Sunday, 10 January 2010

Jelajah Andalusia, Sepanyol - Alhambra

It's almost the end of 2009 and our tenure in Geneve almost ended! For our last trip, we decided to visit Spain!  Why Spain? In fact, we wanted to run away from the cold harsh winter time in Switzerland!  People suggested Barcelona or Madrid but we wanted to steer away from the hustle bustle of metropolitans and opted for a more relaxing and scenic trip. Thus, we decided to explore the remnants of the Islamic presence in Spain in the Andalusia.

So on 21st Dec 2009, we booked our flight using Eastjet from Geneva to Malaga, Spain, the nearest airport in Andalusia and we made as our base booking an apartment there for 3 days. How nice when you can take some fresh air in front of your hotel with jean and just a t-shirt in December in Europe. To ease our movement, we rented car from Hertz to fit a family of five and picked it up at the Malaga airport itself. Coincidentally, we managed to get a sedan Citroen C4! The next day, our first itinerary was to head to the most beautiful Islamic architecture palace in Spain, the Alhambra located in Granada.

Málaga is located in southern part of Spain, on the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun) on the northern side of the Mediterranean Sea. It lies at the feet of the Montes de Málaga, about 100 km east of the Strait of Gibraltar and about 130 km east of Tarifa (the southernmost point of continental Europe) and about 130 km on north of Africa. 

Southern Spain - Malaga, Granda, Cordoba and Gibraltar
The journey from Malaga to Granada took us one and a half hour (around 135km) driving via route A45 northbound and split towards A-92 west towards Sierra Nevada, the mountainous area of Southern Spain. It was a unique journey all together when you could see Arabic road signs in a christian country. It is more unique if you know that a country that your are visiting now is used to be an Islamic country (part of to be exact-Andalucia) ruled by a number of governors appointed Khalifah Umaiyyah a few hundred years ago!

Granada, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalusía, has many important examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation of Spain. The Alhambra, a Moorish citadel and palace is the most renowned building of the Andalusian Islamic historical legacy with its many cultural attractions. The Almohad influence on architecture is also preserved in the Granada neighborhood called the Albaicín with its fine examples of Moorish and Morisco construction.
View of the city of Granada

View of Sierra Nevada from Alhambra

Upon arriving at Granada, you can see some sort of crowded houses beneath a massive hill. On top of the hill, the magnificent Alhambra presided overlooking the valley below. It was normal not only in Spain but other parts of Europe under the ruling of churches or kings for an administrative center to be on top of the hill to oversee the whole province under its purview. 

Alhambra was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Moorish emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls. It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. Alhambra was more than a palace - it was a complete city, with its dwellings, administrative offices, garrisons, stables, mosques, schools, cementeries and gardens.

Thus, within Alhambra, there are areas with different architectural designs based on respective functions and eras of construction.  These include the Royal complex which consists of three main parts: Mexuar (the administrative and business complex), Serallo (the patios), and the Harem (the living quarters for the wives and mistresses). Among other notable areas include the Court of Martyrs, the Hall of Ambassadors, the Court of Lions and fountain and the Hall of the Abencerrajes.

Words  cannot describe the  beauty of Alhambra, so, let the photos speak for themselves.  Enjoy the views!

The Hall of Mexuar
The oldest part of the royal palaces with modest decor with ceilings, floors, and trim are made of dark wood and are in sharp contrast to white, plaster walls. Here, the council met to discuss the business and administration of the Islamic kingdom in Andalusia and to decide on judicial matters.  At the door of this hall , there was a tile which reads "Enter and ask. Do not be afraid to seek justice for here you will find it."

Islamic calligraphy on the wall of Alhambra 

Fachada de Comares
Calligraphy - "The only conqueror is God."

The Courtyard of the Myrtles

The Hall of Ambassadors
 The Tower of the Ladies

 The Towers (Torres)

Palacio de Carlos V

We spent the whole day in Alhambra before headed back to Malaga to rest and take a break before continuing our next journey to Cordoba.


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