The Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra is a beautiful historical fortress that served as a palace for the Moorish rulers of the kingdom of Granada. It is undoubtedly the most famous Moorish building in Spain and attracts millions of visitors every year.
Perched high on a plateau on the southeastern border of the city, the Alhambra one could easily defend the fortress against pirate attacks and nearby kingdoms. In addition to Islamic art and Sultan-era structures, a medieval palace and several vestiges of Catholic culture also exist within the walls of the fortress. Let us take a look into the history of the Alhambra.
The original Alhambra was a small fortress built on the remains of a Roman settlement. When the area came into the hands of the Moors in the 8th century, it became part of the Caliphate of Córdoba. The current Granada was then only a small Jewish village, Gárnata al-yahud, “Granada of the Jews”. Only when the Caliphate of Córdoba disintegrated, and the area came into the hands of Ziri ibn Zawi did Granada become one of the wealthiest cities of its time. The capital at the time, Elvira, was close to the sea and difficult to defend against external attacks, which made Ziri ibn Zawi decide to make the village of Granada the capital of its new emirate.
In the years that followed, Granada was part of several Islamic empires. In 1232, power was taken over by Mohammed I ibn Nasr. He turned the region into a kingdom again and declared himself the first sultan. He decided to turn the old fort into a palace for the sultans. Construction started in 1238—installation completed by Mohammed V, the eighth sultan of Granada. Within the fort, an actual city had risen with six palaces, two towers, bathhouses, gardens and an irrigation system. Islamic art was ubiquitous. You can find all stylistic elements designed during eight centuries of Muslim rule within the Alhambra.
In 1492, Mohammed XII, the last sultan, surrendered. The new rulers of Granada, Catholic Ferdinand II and Isabella I had walls painted over and furniture destroyed.
Their grandson, Charles V, ordered the demolition of part of the structure in 1526 to make way for a Renaissance palace, which was never completed. Over the years, more and more of the Moorish architecture was lost due to renovations, wars and earthquakes. In 1828 orders were given to restore the fort. This was only completed in the 1930s. The current fort has regained its former Moorish glory, albeit with Catholic influences and an unfinished medieval palace. The Alhambra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.