What Travel Writers Say

Heaven on Earth

© By Mike Keenan

Granada, I'm falling under your spell,
And if you could speak, what a fascinating tale you would tell.

Granada song lyrics: Mexican composer, Agustin Lara

In 1492, Grenada was the last Muslim stronghold to fall to the Christian army under Queen Isabella of Castile and her husband, Ferdinand of Aragon. In the Alhambra Palace, the Spaniards obtained a brilliant architectural jewel, a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th century. A magical combination of space, light, water and decoration characterizes this incredible compound, including a summer palace, the Generalife, with fountains and gardens that stand at the foot of Spain's highest mountain range, the Sierra Nevada.
     The Alhambra, designed as the closest thing to a paradise on earth, is the most famous example of Moorish architecture. Modest materials were used - tiles, timber and plaster, but they were superbly worked into extravagant pieces of art. The fragile, airy structure embodies breathtaking detail and celebration of a sensuous vitality. Such was the exquisite beauty of Granada that both King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella chose it for their burial site. It has suffered some decay, including an attempt by Napoleon's army to blow it up, but it has undergone extensive renovation that dazzles the eyes of all who visit. Consisting of palaces built by succeeding rulers, the design is composed of a mixture of slender columnar arcades, fountains and light-reflecting water basins. Be sure to bring your camera!


     Here is a brief description of key components to experience during a visit:
  1. Salon de Embajadores:   A sumptuous throne room built from 1334-1354 whose ceiling represents the seven heavens of the Muslim cosmos. Now, you know from where the expression is derived.
  2. Patio de Arraynes:   A patio with a long pool set amidst myrtle hedges and graceful arcades that cleverly reflect light into otherwise dark surrounding halls.
  3. Patio del Mexuar:   A council chamber completed in 1365 where the reigning sultan would listen to his loyal subjects making petitions as well as where he administered meetings with his ministers.
  4. The Palace of Charles V:   Contains a showcase of Spanish-Muslim art.
  5. Patio de los Leones: This patio is lined with over 100 slender marble columns that support delicate, ornamental arches. In the centre sits a circular fountain resting on 12 marble lions.
  6. Sala de los Abencerrajes:   Here, the ingenious geometrical ceiling pattern was inspired by Pythagoras' theorem.
  7. Sala de los Reyes:   A great banquet hall for feasts and celebrations with extraordinary ceiling paintings composed on leather, depicting chivalry and hunting exploits.
  8. Sala de las Dos Hermanas:   The honeycombed dome is regarded as the ultimate expression of Spanish-Islamic architecture.
  9. Palacio del Partal:   The oldest building in the Alhambra consisting of a pavilion with an arched portico and tower.

     From the north side of the Alhambra, a simple footpath leads to Generalife, the sumptuous country estate of the Nasrid kings. Here, they could easily escape and privately enjoy even more tranquility amidst lush gardens, orchards and pastures. It was a tough life, but as the saying goes... Grenada and its Alhambra are must-sees on any visit to southern Spain. You will fall under their spell.


Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Karyn Keenan

If you go
This Destination
as seen on
Tourism Granada: http://www.turgranada.es/?id_idioma=2
Alhambra information: http://www.alhambra.org/eng/index.asp?secc=/inicio
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granada,_Spain
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Granada_(Spain)

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