Must see places in Andalusia, Spain

If you are a muslim traveller or an islamic architecture lover those are the 7 things you must see in Granada

Top 10 foods to try in Morocco

One of the great cuisines of the world, Moroccan cooking abounds with subtle spices and intriguing flavour combinations.

Top Five Must See Things in Cordoba, Spain

Cordoba قرطبة in the Andalucia province of southern Spain is a city with more than 2,500 years of developed history.

ChefChaouen, the blue city in Morocco

Located just a few hours by bus from Tangier and far enough off the beaten track to dissuade many tourists, Chefchaouen is quiet enough for those visitors overwhelmed by the busy medinas of Fez and Marrakech, and has just enough of what is quintessentially Moroccan to be of interest to other travelers looking for something a bit more authentic.

Fes, Morocco

The most mystical of Morocco's imperial cities, Fez. Capital and spiritual center of Morocco, this city is situated in a narrow valley against the backdrop of the Middle Atlas

lunes, 22 de diciembre de 2014

De l'Espagne au Portugal l'héritage d'Al Andalus

Pendant près de sept siècles, Al-Andalus a formé un foyer culturel incontournable de l'Europe médiévale. Nourries des traditions chrétiennes, juives et musulmanes, ces terres portent une histoire riche, que Patrick de Carolis invite à découvrir. De Cordoue à Grenade, en passant par Evora, Mértola, Tolède, Jerez de la Frontera, ou encore Séville, ce voyage permet de plonger au coeur de l'histoire de la péninsule ibérique. 


jueves, 18 de diciembre de 2014

Top Islamic 7 Must See Things in Granada

If you are a muslim traveller or an islamic architecture lover those are the 7 things you must see in Granada

The Alhambra
The Alhambra was a palace, citadel, fortress, and the home of the Nasrid sultans, high government Palace of Charles V, which houses the Alhambra Museum (with historical artifacts from the site) and the Fine Art Museum. 

The Alhambra reflects the splendor of Moorish civilization in Andalusia and offers the visitor splendid ornamental architecture, spectacular and lush gardens, cascading and dripping water features, and breathtaking views of the city.

The Albaizín is the old Arabic quarter 

Albaycin is the old Arab Quarter. It comprises approximately the area between the hill of the Alhambra, the hill of San Cristobal, the Sacromonte and Elvira.  It was declared a world heritage site in 1984, along with the more famous Alhambra.

The Albaycin is a wonderful neighborhood to explore on foot. While strolling along the whitewashed streets, visitors can admire old Moorish homes, beautiful fountains, and attractive plazas. Among the more renowned plazas is the Plaza de San Nicolas. It is at this plaza that the Mirador de San Nicolas can be found. This "mirador," or lookout point, offers amazing views of the Alhambra, especially at sunset.

Next to the Mirador de San Nicolas you can visit the Mosque of Granada wich signals, after a hiatus of 500 years, the restoration of a missing link with a rich and fecund Islamic contribution to all spheres of human enterprise and activity.

The Mosque of Granada is composed of three main, contrasting elements. These are the prayer hall (which is properly speaking the mosque itself), the Centre for Islamic Studies, and the garden wich looks out over the valley of the River Darro towards a vista of the Alhambra standing on the Mount of Sabika, etched against the peaks of the Sierra Nevada

Along Calderia Vieja and Calderia Nueva, twisting antique lanes climb the hill into the heart of the old Muslim district of the Albaizín, where Arab shops offer handmade crafts from Morocco, sweets from Jerusalem, and pungent Arabian spices. Softly lit tea houses promise mint tea and water pipes, evoking the hospitality of ancient Persia.

The Banuelo baths, the old arab baths in Granada

Arab baths, the Banuelo, also known as Aammim Alyawza (Banos del Nogal) are located at the bottom of a private house in the Carrera del Darro, at the foot of the Alhambra, and show how skilled the Spanish Arabs were a thousand years ago. In 1918, The Banuelo was declared a National Monument and was restored by the architect Balbas. Surprises to be found in The Banuelo are their large size and good level of conservation. Beautiful porticos are based on the Arab style.

Corral del Carbon, one of the oldest arab monuments in Granada

Located in Calle Mariana Pineda, in the heart of Granada, Corral del Carbon is the oldest monument left us by the Arabs. 

The "Corral del Carbón", formerly called "Alhóndiga Gigida" was constructed in the early 14th century 
by Yusuf I and was used as a type of warehouse for merchandise and also as a shelter for merchants.

It is of special interest because it is the only remaining Moorish caravansara or fundak that still remains as it was in Spain.

Madrasa ﻣﺩﺭﺴة of the Nasrid monarch Yusuf I in Granada

It is located on the street now known as Calle Oficios. The madrasa was built at the heart of the city, near the main mosque (now the site of the Granada Cathedral) and the Alcaicería, then the elite bazaar where silk, gold, linen and other cloth were traded. Ibn al-Khatib was an early student there; among his teachers were Ibn al-Fajjar, Ibn Marzuq, and Ibn al-Hayy (language and law); Ibn al-Hakam and the poet Ibn al-Yayyab (rhetoric); and Sheik Yahya ibn Hudayl (medicine and philosophy). As was typical of the works of Yusuf I, the building was splendid, with a white marble entrance.
The building was originally organized around a pool in the center. The only surviving part of the school is the prayer room. It is a square-shaped room oriented by its mihrab.

 ALCAICERÍA, the old silk market in muslim times in GRANADA

The Alpujarra mountain range, was important for the production of silk, where silkworms feasted on the leaves of the Mulberry trees. The raw material was then transported by mules, to Granada,where the silk threads were woven, then sold, either in bales, or made into clothing etc. In the centre of Granadas' city, a bazaar was built , consisting of a grid like network of streets, with merchants shops, and inns, for the merchants to sleep, eat and conduct business. (The Corral del Carbon was originally a merchants inn - see my tip for further info).


martes, 16 de diciembre de 2014

Top Five Must See Things in Cordoba, Spain

Cordoba قرطبة in the Andalucia province of southern Spain is a city with more than 2,500 years of developed history. Established around the 8th century BC, Cordoba at one point was probably the world’s most populous city. Today, with only around 325,000 inhabitants, it’s actually one of the smaller cities in Spain but that doesn’t stop it being one of Spain’s most visited cities.
Cordoba is not only historic and beautiful, there are also so many things to see and do it’s often difficult to choose. If you are planning a first trip to Cordoba, or even a second or third one and haven’t seen every must see place on previous trips, there are five must see things everyone who visits Cordoba should see.

You can visit Cordoba in our Spain & Morocco Tour and Andalusia Routes

1. Great Mosque of Cordoba/Mezquita-Catedral 
 One of the most beautiful mosques in Spain, the Great Mosque of Cordova, or Mezquita-Catedral (Mosque Catheddral) is a World Heritage Site known for its stunning architecture. It is the world’s third largest mosque, although today it is used as a Roman Catholic church. Muslims in Spain have been lobbying the Spanish government since the year 2,000 to be allowed to pray in the mosque, but so far have been denied permission.
Construction on the mosque began in the year 785.

2. Alcazar
 The big attraction here are the gardens, laid out in descending terraces with typical Islamic rectangular pools - some of the most beautiful in Andalucia - perfect for a cooling waterside break on a hot spring day.

3. The Jewish Quarter "La Juderia"
The Jewish quarter of Cordoba goes back to the time of the Romans and consists of a network of narrow streets full of shops, restaurants and cafes, synagogues and museums. A must see is the Bullfight Museum and don’t miss the Zoco, where in the summer you can see flamenco dancers performing. You can visit too the 14th century synagogue and a restored Sefardi house. 

4. The Calahorra Tower and its "Al-Andalus living museum"
 The Al-Andalus living museum is located in an old Moorish fortress, and recreates the time of maximum splendour in this Andalusian city. The museum is in the Calahorra Tower, opposite the Great Mosque, at the end of the Roman Bridge. Its aim is to provide a recreation of the Cordoba of the period between the 9th-13th centuries.

5. ‎ Madīnat az-Zahrā  مدينة الزهراء 
 Medina Azahara (Arabic: مدينة الزهراءMadīnat az-Zahrā: literal meaning "city of the flower") is the ruins of a vast, fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace-city built by Abd-ar-Rahman III al-Nasir, (912–961) Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, and located on the western outskirts of Córdoba, Spain. It was an Arab Muslim medieval town and the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls. Built beginning in 936-940, the city included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences, and baths.

"Al-Andalus living museum" in the Calahorra Tower in Cordoba

The Al-Andalus living museum is located in an old Moorish fortress, and recreates the time of maximum splendour in this Andalusian city.

The museum is in the Calahorra Tower, opposite the Great Mosque, at the end of the Roman Bridge. Its aim is to provide a recreation of the Cordoba of the period between the 9th-13th centuries, at a time of brilliant cultural, artistic and scientific achievement. Its modern facilities include a system of headphones and infrared data transfer that guide you through the eight themed rooms with dioramas.

The Calahorra Tower was built by order of Enrique II de Trastamara to defend the city when under attack from his brother Pedro I 'the Cruel'. It was used as a prison in the 18th century, a girls' school in the 19th, and today houses the Roger Garaudy Museum of the Three Cultures. The interactive guided tour illustrates the many ways in which Jewish, Christian and Moslem cultures thrived side by side in Medieval Cordoba. Visitors especially enjoy the excellent scale models of the Cordoban Mosque and other well-known Andalusian buildings and the spectacular view over Cordoba from the battlements at the end of the tour.

Room 1
The first lounge of the museum has as aim to welcome the visitors, who enter into an historical place, of dreams, where a unique language.
The visit leads us to the period which encloses the centuries IX and XIII, Cordoba was at that time the biggest city and the faith, between Occident and Orient.... here begins the real renaissance.

Room 2
On the right there is a second lounge, known as the Philosopher Lounge, in fact inside the Muslim figures such as Averroes or Ibn al Arabi, the Jewish Maimonides or the Christian Monarch Alfonso X the Wisemen.

All of them keep a special link with our city.
The ambiance and the spoken explanation are oriented to strengthen the importance of the thought of that moment, the wisdom, without being separated from the science, which are treated in the following lounges, neither the faith.

Room 3
The next lounge is the one dedicated to the Sciences and the Techniques, and in it the technological progresses are shown and they are materialized in Al andalus, such as the new techniques for the agriculture and the irrigation. There is a wonderful scale plan of the Noria mill, which was used by the Caliph Alcazar, and which is conserved by the river.

Other Cordovan figures are treated such as Abulcassis al-Zahri a surgeon and the al-Idrisi, known for his Map of the world, Tabula Rogeriana

Room 4
We go up the stairs and we arrive to the second floor, where we find the known lounge as The Summit: the palace and the mosque, referring to the city-palace of Madinat al Zahra and the Mosque Alhama of Cordoba. It stands out the reception which the caliph Abd Al–Rahman III gave to a Christian monk sent by the Byzantine Emperor

In front there is the Mihrab of the Mosque in Cordoba, carried out in Al-hakam II Period, with materials brought from the orient, thanks to the good relationships.

Room 5
In the following lounge, thanks to a wonderful scale model of the nazari palace of the Alhambra and his complete explanations and effects of light and sound, we get to entry into this marvellous place, from the sunset till the end of it, in this moment the little rooms are illuminated.
The Comares Tower, the Lounge of Dos Hermanas, the Leones Courtyard in which there is a wonderful fountain... all is studied and elaborated with details, and easily to know by the visitors. 

Room 6
It is very close to the granadine palace where the Lounge of Andalusi Music, it is a very little room very interesting. The visitor enters into the richest al-Andalus, at the same time you are under the Mihrab of the Mosque Alhama of Cordoba, one of the most beautiful and impressive places that Islam could create.

The lounge is completed with a little collection of musical instruments belonging to the Andalusi period, and witness of its
rich culture. 
Room 7
We arrive to the third and last floor of our tower, and in it we enter into one of the most special lounges of the museums, dedicated to the Mosque Aljama of Cordoba. An exceptional mock-up is in the room, a mock-up who looks in great detail all the outside covers and the most important points of the interior, like the Skylight of Villaviciosa or the mihrab. As in the previous case devoted to the Alhambra, the mock-up is set with phrases and high quality sound effects.

Room 8
From the lounge dedicated to the monument of our city we pass to another which shows us others that without having the artistical and historical relevance they represent the fingerprint of those who lived and shared our city.

Among the columns of the Mosque, under the red and the whiteness of their voussoirs, there are the Caliph Alcazar, the Royal Baths, the Almodovar Door, the Craft Market and the Synagogue... and the river Guadalquivir, the witness of our history. 

Room 9
We end our visit with the Live Museum of Al-Andalus, but before we have a last stop, the lounge called Multivision, where we will enjoy an audiovisual projection which is about the three cultures and it is the theme of the museum. So every hour you have this projection.

Here the visit ends, however it is better to visit it and at the same time go up to the terrace in order to enjoy the most beautiful sight of our city.

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The Muslim Cordoba قرطبة

However, in the 8th century, something happened in Cordoba which was to radically change the course of history in the western world. A contingent of Arabic troops landed on the Mediterranean coast, and easily took over the weakened Visigoth kingdom. Cordoba was captured by Mugit, a deputy of Tariq, and Moslems settled in Cordoba side by side with their Christian counterparts. They lived in harmony, as is proved by the fact that the Moslems actually paid the Visigoths for the rights to move the musalla (the primitive prayer area outside the city walls) to the Visigoth basilica of San Vicente, thus forming the beginnings of the Great Mosque which still survives to this day.

The first rulers of the Islamic Qurtuba made it the administrative centre of their recently conquered lands. However, the fiercely tribal nature of the Arab and Berber peoples soon produced disputes between the rival factions struggling for power.

Abd al-Rahman I, known as "the Fugitive" or "the Dispossessed", united all the disaffected groups around the figure of the future Emir. In the year 756 these factions took over Cordoba and proclaimed it capital of the independent Emirate of Al-Andalus. Abd al-Rahman I carried out the first major enlargement of the Great Mosque of Cordoba and rebuilt the city walls and the Alcazar (castle). Hisham I, his son, finished off his father's work in the Great Mosque and built the first minaret, which has not survived. When Abd al-Rahman II came to power, the mosque was enlarged further and a lot of new building went on all over the city.

However, it was in the rule of Abd al-Rahman III when Cordoba really came into the limelight. In the  Medina Azahara outside the city walls, an endless source of legends due partly to the extravagantly expensive building materials used.

The arrival of the Omeyan year 929 Cordoba was proclaimed Capital of the independent Caliphate thus creating a schism with Damascus, and converting Cordoba into the religious, political and administrative centre of the entire Islamic kingdom in the west. One of the Caliph's first acts was to build the dazzling, but short-lived, royal residence of

The rule of Alhaken II, son of Abd al-Rahman III, heralded an era of stable government and the period of greatest cultural splendour in Cordoba. The Great Mosque was extended again, this time in the same majestic style as Medina Azahara

His successor, Hixam II, was only a puppet ruler, and left the task of government to his vizier Almanzor, who was responsible for the third and last major enlargement of the mosque.

The joint rule of Almanzor and Hixam weakened the kingdom, and the end was not far in sight. The Caliphate finally collapsed in 1013, and the city became one of the interim Taifa kingdoms.

lunes, 15 de diciembre de 2014

مدينة الزهراء‎ Madīnat az-Zahrā The city of the flower

When you go to Córdoba, besides visiting the city, you must visit the archeological remains of Medina Azahara, one of the great works of Islamic art in Andalucía.

Medina Azahara (Arabic: مدينة الزهراءMadīnat az-Zahrā: literal meaning "city of the flower") is the ruins of a vast, fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace-city built by Abd-ar-Rahman III al-Nasir, (912–961) Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, and located on the western outskirts of Córdoba, Spain. It was an Arab Muslim medieval town and the de facto capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls. Built beginning in 936-940, the city included ceremonial reception halls, mosques, administrative and government offices, gardens, a mint, workshops, barracks, residences, and baths. Water was supplied through aqueducts.

10,000 men worked in its construction using the best materials: precious metals, marble, polychrome stones, etc.

Medinat-al-Zahra was organized in three big terraces surrounded by a wall. In the upper part was the royal palace, with the rooms of the caliph and his family; the middle one was the bureaucratic and administrative area, with the halls and gardens; the lower one was destined for the houses of the people, as well as for the souk and mosque.

Its location in the foothills of Sierra Morena made it possible to design an urban program in which the location and physical relationships between the various constructions were expressive of the role of each in the setting.

The palace was located at a higher level, and staggered its buildings along the side of the mountain in an expression of clear preeminence over the urban hamlets and the Aljama Mosque spread across the plains below.

Following the terraces, the first corresponds to the residential area of the caliph, next comes the official area including the houses of the viziers, the guard-room, administrative offices and gardens.

Next is the city proper, with housing, crafts, and the great mosque of the two lower terraces separated by another wall in order to isolate the upper palace complex. Archaeological research has revealed an urban morphology characterized by the existence of large areas of undeveloped land, which serves to empty the entire southern front of the fortress, ensuring privacy and maintaining an open, idyllic country landscape.

The only spaces built on the lowest level are two broad bands: the western, with an urban management orthogon, and the eastern, with less rigid planning.

Popular legend holds that the Caliph named az-Zahra, or Azahara, after his favorite concubine, and that a statue of a woman stood over the entrance. Others, imagining his demanding lover, say that he built this new city just to please her. The truth, however, has probably more to do with politics than love.

 Abd ar-Rahman III ordered the construction of this city at a time when he had just finished consolidating his political power in the Iberian Peninsula and was entering into conflict with the Fatimid dynasty for the control of North Africa.

 Zahara means 'shining, radiant or blossoming' in Arabic: the name communicates aspirations of power and status, not romantic love. Az-Zahra is the most common title for the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad Fatimah az-Zahra. As such, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa adorned many buildings and even towns with her name.

viernes, 12 de diciembre de 2014

The Partal palace, one of the oldest areas of the Alhambra de Granada

The Partal is one of the oldest areas of the Alhambra and it was probably built by order of the Sultan Mohammad III (1302-1309). 

The name comes from an Arabic word meaning "the portico", and is the name given to the remains of the residence of Sultan Yusuf III, the northernmost of the Nasrid Palaces.

It was built following the same design as the ‘Palacio de Comares’: a rectangular court with a central ‘alberca’ and opposing edifices in the smaller sides.
The environment of the area suggests that it was the rest area of the Muslim nobility of the palace. They had a Muslim cemetery, “Rawda”, whose name was used to name the door “Rauda” that today is reduced to the foundations. 

Initially, this palace area was not attached to the Alhambra and when it passed to the control of the state, it was joined to the resort.

Although great original features have been lost, such as the residence of Yusuf III, demolished for the structural damages, the restoration is very similar to the past as the structure of the Partal, the tower de la dama or the pool.

In the 19th century, the Partal was in a very bad condition. It was restored by Torres Balbás. He followed a conservative style instead of the Romantic and decorative restorations that were usually done at that time in the Alhambra

The "Damas" Tower is the most important among the buildings of the magnates that lived around the Royal Palace in Arab times, and the decoration is the oldest of the Alhambra. This tower, in the eighteenth century, was called Torre del Principe, because here lived Fernando VI, son of Philip V, and was bought by the German Arthur Gwinner in 1886, and later it was transfered to the Spanish state in 1891, but not entirely. 

 Until the year 1924, when the tower's restoration was completed, it has gone through many alterations carried out by its inhabitants in order to live there 

Phothos by: Manu Rubio

jueves, 11 de diciembre de 2014

The Alhambra and the city of Granada

The Alhambra
The Alhambra was built on top of the Sabikah Hill, which cuts into a fertile valley and stands as the last bastion of the Sierra Nevada mountain mountains, in front of Albaycin and Sacromonte, between the Darro and Genil rivers. 
Arab writers compared Granada, which is surrounded by mountains, to a crown, with the diadem of the Alhambra on top. 

The history of the buildings of the Alhambra is closely related to that of the buildings of the city of Granada. There are archaeological documents that testify the successive superposition of Iberian, Roman, and Muslim walls. 

The Alhambra today was not built in a single time period. It was progressively constructed, with the addition over time of new buildings that were built in groups like cells, enriching the architectural and urban development of the citadel. 

It is the result of an evolutionary process over more than two and a half centuries, during the reign of the Nasrids, and includes structures predating that time as well as important contributions and modifications during the Christian era, which continues to this day.

The Alhambra: Part fortress (the Alcazaba), part palace (Palacios Nazaries), part garden (the Generalife) and part government city (the Medina), this medieval complex overlooking Granada is one of the top attractions in Spain, with many visitors coming to Granada expressly to see the Alhambra.

The last Moorish stronghold in Europe, the Alhambra reflects the splendor of Moorish civilization in Andalusia and offers the visitor splendid ornamental architecture, spectacular and lush gardens, cascading and dripping water features, and breathtaking views of the city.

The Alhambra was a palace, citadel, fortress, and the home of the Nasrid sultans, high government Palace of Charles V, which houses the Alhambra Museum (with historical artifacts from the site) and the Fine Art Museum.
officials, servants of the court and elite soldiers from the 13th to the 14th century. Other notable buildings belonging to a different time period are also located within the Alhambra complex, most notably the Renaissance style

But in order to fully appreciate the unique architecture of the Alhambra set within the surrounding landscape, it is advisable to see the Alhambra for afar as well as up close: several locations in the Albaizín (most notably the San Nicolás Viewpoint) or Sacromonte - both covered below - allow you the opportunity to truly admire the Alhambra's spectacular location, lying just above the city of Granada.

The Alhambra is a vast complex, composed of many structures and gardens on its lush grounds, which alone are worth exploring - it is totally free to do so and they are open nearly all hours of the day - but there are four primary attractions: the Alcazaba, the Palace of Charles V, the Palacios Nazaries and the Generalife.

The ruins of a massive fortress perched atop the crest of the hill overlooking the city, this is the oldest part of the Alhambra and offers some of the finest views of anywhere in the complex, with an expansive panorama from the top of the prominent tower that gives you a spectacular view of nearly the entire city and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Within the fort's walls are the ruins of a town which once held soldier's homes and baths, though today only the outline of these rooms remain.

Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Carlos V).

A more recent addition to the Alhambra, this sixteenth century building was commissioned following the Reconquista by Charles V as a royal residence close to the Alhambra palace.

The square two-level structure is done in Renaissance style with an impressive circular courtyard ringed by a colonnade within.

The building is also home to two museums, the Museo de la Alhambra on the lower floor with a collection of artifacts and art from the Alhambra, and the Museo de Bellas Artes, a small fine art museum on the upper floor, as well as a couple of changing museum exhibits which regularly feature art with some connection to the Alhambra.

Palacios Nazaries.

The Nasrid royal palace and the primary (and thus most crowded) attraction of the Alhambra Mexuar, a set of administrative rooms with a beautiful prayer room and a small square courtyard with the golden Façade of Comares, before emerging in the Court of the Myrtles, a rectangular courtyard with a long pool of water flanked on each side by a myrtle hedge (hence the name). At the end of the courtyard you can enter a room to view the twelve Lion Statues from the fountain in the Court of the Lions, .

Visitors get to see spectacular archways and windows, carved wooden ceilings, intricate molded-plaster work and colorful ceramic tiles at nearly every turn as they meander between lovely rooms and lush courtyards. Everyone starts their tour in the

Cross to the other end of the Court of the Myrtles to enter the Ship Room, with its spectacular carved wooden ceiling in the shape of an upside-down hull, and the Chamber of the Ambassadors, the palace's largest and perhaps most spectacular room, which once functioned as the throne room and features a star-studded wooden ceiling, intricately carved stucco walls and beautiful arched windows.

From here you'll pass through a series of small rooms, including the Washington Irving Room, where Washington Irving wrote Tales of the Alhambra, as well as down an open-air hallway with an excellent view of an adjacent courtyard (the Court of Linda-Raja) and the Albayzín. Passing by the old bath house you'll enter the Hall of the Two Sisters, a spectacular domed room with an intricate stucco ceiling and lovely views of the Court of Linda-Raja. From here you can navigate around the edge of the Court of the Lions to the Hall of the Abencerrages, structurally similar to the Hall of the Two Sisters. At this point you can exit the palace, which will place you near the entrance to the Partal Gardens.


The lush and gorgeous gardens of the Nasrid kings, the expansive Generalife is the finest set of Moorish style gardens in Andalusia, positioned on a hill situated at the rear of the complex overlooking the Alhambra palace.

Within you'll find beds of colorful flowers, more exquisite architecture, leaping fountains and cool shade. There are two entrances to the Generalife, one at the ticket booth on the east side of the complex and another next to the Palacios Nazaries which will take you through the Partal Gardens, a collection of palace gardens with flowing water streams and a large pool of water which reflects a nearby portico.

From the Partal you can follow the Promenade of The Towers, the remains of the main wall and its adjoining towers that separate the Alhambra palace grounds from the Generalife. As you cross a bridge over a small canyon you'll enter the Generalife proper, where you can follow a promenade past the amphitheater to the Lower Gardens, a collection of hedge rows with rectangular ponds at the center and colorful flower beds throughout.

Past this is the Generalife Palace, the white structure sitting atop the hill and the highlight of a visit to the gardens, for it is within that you will find spectacular views, lovely architecture, and the much-photographed Court of the Main Canal, with its crossing jets of water that arc over the rectangular pool. Nearby is the Soultana's Court, another picturesque courtyard with leaping fountains.

Above the palace are the High Gardens, where you can find a gorgeous long pergola and the Water Stairway, which true to its name is a beautiful stairway with water flowing down its parapets. The gardens are huge, but the layout is simple as everything in the Generalife can be seen along a long, circular path.


These are the four primary attractions, but the grounds hold many secondary sights as well, some of them quite splendid in their own right and many off the beaten path. If entering the Alhambra on foot from Plaza Nueva, you'll travel up Cuesta de Gomerez through the Granada Gate, an ornamental archway which marks the entrance to the grounds. From here you can continue straight into the Bosque (forest), a delightfully lush and shady wooded area in the canyon beneath the palace complex with streams running along the footpaths, fountains and statues and, in the summertime, fragrant smells from the trees.

If you take the rightmost path up the hill and make a right up the next path you find, you'll come across the Bermejas Towers, an outpost of the Alhambra on the very edge of the complex, with massive square towers perched on a hill over the neighborhood of Realejo.

The towers themselves are locked up and mostly in ruins, but the views of Granada and the Alhambra are splendid. If you take the leftmost path from the Granada Gate you'll travel up to the Justice Gate (Puerta de Justica), an imposing Moorish-style archway and entry that served as the primary entrance to the palace complex in days of old.

Within the main palace complex, just above the Justice Gate is a lovely courtyard area, the Square of the Cisterns (Plaza de los Aljibes) between the Alcazaba and the Palace of Charles V next to the Wine Gate (Puerta del Vino), another picturesque horseshoe-shaped archway which once protected the grounds. Continuing along the small road past the Palace of Charles V to the upper part of the palace complex, you'll come across a line of woodworking and souvenir shops, the prominent St. Mary Church, the ruins of a village and the Parador. Though most of the Parador is a restaurant and hotel, parts are still open to the public, including the lovely courtyard entryway and the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, which holds the lovely remains of a small chapel with a view into the hotel's lavish patio area.

Above the main palace complex, to the east of the Generalife, are a number of visitor facilities, namely a large parking lot. A short hike uphill from the parking lot is the Silla del Moro, the ruins of a guard outpost directly above the Generalife Palace.

While it requires an uphill hike and is isolated from the rest of the grounds, the Silla offers what may be the most spectacular view in all of Granada, giving you a rare opportunity to look down at the Alhambra palace, as well as a sweeping vista of the city, the valley and the surrounding mountains, with the added benefit of not being nearly as crowded as the San Nicolas Viewpoint in the Albayzín or requiring admission like the Alcazaba.

martes, 2 de diciembre de 2014

The Royal Hamman of The Alhambra of Granada

The Alhambra's Royal Baths are situated between the Tower of Comares and the Courtyard of the Lions. These are the only remaining baths of the eight which originally served the 2,000 or so inhabitants of the Alhambra.

The baths are perfectly preserved, again left by the Christians as an example of Islamic heathenism. The royal bath is still functional but is not ornamentally decorated, as bathing was a religious and sanitary requirement, not a luxury. 

The bath house is set out in accordance with the original Roman specifications, with a cold, warm and hot room. The bath house has the same star-shaped vents in the roof, and when the heat in the bath chambers became unbearable, slaves were sent up to the roof to open them, allowing the steam to escape.

As part of the Roman model used to design the Royal Baths, the bath house had to be situated adjacent to the apodyterium - an antechamber where the sultan could rest after his bath - and the baths of the harem -
Room of the Beds or  bayt al-maslaj - , a chamber of two tiers, the first tier surrounded by alcoves and the upper tier by a balcony. 

After his bath, the sultan would go to his apodyterium where his harem would be waiting naked after their baths, hoping to be chosen to spend the night with the sultan. He would indicate his choice by throwing an apple to his selected companion.

This room is considerably more decorative than the bath house, likely because of its suggestive and seductive nature, and also because it was intended for the sultan to relax in pleasurable surroundings- this area was not part of the religious process. 

Unfortunately the room does not retain its original decoration. The chamber was ´restored´ in the 19th century when it was on the brink of collapse, but sadly in this restoration much of the chamber's original charm and beauty was lost, and the redecoration has left it looking less than luxurious.

The rooms of the Royal Bath of The Alhambra, because of the conservation and the special nature, are normally closed to the public visit but during the month of December of 2014 it could be possible to visit them through this room.

Timetable: from 8:30 to 18:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday
Access: with the general ticket of the Alhambra
Capacity: maximum 15 people

Phothos and text by: