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Spain: Granada & the Alhambra

In late August 2019, I traveled to the city of Granada in the region of Andalusia, southern Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range, where the sprawling national park is a natural barrier between Granada and the Mediterranean Sea. The steep woodland hills surrounding the Sierra Nevada Mountains are known as Las Alpujarras and you can read about my horse riding trek into the western Alpujurras here.

Granada has always been an interesting city to me, the fascinating history and culture of Andalusia epitomizing southern Spain in my mind.

Granada reflects the rich cultural history of Roman, Celtic, Islamic, Christian, Jewish and gypsy civilizations that have influenced the architecture and atmosphere of the city. The streets are narrow, retaining the medieval style as they spiral around the central mountain complex of the UNESCO Alhambra palace which dominates Granada still.

The prosperous Islamic kingdoms of southern Spain that established dynasties of emirs to rule Moorish Spain finally met the military might of the combined Catholic armies of Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon. The final collapse of the Islamic kingdoms of Moorish Spain in 1492 was the momentous occasions when Granada fell to Isabel and Ferdinand.

Today, Granada retains the cultural heritage of the past, the narrow city streets and the white-washed houses of the surrounding hills.

Beyond the city, the expanse of the irrigated crops in the dry valley are the legacy of Moorish settlement in Granada.

The Alhambra complex is situated on mountainous  area overlooking the city of Granada and the surrounding countryside. Although the Alhambra was originally built as a fortress in 889, the founder of the Nasrid dynasty, Emir Muhammed Al-Ahmambra begun to re-purpose the Alhambra into a royal palace in 1238.

In 1492, Granada fell to the combined Catholic armies of Isabel of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, ushering Andalusia into some of the darkest historical eras to follow. The alarming rates of religious persecution and expulsion of non-Catholics from Spain increased throughout the successive monarchies. The communities within Andalusia, Jewish, Islamic and other faiths were quickly driven from Granada and surrounding towns, fleeing from what had been their homelands for successive generations.

The Generalife gardens are part of the UNESCO Alhambra site, a sprawling series of gardens originally part of the Nasrid dynasty summer palaces built as extensions to the pre-existing hunting lodge. These summer palaces comprising the Generalife are a series of walled gardens, overhung by deep shade trees, persimmon archways, connected by many walled courtyards with hidden pools and fruit trees.