Interesting facts about the Alhambra: 10 things you never knew

Among all monuments, the Alhambra is one of those with the most visitors in the world. And no matter how much you hear about it before you go, it is always a huge surprise. This is exactly why visitors’ checklists get left unfinished… And would you want to miss out on details you can only enjoy here? Since we assume you don’t, we would like to pass on some interesting facts about the Alhambra that few people know. They will raise your experience to another level.

Discover 10 things you never knew that will improve your visit

Different social classes did not cross paths

comares palace

When you go to the Alhambra, you are allowed to stroll around freely, unless there are special paths set up in advance because conservation work is being performed. However, while you are there, bear in mind that each social class had its own set way of approaching the sultanate.

On the one hand, there was a corridor for the cleaning staff, and then another for scribes and administrators. And last but not least, an entry for the sultan and his family called the royal court walk. They shared the same space, but without mixing!

The walls can speak

las inscripciones en las paredes de la alhambra son una de sus curiosidades

Many of the walls in the Alhambra contain inscriptions. They are not merely decorative but instead consist of poems and quotes from the Qur’an which filled everyday life with spirituality and beauty. If you would like to do so in preparing your visit, you might check out the book Reading the Alhambra by José Miguel Puerta. Want to give it a go?

Interesting facts about the Alhambra: a monument of Al-Andalus, a monument of Christians

el peinador de la reina, christian room in the alhambra

Did you know we spoke Arabic here in Granada for 800 years? That’s longer than we’ve been speaking Spanish! But this didn’t keep the Catholic Monarchs and their descendants from falling in love with Granada. It’s true that it was the last city they conquered back from the Moors, a feat which took them a very long time, but once they saw its beauty, it became the jewel in the crown. That is why the Alhambra contains entirely Christian spaces, including the Palace of Charles V or the Queen’s salon.

The Alhambra: quite a survivor

Alhambra in Granada

When you look out from the Mirador de San Nicolás and see the Alhambra across the way, you wonder how it is possible something built so long ago could remain standing? Especially when you compare it to the fragility of today’s buildings. Not only has it survived wars, but also earthquakes, despite lying in an area of great seismic activity! Why is that? Well, because the walls were built out of rammed earth, and the columns contain a layer of lead between the base and column. Fascinating, isn’t it?

The day the Gate of Justice opens, the world will end

Puerta de la Justicia

The city’s builders were so sure about the strength of their construction techniques that they thought the day when the Gate of Justice was opened, the world would come to an end. In this area, we found a hand that would be used as a lock. The majestic nature of everything before them left no room for doubt: they were building life itself. If it vanished, everything would come crashing down.

The invalid who protected the monument in the War of Independence

In the early 19th century, Napoleon’s troops entered Spain. They were hoping to annex our country and make it part of the French Empire. The Spanish people, using their work tools as weapons, defended their cities. As this occurred, the Alhambra suffered heavy bombing, but the brave corporal José García of the Cuerpo de Inválidos was able to place himself between a cannon shot and the walls of the Nasrid palaces.

To pay tribute to his amazing feat, in the Alcazaba you can read “In memory of the corporal of the ‘Invalids Corps,’ José García, who risked his life to save the castles and towers of the Alhambra from ruin in 1812.”

Looting and thievery in the Nasrid city

Respect for history and artistic heritage is a rather new concept. The site was actually abandoned for centuries. It was home to paupers and wanderers. Many criminals went there to steal treasures. The turning point came with the arrival of an American romantic, Washington Irving. Together with his friend, Russian prince Dimitri Dolgorukov, he worked for years to restore the dignity the Alhambra deserved.

Mathematics: the Alhambra’s other queen

curiosidades de la alhambra alicatado

The tilework in the palaces is pure symmetry, and not a single corner fails to adhere to mathematical principles. It was designed with them in mind to represent Allah’s grandeur on Earth. Therefore, it had to be perfect. However, its designers included one mistake which was invisible to the naked eye, because aiming for total perfection was also considered defiance of God.

The legend of the sultana’s cypress tree

If there’s one thing you’re sure to find here, it is legends. Have you ever been? If you have, I’m sure you’ve stopped at some point, looked out at the horizon and felt the life still breathed in the air of the Alhambra. Looking beyond the tourists, many centuries-old stories remain fully alive here. One of them is no more and no less than the tale of a cypress tree in the Generalife.

This cypress tree bore witness to the passion of King Boabdil’s wife, Morayma, for a knight of the Abencerrajes tribe, a tribe born in Granada under the reign of the Nasrid dynasty. The lovers were discovered during a rendezvous and betrayed. Boabdil’s fury was unleashed, and he ordered that the throats of several members of the tribe be slit.

It is said that so much blood was shed that the stains on the fountain in the Sala de los Abencerrajes are not from rust, but rather from the blood of those whose throats were cut. The cypress tree saw the lovers’ passion, and the fountain the king’s fury.

The Torre de las Infantas hides princesses’ desolation within

King Muhammad VII knew what love at first sight meant. That’s how he had fallen in love with his wife, and they had later had three daughters. However, he hoped to protect his daughters from the rapture of love, so he locked them up in a tower. This would prevent anyone from seeing them at all. Two of them refused to obey, managing to get two knights to fall in love with them and rescue them.

The third, however, suffered a different fate. She was locked up for her whole life, filled with pain and despair, until she finally decided to put an end to her own suffering. When you stand in front of the Torre de las Infantas and see a window, take a closer look. Perhaps you can see the princess inside.

Every corner within the Alhambra harbors secrets. You can feel it as soon as you enter the surrounding woods, before even entering the site itself. The more interesting facts you learn about, the easier it is to unravel the place’s enigmas.

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