The Alhambra is a palace, fortress and garden complex in Granada, high in the mountains of Southern Spain. High on a hilltop it is surrounded by the snow capped majestic Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalusia. The original structure was a small Roman fortress (the Romans got everywhere) but its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid 13th Century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada. The result was a complex of palaces fit for Islamic royalty.
It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I Sultan of Granada,and the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition. The Alhambra is a kind of small walled city itself with a mixture or architectural styles but the most lavish and ornate features belong to the Islamic artistry of the Nasrid dynasty.
The palaces fell into disrepair after their fall to Christianity but it was later rediscovered and is now one of Spain's most famous tourist attractions. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is surrounded by beautiful gardens and fountains and forest.
|Alhambra ambling |
The gardens of the Alhambra and the park in which is sits are absolutely stunning in the spring time which is when I visited it. Awash with wildflowers, the more formal gardens are full of roses and orange trees, pines, multicoloured poppies and cottage garden flowers. The gardens are known as the Palacio de Generalife or 'Garden of the Architect' and they have their own clever irrigation system bringing water down in channels from the mountains.
|Fountain in the mountain|
It is a very beautiful place with the most stunning views out over the city of Granada. You do need to try and ignore the thronging tourists with their own small forest of selfie sticks though.
The theme of the Alhambra was Paradise on earth, and it certainly has that feel to it. It would certainly have been a palace suitable for Sultans. On a practical note, make sure you get your tickets in advance if you intend to visit as they are limited in number and are often sold out, particularly for the Nasrid Palaces which I shall have to save until my next visit.
|Green Granada garden|
In my very short stay in Granada on my way back to Malaga I stayed in the Muralla Ziri apartments in the oldest part of the city - the Albayzin. The Albayzin is itself a World Heritage site and represents the last remaining part of the old Berber city. The apartments are situated in an original 17th century building which is actually a restored and converted family home.
|Bedtime for Berbers|
These charming, well appointed apartments have all modern conveniences, but also lots of personal and original touches, beautiful books and ornaments. The owner of the house was an architect and student of Islamic art and this is reflected in the decor and special touches around the place.
The apartments are in two houses in the same street and there is a shared terrace which has an amazing view of the Alhambra. In fact this view is the very one that the Arabs would have had of the Alhambra back in those ancient times.
|View from the Terrace|
There are eleven apartments of differing sizes available at Muralla Ziri including a very luxurious suite with a jacuzzi. They all have air conditioning, flat screen TV, well equipped kitchenettes and good Wi-Fi. The penthouse is unique and has three bedrooms and a private terrace with its own views of the Alhambra.
The apartments are within walking distance of the Alhambra (although this does involve a steep climb) and there are lots of tea houses, tapas bars and souvenir shops in the surrounding narrow streets. I enjoyed a delicious lamb and plum tagine with a very large glass of Sangria in the springtime sun after my walk around the imposing and very famous walled fortress.
|Streets of the Albayzin|
Some parts of the apartment building actually date back to the Ziri period and the 11th century and parts of the first wall of Granada have also been discovered within the house. The Ziries or Ziri was a clan of the Sinhaya of Berber origin, and they were the first founders of the Kingdom of Granada in 1013.
The Muralla Ziri apartments are a lovely independent, historical place to stay in a great location. Eva on reception is really helpful and speaks excellent English. You can get your street maps and tapas recommendations from her or even borrow an adaptor if you need to recharge things!
I really enjoyed my whistle stop tour of beautiful Granada and the Alhambra, and I do hope that one day I'll be able to return and spend a lot more time here exploring this fascinating city.