Come in, traveller, come in… enter the very heart of Granada. May Allah be with you.
The doorway you have just come through leads you into the heart of a legendary citadel, military fortress, administrative and government headquarters, residence of kings and queens, and into enchanting gardens…
Do you see the walls on your left? They are part of the fortifications that protected the Alhambra in the late 15th century, when it was the capital of the last Nazrid kingdom in Spain. In Arabic, “Al-Qal´a Al-Hamra”, means the Red Fortress.
There is something very special about its walls. They are over two kilometres long, with turrets placed at regular intervals. If only we knew the secrets that still lie hidden beneath the ground…
But let me tell you my own story, traveller, while you walk towards the Alcazaba and the royal palaces. I can see from your gaze that that is where you are heading. Listen to me, Hamed, while you walk.
You have just passed over the royal Water Channel, which supplied clean, fresh water to the entire Alhambra. In my day, the bare area we are now walking across, and which is sheltered by hedges, was the Calle Real, or Royal Street, and it ran right through the Medina. The Medina was the neighbourhood where servants and craftsmen lived, alongside high ranking royal officials. I, Hamed, grew up in these streets, you see – although they are now as invisible to you as I am. The Medina was destroyed when the troops of that short Frenchman, Napoleon, bombarded the area, turning it into dry, barren ground.
On your left, you will see one of the doorways into the Alhambra, known as Los Siete Suelos, or the Seven Floors. According to legend, treasure lies buried there… and according to history, it was through this doorway that the first Christian troops entered during the late 15th- century Christian “Re-conquest”. After that it was ordered never to be opened again. It remained closed from 1492, and was completely sealed in 1747 until the French invasion in 1812,
Which reminds me… what a lot of the words we used to say in my old Medina are still in use in Spanish today! We called the market the souk. In Spanish, the first shopping malls were known as “zocos”. Spaniards are also using Arabic words when they express a wish for something to happen, with the term “ojalá”. A water lily is known as Nenufar, and an artichoke is alcachofa. Even “olé” is Arabic in origin! You see, what I mean, dear traveller?
I have to explain that, in my time, physicians, courtiers, seamstresses and servants, like myself, who were very proud to serve in the Alhambra, looked down upon the powerful silk merchants, who were mere newcomers, and who humbly dropped their gaze when they beheld the great distinction and refined, civilized nature of the Rulers of Granada.
Continue straight on ahead, and when you pass the great Roman-style building on your right, which is the Palace of Emperor Charles V, you will see a small archway ahead of you, known as the Puerta del Vino, or the Wine Gateway.
On the other side of it, the Alcazaba awaits us.
(c) (R) 2013, MUSMon com S.L.
Text (a) Carlos Madrid (2012)
Source: Own work
Author: Julián Hernández Martínez (2013)
Picture: The royal Water Channel
Author: Pepepitos (2010)
Licence: I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide.
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The MUSMon.com audio guide on the Alhambra in Granada is a new, independent production. It helps you to get to know all the secrets of this World Heritage Site, in a light-hearted, convenient way. There are 90 minutes of commentary, illustrated with over 50 pictures, so you won’t miss a single detail during your visit.
Wander through the grounds and buildings of the Alhambra and Generalife, guided by commentary that has been prepared for you by a team of experts. +info