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The Alhambra (الْحَمْرَاء‎), Al-Ḥamrāʾ meaning the "The Red One", is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. It was originally constructed as a small fortress in 889 CE on the remains of Roman fortifications, and then largely ignored until its ruins were renovated and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada, who built its current palace and walls.


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It was converted into a royal palace in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. After the conclusion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, the site became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella (where Christopher Columbus received royal endorsement for his expedition), and the palaces were partially altered in the Renaissance style.

In 1526 Charles I & V commissioned a new Renaissance palace better befitting the Holy Roman Emperor in the revolutionary Mannerist style influenced by humanist philosophy in direct juxtaposition with the Nasrid Andalusian architecture, but it was ultimately never completed due to Morisco rebellions in Granada.

Notable Structures


Tower of the Ladies
Torre De Las Damas, the Ladies Tower, is the most important building of those that belonged to the magnates who lived around the Royal Palace during the Arab period and its decoration is the oldest of the Alhambra. It has received many and different names, depending on who inhabited it, although since the late 18th century it was called the Ladies Tower. To the left of this tower are three small Arab houses that were built after the tower. Some paintings were found in one of these houses. They are of especial interest, as they are the only ones of that specific type within the Muslim period in Spain that have been preserved.


Court of the Lions
Patio de los Leones, Court of the Lions (بهو السباع‎), is the main courtyard in the heart of the Alhambra. It was the innermost and most private courtyard of the Nasrid Palace, was reserved for the ruler and his household. In the centre of the courtyard water sparkles from a fountain basin to fall through the mouths of twelve stylised lions into four streams that run towards the colonnaded sides. The pillars –light, slender trunks– gather together in a pavilion at each end of the patio around tiny fountains. Here they support, like a canopy, filigreed, muqarna (honeycomb) arches that echo the protective role of the palm leaves around oasis pools in the desert.


Palace of Charles V
Palacio de Carlos V, the Palace of Charles V was designed by the Spanish architect Pedro Machuca in 1528 and was begun in 1533, but was never completed. Located within the Alhambra complex, the palace's northeast corner abuts the Court of the Lions and the Court of the Myrtles. The palace, whose construction necessitated some destruction to the Nasrid palaces and cemeteries, has a strict geometric plan, with a circular courtyard inscribed within the square block containing the various rooms.


Watchman's Tower
Torre de la Vela, the Watchman's Tower is the largest tower of the ancient fortress of Alhambra.

circa 900 CE

The Alcazaba is the most westerly part of the Alhambra complex, a strongly fortified position built to protect the original post-Roman districts of Iliberri. The alcazaba or citadel, its oldest part, is built on the isolated and precipitous foreland which terminates the plateau on the northwest. Like the Alhambra, the Alcazaba was abandoned and not cared for during a long time and it was not until the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century that the restoration, exploration and plumbing works were started.

circa 1250-1350 CE

Court of the Myrtles
The Court of the Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes) is part of the palace and fortress complex of the Alhambra. It is located east of the Gilded Room (Cuarto Dorado) and west of the Patio of the Lions and the Baths. It was also called the Patio of the Pond or the Reservoir (Patio del Estanque o de la Alberca) because of the central pond, which is 34 metres long and 7,10 meters wide.

circa 1290 CE

Wine Gate
Supposedly one of the largest structures in the Alhambra complex, the Wine Gate dates back to Muhammad III. The Wine Gate serves as a one of the main entrances to the Medina of the Alhambra and the Upper Alhambra which gates off the formerly residential and artisan district of the Medina. The exterior facade, made of primarily sandstone, was likely constructed during the beginning of the 14th century. The pointed horsearch with embossed voussoirs displays an engraving of a key, an important Islamic symbol.

circa 1494 CE

Square of the Cisterns
The Square of the Cisterns (Plaza de los Aljibes) received this name because of the cisterns that were built by Count of Tendilla in 1494 in the gully between the Alcazaba and the palaces. These cisterns, 34 meters long, 6 meters wide and 8 meters high, later became the current square, when they were buried as well as the surrounding streets and squares. The square forms a vast esplanade between the towers and the defences of the Alhambra on one side and the Wine Gate (Puerta del Vino), the Arabic palaces and the Charles V Palace (Palacio de Carlos V) on the other side.

circa 1530 CE

Court of Machuca
Next to Plaza de los Aljibes and below the northern façade of the Palace of Charles V is the Courtyard of Machuca. Its namesake is Pedro Machuca. This first architect of the king’s palace lived and had his studio in the Mexuar Room seen on the right. This was the council chamber and courthouse when finished in 1365 CE.


Court of the Golden Room
It is an Andalusian patio, with an elegant fountain in the middle, at ground level so as not to disturb conversation. Here in this patio, official audiences would be held. The two columns make up three archways, covered with delicate relief carvings. In the center of the courtyard there is a low marble fountain.

See Also