My travel around Andalusia wasn’t the most geographically logical but roughly followed the historical retreat of the Moorish powers in Al-Andalus during the Reconquista by the christian Spanish forces. Although from around 700, most of the Iberian peninsula (modern Spain and Portugal) was under moorish rule, various push backs during the following centuries reduced the Almohads, based in Northern Africa, to control over Al-Andalus (including all of the Andalusian cities I visited in my last week of travel) and then lost most of that territory during the thirteenth century. By 1252, the only Muslim territory was the tiny Kingdom of Granada, which was held (and fortified) for two more centuries until it was conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492 (a year that should probably sound familiar to any student of American history). Apparently, clearing up their wars on the home front freed up their funds to invest in a little exploratory pillaging abroad.
The modern city of Granada is nestled into the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains and sports the usual collection of Gothic and Renaissance European splendors including a noteworthy cathedral. Its also making a concerted effort to drag itself forward into modern city planning with sever traffic restrictions on its vehicular population and a new streetcar system being constructed while I was present. Moving uphill from the main city takes the visitor toward the famous palace and fortification of el Alhambra – the palace of the Almohads and later the Christian monarchy. Bridging between city and castle is a steeply sloping green belt traced across with walking paths and water elements. Water features strongly in Muslim architecture generally with reflecting pools magnifying the built environment and running water tricking through all the areas of development around el Alhambra. I started a small photo collection of fountains and trail side water courses, all of which flowed noisily during my several trips up to the top to visit the palace.
The Alhambra itself is the main tourist draw to Granada. Originally constructed as a fort it was later converted to a palace under the direction of the sultan. It contains several palaces of different historical periods both from the Muslim rule and the later Christian monarchy. The early fortifications feel unrelentingly medieval but the palaces, particularly the Nazarid palace around the court of the Lions, are stunning confections of detailed tile work and delicate carved stone that surpassed anything I’d yet seen in my travels. As I found typical of Muslim design, the exteriors of the palace buildings were un-ornamented and forbidding but the interior courtyards were a feast for the eyes. Enjoy the detail shots – they hold up to almost infinite amounts of staring and pattern tracing.