A crooked street in the Albaicín,
the Alhambra can be seen in the distance.
"La niña del Albaicín
subió una tarde a la Alhambra
y allí le pilló la noche
llena de luna y albahaca.
Quiso volver y no pudo,
la luna le dió en la cara
y un galán besó su boca
entre arrayanes y dalias."
Romance Andaluz by León y Quiroga.
|Salón de Embajadores, Comares Palace in the Alhambra. Granada, Spain.|
We left the Salón de Embajadores in the Palacio de Comares and found a breezeway from which the most wonderful views of the Albaicín and Sacromonte were framed:
|John enjoys the view from the Alhambra. Granada, Spain.|
The breezeway led us to a suite of rooms that had been commissioned by emperor Charles V in the Renaissance style after the Reconquest. These rooms served as imperial residence in the 16th century to Charles and his new bride Isabel of Portugal, and in the 19th century they were home to Washington Irving during his Andalusian sojourn; the account of his journey, "The Alhambra : a series of tales and sketches of the Moors and Spaniards", was published in 1832 in the United States. The book has since been translated to many languages, including Spanish. It was in the pages of this book, read to me by my father and embellished by his own memories of the place, that I first visited the Alhambra.
The rooms surround the Patio de la Lindaraxa (the court of Daraxa), which in Nasrid times was a garden open to landscape; from the windows of Charles's rooms we admired the intimate beauty of Daraxa's garden:
|Patio de la Lindaraxa in the Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
The Patio de la Lindaraxa serves as a facade to the famous Palacio de los Leones (Palace of the Lions) where the Alhambra reaches her maximum architectural expression. The sophisticated building and irrigation techniques pioneered by the Romans were inherited and protected by the Moors, and in a time when Europe languished in the dark grasp of the Middle Ages, Al Andalus sparkled, like the light reflected off the fountains in the Alhambra, as a beacon of knowledge, culture, and progress.
|The vaults of the Arabic Baths. The Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
|Mirador de la Lindaraxa in the Palace of the Lions. The Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
|The ceiling of the Mirador de la Lindaraxa, in the Palace of the Lions. The Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
The Palacio de los Leones is full of wonders, first of which is the Sala de Dos Hermanas (the Chamber of the two sisters). The name of this chamber may inspire visions of sister princesses, but in reality it is named for the twin slabs of white marble that surround the recessed fountain in its center. The room is crowned by a dome of rich and intricate decoration, whose star pattern is laid according to the Pythagorean Theorem. The Sala de Dos Hermanas and its adjacent chambers served as residence to the Nasrid Sultanas and their royal household, including Aisha al-Hurra (Aixa to the Christians), mother of Abu abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ali (known to the Catholic Monarchs as Boabdil) last Sultan of Granada.
|Pendentive and walls of the Sala de Dos Hermanas in the Palace of the Lions. The Alhambra. Granada, Spain.|
|The star shaped ceiling of the Sala de Dos Hermanas in the Palace of the Lions. The Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
The walls of the Sala de Dos Hermanas are covered with mosaics and delicate plaster carvings of flowers, poems, and praises to God and the Sultans.
The Sala de Dos Hermanas leads directly to the iconic Patio de los Leones (Court of the Lions), whose twelve stone lions have become the symbol par excellence of the Alhambra:
We learned in this visit that the pavement of the Court of the Lions was being restored, and that the stone lions had been removed from its central position, to a vaulted room nearby to be cleaned and restored; we could admire them but not photograph them. No visit (virtual or physical) to the Alhambra can be complete without seeing the famous fountain, and so I here present you with pictures from my first visit to this magnificent place:
|The Court of the Lions in the Palace the Lions, the Alhambra. Granada, Spain.|
|The Fountain of the Lions in the Palace of the Lions, the Alhambra. Granada, Spain.|
The rich wall decoration from the Sala de Dos Hermanas continues into the Court of the Lions, becoming ever more delicate and intricate:
|Yeserías in the Court of the Lions, the Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
|Engaged column in the Court of the Lions, the Alhambra Palace. Granada, Spain.|
We left the Palace of the Lions and found ourselves once again surrounded by gardens (those of the Partal Palace) full of jasmine and oranges. It was siesta time and we sat under the shadow of the trees in the convent of San Francisco (built by the Catholic Monarchs on the ruins of the mosque), whence we caught a glimpse of the Generlife (which is a story on its own) and its gardens.
The day that began grey and misty had turned to gold in the afternoon sun. We wandered through the gardens of the Partal and then traveled on the path towards the Generalife. Before we knew it, night and her mantel of moon and basil had fallen upon us. We wished to remain, like the girl from the Albaicín (opening poem) amidst the myrtles and dahlias, but reality called...
All images by Nadia Palacios Lauterbach and John Lauterbach.