Vela Tower was built by the founder of the dynasty, Muhammad ben Nasr (1238-1273) as a feudal style residency tower. It is extremely difficult to enter and became an almost unassailable entrance. It is also known as the Watch Tower, and is the Alhambra’s most symbolic tower.
The tower has lost some of its original height due to losing its battlements in the catastrophes which have occurred since the 16th century: an earthquake in 1522, the explosion of the powder keg in the Darro valley in 1590 which left it breached and lightning in the 19th century that destroyed the bell bulbrush.
It has four floors plus the terrace: a subterranean dungeon with silo and three floors. It is the most important and most western tower of the Alcazaba meaning it also serves as a vantage point for the Albayzin, the medina and the whole Vega of Granada. After the Christian conquest the four floors underwent modifications and were turned into residences, which is why their appearance has changed compared to how there were originally.
The tower was finished off with a bell, which the Christians installed after taking over the city and which was used to regulate irrigation shifts in the Vega and to call residents on tragic occasions such as the 1890 fire. It is said that the tower is called “De vela” (staying awake) because ringing the bell meant keeping everyone up.
Every 2 January the Torre de la Vela and its bell take on an important role once again. As a part of the commemoration of the Taking of Granada, there is a tradition where young single women in the city who ring the bell on January 2nd will get married before the end of the year.