The Alhambra (/ælˈhæmbrə/ (audio speaker iconlisten), Spanish: [aˈlambɾa]; Arabic: الْحَمْرَاء, romanizedAl-Ḥamrāʾ, pronounced [alħamˈraːʔ], lit.'The Red One') is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The complex was begun in 1238 by Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, the first Nasrid emir.[1][2] It was built on the Sabika hill, an outcrop of the Sierra Nevada which had been the site of earlier fortresses and of the 11th-century palace of Samuel ibn Naghrillah.[2][3] Later Nasrid rulers continuously modified the site. The most significant construction campaigns, which gave the Comares Palace (or Court of the Myrtles) and the Palace of the Lions their definitive character, took place in the 14th century during the reigns of Yusuf I and Muhammad V.[4][5] After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style. In 1526, Charles I of Spain commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting the Holy Roman Emperor in the revolutionary Mannerist style influenced by humanist philosophy in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid Andalusian architecture, but it was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.

UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dawn Charles V Palace Alhambra Granada Andalusia Spain.jpg
LocationGranada, Andalusia, Spain
Part ofAlhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada
CriteriaCultural: i, iii, iv
Inscription1984 (8th Session)
Coordinates37°10′37″N 3°35′24″W / 37.17695°N 3.59001°W / 37.17695; -3.59001Coordinates: 37°10′37″N 3°35′24″W / 37.17695°N 3.59001°W / 37.17695; -3.59001
Alhambra is located in Spain
Location in Spain

Alhambra's last flowering of Islamic palaces was built for the final Muslim emirs in Spain during the decline of the Nasrid dynasty, who were increasingly subject to the Christian kings of Castile. After being allowed to fall into disrepair for centuries, the buildings occupied by squatters, Alhambra was rediscovered following the defeat of Napoleon I, who had conducted retaliatory destruction of the site. The rediscoverers were first British intellectuals and then other northern European Romantic travelers. It is now one of Spain's major tourist attractions, exhibiting the country's most significant and well-known Islamic architecture, together with 16th-century and later Christian building and garden interventions. The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[6]

Moorish poets described it as "a pearl set in emeralds", an allusion to the colour of its buildings and the woods around them.[7] The palace complex was designed with the mountainous site in mind and many forms of technology were considered. The park (Alameda de la Alhambra), which is overgrown with wildflowers and grass in the spring, was planted by the Moors with roses, oranges, and myrtles; its most characteristic feature, however, is the dense wood of English elms brought by the Duke of Wellington in 1812.[citation needed] The park has a multitude of nightingales and is usually filled with the sound of running water from several fountains and cascades. These are supplied through a conduit 8 km (5.0 mi) long, which is connected with the Darro at the monastery of Jesus del Valle above Granada.[8]

Despite long neglect, willful vandalism, and some ill-judged restoration, the Alhambra endures as an atypical example of Muslim art in its final European stages, relatively uninfluenced by the direct Byzantine influences found in the Mezquita of Córdoba. Most of the palace buildings are quadrangular in plan, with all the rooms opening on to a central court, and the whole reached its present size simply by the gradual addition of new quadrangles, designed on the same principle, though varying in dimensions, and connected with each other by smaller rooms and passages. Alhambra was extended by the different Muslim rulers who lived in the complex. However, each new section that was added followed the consistent theme of "paradise on earth". Column arcades, fountains with running water, and reflecting pools were used to add to the aesthetic and functional complexity. In every case, the exterior was left plain and austere. Sun and wind were freely admitted. Blue, red, and a golden yellow, all somewhat faded through lapse of time and exposure, are the colors chiefly employed. The name Alhambra means the red one or the red castle, which refers to the sun-dried bricks that the outer wall is made of.[8]

The decoration consists for the upper part of the walls, as a rule, of Arabic inscriptions—mostly poems by Ibn Zamrak and others praising the palace—that are manipulated into geometrical patterns with vegetal background set onto an arabesque setting ("Ataurique"). Much of this ornament is carved stucco (plaster) rather than stone. Tile mosaics ("alicatado"), with complicated mathematical patterns ("tracería", most precisely "lacería"), are largely used as panelling for the lower part. Metal was not utilized much.[clarification needed] Similar designs are displayed on wooden ceilings (Alfarje).[8] Muqarnas are the main elements for vaulting with stucco, and some of the most accomplished dome examples of this kind are in the Court of the Lions halls. The palace complex is designed in the Nasrid style, the last blooming of Islamic art in the Iberian Peninsula, that had a great influence on the Maghreb to the present day, and on contemporary Mudejar art, which is characteristic of western elements reinterpreted into Islamic forms and widely popular during the Reconquista in Spain.

Panorama of the Alhambra from Mirador de San Nicolas. From left to right: Generalife, Pico del Veleta (mountain), Palacios Nazaríes, Palace of Charles V, Alcazaba
Night view of Alhambra, Granada from Mirador de San Nicolas. Taken on a clear day in July 2017
Panorama of the Alhambra


Alhambra derives from the Arabic الْحَمْرَاء al-Ḥamrāʼ  (f.), meaning "the red one", the complete form of which was الْقَلْعَةُ ٱلْحَمْرَاءُ al-Qalʻat al-Ḥamrāʼ  "the red fortress (qalat)".[1][3] The "Al-" in "Alhambra" means "the" in Arabic, but this is ignored in general usage in both English and Spanish, where the name is normally given the definite article. The reference to the colour "red" in the name is due to the reddish colour of its walls, which were constructed of rammed earth.[1] The reddish colour comes from the iron oxide in the local clay used for this type of construction.[9]


Origins and early historyEdit

The evidence for a Roman presence is unclear but archeologists have found remains of ancient foundations on the Sabika hill.[10] A fortress or citadel, probably dating from the Visigothic period, existed on the hill in the 9th century.[3] The first reference to the Qal‘at al-Ḥamra was during the battles between the Arabs and the Muladies during the rule of the ‘Abdullah ibn Muhammad (r. 888–912). According to surviving documents from the era, the red castle was quite small, and its walls were not capable of deterring an army intent on conquering. The first reference to al-Ḥamrāʼ  came in lines of poetry attached to an arrow shot over the ramparts, recorded by Ibn Hayyan:

"Deserted and roofless are the houses of our enemies;
  Invaded by the autumnal rains, traversed by impetuous winds;
Let them within the red castle (Kalat al hamra) hold their mischievous councils;
  Perdition and woe surround them on every side."[11]

At the beginning of the 11th century, the region of Granada was dominated by the Zirids, a Sanhaja Berber group and offshoot of the Zirids who ruled parts of North Africa. When the Caliphate of Córdoba collapsed after 1009 and the Fitna (civil war) began, the Zirid leader Zawi ben Ziri established an independent kingdom for himself, the Taifa of Granada.[12] The Zirids built their citadel and palace, known as the al-Qaṣaba al-Qadīma ("Old Citadel" or "Old Palace"), on the hill now occupied by the Albaicín neighborhood.[13][14] It was connected to two other fortresses on the Sabika and Mauror hills to the south.[14] The fortress on the Sabika hill, also known as the al-Qasaba al-Jadida ("New Citadel"), was later used for the foundations of the current Alcazaba of the Alhambra.[15][16][3] Under the Zirid kings Habbus ibn Maksan and Badis, the most powerful figure was the Jewish administrator known as Samuel ha-Nagid (in Hebrew) or Isma'il ibn Nagrilla (in Arabic).[17] Samuel built his own palace on the Sabika hill, possibly on the site of the current palaces, although nothing remains of it. It reportedly included gardens and water features.[15][a]

Nasrid periodEdit

Islamic calligraphy in the Mexuar Hall: و لا غالب إلا الله, "There is no victor but God", a motto used by the Nasrid dynasty[22]

After 1228 Almohad rule collapsed and local rulers and factions emerged across the territory of Al-Andalus.[23] With the Reconquista in full swing, the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon – under kings Ferdinand III and James I, respectively – made major conquests across al-Andalus. Castile captured Cordoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248. Meanwhile, Ibn al-Ahmar (Muhammad I) established what became the last and longest reigning Muslim dynasty in the Iberian peninsula, the Nasrids, who ruled the Emirate of Granada.[24] Ibn al-Ahmar was a relatively new political player in the region and likely came from a modest background, but he was able to win the support and consent of multiple Muslim settlements under threat from the Castilian advance.[25] Upon settling in Granada in 1238, Ibn al-Ahmar initially resided in the old citadel of the Zirids on the Albaicin hill, but that same year he began construction of the Alhambra as a new residence and citadel.[3][2][b] According to an Arabic manuscript since published as the Anónimo de Madrid y Copenhague,[26]

This year, 1238 Abdallah ibn al-Ahmar climbed to the place called "the Alhambra". He examined it, marked the foundations of a castle and left someone in charge of directing the work, and before that year had passed, the construction of the ramparts was completed; water was brought in from the river and a channel carrying the water was built (...)

During the reign of the Nasrid Dynasty, the Alhambra was transformed into a palatine city, complete with an irrigation system composed of acequias for the gardens of the Generalife located outside the fortress. Previously, the old Alhambra structure had been dependent upon rainwater collected from a cistern and from what could be brought up from the Albaicín. The creation of the Sultan's Canal solidified the identity of the Alhambra as a palace-city rather than a defensive and ascetic structure. The hydraulic system includes two long water channels and several sophisticated elevation devices to bring water onto the plateau.[27]

The Tower of Justice (Puerta de la Justicia) is the original entrance gate to the Alhambra, built by Yusuf I in 1348.

Later Nasrid rulers after Ibn al-Ahmar continuously modified the site. Along with the fragile materials themselves, which needed regular repairs, this makes the exact chronology of its development difficult to determine.[28][29] The only elements preserved from the time of Ibn al-Ahmar are some of the fortification walls, particularly the Alcazaba at the western end of the complex.[30][4] The oldest major palace for which some remains have been preserved is the structure known as the Palacio del Partal Alto, in an elevated location near the center of the complex, which probably dates from the reign of Ibn al-Ahmar's son, Muhammad II (r. 1273–1302).[30] To the south was the Palace of the Abencerrajes,[c] and to the east was another private palace, known as the Palacio del Exconvento de San Francsico[d] or the Palacio de los Infantes, both of which were probably also originally constructed by Muhammad II or during his time.[30] Muhammad III (r. 1302–1309) erected the Partal Palace, parts of which are still standing today, as well as the Alhambra's main (congregational) mosque (on the site of the current Church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra).[30][4] The Partal Palace is the oldest palace to be built along the northern walls of the complex, with views onto the city below.[30] Isma'il I (r. 1314–1325) undertook a significant remodeling of the complex. He began construction of the Comares Palace, just east of the Alcazaba, which was dedicated to official functions. The Comares Baths are the best-preserved element from this initial construction, as the rest of the palace was further modified by his successors. Near the main mosque Isma'il I also created the Rawda, the dynastic mausoleum of the Nasrids, of which only partial remains are preserved.[30] Yusuf I (r. 1333–1354) carried out further work on the Comares Palace, including the construction of the Hall of Ambassadors and other works around the current Mexuar. He also built the Alhambra's main gate, the Puerta de la Justicia, and the Torre de la Cautiva, one of several small towers with richly-decorated rooms along the northern walls.[33][4] Muhammad V (r. 1354–1391, with interruptions) built the Palace of the Lions to the east of the Comares Palace in an area previously occupied by gardens. He is also remodeled much of the Mexuar wing of the Comares Palace. Elsewhere in the Comares Palace, the highly-decorated façade in the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, as well as some of the decoration in the Court of the Myrtles, also date from his time.[34] After Muhammad V, relatively little major construction work occurred in the Alhambra. One exception is the Torre de las Infantas, which dates from the time of Muhammad VII (1392–1408).[30] The 15th century saw the Nasrid dynasty in decline and in turmoil, with few significant construction projects.[4]

Reconquista and Christian Spanish periodEdit

A Court in the Alhambra at the Time of the Moors, Edwin Lord Weeks, 1876

The last Nasrid sultan, Muhammad XII of Granada, surrendered the Emirate of Granada in 1492 without the Alhambra itself being attacked when the forces of the Reyes Católicos, King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Queen Isabella I of Castile, took the surrounding territory with a force of overwhelming numbers. Muhammad XII moved the remains of his ancestors from the complex, as was verified by Leopoldo Torres Balbás in 1925, when he found seventy empty tombs.[35] The remains are now likely to be located in Mondújar in the principality of Lecrín.[36][37]

After the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, the conquerors began to alter the Alhambra. The open work was filled up with whitewash, the painting and gilding effaced, and the furniture soiled, torn, or removed.[7] Charles I (1516–1556) rebuilt portions in the Renaissance style of the period and destroyed the greater part of the winter palace to make room for a Renaissance-style structure which was never completed. Philip V (1700–1746) Italianised the rooms and completed his palace in the middle of what had been the Moorish building; he had partitions constructed which blocked up whole apartments.[8]

Mullioned windows of the Hall of the Two Sisters, Alhambra, Granada by Juan Laurent, c. 1874, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC

Over subsequent centuries the Alhambra was further damaged. Between 1810 and 1812 Granada was occupied by Napoleon's army during the Peninsular War.[38] The French troops, under the command of Count Sebastiani,[8] occupied the Alhambra as a fortified position and caused significant damage to the monument.[39] Upon evacuating the city, they attempted to dynamite the whole complex to prevent it from being re-used as a fortified position. They successfully blew up eight towers before the remaining fuses were disabled by Spanish soldier José Garcia, thus saving what remains today.[39] In 1821, an earthquake caused further damage.[8] Restoration work was undertaken in 1828 by the architect José Contreras, endowed in 1830 by Ferdinand VII. After the death of Contreras in 1847, it was continued by his son Rafael (died 1890) and his grandson.[8] In 1830 Washington Irving lived in Granada and wrote his Tales of the Alhambra, which spurred international interest in southern Spain and in its Islamic-era monuments like the Alhambra.[40]

Some of the most important historical restoration work was the intervention of Leopoldo Torres Balbás in the 1930s. The young architect "opened arcades that had been walled up, re-excavated filled-in pools, replaced missing tiles, completed inscriptions that lacked portions of their stuccoed lettering, and installed a ceiling in the still unfinished palace of Charles V".[41]


Modern plan of the Alhambra

According to the site's current architect, Pedro Salmeron Escobar, the Alhambra evolved organically over a period of several centuries from the ancient hilltop fortress defined by a narrow promontory carved by the river Darro and overlooking the Vega or Plain of Granada as it descends from the Sierra Nevada.[42] The red earth from which the fortress is constructed is a granular aggregate held together by a medium of red clay which gives the resulting layered brick- and stone- reinforced construction (tapial calicastrado) its characteristic hue and is at the root of the name of 'the Red Hill'.[43] This crude earthiness is counterpointed by the startling fine alabaster white stucco work of the famous interiors.[43]

Alhambra is about 740 metres (2,430 ft) in length by 205 metres (670 ft) at its greatest width. It extends from west-northwest to east-southeast and covers an area of about 142,000 square metres (1,530,000 sq ft) or 35 acres.[44] The Alhambra's most westerly feature is the Alcazaba (citadel), a strongly fortified position built to protect the original post-Roman districts of Iliberri, now 'Centro', and Gárnata al-yahūd ('Granada of the Jews', now Realejo, and the Moorish suburb of El Albayzín.

Plan of the Nasrid Palaces, Alhambra, 1889.
  Palaces of the Ambassadors
  Palace of the Lions
  Garden of Lindajar and later habitation of the Emir

Due to touristic demand, modern access runs contrary to the original sequence which began from a principal access via the Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice) onto a large souq or public market square facing the Alcazaba, now subdivided and obscured by later Christian-era development.[43] From the Puerta del Vino (Wine Gate) ran the Calle Real (Royal Street) dividing the Alhambra along its axial spine into a southern residential quarter, with mosques, hamams (bathhouses) and diverse functional establishments,[45] and a greater northern portion, occupied by several palaces of the nobility with extensive landscaped gardens commanding views over the Albayzin. All of this was subservient to the great Tower of the Ambassadors in the Palacio Comares, which acted as the royal audience chamber and throne room with its three arched windows dominating the city. The private, internalised universe of the Palacio de Los Leones (Palace of the Lions) adjoins the public spaces at right angles (see Plan illustration) but was originally connected only by the function of the Royal Baths, the Eye of Aixa's Room serving as the exquisitely decorated focus of meditation and authority overlooking the refined garden of Lindaraja/Daraxa toward the city.[45]

The rest of the plateau comprises a number of earlier and later Moorish palaces, enclosed by a fortified wall, with thirteen defensive towers, some such as the Torres de la Infanta and Cattiva containing elaborate vertical palaces in miniature.[45] The river Darro passes through a ravine on the north and divides the plateau from the Albaicín district of Granada. Similarly, the Assabica Valley, containing the Alhambra Park, lies on the west and south, and, beyond this valley, the almost parallel ridge of Monte Mauror separates it from the Antequeruela district. Another ravine separates it from the Generalife, the summer pleasure gardens of the emir. Escobar notes that the later planting of deciduous elms obscures the overall perception of the layout, so a better reading of the original landscape is given in winter when the trees are bare.[46]

Main structuresEdit

The citadel before and after the 20th-century reconstruction campaign

Access from the city to the Alhambra Park is afforded by the Puerta de las Granadas (Gate of Pomegranates), a triumphal arch dating from the 15th century. A steep ascent leads past the Pillar of Charles V, a fountain erected in 1554, to the main entrance of the Alhambra. This is the Puerta de la Justicia (Gate of Justice), a massive horseshoe archway surmounted by a square tower and used by the Moors as an informal court of justice. The hand of Fatima, with fingers outstretched as a talisman against the evil eye, is carved above this gate on the exterior; a key, the symbol of authority, occupies the corresponding place on the interior. A narrow passage leads inward to the Plaza de los Aljibes (Place of the Cisterns), a broad open space which divides the Alcazaba from the Moorish palace. To the left of the passage rises the Torre del Vino (Wine Tower), built in 1345 and used in the 16th century as a cellar. On the right is the palace of Charles V, a smaller Renaissance building, to construct which part of the Alhambra, including the original main entrance, was torn down.


The Alcazaba or citadel, its oldest part, is built on the isolated and precipitous foreland which terminates the plateau on the northwest. All that remains are its massive outer walls, towers and ramparts. On its watchtower, the 25 m (85 ft) high Torre de la Vela, the flag of Ferdinand and Isabella was first raised as a symbol of the Spanish conquest of Granada on 2 January 1492.[7] A turret containing a large bell was added in the 18th century and restored after being damaged by lightning in 1881. Beyond the Alcazaba is the palace of the Moorish rulers, The Nasrid Palaces or Alhambra proper, and beyond this is the Alhambra Alta (Upper Alhambra), originally occupied by officials and courtiers.

Royal palacesEdit

Courtyard of the Palace of Charles V

The royal palace complex consists of three main parts: Mexuar, Serallo, and the Harem. The Mexuar is modest in decor and houses the functional areas for conducting business and administration. Strapwork is used to decorate the surfaces in Mexuar. The ceilings, floors, and trim are made of dark wood and are in sharp contrast to white, plaster walls. Serallo, built during the reign of Yusuf I in the 14th century, contains the Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles). Brightly colored interiors featured dado panels, yesería, azulejo, cedar, and artesonado. Artesonado are highly decorative ceilings and other woodwork. Lastly, the Harem is also elaborately decorated and contains the living quarters for the wives and mistresses of the Arab monarchs. This area contains a bathroom with running water (cold and hot), baths, and pressurized water for showering. The bathrooms were open to the elements in order to allow in light and air.

Court of the MyrtlesEdit

Windows of the Court of Myrtles

The Court of the Myrtles was built under Muhammad V of Granada, and with 11 qasā'id by Ibn Zamrak, 8 of which remain.[47] The present entrance to the Palacio Árabe (Arab palace), or Casa Real, is by a small door from which a corridor connects to the Patio de los Arrayanes (Court of the Myrtles), also called the Patio de la Alberca (Court of the Blessing or Court of the Pond), from the Arabic birka, "pool". The birka helped to cool the palace and acted as a symbol of power. Because water was usually in short supply, the technology required to keep these pools full was expensive and difficult. This court is 42 m (140 ft) long by 22 m (74 ft) broad, and in the centre there is a large pond set in the marble pavement, full of goldfish, and with myrtles growing along its sides. There are galleries on the north and south sides; the southern gallery is 7 m (23 ft) high and supported by a marble colonnade. Underneath it, to the right, was the principal entrance, and over it are three windows with arches and miniature pillars. From this court, the walls of the Torre de Comares are seen rising over the roof to the north and reflected in the pond.[48]

Hall of the AmbassadorsEdit
Ceiling of the Hall of the Ambassadors

The Salón de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) is the largest room in the Alhambra and occupies all the Torre de Comares. It is a square room, the sides being 12 m (37 ft) in length, while the centre of the dome is 23 m (75 ft) high. This was the grand reception room, and the throne of the sultan was placed opposite the entrance. The grand hall projects from the walls of the palace, providing views in three directions. In this sense, it was a "mirador" from which the palace's inhabitants could gaze outward to the surrounding landscape.[49] The tiles are nearly 4 ft (1.2 m) high all round, and the colours vary at intervals. Over them is a series of oval medallions with inscriptions, interwoven with flowers and leaves. There are nine windows, three on each facade, and the ceiling is decorated with white, blue and gold inlays in the shape of circles, crowns and stars. The walls are covered with varied stucco works, surrounding many ancient escutcheons.[48]

Court of the LionsEdit

The Court of the Lions, an example of Islamic Moorish architecture and garden design
"Honeycomb", "stalactite", or "muqarnas" vaulting in the Hall of the Abencerrajes

The Court of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) is an oblong courtyard, 116 ft (35 m) in length by 66 ft (20 m) in width, surrounded by a low gallery supported on 124 white marble columns. A pavilion projects into the court at each extremity, with filigree walls and a light domed roof. The square is paved with coloured tiles and the colonnade with white marble, while the walls are covered 5 ft (1.5 m) up from the ground with blue and yellow tiles, with a border above and below of enamelled blue and gold. The columns supporting the roof and gallery are irregularly placed. They are adorned by varieties of foliage, etc.; about each arch there is a large square of stucco arabesques; and over the pillars is another stucco square of filigree work.

In the centre of the court is the Fountain of the Lions, an alabaster basin supported by the figures of twelve lions in white marble, not designed with sculptural accuracy but as symbols of strength, power, and sovereignty. Each hour one lion would produce water from its mouth.[50] At the edge of the great fountain there is a poem written by Ibn Zamrak. This praises the beauty of the fountain and the power of the lions, but it also describes their ingenious hydraulic systems and how they actually worked, which baffled all those who saw them.[51]

Court of the Lions, Alhambra by Juan Laurent, 1871, Department of Image Collections, National Gallery of Art Library, Washington, DC

The Sala de los Abencerrajes (Hall of the Abencerrages) derives its name from a legend according to which the father of Boabdil, the last sultan of Granada, having invited the chiefs of that line to a banquet, massacred them here.[52] This room is a perfect square, with a lofty dome and trellised windows at its base. The roof is decorated in blue, brown, red and gold, and the columns supporting it spring out into the arch form in a remarkably beautiful manner. Opposite to this hall is the Sala de las dos Hermanas (Hall of the two Sisters), so-called from two white marble slabs laid as part of the pavement. These slabs measure 500 by 220 cm (15 by 7½ ft). There is a fountain in the middle of this hall, and the roof – a dome honeycombed with tiny cells, all different, and said to number 5000 – is an example of the "stalactite vaulting" of the Moors. The muqarnas in the rooms of the Court of the Lions have different configurations from their original designs, which might have been altered by repairs.[53]

Other features in the palace complexEdit

Pools in the Palacio de Generalife (left) and the Partal (right; in the Alta Alhambra of the complex)

Among the other features of the Alhambra are the Patio del Mexuar (Court of the Council Chamber), the Patio de Daraxa (Court of the Vestibule), the Peinador de la Reina (Queen's Robing Room), and the Palacio del Partal (Partal Palace), in which there is similar architecture and decoration. The palace and the Upper Alhambra also contain baths, rows of bedrooms and summer-rooms, a whispering gallery and labyrinth, and vaulted sepulchres.


Of the outlying buildings connected to the Alhambra, the foremost in interest is the Palacio de Generalife (the Arabic Jennat al Arif, "Garden of Arif", or "Garden of the Architect"). This villa dates from the beginning of the 14th century but has been restored several times. The Villa de los Martires (Martyrs' Villa), on the summit of Monte Mauror, commemorates by its name the Christian slaves who were forced to build the Alhambra and confined here in subterranean cells.[54]

Other outlying structuresEdit

The Torres Bermejas (Vermilion Towers), also on Monte Mauror, are a well-preserved Moorish fortification, with underground cisterns, stables, and accommodation for a garrison of 200 men. Several Roman tombs were discovered in 1829 and 1857 at the base of Monte Mauror.[48][54]

Water supply systemEdit

Central fountain in the Patio de Linaraja

Water was provided to both the Alhambra and the Generalife by the Acequia Real (also known as the Acequia del Rey or Acequia del Sultan), which still exists in large part today. It draws water from the Darro River at an uphill location in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about 6.1 kilometers east of the Alhambra.[55] A smaller branch known as the Acequia del Tercio also splits off from it several kilometers upstream and proceeded along higher ground before arriving at the top point of the Generalife's palace and gardens. The main branch, proceeding along lower ground, also arrives at the Generalife palace and supplies water to its iconic Patio de la Acequia.[56][55] Both canals generally ran along the surface but some parts ran through tunnels cut directly into the bedrock.[56][55] The Silla del Moro ('Seat of the Moor'), a ruined structure today on the hilltop overlooking the Generalife, was once a fort and monitoring post that protected the water supply infrastructure of this area.

After arriving at the Generalife, the canals turn towards the southeast and run past the gardens. They then join together before turning back towards the Alhambra, where the water enters via an arched aqueduct next to the Torre del Agua ('Water Tower') at the Alhambra's eastern tip.[55] From here it is channeled through the citadel via a complex system of conduits (acequias) and water tanks (albercones) which create the celebrated interplay of light, sound and surface in the palaces.[43]

Historic furnishings and art objectsEdit

Nasrid shell vase in the Alhambra

The original furniture of the palace is represented by one of the famous Alhambra vases, very large Hispano-Moresque ware vases made in the Sultanate to stand in niches around the palace. These famous examples of Hispano-Moresque ware date from the 14th and 15th centuries. The one remaining in the palace, from about 1400, is 1.3 m (4 ft 3 in) high; the background is white and the decoration is blue, white and gold.[48]


The Alhambra features various styles of the Arabic epigraphy that developed under the Nasrid dynasty, and particularly under Yusuf I and Muhammad V.[57] José Miguel Puerta Vílchez compares the walls of the Alhambra to the pages of a manuscript, drawing similarities between the zilīj-covered dados and the geometric manuscript illuminations, and the epigraphical forms in the palace to calligraphic motifs in contemporary Arabic manuscripts.[47]

The texts of the Alhambra include "devout, regal, votive, and Quranic phrases and sentences," formed into arabesques, carved into wood and marble, and glazed onto tiles.[47] Poets of the Narsid court, including Ibn al-Khatīb and Ibn Zamrak, composed poems for the palace.[47][58] Most of the poetry is inscribed in Nasrid cursive script, while foliate and floral Kufic inscriptions—often formed into arches, columns, enjambments, and "architectural calligrams"—are generally used as decorative elements.[47] Kufic calligrams, particularly of the words "blessing" (بركة baraka) and "felicity" (يمن yumn), are used as decorative motifs in arabesque throughout the palace.[47]

وفتحت بالسيف الجزيرة
"And the peninsula was conquered with the sword"
يبنون القصور تخدما
"They build palaces diligently"
ولا غالب إلا الله
"There is no victor but God."
Epigraphic samples from the Court of the Myrtles: what Muhammad Kurd Ali described as Andalusi mushabbak (sinuous) script (خط أندلسي مُشَبَّك), or what Western sources refer to as Nasrid cursive (left and center images)[59] and floral Kufic script (right).


In literatureEdit

Parts of the following works are set in the Alhambra:

In musicEdit

The plot of the Ballet-héroïque entitled Zaïde, reine de Grenade, by the French Baroque composer Joseph-Nicolas-Pancrace Royer (c. 1705–1755), takes place at the Alhambra. Alhambra has directly inspired musical compositions including Francisco Tárrega's famous tremolo study for guitar Recuerdos de la Alhambra, as well as Claude Debussy's piece for two pianos composed in 1901, Lindaraja, and the prelude, La Puerta del Vino, from the second book of preludes composed from 1912 to 1913. Isaac Albéniz wrote a piano suite Recuerdos de viaje, which included a piece called "En La Alhambra", while his suite Iberia contained a piece called "El Albacin". Albéniz also composed an uncompleted Suite Alhambra.

Gazelles on one of the Alhambra vases made for the palace

"En los Jardines del Generalife", the first movement of Manuel de Falla's Noches en los Jardines de España, and other pieces by composers such as Ruperto Chapí (Los Gnomos de la Alhambra, 1891), Tomás Bretón, and many others are included in a stream referred to by scholars as Alhambrismo.[60][61]

In 1976, filmmaker Christopher Nupen filmed The Song of the Guitar at the Alhambra which was an hour-long program featuring the legendary Spanish guitarist, Andrés Segovia.

British composer Peter Seabourne wrote an extended piano cycle Steps Volume 3: Arabesques (2008-2012) based on shared experiences of the Alhambra with his painter aunt Ann Seabourne,[62][63][64] and a movement from his Steps Volume 1 is entitled "El Suspiro del Moro" inspired by the legend of the expulsion of the last Moorish King of Granada. In 2000, Julian Anderson wrote a piece for contemporary chamber ensemble, Alhambra Fantasy.

In pop and folk music, Alhambra is the subject of the Ghymes song of the same name. The rock band Grateful Dead released a song called "Terrapin Station" on the 1977 album of the same name. It consisted of a series of small compositions penned by Robert Hunter and put to music by Jerry Garcia; a lyrical section of this suite was called "Alhambra". In September 2006, Canadian singer/composer Loreena McKennitt performed live at the Alhambra. The resulting video recordings premiered on PBS and were later released as a 3-disc DVD/CD set called Nights from the Alhambra. The Basque pop group Mocedades performed a song called "Juntos En La Alhambra". Alhambra is the title of an EP recording by Canadian rock band, The Tea Party, containing acoustic versions of a few of their songs. Alhambra and Albaicín are mentioned in the Mägo de Oz song named "El Paseo de los Tristes" from the album entitled Gaia II. On California rapper Dom Kennedy's 2015 album By Dom Kennedy, there is a song entitled "Alhambra".

In mathematicsEdit

Tessellations like this inspired M.C. Escher's work.

The Alhambra tiles are remarkable in that they contain nearly all, if not all, of the seventeen mathematically possible wallpaper groups.[65] This is a unique accomplishment in world architecture. M. C. Escher's visit in 1922 and study of the Moorish use of symmetries in the Alhambra tiles inspired his subsequent work on tessellation, which he called "regular divisions of the plane".[66]

In filmEdit

Marcel L'Herbier's 1921 film El Dorado features many scenes shot in and around the Alhambra palace. This was the first time permission had been granted for a feature film company to shoot inside the Alhambra palace and L'Herbier gave prominent place to its gardens, fountains and geometric architectural patterns, which became some of the film's most memorable images.

Animated films by Spanish director Juan Bautista Berasategui such as Ahmed, El Principe de la Alhambra and El Embrujo del Sur are based on stories in Washington Irving's Tales of the Alhambra.

The Alhambra stands in for Baghdad in the 1958 adventure film The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. Interior palace scenes, including in the Tower of Comares, the Court of the Myrtles, and the Court of the Lions, were shot at night so as not to disturb tourists. The Patio de los Aljibes, backed by the Alcazaba—standing in for a prison yard—was filmed by day. [67]

Columbus interview with Queen Isabella in Conquest of Paradise representing Granada after the Reconquest were filmed at Alhambra. As well as the Palace Scenes of Kingdom of Heaven representing Jerusalem during the Crusades. Both films were made by Ridley Scott.

The Court of the Lions was depicted in Assassin's Creed (2016) when Sultan Muhammad XII surrenders the 'Apple of Eden', a powerful artifact in the center of the movie plot, in exchange for his son's safe return. Both the Court of the Lions and Granada's Albaicin are featured on the animated film Tad Jones: The Hero Returns.[68]

The fictional Broadway theatre (the interior actually Auckland, New Zealand's Civic Theatre), in which Kong is displayed as the 'Eighth Wonder of the World' in 2005's King Kong, is named "The Alhambra".[69]

2018 South Korean television series Memories of the Alhambra is based in Granada, Spain with the Alhambra palace as the backdrop of an AR game within the series. Many features and stories of the palace were used as clues and characters for the game progression and AR Alhambra was depicted as ‘a place of magic’ and ‘Mecca for Gamers’ to establish the Gaming plot in the story.

In astronomyEdit

There is a main belt asteroid named Alhambra.

In architectureEdit

The Alhambra inspired:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ A 1956 theory by Frederick Bargebuhr[18] that the lion sculptures in the current Court of the Lions came from Samuel's palace has since been challenged and refuted by other scholars.[19][20][21]
  2. ^ Felix Arnold gives the date of Ibn al-Ahmar's settlement in Granada as 1244 instead,[1] but this may be inconsistent with other sources.
  3. ^ This was one of the largest palaces in the Alhambra but only foundations and archeological remains are visible today. The palace structure was blown up by Napoleon's troops in 1812.[31]
  4. ^ Named after the Convent of Saint Francis which was installed here in 1494. The first palace was remodeled in the 14th century, with inscriptions referring to Muhammad V. Little remains of the Nasrid structure today except for a rectangular courtyard and some of its adjoining rooms. The rest of the building dates from the 18th-century remodeling of the convent. Today it serves as a parador (state hotel).[32]


  1. ^ a b c d Arnold 2017, p. 234.
  2. ^ a b c García-Arenal, Mercedes (2014). "Granada". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three. Brill. ISSN 1873-9830.
  3. ^ a b c d e M. Bloom, Jonathan; S. Blair, Sheila, eds. (2009). "Granada". The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195309911.
  4. ^ a b c d e Bloom 2020, p. 152.
  5. ^ Arnold 2017, p. 234-237.
  6. ^ "Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzín, Granada". World Heritage List. UNESCO. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  7. ^ a b c Chisholm (1911), p. 657
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Chisholm (1911)
  9. ^ López 2011, p. 41.
  10. ^ López 2011, p. 293.
  11. ^ Calvert, Albert Frederick; Hartley, C. Gasquoine (Catherine Gasquoine) (1908). Granada, present and bygone. University of California Libraries. London : J. M. Dent & co.
  12. ^ García-Arenal, Mercedes (2014). "Granada". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three. Brill. ISSN 1873-9830.
  13. ^ García-Arenal, Mercedes (2014). "Granada". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Three. Brill. ISSN 1873-9830.
  14. ^ a b M. Bloom, Jonathan; S. Blair, Sheila, eds. (2009). "Granada". The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195309911.
  15. ^ a b Arnold 2017, p. 149.
  16. ^ López 2011, p. 81, 293.
  17. ^ Catlos, Brian A. (2018). Kingdoms of Faith: A New History of Islamic Spain. New York: Basic Books. pp. 216–220. ISBN 9780465055876.
  18. ^ Bargebuhr, Frederick P. (1956). "The Alhambra Palace of the Eleventh Century". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 19 (3–4): 192–258. doi:10.2307/750296. JSTOR 750296. S2CID 190612778.
  19. ^ Scheindlin, Raymond P. (1993–1994). "El poema de Ibn Gabirol y la fuente de los leones". Cuadernos de la Alhambra. 29–30: 185–190.
  20. ^ Ruggles 2000, p. 164–167.
  21. ^ Arnold 2017, p. 283.
  22. ^ Dickie 1992, p. 139.
  23. ^ Kennedy 1996, p. 265-267.
  24. ^ Bosworth, Clifford Edmund (2004). "The Nasrids or Banu 'l-Ahmar". The New Islamic Dynasties: A Chronological and Genealogical Manual. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748696482.
  25. ^ Kennedy 1996, p. 266, 274-276.
  26. ^ López 2011, p. 39.
  27. ^ García-Pulido, Luis José (20 June 2016). "The Mastery in Hydraulic Techniques for Water Supply at the Alhambra". Journal of Islamic Studies. 27 (3): 355–382. doi:10.1093/jis/etw016. ISSN 0955-2340.
  28. ^ Bloom 2020, p. 152-153.
  29. ^ Ruggles 2008.
  30. ^ a b c d e f g Arnold 2017, p. 236.
  31. ^ López 2011, p. 175-180.
  32. ^ López 2011, p. 180-184.
  33. ^ Arnold 2017, p. 236, 266, 269, 275.
  34. ^ Arnold 2017, p. 236, 265, 269, 273.
  35. ^ "Alhambra sultans: Their tombs". 5 April 2019.
  36. ^ "Where are the Alhambra's monarchs buried?". 21 August 2017.
  37. ^ The Moor's Last Stand: How Seven Centuries of Muslim Rule in Spain Came to an End, Elizabeth Drayson
  38. ^ RingSalkinLa Boda 1995, p. 298.
  39. ^ a b López 2011, p. 301.
  40. ^ RingSalkinLa Boda 1995, p. 299.
  41. ^ Envisioning Islamic Art and Architecture (ed. David J. Roxburgh). BRILL, 2014. ISBN 9789004280281. P. 18-19.
  42. ^ Salmerón Escobar (2007)
  43. ^ a b c d Salmerón Escobar (2007), III. The material base: construction and form
  44. ^ "Alhambra, Granada, Spain". AirPano. Retrieved 23 January 2017.
  45. ^ a b c Salmerón Escobar (2007), IV. Formation and spatial perception
  46. ^ Salmerón Escobar (2007), VI. The Alhambra that survives
  47. ^ a b c d e f Puerta Vílchez, José Miguel; Núñez Guarde, Juan Agustín (2011). Reading the Alhambra: a visual guide to the Alhambra through its inscriptions. Granada, Spain: Patronato de la Alhambra y Generalife : Edilux. ISBN 978-84-86827-62-5. OCLC 828680669.
  48. ^ a b c d Mirmobiny, Shadieh. "The Alhambra". Smarthistory at Khan Academy. Retrieved 26 February 2013.
  49. ^ Ruggles (1992)
  50. ^ Al-Hassani, Woodcock & Saoud (2007)
  51. ^ Al-Hassani, Woodcock & Saoud (2007), p. 233
  52. ^ Lowe, Alfonso; Hugh Seymour-Davies. The Companion Guide to the South of Spain. Companion Guides, 2000. ISBN 9781900639330. P. 8.
  53. ^ "Unknown details identified in the Lions' Courtyard at the Alhambra". EurekAlert!. 17 September 2020.
  54. ^ a b Chisholm (1911), p. 658
  55. ^ a b c d López 2011, pp. 239–257.
  56. ^ a b Ruggles 2000, p. 170–174.
  57. ^ Jayyusi, Salma Khadra; Marín, Manuela (1992). The Legacy of Muslim Spain. BRILL. ISBN 978-90-04-09599-1.
  58. ^ "Travelers of Al-Andalus, Part VI: The Double Lives of Ibn al-Khatib - AramcoWorld". Retrieved 7 June 2020.
  59. ^ محمد كرد علي, محمد بن عبد الرزاق بن محمد, 1876-1953. (2011). غابر الأندلس وحاضرها. شركة نوابغ الفكر. ISBN 978-977-6305-97-7. OCLC 1044625566.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  60. ^ "CVC. Rinconete. Acordes". Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  61. ^ El alhambrismo en la música española hasta la época de Manuel de Falla – Dialnet. 1999. pp. 33–46. ISBN 9782840501428. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  62. ^
  63. ^ "Review".
  64. ^
  65. ^ "Mathematics in Art and Architecture". Archived from the original on 7 May 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  66. ^ Gelgi, Fatih (July 2010). "The Influence of Islamic Art on M.C. Escher". The Fountain (76). Archived from the original on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 16 November 2015.
  67. ^ "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)".
  68. ^, Area25 IT - (25 August 2017). "Se estrena Tadeo Jones 2. El Secreto del Rey Midas, recreada en la Alhambra y en el Albaicín - Noticias de La Alhambra".
  69. ^ "King Kong, 2005". The Worldwide Guide to Movie Locations. Archived from the original on 20 May 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2017.


Further readingEdit

  • Arnold, Felix (2017). Islamic Palace Architecture in the Western Mediterranean: A History. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780190624552. (See chapter 5 for most relevant sections)
  • Fernández Puertas, Antonio (1997). The Alhambra. Vol 1: From the Ninth Century to Yusuf I (1354). Saqi Books. ISBN 978-0-86356-466-6.
  • Fernández Puertas, Antonio (1998). The Alhambra. Vol 2: (1354–1391). Saqi Books. ISBN 978-0-86356-467-3.
  • Fernández Puertas, Antonio (1999). The Alhambra. Vol 3: From 1391 to the Present Day. Saqi Books. ISBN 978-0-86356-589-2.
  • Grabar, Oleg (1978). The Alhambra. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Jacobs, Michael; Fernández, Francisco (2009). Alhambra. Frances Lincoln. ISBN 978-0-7112-2518-3.
  • Lowney, Chris (2005). A Vanished World: Medieval Spain's Golden Age of Enlightenment. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
  • Menocal, Maria, Rosa (2002). The Ornament of the World. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
  • Ruggles, D. Fairchild (2000). Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Ruggles, D. Fairchild (2008). "Alhambra," in Encyclopaedia of Islam, third edition. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  • Ruggles, D. Fairchild (2008). Islamic Gardens and Landscapes, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.
  • García-Pulido, Luis José (September 2016). "The Mastery in Hydraulic Techniques for Water Supply at the Alhambra". Journal of Islamic Studies. 27 (3): 355–382. doi:10.1093/jis/etw016.

External linksEdit