We took the ship’s tour to the Alhambra. Our tour guide on the bus was a delightful young lady, Ana, who was very knowledgeable and spoke very good English. The weather was cloudy on the way there which was too bad because the scenery is supposed to be spectacular. Our tour guide at the Alhambra, Heraldo, was also excellent.
Alhambra the complete form of which was Calat Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It was constructed during the mid 10th century by the Umaid Arabic ruler Badis ben Habus of the Kingdom of Granada in al-Andalus, occupying the top of the hill of the Assabica on the southeastern border of the city of Granada.
The Alhambra's Islamic palaces were built for the last Muslim Emirs in Spain and its court, of the Nasrid dynasty. After the reconquest by the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492, some portions were used by the Christian rulers. The Palace of Charles V, built by Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in 1527, was inserted in the Alhambra within the Nasrid fortifications. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the Alhambra was "discovered" in the 19th century by European scholars and travelers, with restorations commencing. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well known Berber Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions.
Moorish poets described it as "a pearl set in emeralds," in allusion to the color of its buildings and the woods around them. 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. 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 5.0 mi long, which is connected with the Darro at the monastery of Jesus del Valle, above Granada.
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 Cordoba. The majority 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. The 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 decoration consists, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions that are manipulated into sacred geometrical patterns wrought into arabesques. Painted tiles are largely used as paneling for the walls. The palace complex is designed in the Mudejar style which is characteristic of western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms and widely popular during the reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims by the Christian kingdoms.
Completed towards the end of Muslim rule of Spain by Yusuf (1333–1353) and Muhammed V, Sultan of Granada (1353–1391), the Alhambra is a reflection of the culture of the last centuries of the Moorish rule of Al Andalus, reduced to the Nasrid Emirate of Granada. It is a place where artists and intellectuals had taken refuge as the reconquest 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 Qahtanite Banu Khazrai tribe. One of the early Nasrid ancestors was nicknamed Yusuf Al Ahmar (Yusuf the Red) and hence the (Nasrid) fraction of the Banu Khazrai took up the name of Banu al-Ahmar.
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. That is all massive outer walls, towers and ramparts that are left. On its watchtower, the Torre de la Vela, 85 ft high, the flag of Ferdinand and Isabella was first raised, in token of the Spanish conquest of Granada on 2 January 1492. 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, or Alhambra properly so-called; and beyond this, again, is the Alhambra Alta (Upper Alhambra), originally tenanted 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 Judgment), 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.