Sunday, August 14, 2011

La Alhambra


One of our first stops in Spain, after we left Madrid, was the Alhambra in Granada, located in Andalucia. Andalucia is well known for it's Arabic influence, and Granada is host to the grandest of all Arabic structures in Spain, La Alhambra. Once a palace and fortress for the last remaining Moores in Spain, it's name translates as "the red fortress" in Arabic. Though it's red clay walls were once whitewashed, they now stand a redish-brown for all to see from the distance. 

The most impressive thing, in my opinion about the Alhambra, or indeed, most of the Arabic architecture we saw in Andalucia, was the incredible intricate tiles and detailed patterns on nearly every surface of the palace. There's no need to hang paintings or tapestries for decoration because the structure itself is decoration. And we noted that the palace has such an uncluttered feel to it compared to other palaces and churches we've seen in our experiences. Of course, it is impossible to say how it looked back when people actually lived here. They must have had furniture and paintings to add some clutter, but we could just imagine that it must have always felt so open and airy just as it does today.

The palace was built around the theme of a "paradise on earth" and so you always feel slightly enchanted by not only the architecture, but also it's gardens and outdoor areas as well. It's tremendous gardens, reflecting pools and walkways are nearly as impressive as the buildings themselves. Can you imagine living here?

M.C. Escher spent some time here studying the interlocking patterns of the Alhambra, and you can see this influence in his artwork, if you are familiar with it.

The photo below is from the Palace of Charles V,  a holy Roman emperor who wished to build his residence close to the Alhambra in th 1500's. It's built in a Renaissance style but it's sad because next to the rest of the Alhambra, it simply can not compete in beauty and elegance.

La Alhambra is located in Granada in Andalucia, Spain. Entrance is most conveniently purchased at the  Librería de la Alhambra (Alhambra Book Store) located  in the center of town. Tickets are 14 euros ahead or 13 at the door, but buying ahead means no lines and you can just enter when you're ready. This is a must see in Spain, which is probably why the entire city is flooded with tourists all year round... but, it's worth it!


  1. I have read that Muslims use patterns in their religious buildings because they don't believe in making representations of Muhammed, i.e., he is never shown in painting, decorations, movies, plays, etc. So they decorate with intricate patterns.

    It is easy to see the influence of this site on Escher, reminiscent as some designs are of his "symmetry" patterns. One of my favorite ties (I have about 100) is an authorized Escher symmetry of Arabic men on horses.

  2. Glad to see you can post comments again! That could be possible, but I'm no expert. There are certainly no images of people which is refreshing after visiting probably over 10 churches in 2 weeks. That's why we felt it was so uncluttered... churches are full of so many images of saints and whatnot... it's just so much to take in you can't even appreciate the architecture. The style is so different.