There is no reference to the Alhambra as being a residence of kings until the 13th century, even though the fortress had existed since the 9th century. The first kings of Granada, the Zirites, had their castles and palaces on the hill of the Albaicin, and nothing remains of them. The Nasrites were probably the emirs who built the Alhambra, starting in 1238.
The founder of the dynasty, Muhammed Al-Ahmar, began with the restoration of the old fortress. His work was completed by his son Muhammed II, whose immediate successors continued with the repairs. The construction of the palaces (called Casa Real Vieja, "old Royal House or Palace") dates back to the 14th century and is the work of two great kings: Yusuf I and Muhammed V. To the first we owe, among others, the "Cuarto de Comares" (Chamber of Comares), the "Puerta de la Justicia" (Gate of Justice), the Baths and some towers. His son, Muhammed V, completed the beautification of the palaces with the "Cuarto de los Leones" (Chamber of the Lions), as well as other rooms and fortifications.
The name Alhambra comes from an Arabic root which means "red or crimson castle", perhaps due to the hue of the towers and walls that surround the entire hill of La Sabica which by starlight is silver but by sunlight is transformed into gold. But there is another more poetic version, evoked by the Moslem analysts who speak of the construction of the Alhambra fortress "by the light of torches", the reflections of which gave the walls their particular coloration. Created originally for military purposes, the Alhambra was an "alcazaba" (fortress), an "alcázar" (palace) and a small "medina" (city), all in one. This triple character helps to explain many distinctive features of the monument.
During the 18th century and part of the 19th, the Alhambra fell into neglect and was to see its salons converted into dungheaps and taverns,occupied by thieves and beggars. "Thus bats defile abandoned castles, and the reality of Spanish criminals and beggars destroy the illusion of this fairy palace of the Moors;" writes Richard Ford. As the crowning blow, Napoleon's troops, masters of Granada from 1808 until 1812, were to convert the palaces into barracks During one retreat they mined the towers and blew up part of them. Two of them, the Torre de Siete Suelos and the Torre de Agua were left in ruins. And so the incredible neglect continued, until 1870 when the Alhambra was declared a national monument. Travellers and romantic artists of all countries had railed against those who scorned the most beautiful of their monuments. Since that date and up to now, the Alhambra, protected, restored, cared for and even improved, has been preserved for the pleasure and admiration of all.The Alhambra became an UNESCO World Heritages site in 1984.
The Alhambra became a Christian court in 1492 when the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel) conquered the city of Granada. Later, various structures were built for prominent civilians also military garrisons, a church and a Franciscan monastery.
Emperor Charles V, who spent several months in Granada, began the construction of the palace which bears his name and made some alterations to the interior buildings. These measures were to cause interminable controversy often motivated by political agendas. The remaining Austrian kings did not forget the monument and have left their own more discreet impressions on it.
The northern pavilion was lower, as it was only formed by the portico that lead to a hall and a tower at the back, but in 1494 two floors and other constructions were added to it. The portico has five arches and leads to a hall through three completely decorated arches that rest on columns with capitals of mocarabes. There are bedchambers at its ends and on the front wall there are three arches. The middle arch leads to a mirador-tower, which probably dates from 1319 and from which there is a view of the gardens and of the valley of the river Darro. Its hall is covered by terrace decorated with interlacing patterns.
During the Christian period, two chambers were added on the sides. Collections of portraits of the royal family and of the Granada family were there kept and they are now in the Casa de los Tiros and in Italy respectively. These chambers were pulled down in 1926 and the building therefore recovered its original appearance.
The Irrigation Ditch (Patio de la Acequia) is a canal that distributes water from the irrigation ditch in Alhambra. The small canal is surreound by orange trees, cypresses and roses with little jets of water and stone basins on either side.
Two pavillions close of the patio to the north and south. It is on the southern pavillion is where you will find the main entrance.
Through the central arch it is possible to access a mirador with three little arches on each side, which have been decorated like the rest of the hall. A little arch at the right end leads to a staircase that is connected to the basements and the lower gardens. On the opposite wall in the patio there is a similar arch that leads to the upper gardens.
Patio of the Gilded Room
This small patio between the Mexuar and the Gilded Room.
Court of the Myrtles
The Court of the Myrtles has received different names throughout time. Its current name is due to the myrtle bushes that surround the central pond and the bright green colour of which contrasts with the white marble of the patio. It was also called the Patio of the Pond or the Reservoir.
It was the official residence of the king and it comprises several rooms that surrounded the Court of the Myrtles. Some examples are the Hall of the Boat and the Hall of the Ambassadors inside the Comares Tower.
Over a long period the Mexuar was developed and reconstructed several times. Only the eastern area still survices today with its series of rooms near the Tower of Mohammed I. This area of the Nasrid Palaces is called today the Mexuar.
Located at the back of the Mexuar, was restored in 1917, as it was in a terrible state of repair due to the explosion of a magazine in the valley of the river Darro in 1590.
The Gilded Room is so called because of the painted Mudejar style of its coffered ceiling. It as built by order of Mohammed V and belongs to the Comares Palace.
This is the most majestic hall of the palace, where the throne was and where official receptions took place. According to Fernández-Puertas, the ceiling is a representation of the Seven Heavens of the Islamic Paradise, with God’s throne on the eighth heaven. The hall is completely covered by decorative inscriptions: niches, arches, walls and dressing rooms are all covered by poems.
Palace of the Lions
This palace comprised the private chambers of the royal family. The Palace of the Lions comprises a central patio (Patio of the Lions), from the central patio you may access: the Hall of the Mocarabes to the west, the Hall of the Kings to the east, the Hall of the Two Sisters, the Hall of the Ajimeces and Daraxa’s Mirador to the north and the Hall of the Abencerrajes and the Harem to the south.
The Comares Tower is the highest tower in the Alhambra. The Hall of the Ambassadors and the Hall of the Boat are located inside the tower. The leyend says that the Council that decided to surrender the city of Granada to the Catholic Monarchs took place inside this tower and the leyend also says that inside this tower, Christopher Columbus convinced the Catholic Monarchs to give their approval to his expeditions to the Indies towards the West.
Hall of the Boat
From the northern gallery of the Court of the Myrtles, visitors may enter into the Hall of the Boat. The origin of its name is the Arabic word “baraka”, which means blessing and which degenerated into the Spanish word barca, which means boat.
Hall of the Abencerrajes
The Hall of the Abencerrajes is located in front of the Hall of the Two Sisters. It is so called because it is said that the Abencerrajes knights were there beheaded.
Hall of the Kings
This place is called Hall of the Kings because of a painting on the central dome. It was also called Justice Hall and Court (Tribunal) from the 18th century.
Hall of the Two Sisters
The hall of the two sisters was so called because of two big twin marble flagstones that are part of the floor. The hall connects with the Emperor’s Chambers and, through a balcony, with the Gardens of the Partal.
Hall of the Mocarabes
It is the entrance to the palace of the lions and it was so called because of the vault of mocarabes that covered it, but which was pulled down due to the explosion of a powder magazine in 1590.
Patio of the Lions
This patio was built by order of Mohammed V, its ground plan is rectangular and it is surrounded by a gallery in the style of a Christian cloister. The gallery is supported by 124 white marble columns with fine shafts. It is so called because of the twelve lions that throw jets of water and which are part of the fountain in the middle of the patio.
Harem was the king’s home. Currently, only kept the patio of the Harem. You may access the Harem going through a corridor with a mirador to the Patio of the Lions.
The general daytime visit allows access to all the visitable spaces of the Monument: Alcazaba, Nasrid Palaces, Generalife, Carlos V Palace, Public baths and the Mosque. This type of visit also includes the Gardens Visit.
Visitors must enter the Nasrid Palaces within the specific access time slot written on their admission ticket.
MORING TICKET: Monday to Sunday: 8.30 to 14 h.
AFTERNOON TICKET: Monday to Sunday:
From November to February: 14.00 to 18.00 h
From March to October: 14.00 to 20.00
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