Alcaiceria is derived from “al-Kaysariyya” in Arabic, referring to the payment of duties to the Caesar (or Byzantine Emperor) for the trade and custody of valuable goods. There were a number of alcaicerías in Islamic Spain (in Toledo, Cordoba, Seville, Valencia, Palma, Malaga, Almeria and Velez-Malaga), but only the one in Granada survived, even if after the 1843 fire it was rebuilt. It was established back in the Nazrid period, with the first information we have on it alluding to the mid-15th century. The Alcaiceria in Granada was home to the important business of the silk trade, the most important industry in Granada in the Nazrid period.
The Alcaiceria in Granada was erected right in the heart of the Islamic medina, close to the Aljama mosque, in an area brimming with goods, similar to a traditional souk.
Andrea Navaggiero described it as follows: An enclosed space with many narrow streets all over filled with shops, where the Moriscos sell silk and an endless amount of knick-knacks; it’s like us having a haberdashery or a Rialto and there are hundreds of things, especially made from worked silk.
In the 16th century there were around 200 shops. It was accessed by a set of eight gates. The Granada-style cobbled streets were narrow and left one with the feeling they were in a labyrinth. The appearance of the shops must have been motley, lacking clear architectural cohesion: cramped single-story spaces that opened onto the street with wooden setups that could be taken- or pulled down from the ceiling using an iron rod. The shops were so small that “the owner sitting in the middle could reach any object with their hands without even having to get up”.
Its current appearance is a consequence of a terrible event which took place early in the morning on 20 July 1843: a voracious fire over the course of six hours completely destroyed the area. The rebuilding of the Alcaiceria was undertaken immediately, and today it is an interesting adaptation of neo-Arabic architecture to 19th century commercial interests, being closer at its core to a souk.
It is just this commercial and handicraft souk aspect that breathes life into this unique space, a starting point for new bazaars featuring jewellery, bronze, inlays, pottery, etc. invigorating this market with colour and life.
This monument is a part of the route for our Granada Must-Do Tour