little dark and freezing cold and we first needed to figure out which of the various, long snake queues we should join. At 8am as the gates started to open, I was suddenly reminded of the feeling I had when I first visited Disneyland. There was an air of excitement and anticipation in the crowd (& possibly relief from finally being able to get some sort of shelter from the cold outside). At last! I am IN the Alhambra!

Following that was a 15min walk from the main entrance through the huge compound to the Palace, just in time to get in a short line for the 8.30am time slot. *Yay!*

The literal translation of the name Alhambra from its arabic roots means red fortress, possibly due to the orangey hues of the buildings. It sits on a strategic site on top of a hill with a commanding view over the city of Granada. Built since the 9th Century, the Alhambra was first only a fortress for military purposes and from the 13th Century onwards, residential palaces, mosque, public baths and the Generalife gardens were added on the site by the Nazrid rulers, and the walls reinforced with several watch towers encircling the compound, protecting it. Through the works of the architects, it is said that the Alhambra is the physical realisation of the description of Paradise in Islamic poetry.

Over time, further changes have been made on the site, which includes the addition of the Charles V Palace in Renaissance style and the Church of Santa Maria.

Above: Patio of the Gilded Room

Above: At the Gilded Room

Above: The Comares Palace, as seen from the Court of the Myrtles.

Above: One of the doors of the many halls that surround the Court of the Myrtles.

Above & below: The Palace of the Lions – my favourite place in the Alhambra. This area consists of a patio in the center surrounded by galleries with many beautifully decorated columns. Some of them are false arches only for decorative purposes.

Above & below: Hundreds of vertical prisms adorn the ceiling of the Hall of the Abencerrajes, resembling stalactites hanging from a limestone cave. This feature of the architectural design is known as Mocárabe.

One of the main challenges of the architects of the Alhambra was to cover every space with intricate design elements. Hence many parts of the interior are adorned with repeated interlacing decorative motifs and subtle details of Islamic poems, inscribed in classic calligraphy.

Above: The Hall of the Two Sisters - truly beautiful with the exquisite plasterwork on the walls, the soft lighting and the sound of water from the little fountain jet.

Above: A closer look at the details on the wall of The Hall of the Two Sisters

Above: The boxed up fountain in the Patio of the Lions - one of the most popular fountains to look out for. There were supposed to be 12 lion statues under the basin, but they weren't there, which was quite funny...

Above: Patio of the Wrought Iron Grille

Above: Daraxa's Garden. The fountain's border is supposedly decorated with Islamic poetry.

Above: View of the old Albaicín district from the Palace

Above: Alhambra resident of the feline kind

Above: Palacio de Carlos V (Charles V Palace). Added only in the 16th Century, it is a square building with a circular patio in the center. Frankly it appears as a stark contrast to the intricate Nasrid Palaces next to it.

Above: The circular patio within the Charles V Palace.

Above: The Iglesia de Santa Maria, constructed in the 17th Century replacing the Mosque which was once there.

Above: Part of the Alcazaba fortress and watch towers

Above: Up on Torre de la Vela, the most symbolic watch tower. The bell used to be rung to warn of danger amongst various different reasons and somewhere along the way, it was believed that any young single females who rang it would be spared from spinsterhood.

Above: The Alhambra post box

Above: In the gardens of Generalife

Despite having to wake up at ungodly hours and standing in line waiting in the cold, I'm really glad I made it!

More to come, one of the more understated provinces of Andalucia...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, very nice pic. thanks for information about inside the Alhambra. In garden there are Fruits as well as flowers,plants are selected for their aromas and color.Garden has abundance of cool breeze due to open terraces.The Water-Garden Courtyard has a long pool framed by flowerbeds, fountains, and pavilions. In a year 2 million visitors are visiting garden. Alhambra is a popular tourist atrraction. surrounding the Alhambra can be viewed without a ticket. For more details refer Generalife alhambra granada


Related Posts with Thumbnails