For hundreds of years men have fought, cried and died for their share of this mystical place and this week would be no exception. I cried when they told me that tickets had already sold out 5 days prior to our visit. I died when my boyfriend told me that the only way we would go to see it was if we joined the most expensive and longest guided tour of place and I re tied the bows on my shoes and prepared myself to jostle and fight, if need, be for an uninterrupted picture of the Lion’s Patio once I saw the hundreds of people waiting outside the closed gates at 8.30am. Are they buying tickets?But you said it was full?! We could have just come and bought entrances but now we’ve got to do the tour!*Gremlin face*, which was accompanied by the same sort of feeling that you get sometimes when you manage to board a really full train and then after pushing in yourself, you turn around and start resenting anyone who squashes in after you. Can’t the doors just close already?! *THERE IS NO MORE ROOM!
When at 8.45 am an announcement was made to the people of the massive queues that all the on the day tickets had now been sold out, I no longer felt the need to mentally abuse the epic tour that had helped secure our place. “Aww! Those poor people!” I said trying to sound genuine but failing to mask the smug look which was spreading across my face as I rolled my ticket in my hands like Gollum… So silly thinking they can just arrive on the day… they should have booked the tour like we did*…
*and then turn and simply ignore the accusatory and damning looks and focus on your sugar frosted doughnut
We entered the gates and into an oasis of calm and beauty. Whereas Granada down below looked arid and dry, here we were emerged in lush green gardens and the sound of running water was everywhere. Water, was the first thing we saw and heard and interestingly was made the theme of our tour. Once Saltan Mohammed I conquered the province of Granada he set about constructing a fortress to protect it from invasion. However over the next 800 years the Moroccan kings would come to know this place as home and battle grounds and defense lines were turned into a royal city and into a vision of paradise with lush trees, plants and flowers – a far cry from the nomadic life and arid hills of Morocco where these peoples had originated from. Everything, from the sustaining of the live stock to the hammam spa where the Sultan would relax, was built and made possible thanks to the ingenious engineering feats carried out to bring this baron mountain side water. An irrigation system built on the concepts of gravity and upward force enabled this life garden of Eden.
I loved the view from the Alhambra, sometimes through arched windows and sometimes peeping out from behind flowers. The gardens were immaculate and in full bloom. Flat, calm water fountains reflected the sky and linked the Earth to the heavens, Oranges hung from the trees and the sound of running water was everywhere. It was so cool despite the hot summer’s day. It was simply lovely.
Alhambra means the Red One and it was called this because the walls are terracotta red color but also because it was said that its founder Mohammed I had red hair and blue eyes.
It became a labor of love and a real jewel in the crown of the Moors and when the Catholics eventually took back the mountain side, the young King having been defeated in battle and forced to yield up his family home broke down into tears. He was told by his mother “to not cry like a woman what he could not defend as a man”…And you thought your mum was harsh to you sometimes…*Tough Love
A treaty was signed and the Spanish agreed not to destroy the fortress and such was the love that the moors had for the Alhambra that they didn’t destroy it either and preferred to hand it over. They were told everything would be preserved except for all religious buildings and sites. The bodies in the cemeteries were dug up and taken into the mountains by the King in order to save them from the wrath of the “invaders”. As we gazed down over Granada we saw 22 Church bell towers which had once been Minarets and were converted once the moors conceded.
The palaces were beautiful and had some great architecture. I loved the ceilings and the ornate walls, mosaics and ceiling stars. The Lion’s Patio was particularly spectacular, with the animals required to be represented imperfectly by the makers because Allah was the creator and humans were not. Interestingly people still live in the Alhambra and there are a few family houses which now operate as hotels which are now passed down from generation to generation. They may however not be listed on Expedia, although I’m sure someone’s given it a damning report on Trip Advisor * Poor Location, no shops, far from city center…
So it came down to the french (trust the bloody french!) and Napoleon to be main bad guys of this story and who are regarded as the main destroyers of the Alhambra. Having been defeated by the Brits at the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon lost his grip on Europe (well directly or indirectly, sooner or later, whatever… I had to get the Battle of Waterloo in somehow!) and on the night of the retreat from Granada, they planted explosives throughout the palaces and the gardens. Some were detonated and this destroyed large parts of the walls, the souks and the fortresses, but luckily before anything else could be blown to smithereens a Spanish soldier disconnected the bombs and saved the Alhambra. Hurray!
The Alhambra was huge, larger than I could of imagined and the quality of the buildings, the gardens and the views was incredible. I really loved my visit and can not recommend it enough! Make sure you book in advance though and it can get very busy in the summer (the day we went around 10,000 people also went!), to take some money to buy food once through the gardens and to go if you can early in the morning when it is less hot. I wore converse trainers which were essential for over 4 hours walking and a bottle of water to avoid having a cheeky drink from one of the fountains. I would also recommend the guided tour (Water!) 😉
Top – United Colours of Benetton
Jean shorts – Bershka
Trainers – Converse
Sunglasses – Ray Ban