Mmm, very Moorish: Granada’s sumptuous Alhambra palace

The influence of Muslim rule on Spain, whether in its language, culture or architecture, cannot be understated. While we may think of the country today as dry and arid, to the desert-dwelling Arabs who invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711, Al-Andalus (as they called it) was a land of plenty. Here one could grow both crops and later, ideas – it’s no surprise the works of the Greek philosophers were saved here when they’d been forgotten in other parts of Europe.

 
Perhaps the kingdom’s greatest architectural triumph is a building that was constructed just as Al-Andalus was starting to crumble in the face of the Christian reconquest from the north. Granada’s Alhambra (‘red fort’ in Arabic) began life as a humble castle in the ninth century, but in 1238, founder of the Nasrid dynasty Ibn Nasr, oversaw a transformation that took it from dusty citadel to palace of delights.
This iconic building is illuminated in a new book From Darkness to Light, The Alhambra, which, through pages of stunning photography, lifts the lid on this most mysterious of European palaces. Used to the blazing heat of north Africa, the Alhambra’s architects made use of Spain’s abundant – to them, at least – water supply, filling the spaces between buildings with gardens, fountains and pools. Today, despite the fact that it’s one of Spain’s biggest tourist attractions, tranquility can still be found among the building’s Moorish arches and dripping water features.
 
Spain may never be Arab again, but through the glory of buildings such as the Alhambra, it remains forever infused with a desert culture that will always make it unique in Christian Europe.
 
From Darkness to Light, The Alhambra is published by TF Editores, priced £40




This article first appeared in Umbrella Magazine Issue #2. You can view it online here.



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