The History of the Alhambra Palaces

The History of the Alhambra Palaces

 The History of the Alhambra Palaces

 

The Alhambra was so-called because of its reddish walls, in Arabic “qa’lat al-Hamra” means Red Castle. It is located on top of the hill al-Sabika, on the left bank of the river Darro, to the west of the city of Granada and in front of the neighborhoods of the Albaicin and of the Alcazaba.

The Alhambra is located on a strategic point, with a view over the whole city and the meadow La Vega, and this fact leads to believe that other buildings were already on that site before the Muslims arrived. The complex is surrounded by ramparts and has an irregular shape. It limits with the valley of the river Darro on its northern side, with the valley of al-Sabika on its southern side and with the street Cuesta del Rey Chico on the eastern side. The Cuesta del Rey Chico is also the border between the neighbourhood of the Albaicin and the gardens of the Generalife, located on top of the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol).

The first historical documents are known about the Alhambra date from the 9th century and they refer to Sawwar ben Hamdun who, in the year 889, had to seek refuge in the Alcazaba, a fortress, and had to repair it due to the civil rights that were destroying the Caliphate of Cordoba, to which Granada then belonged. This site subsequently started to be extended and populated, although not yet as much as it would be later on because the Ziri kings established their residence on the hill of the Albaicin.

Alhambra & Generalife Palaces

 

The castle of the Alhambra was added to the city’s area within the ramparts in the 9th century, which implied that the castle became a military fortress with a view over the whole city. In spite of this, it was not until the arrival of the first king of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed ben Al-Hamar (Mohammed I, 1238-1273), in the 13th century, that the royal residence was established in the Alhambra. This event marked the beginning of the Alhambra’s most glorious period.

First of all, the old part of the Alcazaba was reinforced and the Watch Tower (Torre de la Vela) and the Keep (Torre del Homenaje) were built. Water was canalized from the river Darro, warehouses and deposits were built and the palace and the ramparts were started. These two elements were carried on by Mohammed II (1273-1302) and Mohammed III (1302-1309), who apparently also built public baths and the Mosque (Mezquita), on the site of which the current Church of Saint Mary was later built.

 

Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391) are responsible for most of the constructions of the Alhambra that we can still admire today. From the improvements of the Alcazaba and the palaces, to the Patio of the Lions (Patio de los Leones) and its annexed rooms, including the extension of the area within the ramparts, the Justice Gate (Puerta de la Justicia), the extension and decoration of the towers, the building of the Baths (Baños), the Comares Room (Cuarto de Comares) and the Hall of the Boat (Sala de la Barca). Hardly anything remains from what the later Nasrid Kings did.

From the time of the Catholic Monarchs until today we must underline that Charles V ordered the demolition of a part of the complex in order to build the palace which bears his name.

We must also remember the construction of the Emperor’s Chambers (Habitaciones del Emperador) and the Queen’s Dressing Room (Peinador de la Reina) and that from the 18th century the Alhambra was abandoned. During the French domination part of the fortress was blown up and it was not until the 19th century that the process of repairing, restoring and preserving the complex started and is still maintained nowadays.

Wonder What to See & Do in Granada?

Wonder What to See & Do in Granada?

Wonder What to See & Do in Granada?

Granada has one of the most fascinating histories and cultures in all of Spain. As you’d expect, then, the city is packed with attractions and monuments to explore – from the great Alhambra fortress and old Moorish neighborhood of Albaicín to amazing street art, great tapas bars and a joyful annual fiesta.

 

The Alhambra Palaces

Granada’s star attraction and one of Andalusia’s most iconic sights is the Alhambra fortress. The greatest surviving relic of southern Spain’s 800 years under Moorish rule, between the 8th and 15th centuries, this sprawling complex sits forbiddingly atop the Darro Valley, with the crisp peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the background. Originally dating from the 9th century, the fort and walls were extensively rebuilt in the 1200s by the Moorish ruler of what was then the Emirate of Granada, Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar. Particularly beautiful are the Nasrid palaces; built by the Nasrid Kings – the last Moorish rulers of Granada – during the 13th and 14th centuries, which feature some of the Alhambra’s most intricate interiors.

 

The Generalife Palace

The Generalife functioned as the Alhambra’s Summer Palace, with its exquisite gardens providing a cool haven for the sultans during the furnace of Andalusian summers. Narrow paths run alongside delicate flowerbeds and ponds so still that the elegant archways and whitewashed walls – which separated the palace’s vegetable gardens – are perfectly replicated in the water.

An external walkway connecting the Generalife’s north and south sides provides a stunning view of the old Arabic neighborhood of Albaicín. Indeed, Albaicín itself is one of the most impressive sights in the city when viewed from the turrets and windows of the Alhambra and Generalife.

If you’re at the top of the hill to visit the Alhambra, don’t go back down without first wandering around the Carmen de Los Martires gardens, one of the city’s most attractive green spaces.

Because the majority of visitors head straight for the Alhambra, this lovely haven of flowerbeds, small ponds and leafy paths is only ever sparsely populated with guests. In spring and summer, its shaded walkways provide a sanctuary from the powerful sun, and its views of the landscape beyond Granada give a sense of space that can be lacking in the cramped city center. A fairytale tower sits in the middle of this verdant oasis; climb up its small spiral staircase and survey the gardens and Granada from the city’s most romantic viewpoint.

No visit to Granada would be complete without a visit to its oldest neighborhood, the former Arabic quarter of Albaicin. This compact network of winding cobbled streets, whitewashed houses and jasmine-scented squares perches on the hillside the other side of the Darro River from the Alhambra. It requires a little exertion to reach the top of Albaicín, especially in spring or summer, but it will be energy well expended: the views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains from its most popular square, the Mirador San Nicolás, are some of the best in the city. There is also a lively flea market every Saturday morning on Plaza Larga, one of the barrio’s prettiest spaces.

 

Palacio de Dar al-Horra

 

One of Albaicín’s key architectural attractions is this elegant and understated Moorish palace. Its name means “Home of the Honest,” and it was the residence of the sultana Aixa, mother of Muhammad XII (known as Boabdil to the Spanish), the last Moorish King of Granada. In traditional Moorish style, its quarters and rooms are located on three levels around a central courtyard and pool, which provided shade and cool in the summer. Also, the remaining are parts of what were once extensive gardens and orchards. Aixa is reputed to have bitterly rebuked her son for losing Granada as they fled the conquered city in 1492; perhaps she didn’t just have the loss of the mighty Alhambra in mind as she did so.

 

 

Granada Cathedral

 

At the center of old Granada is the city’s great cathedral. Work on this imposing Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque structure began in 1518 and, although it took over 180 years and successive architects to build, it’s still not entirely finished: two 262-foot (80-meter) towers were originally planned, but only half of one was ever finished. The cathedral’s towering façade is largely the work of Granadino architect and artist Alonso Cano, who introduced Baroque features when he took over its design in 1652; Cano’s input further contributed to the intriguing mixture of styles that characterize this awesome structure.

 

 

Museum of Fine Arts

 

Granada’s leading art museum for classic works houses over 2,000 pieces, including a number of important religious paintings and sculptures dating from the 16th century onwards. Like the palace itself, this collection serves as a reminder of the Catholic conquest of Granada, and of successive Catholic monarchs’ attempts to stamp their own religion and identity on what had been Moorish territory for around eight hundred years. The museum also has a number of works by local artist Alonzo Cano, also an architect who designed the façade of Granada’s cathedral.

 

Sacromonte

 

Time has stood still in the rustic gypsy quarter of Sacromonte, one of Granada’s most distinctive attractions. Many locals still live in dappled white caves carved out of the rock, in which impromptu flamenco gatherings are held long into the night. There are also dwellings entirely improvised from scrap metal, wood, and cloth, in which a rusty bucket protected from view by a ragged old rug often passes for a bathroom (sometimes accompanied by a scrawled sign asking visitors not to take photos of these private spaces). Sacromonte is also Granada’s flamenco barrio, where you are always within earshot of the art’s distinctive, haunting sounds. If you want to go to a formal show, try Venta El Gallo, which also has a fabulous roof terrace.

 

 

The Abbey of the Sacromonte

 

High up in the untamed countryside above Granada’s gypsy quarter is the Abbey of Sacromonte, the neighborhood’s key historical attraction. This now-neglected 17th-century structure was built by Archbishop Pedro de Castro y Quiñones on a site that was supposedly the final resting place of Saint Caecilius, a martyr and Granada’s first bishop in the 1st century A.D. It was an inspired spot to choose, located so far above the city that the stillness and solitude feel almost like presence. For €4 you can visit some of the interiors and, best of all, the narrow, spooky Holy Caves that are annexed to the abbey.

 

 

Realejo Quarter

 

Street art by El Niño in Granada’s Realejo © Encarni Novillo

Realejo is Granada’s old Jewish quarter and one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods, the streets and squares of which reward aimless meandering. Particularly attractive is the Iglesia Santo Domingo – one of the more obscure churches in the city, yet one of the most beautiful, inside and out. The most dilapidated walls and building façades of Realejo also constitute a de facto art gallery, displaying the works of local spray-paint artist Raul Ruiz, also known as “El Niño.” El Niño’s incredible pictures lend Realejo an edgy, creative ambiance all of its own, and give you the wonderful feeling that you’ve discovered something no one else has.

This revealing collection of documents, sketches, and photographs is situated in a park on Granada’s southern edge that also bears the name of the city’s most famous son. Federico García Lorca was one of the most important Spanish writers of the 20th century, and the elegant townhouse that houses these artifacts is where the poet was born in 1898 and lived until he was 11. Lorca was murdered at the beginning of Spain’s devastating Civil War of 1936-39, and his exact burial spot – thought to be somewhere outside the boundaries of the city’s official cemetery – is still not known.

The Carrera del Darro is Granada’s prettiest street. Starting at Plaza Nueva and winding down towards Albaicín alongside the Darro River, it is lined with centuries-old buildings rising up from the riverbank, their worn façades covered (in spring and summer) by lush creepers and colorful blossom. As you stroll along, peer over the ancient stone wall to see the Darro River gently flowing between verdant banks; here, the river passes under two of the oldest surviving bridges in Granada, and remnants of a few more that used to connect Albaicin with the Alhambra.

 

 

El Bañuelo Baths

 

Tucked away underneath a private house about halfway along the Carrera del Darro are the oldest and best-preserved Arabic baths in Spain. The Bañuelo dates from around the 11th century and its elegant Moorish archways and domed ceilings are still amazingly intact after a thousand years (although the baths themselves have long since vanished). Undoubtedly, after the Alhambra and the Generalife, this is the greatest surviving instance of Moorish architecture in Granada.

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Best things to do when visiting Alpujarras of Granada

Best things to do when visiting Alpujarras of Granada

The Alpujarras is a region of mountain towns and villages that lie on the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada, just one to two hour’s drive from the city of Granada in Andalusia. The area was made famous by Chris Stewart’s Driving Over Lemons series of novels about life in rural Spain, and manages to still retain much of its original and natural charm. The area is characterized by deep gorges, soaring peaks, gushing waterfalls and picturesque, white-washed villages. Here’s our roundup of where to go and what to see to make the best of your trip to this magnificent location.
Trevelez, Alpujarras | ©AndrewHurley

The Spa Town of Lanjarón

The spa town of Lanjarón is celebrated for its natural spring water and was actually home to Spain’s first bottled water company, which is still active today, selling bottled Alpujarran water throughout the country. On June 23rd, like most places in Spain, the town celebrates the Fiesta de San Juan, but instead of celebrating with fireworks, they have a giant water fight – the biggest in Spain. Starting at midnight for exactly one hour, the town goes mad, spraying each other from bottles, hoses, water pistols and even fire engines. If you’re not here for the fiesta you can explore the ruins of the town’s Moorish castle and relax in the Balneario de Lanjarón spa, where you can enjoy everything from bubbling pools and massages to mud baths and steam rooms.

Balneario de Lanjarón © ViolainePeyramond
Balneario de Lanjarón | © ViolainePeyramond

Go Hiking

The Alpujarras are ideal for walking and hiking enthusiasts, with many trails and routes throughout the area, and higher into the Sierra Nevada National Park. Many of the best hikes leave from the villages of Trevélez and Bubión and can lead to beautiful waterfalls or lookout points. Those serious about hiking and mountain climbing can challenge themselves by scaling Mulhacén, the highest mountain in mainland Spain.

Buy an Alpujarran Rug

Driving through many of the Alpujarran villages, you’ll see swathes of colorfully hand-woven woolen rugs for sale, hanging outside shopfronts along the roadside. A traditional handicraft from the region, they make an original souvenir from your trip. Other typical handicrafts from the Alpujarras include woven baskets and ceramics.

Rugs in Pampaneira ©MarthadeJong-Lantink
Rugs in Pampaneira | ©MarthadeJong-Lantink

Visit the White Villages of the Poqueria Gorge

The three White Villages of the Poqueria Gorge – Pampaneira, Bubión and Capileira – are among the most picturesque in the Alpujarras, filled with white-washed houses, charming little churches, shops selling traditional handicrafts and outdoor cafés. Pampaneira is the lowest of the three and is home to many cute shops, including Abuela Ili, an artisanal chocolate shop, and factory. Bubión is the next village, an ideal starting place for hikes and also home to the Casa Alpujarreña folk museum. Capileira is the highest village of the three and has many vestiges of its Moorish past, as well as a church built on the site of an old mosque. To learn more about the village and the area, visit the Museo Etnológico Pedro Antonio Alarcón.

Go Skiing

The Alpujarras lie on the slopes for the Sierra Nevada, home to one of Spain’s most popular ski areas, so if you’re here from the end of November until April, then make sure to hit the slopes at the Pradollano ski resort. Pros can whizz their way down the pistes, while those who want to learn can take a lesson provided by one of the ski schools on site.

Sierra Nevada ski resort ©Emijrp
Muslim Travelers top destinations in Spain

Muslim Travelers top destinations in Spain

Muslim Travelers top destinations in Spain

Officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state located on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe; the world’s most popular tourist destination. Below are some of the popular cities for you to plan your next Halal Trip to Spain with the best the country has to offer.

 

Madrid

Madrid, known as the capital of Spain, is the most visited city. It offers art and possesses modern infrastructure that includes the Royal palace and the Puerta del Sol. With a sizeable Muslim population living in the city, you can look forward to enjoy all sorts of Muslim-friendly Restaurants, serving a variety of cuisines ranging from Middle Eastern to Indian fare, that must not be missed. As far as prayer facilities go, Muslim tourists looking for a Halal-friendly travel to Spain should pay a visit to the Madrid Central Mosque and another well-known mosque is the Islamic Cultural Center in Madrid, famously known as the largest mosque in Europe.

 

Barcelona

Barcelona is the capital city of Catalonia, and the second most populous municipality of Spain. Some of the stunning attractions includes The Montjuic hill, Guell palace, Placa Reial, Casa Batllo, Casa Amatller, La pedrera, and La Rambla. There are also plenty of Muslim friendly Restaurants ranging from authentic Spanish Cuisine to Middle Eastern, Pakistani, Indian, Lebanese, and French dishes,  so there is definitely something for everyone! And if you are ever in need of a place to pray, do visit Masjid Tariq Ibn Ziyad; the largest mosque and most well-known in the city, The Islamic Centre Of Barcelona is also another place that has facilities, for Muslims to perform their prayers at.

 

Cordoba

Cordoba is the capital province of Cordoba that offers years of history and a fantastic mix of several cultures. The ancient quarter of city is also home to the beautiful mosque of Cordoba. Both Islamic Cultural Center of Cordoba and Islamic University, have prayer areas that visitors can use. Not to mention, several Halal restaurants are also available to dine at. The city is particularly famous for its kebabs, Turkish, Middle Eastern and Indian Cuisines that are available in abundance at Muslim-friendly Restaurants. You will be back here for more, we guarantee it!

 

Granada

Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Having been designated a UNESCO world heritage site, it is amongst the moststunning historic towns in the world that has a lot to offer. Due to  large Muslim population living in the city,  locating Halal food will not prove tobe difficult, as there is a number of Moroccan Restaurants and cafes found across the city. The tapas, spanish omelettes, Pollo con Tomate and Migas Al-Pujarrenas are a must-try. Muslim travellers looking for a Muslim-friendly trip to Spain should also drop by the Great Masjid of Granada that is located at the heart of Al-Hambra.

 

 

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Discover the Islamic architecture of Spain

Discover the Islamic architecture of Spain

Top sites to discover the Islamic architecture of Spain

 

The Alhambra Palaces

Credit: Nathan Rupert on Flickr

When you hear the name Alhambra, somehow the name itself gives you a certain excitement, as the place seems mystical and adventurous. Who would not be in awe of such an amazing place that’s rich in history and culture? The best thing is that it was influenced by various civilizations, especially the Muslim civilization.

Just to prove to you how important Alhambra is, I’ll give you a short overview of its history (don’t sleep!). According to historical documents, in the year 889, Sawwar ben Hemdun needed to seek refuge in a fortress called Alcazaba, which Muslims then had to rebuild due to the struggles that had taken place.

The castle then soon turned into a military fortress due to its strategic position as it overlooked the whole city. When the first King of the Nasrid dynasty administered Cordoba, he then established the royal residence in Alhambra. Yusuf I and Mohamed V are the ones responsible for most of the construction in Alhambra that still remains until today. However, when Cordoba fell into the hands of the Catholics, Charles V wanted to rebuild parts of the castle in his name and therefore built several new areas such as the Emperor’s Chambers and the Queen’s Dressing Room.

There are so many amazing things to see in Alhambra! From the Alcazaba and the palaces, Patio of the Lions, the Justice Gate, the building of the Baths, to the Comares Room and the Hall of the Boat, it will take you 3-4 hours just to finish your tour!

Like any other major tourist attraction, visiting Alhambra can be a little overwhelming. If you plan to visit this amazing place during peak hours (like in the Summer), then you will definitely need to plan ahead (some people book the tour and entry tickets 90 days in advance). But if you plan to visit in the winter, then there shouldn’t be a problem.

Here’s the break down of the information that you will find helpful:

Ticket costs: 15,40 € (15.40 €)
Telephone:  Phone in Spain: 902 88 80 01 | International number: +34 958 926 031
Website

Tip: When you purchase your ticket, you need to indicate when you would like to visit, either in the morning, afternoon or evening. In addition to that, there will be a time printed on the ticket that shows you what time you can enter the Nasrid Palace. IT IS NOT THE TIME FOR YOU TO START THE GENERAL TOUR. If you are late to enter the Nasrid Palace, you will not be allowed to enter. The management is really strict about this!

 

Cordoba Mosque  

Credit: Steve James on Flickr

The Great Mosque of Cordoba is known for its bold architecture and size, as many of the buildings and structures during the Umayyad Caliphate were established to rival those in Constantinople. So can you imagine, how grand it is? It was one of the biggest mosques after the Holy Mosque in Mecca and the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. Its architecture is very different and majestic, which symbolizes Muslims’ power and influence in the West at the time.

Historically, the design and architecture of the Cordoba Mosque is known to be very unique because it symbolizes the unity and harmony that existed between Muslims, Jews and Christians. Initially, Abdul Rahman I purchased half of the Cathedral to enable the Muslim community to perform their prayers. Not long after that, he then purchased the other half to build a new mosque. Later in the 16th century, a cathedral was built right in the middle of the mosque, hence the name ‘Mezquita-Catedral’.

When you visit the Cordoba Mosque, you will notice that there are many distinct and bold arches, also known as the horseshoe arch, which was the first Muslim arch adaption used in the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus. Sadly, Alhambra was abandoned in the 18thcentury and it was not until the 19th century when the Government decided to repair and preserve this historical place.

Address: Calle Cardenal Herrero
Telephone: +34 957 47 05 12
Website
Entrance fees:
Day Rate – Fee for adults: 8 € , kids 4 €. Below 10 years: FREE
Night Rate – Fee for adults: 18 €, Students under 26: 9 €, Children 7 to 9 years: 9 €. Below 7 years: FREE
Opening hours: Monday – Saturday, 8.30 am – 9.30 am

Cathedral of Seville and old Minaret La Giralda

Credit: alanandchucktravelblog

The Cathedral of Seville, or more officially known as Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral, is known as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.  It was and still is, one of the biggest gothic cathedrals in the world.

It was the capital city of the Umayyad Caliphate from the 8th to the 13th centuries. However, when Seville was conquered by the Christians in the 12th century, they decided to use the mosque as a church. They then decided to knock down parts of the church and rebuild it as the church was beginning to decay.

There’s a saying that the developers actually had the ambition to build a humongous church to let the future generation believe that “they were mad”. The area of the whole cathedral is 11,520 m2 (really big!) so you might want to bring a bottle of water with you when you get there. Also, maybe it’s best that you have a full stomach or at least some snacks in hand just in case you get really hungry. You don’t want to rush your visit to the Cathedral!

Opening Hours:
Monday: 11.00 am – 3.30 pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 11.00 am – 5.00 pm
Sunday: 2.30 pm – 6.00 pm
Entrance fees: €9
Telephone: +902099692
Website

4. Alcazar

Credit: Camino al paraiso on Facebook 

 If there’s one reason you should visit Alcazar, it’s because it has been recognized as UNESCO’s World Heritage in 1987. Just look at the pictures and you will understand why this site is one of the most visited sites in Seville.

Alcazar was built by Spanish governors in 913 as a fort but when Muslims conquered Spain, they turned it into a palace. As different rulers lived in the castle, many of them also made major changes to the castle, mostly expanding it. The highlight of the castle is its intricate carvings on the stonewalls and the beautiful gardens!

Credit: Archigeek on Flickr

Alcazar is still one of the oldest European Royal Palaces that is still in use. If you’re tired of looking at architechture and décor, you can always partake in various activities that are held there, organized by the Royal Alcazar Board of Patronage and the Town Hall.

Timetable:
October – March:  Daily, 9.30 am to 5.00 pm
April – September: Daily, 9.30 am to 7.00 pm
Closed on the 1st and 6th January, Good Friday and the 25th of December.
Entrance fees: Regular ticket: 9.50 €
Website

 

 5. The Viana Palace

If you’re into architecture and interior design, then you should definitely check out Palace of Viana (Palacio d Viana). This palace was home to Marquiasate of Villasica, which was built in the 15th century. When you visit this noble home, you’ll be able to see and experience the traditional home of aristocrats. The interior is so exquisite and different, you will feel as though you travelled back in time! Back in the day, many of the elites enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle, which was reflected in their ornaments like tapestries, paintings and porcelains. I always enjoy visiting traditional homes whenever I’m abroad because it really adds something personal to the trip. Also, this site is slightly less crowded than the rest, so it’s a nice change of atmosphere.

Credit: Stan Clarke on Facebook 

The highlights of the palace are the courtyard and garden, which are built in the palace itself—allowing you to have an indoor garden! Gardens have always been an important aspect in every Muslim home, because plants, animals and insects are believed to be a blessing from God and creating a garden within the home reflects the idea that humans should use the environment ethically (this concept also inspired Western architecture and design).

Credit: migossan on Flickr

Having an indoor garden is amazing because you can actually enjoy nature and a change of environment with privacy (No hijab on? No problem!) Have new ideas to build your house now? Well, you should definitely get inspired and build your own indoor garden (That’s what my mom did, actually. It’s a lot of fun because I don’t have to worry about proper clothing whenever I need some herbs for cooking 😁) .  Below are the details of the palace:

Address: Plaza de Don Gome 2
Telephone: +957 49 67 41
Website
Operation hours:
Monday Closed
Tuesday to Friday 10.00 am to 7.00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10.00 am to 3.00 pm
Entrance fees:
Full visit : 8€
Patios only visit: 5€
Children under 10: Free

 

6. Madinat al Zahra

Credit: M a n u e l on Flickr 

Madinat al Zahra literally means the city of Zahra, which is situated just outside of Cordoba. As a tourist, you’ll be able to visit several amazing places such as the Edificio Basilical Superior, which functioned as offices for many state officers as well as Casa de Yafar, which was also home to the Caliph’s prime minister. The size of the city is huge, built on acres and acres of beautiful land.

Credit:-JvL- on Flickr

7. Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz (Mosque of Christ of the Light)

This building is so beguiling right from its name. With its origins having dated back from the 10th century, its one of the classic Moorish monuments to still stand proud today. During the 12th century, it was turned into a Catholic church, but it’s the only mosque out of the ten in Toledo that continues to exist till today. Look out for the Arabic inscription on the south-west end that enlists the history of how the mosque came about. Though the mosque is not as grand as the Cordoba Mosque, this slice of ancient architecture is an interesting amalgam of cultures.

Credit: Toledo Monumental on Facebook 

The interior may not boasts a majestic front, but the pillars and horseshoe arches form nine different sections, each offering intricate geometrical designs. While many may scratch their heads at the unusual history that derives from this building, it also exhibits the co-existence of two religions.

Credit: Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz on Facebook 

[P.S Wish to discover Toledo, Spain’s hidden gem? We got you covered!] 

 

Calahorra Tower

Originally built by the Moors and later re-instated by King Enrique II in 1369, a third tower was added to the vaulted gate to connect the existing two. Cross through the Roman bridge and head to the tower which houses the Museum on Islamic Spain. Hear the story of Christians, Muslims and Jews living in amicable peace during that reign.

Credit: Steve James on Flickr 

The monumental treasure right now was previously used as a defence border from attacks, then a prison and a girls’ school. On top of immersing yourself in the heritage this place offers, the museum preserves artifacts that showcase the lives of three distinct religions through documents and pictures, giving you an inside look into the coexistence that took place before.

 

Credit: Ysa Gohh on Facebook

 

 

Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo

Before it was a cathedral, the place that stood in its area was the city’s main mosque. While the mosque was demolished thereafter, you can still see the same minaret that the muezzin used for the call to prayer back in those days.

If you’re in the area, stop by and marvel at the architecture, which shows the guise of Muslims living under the Christians ruling during that period.

When you visit the city, it is impossible not to feel amazed by what was left by the Umayyad Caliphate. The Muslim Civilizations were able to conquer vast lands and obtain political power not just because they had a strong army, but because many of its leaders and scholars understood and lived by Islamic teachings as well studied languages, science, math and technology. That is something that always crosses my mind whenever I travel and visit historic countries like Spain.

You’ll also get a glimpse of how a city was intricately planned by the Umayyad Caliphate. Whether or not you’re an archaeologist, architect or a history nerd, you will definitely appreciate touring the city as it will allow you to understand how Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in peace and tolerance. It gives me hope that peaceful inter-religious and multi-ethnic relations can still exist, despite all the negativity that we hear 😊

Address: Carretera Palma del Río Km 5.5
Telephone: +34 957 10 49 33
Website: http://www.museosdeandalucia.es
Operation hours:
Monday: Closed
Tuesday – Saturday: 10.00 am – 8.30 pm
Sunday: 10.00 am – 2.00 pm
Entrance fees:
EU member: free
Non-EU: 1.5 €

 

When to go?

Summer (June-August)

The peak season is usually summer and therefore it’s the hottest time in Spain. It’s best not to go during this time due to the hot weather and the hike in accommodation prices.

 

Spring/Fall (March-April/October-November)

This is actually the best time to go. The weather is just nice, not too hot and not too cold (14°– 21°). Also, there aren’t that many tourists at these times so that means shorter queues!

 

Winter (November – February)

This is the low season. It’s generally cold in Spain. If you plan to visit the tourist destinations, please make sure their operation hours first.

The Best Arabic Restaurants in Granada, Spain

The Best Arabic Restaurants in Granada, Spain

Boasting as it does a rich Moorish heritage, Granada is home to some fantastic Arabic restaurants, serving everything from Moroccan to Lebanese cuisine. Read on for our pick of the best Arabic places to eat in this enchanting Andalusian city. Written by Mark Nayler  

ARRAYANES

Restaurant, Moroccan, $$$ Located on a hidden side street in the heart of Granada’s Moorish quarter, Restaurante Arrayanes may make you temporarily forget that you’re in Spain. The street itself and the beautiful interior decoration are heavy with North African influence, while the kitchen serves some of the best Moroccan food in Granada. Standout dishes are the beef tagine and the hummus. Wed – Mon:1:30 pm – 4:30 pmWed – Thu:7:30 pm – 11:30 pm4 Calle Cuesta Marañas, Granada, Spain+34958228401

PUERTA DE SYRIA

Restaurant, Middle Eastern, $$$ Refresh yourself with a delicious homemade lemonade at Puerta de Syria | © zuzi99 / Pixabay
As its name suggests, this cosy restaurant is the place to come if you’re after authentic Syrian cuisine when in Granada. Given that all the food here is freshly prepared and beautifully presented, the prices are excellent, with most mains coming in at around €6–€7 (US $7–$8). Customers also love the friendly service and the homemade lemonade.MORE INFOMon – Sun:12:00 pm – 12:00 am56 Calle Elvira, Granada, Spain

LIBANÉS SAMARKANDA

Restaurant, Middle Eastern, $$$ Try the falafel at Libanés Samarkanda Located in one of the busiest areas of Granada, Libanés Samarkanda is a great place to come if you’re after a Lebanese meal while sightseeing. The kitchen serves a range of fresh and tasty dishes – the falafel and lamb-based mains are delicious – which can be enjoyed in an intimate interior or out on the small terrace. Don’t leave without trying a refreshing glass of ayran – a mix of yoghurt, water and salt.MORE INFOThu – Tue:1:00 pm – 4:30 pmThu – Tue:7:30 pm – 11:00 pm5 Calle Calderería Vieja, Granada, Spain+34958210004

BABEL WORLD FUSION

Restaurant, Fusion, $$$ Babel is a trendy restaurant that’s very popular with students and artists. Although its menu isn’t limited to Arabic cuisine, there is always a good selection of such dishes available, including spicy pork and lamb skewers, tagines and hummus. The rest of the menu features dishes from all over the world and offers a great choice for vegans and vegetarians. Arrive early to get a table.MORE INFOMon – Sun:1:00 pm – 4:00 pmMon – Sun:8:00 pm – 12:00 am41 Calle Elvira, Granada, Spain+34958227896

LA MANCHA CHICA CHAOEN

Restaurant, Moroccan, $$$ This small restaurant boasts a premium location near a square from which you can enjoy some of the most spectacular views in Granada. Its star mains are the pork tagine, which repeatedly leaves customers lost for words (in a good way), and the couscous options, particularly the chicken dish. It’s a real family-run establishment with a cosy, welcoming ambience.MORE INFO1 Camino Nuevo de San Nicolás, Granada, Spain+34958202623

EL SULTÁN

Restaurant, Moroccan, $$$ Arabic restaurant El Sultán is one of the best-value restaurants in Granada’s touristic centre. The menu del día, in particular, takes some beating in this part of the city: for €11 (just under US $13), you receive two courses, a generous helping of pitta bread, a drink and tea. Also highly recommended are the pork tagine and the hummus, which is served with a refreshing salad.MORE INFOMon – Sun:1:00 pm – 4:30 pmMon – Sun:7:30 pm – 11:30 pm10 Calle Cetti Meriem, Granada, Spain+34958222156

MARCHICA SHAWARMA

Restaurant, Middle Eastern, $$$ If you’re hunting for a kebab after a night out in Granada, there’s no need to slum it. Marchica – located on a street in the centre that feels as if it’s been transplanted straight out of Morocco – does the best shawarmas (grilled meat wraps) in the city. Especially delicious are the chicken and beef varieties, which are also cheaper than at similar establishments nearby.MORE INFOWed – Mon:12:00 pm – 11:59 am72 Calle Elvira, Granada, Spain+34603399306