02 September, 2014 / Ziqa'ad 6, 1435

Memories of Alhamra

In popular Spanish memory, Granada came to hold a rather romanticised vision. The Spanish saying goes: “Quien no ha visto Granada, no ha visto nada,” meaning that one who has not seen Granada has not seen anything. Poets wrote about it, singers sang about it, and travelers walked about it. If Granada was a prize then Alhamra was its most precious possession. For centuries the Nasrid palace and the adjacent gardens have been a source of inspiration for artists, musicians, lovers, and historians. In the 19th century, Washington Irving helped to revive the popularity of Granada in the wider Western world through his still published travelogue: Tales of Alhamra. – Text and photos by Aurangzeb Haneef

Read the accompanying story ‘Granada, Alhamra and a love affair’

Situated strategically on a hill overlooking the city of Granada. Beneath the trees at the base of the hill flows river Darro. It makes a pathway along one of its sides which is lined with shops, bars and restaurants.<br><br>There are two theories about the name of Alhamra. First is that the hill appeared reddish due to the colour of its soil. The materials used for the construction of the complex also gave it a red look from a distance. Second theory is that the builders of Alhamra, the Nasrids belonged to the fam
Situated strategically on a hill overlooking the city of Granada. Beneath the trees at the base of the hill flows river Darro. It makes a pathway along one of its sides which is lined with shops, bars and restaurants.<br><br>There are two theories about the name of Alhamra. First is that the hill appeared reddish due to the colour of its soil. The materials used for the construction of the complex also gave it a red look from a distance. Second theory is that the builders of Alhamra, the Nasrids belonged to the fam
Before Alhamra, the Nasrid court was located on the facing hill called Albaicín. The name is perhaps a distortion of Arabic Al-baziyyun or Al-baizin meaning the Falconers. One is immediately reminded of an old PTV serial “Shaheen” based on Nasim Hijazi’s novel which lamented the fall of the last Muslim state of Granada in Spain. A less interesting theory points the origin of this name to the people of Baeza who fled from the invading Christian armies and settled in some parts of this hill.<br><br>The old quarters o
Before Alhamra, the Nasrid court was located on the facing hill called Albaicín. The name is perhaps a distortion of Arabic Al-baziyyun or Al-baizin meaning the Falconers. One is immediately reminded of an old PTV serial “Shaheen” based on Nasim Hijazi’s novel which lamented the fall of the last Muslim state of Granada in Spain. A less interesting theory points the origin of this name to the people of Baeza who fled from the invading Christian armies and settled in some parts of this hill.<br><br>The old quarters o
A window overlooking Albaicín from the Oratory of the Mexuar (Arabic: Al-Mashwar), the Council Chamber. It is said that the last Moorish king of Granada, Abu Abdullah Muhammad XII (1460-1527) sighed as he was leaving Alhamra. His mother rebuked him in these famous words: “He should not cry like a woman for a place he could not defend like a man.”
A window overlooking Albaicín from the Oratory of the Mexuar (Arabic: Al-Mashwar), the Council Chamber. It is said that the last Moorish king of Granada, Abu Abdullah Muhammad XII (1460-1527) sighed as he was leaving Alhamra. His mother rebuked him in these famous words: “He should not cry like a woman for a place he could not defend like a man.”
Having successfully assisted the Catholic monarchs in their capture of Moorish Seville in 1248, the Nasrid king was called the victor (Arabic: ghalib) by some of his people in Granada. Conscious of the fact that the conquest had been over his fellow Muslims, he sadly reflected: “there is no victor but God (Arabic: wala ghaliba illallah).” From then onwards, this became the motto of the Nasrid dynasty.<br><br>White and blue stucco decoration with Mocárabes (honey-comb work) and Arabic inscriptions in the Council Cha
Having successfully assisted the Catholic monarchs in their capture of Moorish Seville in 1248, the Nasrid king was called the victor (Arabic: ghalib) by some of his people in Granada. Conscious of the fact that the conquest had been over his fellow Muslims, he sadly reflected: “there is no victor but God (Arabic: wala ghaliba illallah).” From then onwards, this became the motto of the Nasrid dynasty.<br><br>White and blue stucco decoration with Mocárabes (honey-comb work) and Arabic inscriptions in the Council Cha
In the Council Chamber one finds geometry and symmetry of an unending mosaic of glazed ceramic tiles strikingly juxtaposed with the fluidity and infiniteness of Arabic calligraphy, which repeats itself in a continuous loop: “Glory is God’s, Sovereignty is God’s, Power is God’s.”
In the Council Chamber one finds geometry and symmetry of an unending mosaic of glazed ceramic tiles strikingly juxtaposed with the fluidity and infiniteness of Arabic calligraphy, which repeats itself in a continuous loop: “Glory is God’s, Sovereignty is God’s, Power is God’s.”
The central arch and the interior wall of the entrance to the Golden Quarters (Pórtico del Cuarto Dorado). Intricate carvings on the two main walls of this quarter and reflection of light on these walls give the semblance of being surrounded by gold. The interior wall is replete with Nasrid motto while the arch declares “greatness is God’s,” “power is God’s,” and “sovereignty is God’s” in very small carvings. With such elaborate intermingling of forms it is difficult to distinguish the floral and geometrical patter
The central arch and the interior wall of the entrance to the Golden Quarters (Pórtico del Cuarto Dorado). Intricate carvings on the two main walls of this quarter and reflection of light on these walls give the semblance of being surrounded by gold. The interior wall is replete with Nasrid motto while the arch declares “greatness is God’s,” “power is God’s,” and “sovereignty is God’s” in very small carvings. With such elaborate intermingling of forms it is difficult to distinguish the floral and geometrical patter
Paired windows in wooden grillwork with horseshoe arches are a common occurrence throughout the palace. This pair looks over the Golden Quarters and the gaze naturally centers upon the marble fountain in the middle of the floor.
Paired windows in wooden grillwork with horseshoe arches are a common occurrence throughout the palace. This pair looks over the Golden Quarters and the gaze naturally centers upon the marble fountain in the middle of the floor.
Even the water in this courtyard is made of Gold. Water and light have important functions in the architectural genius. Cold water reaches the palace, as well as the city of Granada, from nearby mountains in aqueducts. It runs in specially made pathways through the palace and keeps it cool during the scorching summers. Traveling water adds to the overall lightness, fluidity, and connectivity of the surroundings.
Even the water in this courtyard is made of Gold. Water and light have important functions in the architectural genius. Cold water reaches the palace, as well as the city of Granada, from nearby mountains in aqueducts. It runs in specially made pathways through the palace and keeps it cool during the scorching summers. Traveling water adds to the overall lightness, fluidity, and connectivity of the surroundings.
Imagine there is a lamp inside this niche. Imagine that when darkness is set the King kneels beside this niche at the entrance to Courtyard of the Myrtles, indulges in prayer and meditates upon this poetical invocation carved on the niche:<br><br>O my Certitude! O my Hope!<br><br>You are my Anticipation, you are!<br><br>Conclude my work with goodness!<br><br>So, with the prophet, the sender of my message<br><br>Conclude my work with goodness!<br><br>O my Certitude! O my Hope!<br><br>You are my Anticipation, you are
Imagine there is a lamp inside this niche. Imagine that when darkness is set the King kneels beside this niche at the entrance to Courtyard of the Myrtles, indulges in prayer and meditates upon this poetical invocation carved on the niche:<br><br>O my Certitude! O my Hope!<br><br>You are my Anticipation, you are!<br><br>Conclude my work with goodness!<br><br>So, with the prophet, the sender of my message<br><br>Conclude my work with goodness!<br><br>O my Certitude! O my Hope!<br><br>You are my Anticipation, you are
Courtyard of the Myrtles leads into an open space with a rectangular pond in the middle surrounded by intimately decorated walls, arches, niches, windows, and doors – a place for the relaxation of the King, his households and guests. With a leap of some imagination one can almost hear the Zambra in concert for the evening. Zambra was a type of festive popular music in Moorish Granada that was accompanied by instruments such as the Tambourine, as well as singing and dancing. Continuous Bliss (Arabic: al-ghibta al-mu
Courtyard of the Myrtles leads into an open space with a rectangular pond in the middle surrounded by intimately decorated walls, arches, niches, windows, and doors – a place for the relaxation of the King, his households and guests. With a leap of some imagination one can almost hear the Zambra in concert for the evening. Zambra was a type of festive popular music in Moorish Granada that was accompanied by instruments such as the Tambourine, as well as singing and dancing. Continuous Bliss (Arabic: al-ghibta al-mu
The sky, the earth, the ceilings, the roofs, the walls, the arches, the windows, the doors, and the decorations on these, come together to create surrealism that is indeed surprising and pleasant to the senses. It seems that different objects and spaces are in intimate conversations with each other.
The sky, the earth, the ceilings, the roofs, the walls, the arches, the windows, the doors, and the decorations on these, come together to create surrealism that is indeed surprising and pleasant to the senses. It seems that different objects and spaces are in intimate conversations with each other.
This slightly blurred picture is of the ceiling of one of the most exquisite rooms of Alhamra: The Hall of Comares where the king used to receive ambassadors from other kingdoms. The ceiling depicts seven heavens, with the seventh and the most high in the center of the ceiling – where lies the throne of God. Directly underneath it, in the center of the hall was the king’s throne. These positions symbolise religious and political authority of the king as God’s vicegerent on earth.
This slightly blurred picture is of the ceiling of one of the most exquisite rooms of Alhamra: The Hall of Comares where the king used to receive ambassadors from other kingdoms. The ceiling depicts seven heavens, with the seventh and the most high in the center of the ceiling – where lies the throne of God. Directly underneath it, in the center of the hall was the king’s throne. These positions symbolise religious and political authority of the king as God’s vicegerent on earth.
The Hall of the Comares was built to impress the visiting dignitaries and it does so with its infinite and intricate wall carvings all around the hall. With a wall like this, who needs wall- hangings?
The Hall of the Comares was built to impress the visiting dignitaries and it does so with its infinite and intricate wall carvings all around the hall. With a wall like this, who needs wall- hangings?
If Islamic architecture is to be distinguished by one thing only, it would be the arches. And in Alhamra there are plenty. One after another – a never ending sequence – of all sizes, adorned with ever-changing patterns but never seeming sudden or out of place – always in synch with each other. A continuous bliss of arches! Walking through these one tends to lose any sense of direction and time.
If Islamic architecture is to be distinguished by one thing only, it would be the arches. And in Alhamra there are plenty. One after another – a never ending sequence – of all sizes, adorned with ever-changing patterns but never seeming sudden or out of place – always in synch with each other. A continuous bliss of arches! Walking through these one tends to lose any sense of direction and time.
Hall of the two Sisters – two sisters being two enormous slabs of marble that make the floor – is one of the bigger rooms of the palace with more Mocárabes than other rooms and extensive wall decorations and inscriptions to match the Hall of the Comares. It has four large windows on the upper level. The room used to be occupied by Sultana Aysha and her maid servants. First verse from a twenty-four verse long poem by Ibn Zamrak which embellishes its walls is:<br><br>I am the garden that has been adorned with beauty<
Hall of the two Sisters – two sisters being two enormous slabs of marble that make the floor – is one of the bigger rooms of the palace with more Mocárabes than other rooms and extensive wall decorations and inscriptions to match the Hall of the Comares. It has four large windows on the upper level. The room used to be occupied by Sultana Aysha and her maid servants. First verse from a twenty-four verse long poem by Ibn Zamrak which embellishes its walls is:<br><br>I am the garden that has been adorned with beauty<
The enormous octagonal honey-comb cupola of Hall of two sisters is made up of 5,416 pieces of Mocárabes. It rests between sixteen windows that let in light which is then reflected by these pieces in all directions. On the floor, directly underneath is a central fountain which is connected to the courtyard. The light and water converse and compose a beautiful visual symphony that can only be witnessed in person. Ibn Zamrak in the same poem mentions the uniqueness of this dome:<br><br>In it is the splendid dome, its
The enormous octagonal honey-comb cupola of Hall of two sisters is made up of 5,416 pieces of Mocárabes. It rests between sixteen windows that let in light which is then reflected by these pieces in all directions. On the floor, directly underneath is a central fountain which is connected to the courtyard. The light and water converse and compose a beautiful visual symphony that can only be witnessed in person. Ibn Zamrak in the same poem mentions the uniqueness of this dome:<br><br>In it is the splendid dome, its
Court of the Lions is perhaps the most inspiring open space in the palace. The fountain – that used to work as a clock when a particular lion spurted water at a certain hour – is now out of order and under restoration. The movement of water is creatively described by Ibn Zamrak in a poem of twelve verses which is engraved on the exterior of the fountain basin. Verses 6-7:<br><br>Do you not see that the water is flowing on its surface?<br><br>But the basin closed up against it<br><br>Just like a lover whose eyelids,
Court of the Lions is perhaps the most inspiring open space in the palace. The fountain – that used to work as a clock when a particular lion spurted water at a certain hour – is now out of order and under restoration. The movement of water is creatively described by Ibn Zamrak in a poem of twelve verses which is engraved on the exterior of the fountain basin. Verses 6-7:<br><br>Do you not see that the water is flowing on its surface?<br><br>But the basin closed up against it<br><br>Just like a lover whose eyelids,
Fountain of the Lions is surrounded by columns which create visual delights for the onlookers from every angle. Where ever you turn you see columns – 124 of them – as if they are the trees of a forest and the lions are its rightful owners. The dialogue between these engraved and slender columns and empty spaces creates a magical performance of light and shadow appreciable only with the naked eye.
Fountain of the Lions is surrounded by columns which create visual delights for the onlookers from every angle. Where ever you turn you see columns – 124 of them – as if they are the trees of a forest and the lions are its rightful owners. The dialogue between these engraved and slender columns and empty spaces creates a magical performance of light and shadow appreciable only with the naked eye.
As if the column-fest was not enough to inspire the soul, the Nasrids added to it some of the most beautiful wall carvings for that extra special effect. An un-ending delight!
As if the column-fest was not enough to inspire the soul, the Nasrids added to it some of the most beautiful wall carvings for that extra special effect. An un-ending delight!
Floral and orthographical details of a column in Court of the Lions.
Floral and orthographical details of a column in Court of the Lions.
The ceilings, the roofs, the walls, the arches, the windows, the doors, and the decorations on these, come together to create surrealism that is indeed surprising and pleasant to the senses. It seems that different objects and spaces are in intimate conversations with each other.
The ceilings, the roofs, the walls, the arches, the windows, the doors, and the decorations on these, come together to create surrealism that is indeed surprising and pleasant to the senses. It seems that different objects and spaces are in intimate conversations with each other.
One exits from Court of the Lions into a small garden which has a large pond and a mirador from where one enjoys a panoramic view of Albaicín. It is also a good transition to calm down after a magical experience of Alhamra.
One exits from Court of the Lions into a small garden which has a large pond and a mirador from where one enjoys a panoramic view of Albaicín. It is also a good transition to calm down after a magical experience of Alhamra.

Comments (22) (Closed)


sarah
Aug 24, 2011 04:00pm
breath taking! hope to visit some day
Kamath
Aug 24, 2011 05:34pm
One of the beautiful architectures of heydays of Islamic world. Thank God it is still there for everybody to see. But today's Muslims must stop saying ." my great great grand father was a sultan.." kind of thing and ask the question 'what went wrong'.and why the Islamic world today is in the dumps' ? Then it would be better for all.
Akhtar Banbhan
Aug 24, 2011 07:35pm
A marvelous piece of art and architecture.It was great to visit Granada and Qurtuba last year with a friend.
Junaid Khan
Aug 24, 2011 08:07pm
I visited Undlus (Al Andalusia) last March and visited Qurtaba (Cordoba), Malaga and Gharnata (Granada). To me it was like visiting a part of paradise. I think all Lahoris should visit Gharnata and then say 'jinne Gharnata nai wekhiya... Oo jammea ai nae...'
siraj
Aug 24, 2011 08:32pm
really interesting , I am really proud to be Muslim
Zahid Hussein
Aug 24, 2011 09:13pm
A nicely photographed and well written piece of work
belram
Aug 24, 2011 09:20pm
brought me memories of my visit to this heavenly place. Muslims are the greatest artists.
Srini
Aug 24, 2011 09:51pm
I was there in March. Truly exquisite place.
Talha
Aug 24, 2011 10:24pm
Brilliant !! just amazing !
zahir gul
Aug 24, 2011 11:53pm
alhamra always in the hearts of all muslims specially iqbal always remember it in his poetry and write a lenthy poem .wish to see all on own eyè
sami
Aug 24, 2011 11:58pm
In islamic khelafah the resources belong to the public & leaders get elected on the base of honesty but when they started turning into dynasties & undemocratic way of electing leaders like today in most of the Islamic world,especially in pakistan, they started disappearing & have only luxurious & architectural monuments left but they are no where near to be found,like Muslim Spanish & mugals in India.
Zuby
Aug 25, 2011 02:48am
I was there last week for the 3rd time from UK. These photos are definitely brilliant but are in no way a substitute to the mesmerizing beauty of al-Hambra when seen in person. The experience can only be described as magical. The interesting thing is that the Nasrids built these palaces at the time when the muslim rule in Spain was very much in decline politically, however they considered themselves to be at the peak of their cultural zenith. It is hence a great example of "shamsheer-o-sanaa awwal, ta'ous-o-rubab akhir" as Allama Iqbal said. Nevertheless, this monument is to be celebrated as a great example of Islamic art in europe. What the moors achieved in gathering and establishing in terms of scientific knowledge in Toledo (Spain) became the basis of foundation of many of a modern great seats of learning in the western world e.g. Oxford university being a prime example. We need a renaissance of our own now. The only way has to be up !
Khalid
Aug 25, 2011 03:15am
Alhamra's architectural beauty is unique. when you see the palace and the its gardens, it gives you a preview of what haven and its gardens will look like.
Muhammad
Aug 25, 2011 04:02am
A real Jewel however i fully endorse what Kamath has said.
maha malik
Aug 25, 2011 08:35am
The beautiful carvings on the walls.doors,ceilings,pillars and windows are one of the most captivating and alluring architectures of our islamic heritage .....simply mind blowing MashAllah
shamsa
Aug 25, 2011 08:55am
It is awesome! Muslims are blessed with innundated talents, but have not learnt management ever.....leading to fall always....but then every rise has a fall.........
Historian
Aug 25, 2011 09:11am
Look at te contrast here, even after the Catholic Invasion of Granada, they have retained the Islamic character. Compare this with the barbaric Moghul Invasions, where Hindu, Buddhist temples and Monastaries were destroyed, and the Turkish invasion of Constantinople, where beautiful ancient Orthodox churches were destroyed
F. Jan
Aug 25, 2011 11:40am
This article brought back my memeories. While there, I was sad that it is not part of Muslim world anymore. However, I was happy that it is not, else this beautiful place would not have been properly maintained and would most probably have been in ruins by now.
Muhammad Arif Saleem
Aug 25, 2011 01:53pm
the story and the pictures have created the desire to visit this place in order to pay tribute to great work by Muslims
Ghulam Abbas
Aug 26, 2011 03:05pm
It is a marvelous piece of architecture mainly built by the "Moores", who were the migrants from today's Morocco. After the fall of Gharnata, they were persecuted and the few survivors returned to Morocco. In recognition to the central role played by the North Africans in building of Alhamra, a masjid was recently built in the Moroccon port city of Casablanca. It is named " Masjid Hasan II" and the interiors are a true copy of Alhamra. Moreover, half of the masjid is on land and the other half is above Atlantic Ocean. If you can not go to Spain, visit Casablanca to imagine what Alhamra could be. Also a copy of "fountain of lions" is constructed in "Ibne Batuta Mall" of Dubai. It is in the Al-Maghrib section.
Srini
Aug 26, 2011 05:31pm
Maha Malik, Our guide explained to us that these were not carved but "printed", i.e. a paste of marble and other ingredients was applied to the wall and the designs were "stamped" with pre-made dies. They were then smoothed out by hand for a polished look. I would imagine the dies, most probably made out of wood, were themselves carved.
maha malik
Aug 27, 2011 08:52am
thnxxxxxx alot........for information :-)