Generalife Gardens of Alhambra

Spain > Granada

ALHAMBRA, Granada, 23 May 2009

We have an early start from our Cordoba night stop because we need to reach the Alhambra at 8.00am in order to grab the much sought-after entrance tickets … and Granada is still 160km away! The drizzle along the A-316 is not helping either.

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As we approach Granada, the spring snow atop the Sierra Nevada provides a stunning backdrop.

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It’s not difficult finding the world-famous Alhambra – it’s everywhere! Just follow the signs.

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Finally, Alhambra, and the queue at the ticket office is not discouraging. Each day only about 8000 tickets are sold, simply because they want to restrict the cramped Nasrid Palaces to only 300 people every half-hour. Open 10.00am till 11.30pm at 300 visitors per 30min, so do the math.

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The Arabic script of Alhambra actually reads Al-Hamra’, that now we know. Which means ‘The Red One’, since it’s a reddish formidable fortress atop a hill overlooking Granada, home to the Muslim rulers of the 14th and 15th century.

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Tickets finally secured, but the queue was unnecessary. Visitors are advised to buy tickets in advance, either online or by phone (if you can grab hold of an English-speaking agent). There’s a real risk of a sold-out day, in case of a walk-in. So if you want to buy the tickets at Alhambra itself, be sure to come as early as possible, like us.

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We let ourselves in, and our slot for the Nasrid Palaces is at 12.30pm (see the circled item on ticket above). With 3 hours to kill, we decide to do Generalife, the royal gardens, on high grounds behind Alhambra.

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Generalife is a place for the Muslim rulers to unwind amidst the well-groomed gardens and patios. It’s now a World Heritage Site.

From Generalife one can have a very nice vista of wooded Alhambra, with the Albayzin of Granada, the ancient Arab quarter, beyond it.

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Frame Alhambra with some flowers of Generalife, it becomes like a postcard.

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What about this ‘postcard’? If only the sky is blue-er …

A small wasp sucks nectar and inadvertently pollinates the plant.

Spring wild flowers grow in abundance at the perimeter of Generalife.

Entrance to the New Gardens (also known as Low Gardens), completed in 1952 as an interpretation of an Islamic garden.

The Low Gardens were started in 1931 as a garden-labyrinth with arcades of rose bushes and cypresses.

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The network of paths through the New Gardens lead one to the Palacio del Generalife.

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Entrance to the Palacio del Generalife, built 14th and 15th century.

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Inside the palace, the Court of the Main Canal.

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Another view of the serene and peaceful Court of the Main Canal.

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Covered walkways enclose the Court of the Main Canal.

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There are gazebos along the walkway, adorned with 14th century Islamic motifs.

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The unmistakeable phrase praising Allah.

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Entrance to the Royal Hall at the end of the courtyard, and more 14th century Islamic engravings.

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This must have been splendidly colourful during its glory days.

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More decorations along the wall of the Royal Court. Remnants of colours give a hint on how grand it must have been.

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Exterior of the Royal Hall.

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View of the Court of the Main Canal from the Royal Hall entrance.

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I just can’t get tired of such decorations. They are simply intriguing.

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The spine of the ceiling of the Royal Hall.

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Calligraphy of the 14th century Andalusia.

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Even more decorative calligraphy on the pillar wall.

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This is an Andalusian invention if I’m not mistaken. Under certain lighting, the sculpted wall makes a very nice 3D effect. It’s called the Moc├írabe, Honeycomb work, or Stalactite work (Arabic al-halimat al-‘uliya for “the overhang”).

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The Sultana’s Court inside the Palace complex.

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The Water Stairway – a novel way of transporting water from the reservoir to the gardens below. The stairs take us to the highest point of Generalife.

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At the top of Generalife, a great view of Albayzin, the old Arab quarter of Granada, can be had.

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The High Gardens, as old as the Royal Palace.

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Excellent walk through Generalife, but time to leave.

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As we make our way out through the Low Gardens, Alhambra beckons.

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> THE END

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