I’ve always wanted to see the Alhambra fortress. It has cast alluring glances at me from many an airline travel magazine. The Alhambra is located in the southern Spanish province of Andalusia, close-ish to the beach town of Malaga. It was the capital city of the Moorish Islamic caliphate in the Iberian peninsula until the last Emir surrendered the city in 1492 to the Catholic monarchs, who were undertaking the reconquest of Spain amid liberal stake-burnings and the imposition of the Inquisition.

The city goes back past Roman times.  We stayed in a really beautiful suburb overlooking the Alhambra called Albaicín, which is cluttered with small, cobblestoned lanes and hidden houses. This is partly the bequest of the Moorish inhabitants who built their houses in the Arabic style with interior courtyards and water features such as fountains and ponds. We stayed in an Airbnb from the 14th century with an original restored wooden balcony and doors.

The Alhambra is chunked on top of a promontory overlooking the whole city, the fortress part of it at the nearest city side, its cannons well able to dominate the lowlands below. The most beautiful aspect of the Alhambra is the series of Moorish palaces built by the Nasrid dynasty. All aspects are in tune with one another, rooms of delicate wall carvings, reflecting pools, balancing shrubberies, long colonnades opening into enticing vistas and everywhere the repeating geometric tilework so subtly decorative. We were funnelled along with the tourist crowds from one chamber to the next and eventually wound up at the ‘summer’ palace (Generalife) where the royalty retreated to in the heat of the summer. Here we came across a set of stairs where water gushed down three flights of handrails. Cooling in 38 degrees!

Granada is oozing in history and we only scratched the surface. Delicious food, museums, churches and monasteries, squatters living in limestone caves, a young, urban vibe but above all, everywhere you go, the beauty of the red stone of the Alhambra set like a pearl in its emerald green forests.

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