Granada March 2019

In early March 2019 we took a day trip to the historic city of Granada. We booked with a small tour group from Nerja, which provided round trip transportation and a guided 3-hour tour.  This was an excellent way to see the city without the stress of driving there and navigating through the small streets. 

The region surrounding what today is Granada has been populated since at least 5500 BC and was occupied by the Romans and later the Visigoths.  Granada (from the Arabic Karnatah "hill of strangers") became one of the most important cities of the almost 800 year Moorish rule over Iberia, which began in 711.  Granada marked the westernmost expansion of Muslim rule into Europe. In 1492 the last Muslim ruler in Iberia surrendered complete control of Granada to King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella I.  This completed the Christian Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula, allowing Spain, to embark on a great phase of exploration and colonization around the globe, eventually creating the vast Spanish Empire: for a time, the largest in the world. 

Our very pleasant guide (with command of 6 languages) took us up a gradual climb through the narrow labyrinth of streets through the old part of the city. We eventually arrived at was once the Jewish quarter with great views of the lower city, the Sierra Nevada mountains and the world famous Alhambra.  Along the way we saw some of the three original walls of the city, some of which went back to Roman times. 

One very interesting part was the cave houses, still being used.  These were originally occupied by the poorest of the Jews and Muslims who were eventually expelled from the main city of Granada after Spain had reconquered the region. 

The highlight of any first visit to Grenada is the Alhambra Palace, one of the most visited tourist sites in Spain.  The Alhambra is a completely walled palace city occupying a small plateau on the southeastern border of the city. It was begun in the 11th century as a castle and a military stronghold and in the 13th century, with the arrival of the Muhammad I of Granada, the royal residence was built and became the current Alhambra.  In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella, established permanent residency in the Alhambra, and it was here that Christopher Columbus requested royal endorsement for his westward expedition that year.

There was a pause in the ongoing maintenance of the Alhambra from the 18th century for almost a hundred years, and during control by the First French Empire, substantial portions of the fortress were blown apart. The repair, restoration and conservation that continue to this day did not begin until the 19th century. 

We had three hours on our own to see the extensive grounds and the Palace interiors.  What is most impressive is the size of this complex and how well it has held up over so many centuries.  We have seen other Arabic buildings and mosques that have more beautiful tile work and paintings in our travels, but they are very new compared to the Alhambra.  Its design and construction is a true testimony to the engineering and craftsmanship of the early Arab culture.