Journey to the oriental fairy tale. Alhambra, Spain

Alhambra – An Oriental Tale of Andalusia

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Since ancient times I’ve had a cherished dream to visit beautiful Andalusia and see Seville, Granada, Cordoba with my own eyes. These names sang and created magical images in my soul, but the mysterious Alhambra and Generalife Gardens especially beckoned.

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While traveling through southern Spain, the dream came true, and most unforgettably, on the day I was born!

Without a doubt, this beauty was worth seeing: enclosed in a ring of powerful defensive walls, the Alhambra seems to float above Granada. Medieval poets rightly called it “an exquisite jewel”, sparkling against the green forests, blue skies and mountainous scenery of the Sierra Nevada.

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The proud and majestic Alhambra is a magnificent example of Arab architecture and one of the most famous monuments of Muslim architecture in Europe. It has always been more than a royal palace – it was an entire city with administrative buildings, schools, baths, stables and gardens. But unfortunately, the only things that have survived are what we can see now – the royal residence and the beautiful gardens.

Tip! How to allocate your time to see everything in the Alhambra.

In order to fully enjoy the architecture of the palaces and the splendor of the gardens of the Alhambra Palace Complex and Generalife Gardens, plan a full day, you won’t regret it!

Tickets . Tickets can be purchased at the box office (cash) and terminals (by bank card) at the entrance. Tickets are valid only on the day of purchase, so it is better to come for them with time to spare. It is convenient to buy tickets through travel agencies. The ticket indicates the exact entrance time to the Nasrid Palaces, limited to 30 minutes. Visiting the Alcazaba, Generalife and the Palace of Carlos V has no time limit.

Opening hours: from 8:30 to 20:00 hours in summer time (from March 15 to October 14) and to 18:00 hours in winter time (from October 15 to March 14).

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When you enter, be sure to pick up a detailed map of the Alhambra, showing the pedestrian routes and all the sites of interest in the complex.

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Water and sandwiches taken with them also do not hurt. What food is involved? The Alhambra is so good and the crowds of Chinese tourists are so active that you’ll forget the rest of the world as you make your way around.

So, onward to beauty! The beautiful Alhambra awaits us.

Let me say right away that my story about the Alhambra is a recollection of what has made the greatest impression on me. I in no way claim to be an expert, especially as on its history, the peculiarities of architecture, the originality of engineering systems of buildings, written plenty of literature.

I will dwell only on the most striking and spectacular moments of the trip. I hope that I will inspire you to see everything with your own eyes!

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Approaching the Alhambra

Important: It’s worth starting your tour of the Alhambra with the Nasrid palaces. The time of their visit is indicated on your tickets within 30 minutes – don’t be late.

The Alhambra (Alhambra from the Arabic قصر الحمراء kasr al-hamra – “red castle”) was developed during the rule of the Muslim Nasrid dynasty (1230-1492), under which Granada became the capital of the Granada Emirate on the Iberian Peninsula and the Alhambra was their residence (the surviving palaces date mainly to the 14th century).

Of the seven Moorish palaces, only three have survived: the Mejar, the Comares and the Court of the Lions. Each of them is original and unique in its own way. The palaces are an example of the grandeur of the last masters of the Alhambra. The palace complex impresses with its architectural sophistication, the complexity of the decor and the charm of the light and air environment.

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The mocarbets are the original decorative elements of filling the vaults. They create unforgettable optical effects!

Mejoire Palace

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The first palace on our route and the oldest of the Nasrid palaces. It had rooms for audiences, courts and prayers. A part of the premises was turned into a chapel after the Reconquista.

Passing the premises of the Palacio de Mejar we reach the next architectural ensemble.

Palacio de Comares

Comares is the former ceremonial residence of the Alhambra, its face. Here the beauty and opulence of the decoration is on the rise! The austerity and nobility of lines, the clarity of proportions, the scope of the palace are fraught with regal grandeur. It is interesting that the Alhambra, as befits a fortress, is powerful and strong, but everything within its walls is light, ephemeral, and permeated with the basic idea of the mystical philosophy of Islam: “Nothing is eternal in this world, not even the house of the Sultan.

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The Myrtle Court is one of the most beautiful areas of the Comares Palace and the center of solemn audiences for visitors eagerly awaiting the Sultan’s reception.

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We enter Myrtle’s Court through the main entrance. And oh wonder! A mirror-like surface opens up before us, in which the monumental Comares Palace is reflected. Reflections in the water create the effect as if the slender columns of the northern arcade grow straight out of the water, and the palace itself is a floating magic castle. According to the architects’ concept, the total stillness of the water in the Myrtle Palace creates the same optical effect of a mirage in the desert, where along with the objects themselves on the horizon line you can see only their imaginary, inaccessible images. It is a breathtaking sight!

We move on, looking at the ceramic mosaic, the alicatado. This is a special type of wall decoration made of ceramic tiles with a glazed surface. Together with the arabesque pattern and the delicate plaster stuccowork of the walls, the Alicatado creates the effect of an intricate lace pattern.

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The Ambassadorial Hall, the main symbol of state power, served as the throne room. The magnificent cedar dome, decorated with stars, the gilded entrance arch, and the patterned walls all speak of refinement and luxury.

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Everything here seemed to me weightless, almost unreal. The original shapes of doors, windows, arches and domes do not press with their volumes, but as if spread with honeydew in the stalactite honeycomb mukarns. The columns and arcades are graceful and light, and the openwork construction above them gives the impression of freely flowing lace.

The Hall of Ambassadors is without doubt the apotheosis, the pinnacle of the “music of the Alhambra”.

The Court of the Lions

After the vivid opulence of the Palacio de Comares we move on to the exquisite intimacy of the Court of the Lions.

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This architectural ensemble, built on the principle of grouping rooms around an open courtyard, was the center of residential life in the Alhambra. This is where the private life of the sultan and his family took place.

Entering from the side of the Myrtle Palace, we move toward the fountain, whose bowl is supported by twelve sculptures of lions. The viewpoints change, and a spectacle of amazing beauty unfolds around us: on all sides we are surrounded by a fabulous forest of columns, which seems to be hanging from the sky with the golden fringe of a lace curtain. The Lion’s Court was originally conceived as a garden, observable from all the rooms around it. On the perimeter there are pavilions with small fountains. They bring us back to the image of the Muslim Paradise, which the Qur’an describes as a tent.

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A tour of all the rooms of the Nasrid palaces will take a long time. The Harem Court, the King’s Hall and the Hall of the Two Sisters are definitely worth seeing. And on the way out it is worth paying attention to a few cozy courtyards, such as the Dvor Grigor.

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Partal

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Next we go to Partal.

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Partal, from the Arabic word for “portico”, is located to the east of the Nasrid palaces. It is sometimes called the Courtyard of the fig tree (Patio de la Higuera). A large part of Partal used to be the Palacio del Partal, built before the Nasrid palaces – at the beginning of the 14th century, under Mohammed III. Very little remains of this palace. The Torre de las Damas (Tower of the Ladies), built into the outer wall, is the best preserved structure of the palace. Its covered palace portico has two facades. One of them faces the city quarter of Albaycinu and the Generalife Gardens.

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Wonderful view of Granada, the Albaycín quarter

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The opposite façade faces the Partal Gardens, where it is reflected in the waters of an elongated rectangular body of water.

The Partal Gardens surrounding the towers are a wonderful place to stroll .

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Let’s walk through them and admire the magnificent composition and wonderful plants.

The Partal Gardens are created in relief, which adds air and volume to their composition. They use all the techniques typical of Spanish-Muslim gardens – strict geometry of the layout and originality of colors. The compositional center of the garden is usually a rectangular pond. Its rippled mirror surface reflects the sky and the measured murmuring of fountains, the fragrance of flowers and flowering shrubs, the strict green of clipped cypress hedges, trees and soft birdsong creates a feeling of peace and relaxation.

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Wonderful nooks for relaxation in the garden of Partal. This is where it’s best to take a break and relax, because there’s so much more to do!

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