‘Gar-anat’ meaning ‘Hill of the Pilgrims’ or ‘Hill of the Strangers’, now known as Granada, nestles at the bottom of the towering mountain range, the Sierra Nevada.
Romantic and Majestic, it was once wealthy and the home of both Sultans and Christian Monarchs, including the famous Ferdinand and Isabella, who made it their final resting and burial place.
The Islamic Kingdom of Granada held on for nearly a quarter of a millennium after the rest of the Iberian Peninsula was recaptured by the Christian ‘Reconquista’ and imposing Islamic Fortresses spread throughout the region.
Now a vibrant City of Education and Business, the reminder of its great importance looms high and visible in the form of the Alhambra, the spectacular royal complex of Fortress and Palaces and one of Europe’s most visited sites.
‘al-Qal’at al-Ḥamrā’, the ‘Red Fortress’, sits proudly on top of the hill of ‘La Sabika’, the ‘Hill of Gold’, as an imposing gesture of the dynasties that once ruled this land.
Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and at the confluence of four rivers, the Darro, the Genil, the Monachil and the Beiro. It has an elevation of 738m (2,421 ft).
It has a municipal population of around 240,000.
The University of Granada is highly regarded and has an estimated 82,000 students spread over five campuses around the City.
After the collapse of the Umayyad Caliphate, when al-Andalus broke down into a series of ‘Taifas’ or small independent kingdoms, the Berber Zawi ben Ziri established the Taifa of Granada which was essentially, and surprisingly, a Jewish state in all but name. The Muslim King being mainly a symbolic figurehead, the power and control of the Taifa and its armies were under Jewish control.
It was the centre of the Jewish Sephardi culture and learning.
Early Arabic writers often refer to the Taifa of Granada as ‘Garnata al-Yahud’, Granada of the Jews.
The Royal City Complex of the Alhambra is by far the most famous monument in Granada. It is a renowned Islamic historical legacy set of buildings, Palaces, Fortress and Gardens.
Originally constructed in 889 as a fortress on top of older Roman fortifications, it remained almost a set of ruins until renovation in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid Emir ‘Mohammed ben al-Ahmar’ who added the Palaces and walls.
Moorish poets describe it as a ‘pearl set in emeralds’ in reference to the colour of its buildings and the surrounding woods. It is also often referred to as a ship sailing towards the City of Granada with the large watch tower of the Alcazaba fortress being the prow.
The Gardens and pools of the Alhambra are spectacular with fragrant flowers in abundance.
The Palaces are highly decorative with beautiful columns, stalactite vaulted ceilings and highly ingenious hydraulic water management systems, as featured in the Fountain of the Lions, where every hour, one of the twelve white marble lion statues surrounding the fountain would produce water from its mouth. A marvel and baffling visitors of the time.
As you walk around, you will see the heraldic emblem of Granada cast in rain water downpipes and on other items, the Pomegranate, in Spanish ‘Granada’.