Palacios Nazaries of the Alhambra

The Palacios Nazaries, Nasrid Royal Palace, is the highlight of the Alhambra. The royal apartments and water features are spectacular, a stark contrast with the adjacent Alcazba fortifications.

The Patio de los Arrayanes, located near the entry to the palace’s public area, has a large reflecting pool with goldfish.

reflecting pool at Patio de los Arrayanes
reflecting pool at Patio de los Arrayanes
reflection at Patio de los Arrayanes
reflection at Patio de los Arrayanes

The Salon de Embajadores, Hall of the Ambassadors, is the most majestic room of the Alhambra, where the throne was located and receptions held. The wooden ceiling portrays the seven heavens of the Islamic paradise. The Salon is located in the large tower we saw from the Albaycin the night before.

wooden cupola of Sala de Embajadores
wooden cupola of Sala de Embajadores

These ceiling photos were taken with available light. Using aperture priority, the camera selected a shutter speed of 1/15 second, too long to hand-hold. I set the focus, exposure, and the 10-second timer. After pressing the shutter button, I placed the camera on the floor and guarded it until the camera took the picture.

The Sala de las Dos Hermanas, Room of the Two Sisters, is located behind the Patio de los Arrayanes.

Sala de Dos Hermanas
Sala de Dos Hermanas

The Sala de los Abencerrajes has a star-shaped cupola.

star-shaped cupola of Sala de los Abencerrajes
star-shaped cupola of Sala de los Abencerrajes

The Sala de los Reyes, Room of the kings, has glazed ceramic tiles with primary colors in geometric patterns, another Moorish architectural feature.

Sala de los Reyes
Sala de los Reyes

In the Patio de los Leones, Patio of the Lions, twelve lions representing the zodiac provide water to four corners.

Patio de los Leones
Patio de los Leones

The Patio of the Lions is surrounded by an arcade featuring the slim cylindrical columns and horseshoe arches between the columns.

round columns and horseshoe arches in the Patio de los Leones
round columns and horseshoe arches surrounding the Patio de los Leones

At this point our Canon Powershot S100 camera got a lens error we couldn’t clear. Fortunately, we had already seen the Alhambra, and we were going home the next day. At home we discovered that the camera had just gone off warranty. We mailed the camera to Canon Repair for an estimate. Apparently the S100 lens error is a known defect — Canon repaired the iris and returned the camera with no charge!

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The Alcazaba of the Alhambra

On the way to the Alcazaba we passed this horseshoe arch, a Moorish architectural innovation that allowed a greater height than the semicircular arch used by the Greeks and Romans. From the bottom of the reddish arch, the horseshoe arch widens before narrowing to form the arch. Resembling a prayer niche in a mosque, the horseshoe arch symbolizes a door to Mecca or paradise.

horseshoe arch
horseshoe arch

Here’s the entrance to the Alcazaba, the fortress protecting the Alhambra. The trees with the deep pink flowers are cercis siliquastrum, related to California’s cercis occidentalis. Both have profuse pink flowers in the spring.

cercis siliquastrum and alcazaba
cercis siliquastrum and alcazaba

The Alcazaba, with extensive walls and towers, has a commanding position above Granda.

Alcazaba above Granada
Alcazaba above Granada

Despite being in southern Spain, the Sierra Nevada Mountains have snow due their high elevation, up to 3400 m. Sierra Nevada means snowy mountain range.

Sierra Nevada Mountains
Sierra Nevada Mountains

From the Alcazaba we went to the Palacios Nazaries.

Generalife

We had afternoon tickets for the Alhambra, with a timed entrance to the Palacios Nazaries at 6:30. We purchased our tickets online about 3 weeks in advance, and all the earlier entry times were sold out. The Generalife is about a km from the Alcazaba and the Palacios Nazaries, so we started with the Generalife to minimize our walking.

The Patio de la Acequia, Patio of the Irrigation Ditch, is the best part of the Generalife.

Patio de la Acequia
Patio de la Acequia

This Patio combines several Moorish architectural features.

  • Columns. The columns are slim cylinders at the bottom, and carved arches connect the columns.
  • Water. According to “Fodor’s Spain”, the Koran describes paradise as “gardens underneath which rivers flow”. The 48-meter Patio has a pool and fountains running its length, and the sounds of the water fill the air. The photo below was taken at 1/320 sec, which stops the water drops at the top.
Patio de la Acequia fountains
Patio de la Acequia fountains
  • Cursive epiigraphy. This photo shows the far end of the Patio. See the cursive Arabic epigraphy above the arches and below the roof.
round columns and cursive epigraphy
round columns and cursive epigraphy

This mirador (vista point) with 3 arches has a marvelous view of the Palacio Nazaries and  Granada. Note the carving in the arches, the cursive epigraphy above the arches, and the decorated tile floor.

Palacios Nazaries and the Granada plain from the Generalife
Palacios Nazaries and the Granada plain from the Generalife

The Torre de Ismail commemorates a battle won by Ismail. See the carvings on the arches and wall and the windows above the arches.

Torre de Ismail
Torre de Ismail
Torre de Ismail
Torre de Ismail

Here’s the view of the Palacios, Granada, the Granada plain, distant mountains on the right, and the Patio de la Acequia below

Palacios Nazaries and the Granada plain from the Generalife
Palacios Nazaries and the Granada plain from the Generalife

After the Generalife, we went to the Alcazaba.

The Alhambra from the Albayzin

We arrived at the Granada train station in the afternoon and walked to our hotel, a former convent. The hotel upgraded us to a room on their lovely courtyard; this photo’s from outside our room. We would fly home from Granada, and staying at a nice place is a great way to end a vacation.

courtyard of our hotel
Courtyard of our Granada hotel

We left our cool room just before sunset to catch a bus up a hill called Albayzin. We got off at the Mirador de San Nicolas. The Mirador has a spectacular view of the Alhambra and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance. Alhambra comes from Arabic meaning red citadel.

Alhambra at sunset
Alhambra at sunset

The Alhambra is a palace-fortress built by the Moors. The Alhambra is composed of several sets of buildings. The white hillside buildings on the left are the Generalife, the summer palace of the Nasrid kings. The hillside buildings with the large tower are the Palacios Nazaries, the Nasrid Palace. The large building with lots of windows to the right of the tower is the Palacios de Carlos V. The Spanish Carlos V built this palace after Granada fell to the Spanish. The Moors surrendered the Alhambra to the Spanish in 1492 following a long siege.

To the right of the palaces is a fortress, the Alcazaba, which protects the tip of the ridge.

The Alcazaba over Granada
The Alcazaba over Granada

We would tour the Alhambra the next day.