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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dawn Charles V Palace Alhambra Granada Andalusia Spain.jpg
Charles V palace in Alhambra
Location Granada, Andalusia, Spain
Part ofAlhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada
Criteria Cultural: i, iii, iv
Reference 314-001
Inscription1984 (8th session)
Coordinates 37°10′37″N3°35′24″W / 37.17695°N 3.59001°W / 37.17695; -3.59001 Coordinates: 37°10′37″N3°35′24″W / 37.17695°N 3.59001°W / 37.17695; -3.59001
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Location in Spain

The Alhambra ( /ælˈhæmbrə/ ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ), Spanish:  [aˈlambɾa] ; Arabic : الْحَمْرَاء, romanized: Al-Ḥamrāʾ, pronounced  [alħamˈraːʔ] , lit.'The Red One') is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 CE on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Arab Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls with many beautiful, intricate details. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. [1] After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style. In 1526 Charles I & V commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting the Holy Roman Emperor in the revolutionary Mannerist style influenced by humanist philosophy in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid Andalusian architecture, but it was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.


Alhambra's last flowering of Islamic palaces was built for the final Muslim emirs in Spain during the decline of the Nasrid dynasty, who were increasingly subject to the Christian Kings of Castile. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site. The rediscoverers were first British intellectuals and then other north European Romantic travelers. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well-known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. [2]

Moorish poets described it as "a pearl set in emeralds", an allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them. [3] The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind and many forms of technology were considered. The park (Alameda de la Alhambra), which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges, and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812.[ citation needed ] The park has a multitude of nightingales and is usually filled with the sound of running water from several fountains and cascades. These are supplied through a conduit 8 km (5.0 mi) long, which is connected with the Darro at the monastery of Jesus del Valle above Granada. [4]

Despite long neglect, willful vandalism, and some ill-judged restoration, the Alhambra endures as an atypical example of Muslim art in its final European stages, relatively uninfluenced by the direct Byzantine influences found in the Mezquita of Córdoba. Most of the palace buildings are quadrangular in plan, with all the rooms opening on to a central court, and the whole reached its present size simply by the gradual addition of new quadrangles, designed on the same principle, though varying in dimensions, and connected with each other by smaller rooms and passages. Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived in the complex. However, each new section that was added followed the consistent theme of "paradise on earth". Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic and functional complexity. In every case, the exterior was left plain and austere. Sun and wind were freely admitted. Blue, red, and a golden yellow, all somewhat faded through lapse of time and exposure, are the colors chiefly employed. The name Alhambra means the red one or the red castle, which refers to the sun-dried bricks that the outer wall is made of. [4]

The decoration consists for the upper part of the walls, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions—mostly poems by Ibn Zamrak and others praising the palace—that are manipulated into geometrical patterns with vegetal background set onto an arabesque setting ("Ataurique"). Much of this ornament is carved stucco (plaster) rather than stone. Tile mosaics ("alicatado"), with complicated mathematical patterns ("tracería", most precisely "lacería"), are largely used as panelling for the lower part. Metal was also not present very mainly.[ clarification needed ] Similar designs are displayed on wooden ceilings (Alfarje). [4] Muqarnas are the main elements for vaulting with stucco, and some of the most accomplished dome examples of this kind are in the Court of the Lions halls. The palace complex is designed in the Nasrid style, the last blooming of Islamic Art in the Iberian Peninsula, that had a great influence on the Maghreb to the present day, and on contemporary Mudejar Art, which is characteristic of western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms and widely popular during the Reconquista in Spain.

Panorama of the Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolas. From left to right: Generalife, Pico del Veleta (mountain), Palacios Nazaries, Palace of Charles V, Alcazaba Alhambra evening panorama Mirador San Nicolas sRGB-1.jpg
Panorama of the Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolas. From left to right: Generalife, Pico del Veleta (mountain), Palacios Nazaríes, Palace of Charles V, Alcazaba
Night view of Alhambra, Granada from Mirador de San Nicolas. Taken on a clear day in July 2017 Night view of Alhambra, Granada from Mirador de San Nicolas.jpg
Night view of Alhambra, Granada from Mirador de San Nicolas. Taken on a clear day in July 2017
Panorama of the Alhambra La Alhambra, la joya de Granada.jpg
Panorama of the Alhambra


Alhambra derives from the Arabic الْحَمْرَاءal-Ḥamrāʼ  (f.), meaning "the red one", the complete form of which was الْقَلْعَةُ ٱلْحَمْرَاءُal-Qalʻat al-Ḥamrāʼ  "the red fortress (qalat)". The "Al-" in "Alhambra" means "the" in Arabic, but this is ignored in general usage in both English and Spanish, where the name is normally given the definite article.


The Tower of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia) is the original entrance gate to the Alhambra, built by Yusuf I in 1348. Alhambra Gatehouse.jpg
The Tower of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia) is the original entrance gate to the Alhambra, built by Yusuf I in 1348.

Around the year 889, forces loyal to Umar ibn Hafsun in revolt against Abdullah ibn Muhammad al-Umawi and the Emirate of Córdoba besieged a small Islamic fortress in Granada held by Sawār Ben Hamdūn. [5] [6] The first reference to al-Ḥamrāʼ  came in lines of poetry attached to an arrow shot over the ramparts, recorded by Ibn Hayyan:

"Deserted and roofless are the houses of our enemies;
  Invaded by the autumnal rains, traversed by impetuous winds;
Let them within the red castle (Kalat al hamra) hold their mischievous councils;
  Perdition and woe surround them on every side." [7]

Completed towards the end of Muslim rule of Spain by Yusuf I (1333–1353) and Muhammed V, Sultan of Granada (1353–1391), the Alhambra is a reflection of the culture of the last centuries of the Muslim rule of Al Andalus, reduced to the Nasrid Emirate of Granada. It is a place where artists and intellectuals had taken refuge as the Reconquista by Spanish Christians won victories over Al Andalus. The Alhambra integrates natural site qualities with constructed structures and gardens, and is a testament to Moorish culture in Spain and the skills of Muslim, Jewish, and Christian artisans, craftsmen, and builders of their era.

The literal translation of Alhambra, "the red (female)," reflects the color of the red clay of the surroundings of which the fort is made. The buildings of the Alhambra were originally whitewashed; however, the buildings as seen today are reddish. Another possible origin of the name is the tribal designation of the Nasrid Dynasty, known as the Banu al-Ahmar Arabic: Sons of the Red (male), a sub-tribe of the Arab Qahtanite Banu Khazraj tribe. One of the early Nasrid ancestors was nicknamed Yusuf Al Ahmar (Yusuf the Red) and hence the (Nasrid) fraction of the Banu Khazraj took up the name of Banu al-Ahmar.

Detail of Islamic calligraphy in Mexuar Hall: w l Glb l llh
, "There is no victor but God" Detalle de la pared de la Sala del Mexuar. La Alhambra, Granada.<<Solo Dios es vencedor>>.JPG
Detail of Islamic calligraphy in Mexuar Hall: و لا غالب إلا الله, "There is no victor but God"
The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra Patio de los leones.jpg
The Court of the Lions in the Alhambra

The first reference to the Qal‘at al-Ḥamra was during the battles between the Arabs and the Muladies (people of mixed Arab and European descent) during the rule of the ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad (r. 888–912). In one particularly fierce and bloody skirmish, the Muladies soundly defeated the Arabs, who were then forced to take shelter in a primitive red castle located in the province of Elvira, presently located in Granada. According to surviving documents from the era, the red castle was quite small, and its walls were not capable of deterring an army intent on conquering. The castle was then largely ignored until the eleventh century, when its ruins were renovated and rebuilt by Samuel ibn Naghrela, vizier to the emir Badis ben Habus of the Zirid Dynasty of Al Andalus, in an attempt to preserve the small Jewish settlement also located on the natural plateau, Sabikah Hill.

Ibn Nasr, the founder of the Nasrid Dynasty, was forced to flee to Jaén to avoid persecution by King Ferdinand III of Castile and the Reconquista supporters working to end Spain's Moorish rule. After retreating to Granada, Ibn-Nasr took up residence at the Palace of Badis ben Habus in the Alhambra. A few months later, he embarked on the construction of a new Alhambra fit for the residence of a sultan. According to an Arabic manuscript since published as the Anónimo de Granada y Copenhague,

This year, 1238 Abdallah ibn al-Ahmar climbed to the place called "the Alhambra" inspected it, laid out the foundations of a castle and left someone in charge of its construction...

The design included plans for six palaces, five of which were grouped in the northeast quadrant forming a royal quarter, two circuit towers, and numerous bathhouses. During the reign of the Nasrid Dynasty, the Alhambra was transformed into a palatine city, complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress. Previously, the old Alhambra structure had been dependent upon rainwater collected from a cistern and from what could be brought up from the Albaicín. The creation of the Sultan's Canal solidified the identity of the Alhambra as a palace-city rather than a defensive and ascetic structure. The hydraulic system includes two long water channels and several sophisticated elevation devices to bring water onto the plateau. [8]

Detail of arabesques Atauriques.jpg
Detail of arabesques
A Court in the Alhambra at the Time of the Moors, Edwin Lord Weeks, 1876 Weeks Edwin Lord A Court in The Alhambra in the Time of the Moors.jpg
A Court in the Alhambra at the Time of the Moors, Edwin Lord Weeks, 1876

The last Nasrid sultan, Muhammad XII of Granada, surrendered the Emirate of Granada in 1492 without the Alhambra itself being attacked when the forces of the Reyes Católicos, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, took the surrounding territory with a force of overwhelming numbers. Muhammad XII moved the remains of his ancestors from the complex, as was verified by Leopoldo Torres Balbás in 1925, when he found seventy empty tombs. [9] The remains are now likely to be located in Mondújar in the principality of Lecrín. [10] [11]

The decoration within the palaces comes from the last great period of Andalusian art in Granada. With little of the Byzantine influence of contemporary Abassid architecture, [3] artists endlessly reproduced the same forms and trends, creating a new style that developed over the course of the Nasrid Dynasty. The Nasrids used freely all the stylistic elements that had been created and developed during eight centuries of Muslim rule in the Peninsula, including the Caliphate horseshoe arch, the Almohad sebka (a grid of rhombuses), the Almoravid palm, and unique combinations of them, as well as innovations such as stilted arches and muqarnas (stalactite ceiling decorations). Structurally, the design is simple and does not evince significant innovation. While artistically pleasing it was until the reconquest structurally ad hoc and reliant on the skills of subject artisans and workers.

Columns and muqarnas appear in several chambers, and the interiors of numerous palaces are decorated with arabesques and calligraphy. The arabesques of the interior are ascribed to, among other sultans, Yusuf I, Mohammed V, and Ismail I, Sultan of Granada. However, the muqarnas in the Lions' Courtyard at Alhambra have different configurations from their original designs, which might have been altered by repairs. [12]

Illustration from Recuerdos y bellezas de Espana. Reino de Granada by Francisco Javier Parcerisa, 1850 Recuerdos y bellezas de Espana - bajo la real proteccion de la reina y el rey; Obra destinada a dar a conocer sus monumentos y antiguedades en laminas dibujadas del natural y litografiadas por F.J. (14768682355).jpg
Illustration from Recuerdos y bellezas de España. Reino de Granada by Francisco Javier Parcerisa, 1850

After the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, the conquerors began to alter the Alhambra. The open work was filled up with whitewash, the painting and gilding effaced, and the furniture soiled, torn, or removed. [3] Charles I (1516–1556) rebuilt portions in the Renaissance style of the period and destroyed the greater part of the winter palace to make room for a Renaissance-style structure which was never completed. Philip V (1700–1746) Italianised the rooms and completed his palace in the middle of what had been the Moorish building; he had partitions constructed which blocked up whole apartments. [4]

Over subsequent centuries the Moorish art was further damaged, and in 1812 some of the towers were destroyed by the French under Count Sebastiani. [4] In 1821, an earthquake caused further damage. Restoration work was undertaken in 1828 by the architect José Contreras, endowed in 1830 by Ferdinand VII. After the death of Contreras in 1847, it was continued by his son Rafael (died 1890) and his grandson. [4] Especially notable was the intervention of Leopoldo Torres Balbás in the 1930s: the young architect "opened arcades that had been walled up, re-excavated filled-in pools, replaced missing tiles, completed inscriptions that lacked portions of their stuccoed lettering, and installed a ceiling in the still unfinished palace of Charles V". [13]


Modern plan of the Alhambra Map of alhambra sp.svg
Modern plan of the Alhambra

According to the site's current architect, Pedro Salmeron Escobar, the Alhambra evolved organically over a period of several centuries from the ancient hilltop fortress defined by a narrow promontory carved by the river Darro and overlooking the Vega or Plain of Granada as it descends from the Sierra Nevada. [14] The red earth from which the fortress is constructed is a granular aggregate held together by a medium of red clay which gives the resulting layered brick- and stone- reinforced construction (tapial calicastrado) its characteristic hue and is at the root of the name of 'the Red Hill'. [15]

This crude earthiness is counterpointed by the startling fine alabaster white stucco work of the famous interiors. [15] Meltwater from the 'Snowy Mountains' is drawn across an arched vault at the eastern tip of the Torre del Agua ('Water Tower') and channeled through the citadel via a complex system of conduits (acequia) and water tanks (los albercones) which create the celebrated interplay of light, sound and surface. [15]

Alhambra is about 740 metres (2,430 ft) in length by 205 metres (670 ft) at its greatest width. It extends from west-northwest to east-southeast and covers an area of about 142,000 square metres (1,530,000 sq ft) or 35 acres. [16] The Alhambra's most westerly feature is the Alcazaba (citadel), a strongly fortified position built to protect the original post-Roman districts of Iliberri, now 'Centro', and Gárnata al-yahūd ('Granada of the Jews', now Realejo, and the Moorish suburb of El Albayzín .

Plan of the Nasrid Palaces, Alhambra, 1889.
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Palaces of the Ambassadors
Palace of the Lions
Garden of Lindajar and later habitation of the Emir Alhambra 2015 004.jpg
Plan of the Nasrid Palaces, Alhambra, 1889.
  Palaces of the Ambassadors
  Palace of the Lions
  Garden of Lindajar and later habitation of the Emir

Due to touristic demand, modern access runs contrary to the original sequence which began from a principal access via the Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice) onto a large souq or public market square facing the Alcazaba, now subdivided and obscured by later Christian-era development. [15] From the Puerta del Vino (Wine Gate) ran the Calle Real (Royal Street) dividing the Alhambra along its axial spine into a southern residential quarter, with mosques, hamams (bathhouses) and diverse functional establishments, [17] and a greater northern portion, occupied by several palaces of the nobility with extensive landscaped gardens commanding views over the Albayzin. All of this was subservient to the great Tower of the Ambassadors in the Palacio Comares, which acted as the royal audience chamber and throne room with its three arched windows dominating the city. The private, internalised universe of the Palacio de Los Leones (Palace of the Lions) adjoins the public spaces at right angles (see Plan illustration) but was originally connected only by the function of the Royal Baths, the Eye of Aixa's Room serving as the exquisitely decorated focus of meditation and authority overlooking the refined garden of Lindaraja/Daraxa toward the city. [17]

The rest of the plateau comprises a number of earlier and later Moorish palaces, enclosed by a fortified wall, with thirteen defensive towers, some such as the Torres de la Infanta and Cattiva containing elaborate vertical palaces in miniature. [17] The river Darro passes through a ravine on the north and divides the plateau from the Albaicín district of Granada. Similarly, the Assabica Valley, containing the Alhambra Park, lies on the west and south, and, beyond this valley, the almost parallel ridge of Monte Mauror separates it from the Antequeruela district. Another ravine separates it from the Generalife, the summer pleasure gardens of the emir. Escobar notes that the later planting of deciduous elms obscures the overall perception of the layout, so a better reading of the original landscape is given in winter when the trees are bare. [18]

Main structures

Alhambra before adornments started.jpg
Alhambra, Alcazaba, Torre Quebrada 01 (4392663424).jpg
The citadel before and after the 20th-century reconstruction campaign

The Alhambra resembles many medieval Christian strongholds in its threefold arrangement as a castle, a palace and a residential annex for subordinates. The alcazaba or citadel, its oldest part, is built on the isolated and precipitous foreland which terminates the plateau on the northwest. All that remains are its massive outer walls, towers and ramparts. On its watchtower, the 25 m (85 ft) high Torre de la Vela, the flag of Ferdinand and Isabella was first raised as a symbol of the Spanish conquest of Granada on 2 January 1492. [3] A turret containing a large bell was added in the 18th century and restored after being damaged by lightning in 1881. Beyond the Alcazaba is the palace of the Moorish rulers, The Nasrid Palaces or Alhambra proper, and beyond this is the Alhambra Alta (Upper Alhambra), originally occupied by officials and courtiers.

Access from the city to the Alhambra Park is afforded by the Puerta de las Granadas (Gate of Pomegranates), a triumphal arch dating from the 15th century. A steep ascent leads past the Pillar of Charles V, a fountain erected in 1554, to the main entrance of the Alhambra. This is the Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice), a massive horseshoe archway surmounted by a square tower and used by the Moors as an informal court of justice. The hand of Fatima, with fingers outstretched as a talisman against the evil eye, is carved above this gate on the exterior; a key, the symbol of authority, occupies the corresponding place on the interior. A narrow passage leads inward to the Plaza de los Aljibes (Place of the Cisterns), a broad open space which divides the Alcazaba from the Moorish palace. To the left of the passage rises the Torre del Vino (Wine Tower), built in 1345 and used in the 16th century as a cellar. On the right is the palace of Charles V, a smaller Renaissance building, to construct which part of the Alhambra, including the original main entrance, was torn down.

Royal complex

Courtyard of the Palace of Charles V Patio Paleis Karel V.jpg
Courtyard of the Palace of Charles V

The Royal Complex (Plaza de Nazaríes) consists of three main parts: Mexuar, Serallo, and the Harem. The Mexuar is modest in decor and houses the functional areas for conducting business and administration. Strapwork is used to decorate the surfaces in Mexuar. The ceilings, floors, and trim are made of dark wood and are in sharp contrast to white, plaster walls. Serallo, built during the reign of Yusuf I in the 14th century, contains the Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles). Brightly colored interiors featured dado panels, yesería , azulejo, cedar, and artesonado. Artesonado are highly decorative ceilings and other woodwork. Lastly, the Harem is also elaborately decorated and contains the living quarters for the wives and mistresses of the Arab monarchs. This area contains a bathroom with running water (cold and hot), baths, and pressurized water for showering. The bathrooms were open to the elements in order to allow in light and air.

Court of the Myrtles

Windows of the Court of Myrtles Granada 2015 10 22 2123 (25950723411).jpg
Windows of the Court of Myrtles

The Court of the Myrtles was built under Muhammad V of Granada, and with 11 qasā'id by Ibn Zamrak, 8 of which remain. [19] The present entrance to the Palacio Árabe (Arab palace), or Casa Real, is by a small door from which a corridor connects to the Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles), also called the Patio de la Alberca (Court of the Blessing or Court of the Pond), from the Arabic birka, "pool". The birka helped to cool the palace and acted as a symbol of power. Because water was usually in short supply, the technology required to keep these pools full was expensive and difficult. This court is 42 m (140 ft) long by 22 m (74 ft) broad, and in the centre there is a large pond set in the marble pavement, full of goldfish, and with myrtles growing along its sides. There are galleries on the north and south sides; the southern gallery is 7 m (23 ft) high and supported by a marble colonnade. Underneath it, to the right, was the principal entrance, and over it are three windows with arches and miniature pillars. From this court, the walls of the Torre de Comares are seen rising over the roof to the north and reflected in the pond. [20]

Hall of the Ambassadors

Ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors Techo del Salon de Embajadores (la Alhambra), Granada.jpg
Ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors

The Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) is the largest room in the Alhambra and occupies all the Torre de Comares. It is a square room, the sides being 12 m (37 ft) in length, while the centre of the dome is 23 m (75 ft) high. This was the grand reception room, and the throne of the sultan was placed opposite the entrance. The grand hall projects from the walls of the palace, providing views in three directions. In this sense, it was a "mirador" from which the palace's inhabitants could gaze outward to the surrounding landscape. [21] The tiles are nearly 4 ft (1.2 m) high all round, and the colours vary at intervals. Over them is a series of oval medallions with inscriptions, interwoven with flowers and leaves. There are nine windows, three on each facade, and the ceiling is decorated with white, blue and gold inlays in the shape of circles, crowns and stars. The walls are covered with varied stucco works, surrounding many ancient escutcheons. [20]

Court of the Lions and fountain

The Court of the Lions, an example of Islamic Moorish architecture and garden design Alhambra-Granada-2003.jpg
The Court of the Lions, an example of Islamic Moorish architecture and garden design

The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) is an oblong courtyard, 116 ft (35 m) in length by 66 ft (20 m) in width, surrounded by a low gallery supported on 124 white marble columns. A pavilion projects into the court at each extremity, with filigree walls and a light domed roof. The square is paved with coloured tiles and the colonnade with white marble, while the walls are covered 5 ft (1.5 m) up from the ground with blue and yellow tiles, with a border above and below of enamelled blue and gold. The columns supporting the roof and gallery are irregularly placed. They are adorned by varieties of foliage, etc.; about each arch there is a large square of stucco arabesques; and over the pillars is another stucco square of filigree work.

Fountain of the Lions

In the centre of the court is the Fountain of the Lions, an alabaster basin supported by the figures of twelve lions in white marble, not designed with sculptural accuracy but as symbols of strength, power, and sovereignty. Each hour one lion would produce water from its mouth. [22] At the edge of the great fountain there is a poem written by Ibn Zamrak. This praises the beauty of the fountain and the power of the lions, but it also describes their ingenious hydraulic systems and how they actually worked, which baffled all those who saw them. [23]

Hall of the Abencerrajes

"Honeycomb," "stalactite," or "muqarnas" vaulting in the Hall of the Abencerrajes Abencerrajes.jpg
"Honeycomb," "stalactite," or "muqarnas" vaulting in the Hall of the Abencerrajes

The Sala de los Abencerrajes (Hall of the Abencerrages) derives its name from a legend according to which the father of Boabdil, the last sultan of Granada, having invited the chiefs of that line to a banquet, massacred them here. [24] This room is a perfect square, with a lofty dome and trellised windows at its base. The roof is decorated in blue, brown, red and gold, and the columns supporting it spring out into the arch form in a remarkably beautiful manner. Opposite to this hall is the Sala de las dos Hermanas (Hall of the two Sisters), so-called from two white marble slabs laid as part of the pavement. These slabs measure 500 by 220 cm (15 by  ft). There is a fountain in the middle of this hall, and the roof – a dome honeycombed with tiny cells, all different, and said to number 5000 – is an example of the "stalactite vaulting" of the Moors.


Spain Andalusia Granada BW 2015-10-25 15-39-55.jpg
Portico and pool Alhambra.jpg
Pools in the Palacio de Generalife (left) and the Partal (right; in the Alta Alhambra of the complex)

Of the outlying buildings connected to the Alhambra, the foremost in interest is the Palacio de Generalife or Gineralife (the Muslim Jennat al Arif, "Garden of Arif," or "Garden of the Architect"). This villa dates from the beginning of the 14th century but has been restored several times. The Villa de los Martires (Martyrs' Villa), on the summit of Monte Mauror, commemorates by its name the Christian slaves who were forced to build the Alhambra and confined here in subterranean cells. [25] The Torres Bermejas (Vermilion Towers), also on Monte Mauror, are a well-preserved Moorish fortification, with underground cisterns, stables, and accommodation for a garrison of 200 men. Several Roman tombs were discovered in 1829 and 1857 at the base of Monte Mauror. [20] [25]

Other features

Among the other features of the Alhambra are the Sala de la Justicia (Hall of Justice), the Patio del Mexuar (Court of the Council Chamber), the Patio de Daraxa (Court of the Vestibule), and the Peinador de la Reina (Queen's Robing Room), in which there is similar architecture and decoration. The palace and the Upper Alhambra also contain baths, rows of bedrooms and summer-rooms, a whispering gallery and labyrinth, and vaulted sepulchres.

The original furniture of the palace is represented by one of the famous Alhambra vases, very large Hispano-Moresque ware vases made in the Sultanate to stand in niches around the palace. These famous examples of Hispano-Moresque ware date from the 14th and 15th centuries. The one remaining in the palace, from about 1400, is 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) high; the background is white and the decoration is blue, white and gold. [20]


The Alhambra features various styles of the Arabic epigraphy that developed under the Nasrid dynasty, and particularly under Yusuf I and Muhammad V. [26] José Miguel Puerta Vílchez compares the walls of the Alhambra to the pages of a manuscript, drawing similarities between the zilīj-covered dados and the geometric manuscript illuminations, and the epigraphical forms in the palace to calligraphic motifs in contemporary Arabic manuscripts. [19]

The texts of the Alhambra include "devout, regal, votive, and Quranic phrases and sentences," formed into arabesques, carved into wood and marble, and glazed onto tiles. [19] Poets of the Narsid court, including Ibn al-Khatīb and Ibn Zamrak, composed poems for the palace. [19] [27] Most of the poetry is inscribed in Nasrid cursive script, while foliate and floral Kufic inscriptions—often formed into arches, columns, enjambments, and "architectural calligrams"—are generally used as decorative elements. [19] Kufic calligrams, particularly of the words "blessing" (بركةbaraka) and "felicity" (يمنyumn), are used as decorative motifs in arabesque throughout the palace. [19]

khT 'ndlsy mshbk bfn lryHn bqSr lHmr 1.jpg
وفتحت بالسيف الجزيرة
"And the peninsula was conquered with the sword"
khT 'ndlsy mshbk bfn lryHn bqSr lHmr.jpg
يبنون القصور تخدما
"They build palaces diligently"
khT kwfy bfn lryHn bqSr lHmr.jpg
ولا غالب إلا الله
"There is no victor but God."
Epigraphic samples from the Court of the Myrtles: what Muhammad Kurd Ali described as Andalusi mushabbak (sinuous) script (خط أندلسي مُشَبَّك), or what Western sources refer to as Nasrid cursive (left and center images) [28] and floral Kufic script (right).


In literature

Nasrid shell vase in the Alhambra Diego Sanchez Sarabia - Jarron nazari de los escudos. - Google Art Project.jpg
Nasrid shell vase in the Alhambra

Parts of the following works are set in the Alhambra:

In music

The plot of the Ballet-héroïque entitled Zaïde, reine de Grenade , by the French Baroque composer Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (c. 1705–1755), takes place at the Alhambra. Alhambra has directly inspired musical compositions including Francisco Tárrega's famous tremolo study for guitar Recuerdos de la Alhambra , as well as Claude Debussy's piece for two pianos composed in 1901, Lindaraja, and the prelude, La Puerta del Vino, from the second book of preludes composed from 1912 to 1913. Isaac Albéniz wrote a piano suite Recuerdos de viaje, which included a piece called "En La Alhambra", while his suite Iberia contained a piece called "El Albacin". Albéniz also composed an uncompleted Suite Alhambra.

Gazelles on one of the Alhambra vases made for the palace Granada Alhambra gazelle Poterie 9019.JPG
Gazelles on one of the Alhambra vases made for the palace

"En los Jardines del Generalife", the first movement of Manuel de Falla's Noches en los Jardines de España , and other pieces by composers such as Ruperto Chapí (Los Gnomos de la Alhambra, 1891), Tomás Bretón, and many others are included in a stream referred to by scholars as Alhambrismo. [29] [30]

In 1976, filmmaker Christopher Nupen filmed The Song of the Guitar at the Alhambra which was an hour-long program featuring the legendary Spanish guitarist, Andrés Segovia.

British composer Peter Seabourne wrote an extended piano cycle Steps Volume 3: Arabesques (2008-2012) based on shared experiences of the Alhambra with his painter aunt Ann Seabourne, [31] [32] [33] and a movement from his Steps Volume 1 is entitled "El Suspiro del Moro" inspired by the legend of the expulsion of the last Moorish King of Granada. In 2000, Julian Anderson wrote a piece for contemporary chamber ensemble, Alhambra Fantasy.

In pop and folk music, Alhambra is the subject of the Ghymes song of the same name. The rock band Grateful Dead released a song called "Terrapin Station" on the 1977 album of the same name. It consisted of a series of small compositions penned by Robert Hunter and put to music by Jerry Garcia; a lyrical section of this suite was called "Alhambra". In September 2006, Canadian singer/composer Loreena McKennitt performed live at the Alhambra. The resulting video recordings premiered on PBS and were later released as a 3-disc DVD/CD set called Nights from the Alhambra . The Basque pop group Mocedades performed a song called "Juntos En La Alhambra". Alhambra is the title of an EP recording by Canadian rock band, The Tea Party, containing acoustic versions of a few of their songs. Alhambra and Albaicín are mentioned in the Mägo de Oz song named "El Paseo de los Tristes" from the album entitled Gaia II. On California rapper Dom Kennedy's 2015 album By Dom Kennedy , there is a song entitled "Alhambra".

In mathematics

Tessellations like this inspired M.C. Escher's work. Tassellatura alhambra.jpg
Tessellations like this inspired M.C. Escher's work.

The Alhambra tiles are remarkable in that they contain nearly all, if not all, of the seventeen mathematically possible wallpaper groups. [34] This is a unique accomplishment in world architecture. M. C. Escher's visit in 1922 and study of the Moorish use of symmetries in the Alhambra tiles inspired his subsequent work on tessellation, which he called "regular divisions of the plane". [35]

In film

Marcel L'Herbier's 1921 film El Dorado features many scenes shot in and around the Alhambra palace. This was the first time permission had been granted for a feature film company to shoot inside the Alhambra palace and L'Herbier gave prominent place to its gardens, fountains and geometric architectural patterns, which became some of the film's most memorable images.

Animated films by Spanish director Juan Bautista Berasategui such as Ahmed, El Principe de la Alhambra and El Embrujo del Sur are based on stories in Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra .

The Alhambra stands in for Baghdad in the 1958 adventure film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad . Interior palace scenes, including in the Tower of Comares, the Court of the Myrtles, and the Court of the Lions, were shot at night so as not to disturb tourists. The Patio de los Aljibes, backed by the Alcazaba—standing in for a prison yard—was filmed by day. [36]

Columbus interview with Queen Isabella in Conquest of Paradise representing Granada after the Reconquest were filmed at Alhambra. As well as the Palace Scenes of Kingdom of Heaven representing Jerusalem during the Crusades. Both films were made by Ridley Scott.

The Court of the Lions was depicted in Assassin's Creed (2016) when Sultan Muhammad XII surrenders the 'Apple of Eden', a powerful artifact in the center of the movie plot, in exchange for his son's safe return. Both the Court of the Lions and Granada's Albaicin are featured on the animated film Tad Jones: The Hero Returns . [37]

The fictional Broadway theatre (the interior actually Auckland, New Zealand's Civic Theatre), in which Kong is displayed as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World' in 2005's King Kong , is named "The Alhambra". [38]

2018 South Korean television series Memories of the Alhambra is based in Granada, Spain with the Alhambra palace as the backdrop of an AR game within the series. Many features and stories of the palace were used as clues and characters for the game progression and AR Alhambra was depicted as ‘a place of magic’ and ‘Mecca for Gamers’ to establish the Gaming plot in the story.

In astronomy

There is a main belt asteroid named Alhambra.

In architecture

The Alhambra inspired:

See also

Further reading

Related Research Articles

Granada Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Granada, locally [ɡɾaˈna] is the capital city of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of four rivers, the Darro, the Genil, the Monachil and the Beiro. Ascribed to the Vega de Granada comarca, the city sits at an average elevation of 738 m (2,421 ft) above sea level, yet is only one hour by car from the Mediterranean coast, the Costa Tropical. Nearby is the Sierra Nevada Ski Station, where the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships 1996 were held.

Nasrid dynasty

The Nasrid dynasty was the last Muslim dynasty in the Iberian Peninsula, ruling the Emirate of Granada from 1230 until 1492. Twenty-three emirs ruled Granada from the founding of the dynasty in 1230 by Muhammad I until 2 January 1492, when Muhammad XII surrendered all lands to Queen Isabella I of Castile. Today, the most visible evidence of the Nasrid dynasty is part of the Alhambra palace complex built under their rule.

Court of the Lions

The Court of the Lions (Spanish: Patio de los Leones; Arabic: بهو السباع‎) is the main courtyard of the Nasrid dynasty Palace of the Lions, in the heart of the Alhambra, the Moorish citadel formed by a complex of palaces, gardens and forts in Granada, Spain. It was commissioned by the Nasrid sultan Muhammed V of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus. Its construction started in the second period of his reign, between 1362 and 1391 AD. The site is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage List and minted in Spain's 2011 limited edition of 2 € Commemorative Coins.


The Palacio de Generalife was the summer palace and country estate of the Nasrid rulers of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus, now beside the city of Granada in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain.

Muhammad V of Granada Sultan of Granada

Abu Abdallah Muhammad V, known by the regnal name al-Ghani bi'llah, was the eighth Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula.


The Albaicín or Albayzín as it was known under Muslim rule, is a district of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. It retains the narrow winding streets of its Medieval Moorish past dating back to the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 1984, along with the Alhambra.

Moorish architecture Architectural style historically developed in the western Islamic world

Moorish architecture, is a style within Islamic architecture which developed in the western Islamic world, which included al-Andalus, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The term "Moorish" comes from the Western European designation of the Muslim inhabitants of these regions as "Moors", which itself comes from Latin "Mauri", originally a designation of the inhabitants of the kingdom of Mauretania. Some scholars also use the term Western Islamic architecture or "architecture of the Islamic west" for this subject.

Muhammad II was the second Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada in Al-Andalus on the Iberian Peninsula, succeeding his father, Muhammad I. Already experienced in matters of state when he ascended the throne, he continued his father's policy of maintaining independence in the face of Granada's larger neighbours, the Christian kingdom of Castile and the Muslim Marinid state of Morocco, as well as an internal rebellion by his family's former allies, the Banu Ashqilula.

Nasr, full name Abu al-Juyush Nasr ibn Muhammad, was the fourth Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada from 14 March 1309 until his abdication on 8 February 1314. He was the son of Muhammad II al-Faqih and Shams al-Duha. He ascended the throne after his brother Muhammad III was dethroned in a palace revolution. At the time of his accession, Granada faced a three-front war against Castile, Aragon and the Marinid Sultanate, triggered by his predecessor's foreign policy. He made peace with the Marinids in September 1309, ceding to them the African port of Ceuta, which had already been captured, as well as Algeciras and Ronda in Europe. Granada lost Gibraltar to a Castilian siege in September, but successfully defended Algeciras until it was given to the Marinids, who continued its defense until the siege was abandoned in January 1310. James II of Aragon sued for peace after Granadan defenders defeated the Aragonese siege of Almería in December 1309, withdrawing his forces and leaving the Emirate's territories by January. In the ensuing treaty, Nasr agreed to pay tributes and indemnities to Ferdinand IV of Castile and yield some border towns in exchange for seven years of peace.

Abu'l-Walid Ismail I ibn Faraj was the fifth Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada on the Iberian Peninsula from 1314 to 1325. A grandson of Muhammad II on the side of his mother Fatima, he was the first of the lineage of sultans now known as the al-dawla al-isma'iliyya al-nasriyya. Historians characterise him as an effective ruler who improved the emirate's position with military victories during his reign.

Yusuf I of Granada Sultan of Granada

Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf ibn Ismail, known by the regnal name al-Muayyad billah, was the seventh Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada on the Iberian Peninsula. The third son of Ismail I, he was Sultan between 1333 and 1354, after his brother Muhammad IV was assassinated.

Ibn al-Jayyāb al-Gharnāṭī ; Abū al-Ḥasan ‘Alī b. Muḥammad b. Suleiman b. ‘Alī b. Suleiman b. Ḥassān al-Anṣārī al-Gharnāṭī ; Spanish var., Ibn al-Ŷayyab, ; he was an Andalusian writer, poet and minister from the Nasrid court of Granada Ansari, in modern-day Spain.

Emirate of Granada Historic Iberian state

The Emirate of Granada, also known as the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, was an Islamic realm in southern Iberia during the Late Middle Ages. It was the last independent Muslim state in Western Europe.

Abu al-Walid Ismail II ibn Yusuf was the ninth Nasrid ruler of the Emirate of Granada on the Iberian Peninsula. He reigned from 23 August 1359 until his death.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad VI ibn Ismail, also known by his Castilian nickname el Bermejo and the regnal names al-Ghālib bi 'llāh and al-Mutawakkil ʿalā 'llāh, was the tenth Sultan of the Emirate of Granada. A member of the Nasrid dynasty, he ruled for a brief period between June or July 1360 and April 1362.

Yusuf II of Granada Sultan of Granada (14th century)

Abu al-Hajjaj Yusuf ibn Muhammad was sultan of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state in the Iberian Peninsula, from January 1391 until his death. He was the 11th sultan of the Nasrid dynasty and the first son of his predecessor, Muhammad V.

Corral del Carbón Historic monument in Granada, Spain

The Corral del Carbón, originally al-Funduq al-Jadida, is a 14th-century historic building in the Spanish city of Granada (Andalusia). It is the only Nasrid alhóndiga or funduq preserved in the Iberian peninsula. The building is located south of the Albaicin quarter, near the present-day Cathedral.

Fatima bint Muhammad "bint al-Ahmar" was a Nasrid princess of the Emirate of Granada, the last Muslim state on the Iberian Peninsula. A daughter of Sultan Muhammad II and an expert in the study of barnamaj, she married her father's cousin and trusted ally, Abu Said Faraj. Their son Ismail I became sultan after deposing her half-brother, Nasr. She was involved in the government of her son but was especially politically active during the rule of her grandsons, Muhammad IV and Yusuf I, both of whom ascended the throne at a young age and were placed under her tutelage. Later Granadan historian Ibn al-Khatib wrote an elegy for her death stating that "She was alone, surpassing the women of her time / like the Night of Power surpasses all the other nights". Modern historian María Jesús Rubiera Mata compared her role to that of María de Molina, her contemporary who became regent to Castilian kings. Professor Brian A. Catlos attributed the survival of the dynasty, and eventual success, as being partly due to her "vision and constancy."

Dar al-Horra

Dar al-Horra is a former 15th-century Nasrid palace located in the Albaicín quarter of Granada, Spain. Since the early 16th century it was used as part of the Monastery of Santa Isabel la Real. It is now a historic monument.

Maristan of Granada

The Maristan of Granada was a bimaristan (hospital) in Granada, Spain. It was built in the 14th century and demolished in the 19th century.


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