Granada Al-Andalus: Muslim Spain Last Kingdom

Granada Al-Andalus: Muslim Spain Last Kingdom

It was the moment which set Spain on a course to become the greatest power in early modern Europe. On January 2, 1492 Abdallah Muhammad bin Ali, or Muhammad XII, known as Boabdil, the last Moorish sultan of Granada and head of the Nasrid dynasty, surrendered his city and handed over the keys of the Alhambra to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. The Christian rulers had approached Granada accompanied by the cardinal of Spain, Francisco Cisneros, and a brilliant retinue of courtiers and noblemen, among whom was Christopher Colombus.

All the Christian royalty and knighthood wore Moorish dress, brocade and silk tunics and the waist sash or marlota, in a gesture of apparent respect, a visual statement to placate, reassure and suggest commonality. In reality, it was more an act of insolent appropriation and absorption of what was Moorish by the enemy. It was a gesture that epitomized the aggressively hostile ethos of the Reconquest, which manifested itself in a latent desire to usurp and eliminate that culture and religion. That desire finally became a reality in 1609, when all Moriscos or converted Muslims were expelled from Spain.

Boabdil rode out to meet them, departing from the Gate of Seven Floors at the Alhambra, down steep slopes offering magnificent views of the city he was about to leave forever. At this official, public surrender of Granada to the Christian enemy, Boabdil handed the keys of his city to Ferdinand, and was recorded as saying in Arabic: “God loves you greatly. Sir, these are the keys of this paradise. I and those inside it are yours.”

Struggle and diplomacy

This moment of surrender has captured the imagination of writers and artists up to the present day – initially as one of supreme conquest and later because of the extreme poignancy of that ceremony of transition and loss. It marked a crucial encounter in a centuries-old clash between two great religions and cultures and symbolized the epoch-changing transition of the kingdom of Granada from Islamic state to Christian territory.

In the ten years before 1492, the kingdom of Granada was the theater of one of the most significant wars in European history. The Nasrid sultan’s territory was the last Spanish stronghold of a great Muslim empire which had originally stretched to the Pyrenees and beyond, and had included northern Spanish cities such as Barcelona and Pamplona. The fall of Granada was the culmination of that ancient battle between two major and opposing civilizations, which not only settled the cultural fate of a large part of Europe but also established the basis for the discovery of the Americas.


The departure of Boabdil’s Family from the Alhambra (1492). Manuel Gómez-Moreno (1880)

In that last decade of Muslim rule in Spain from 1482-92, sultan Boabdil – a raw youth of 20 who had barely left the confines of the Alhambra palace and had no experience of the world outside his dysfunctional family – rose to the throne as the 23rd of the Nasrid dynasty of Granada. In the ensuing ten years, he fended off the attacks of the indomitable Christian army with courage, bearing the inescapable loss of his Islamic kingdom and his consequent exile from Spain with dignity. Boabdil broke the mould of previous Muslim rulers in preferring negotiation over violence, peace with the Christians over war, and strove to find a way for the Muslims of his kingdom to maintain their religion and customs alongside their Christian counterparts.

As I have discussed in a recent book on the subject, the last Muslim sultan in Spain has become a potent symbol of resistance against repression, and of the forces of rebellion – a moral hero in his own right whose life matters today because he sought to save his kingdom and way of life through the path of negotiation and diplomacy.

End of days

The year 1492 is generally seen as a beginning, whether of modern Spain or the discovery of the New World. But what had ended was equally significant. For nearly 800 years, since 711, the Spanish peninsula had been home to a group of people who came as invaders and stayed to create a unique and sophisticated civilization which bequeathed to Spain a lasting cultural heritage. One thing that was lost was the fertile cross-cultural creativity and renewal born out of the Muslim conquest.






Expulsion of the Moriscos at the port of Dénia. Vincente Mostre (1613)

The sometimes uneasy coexistence of Christians, Muslims and Jews which had been such a significant part of medieval Spanish life was replaced by the serious confrontations and conflicts leading to the expulsion of the Moriscos in 1609. Instead of a society where members of three different religions lived together, Spain after 1492 became a society with a sole religion and language, a closed, suspicious place that repressed and eliminated difference.

The story of Boabdil and the fall of Granada represents a last stand against religious intolerance, fanatical power and cultural ignorance, in which issues of violence, tension and prejudice between Muslims and Christians were as pressing then as they are now.

Source: Islamicity


Sacromonte Quarter

Sacromonte Quarter

The Sacromonte is a neighborhood won to the rock. It was born 500 years ago to give shelter to the persecuted and ended up sacralizing itself under the cover of a legend. Its streets, which disappear abruptly at the edge of a pit or communicate by whitewashed staircases, still give the appearance of that Muslim village where the mixture of accents, rhythms and dances ended up merging into the current flamenco.

The best in a day
The ascent begins at the Casas del Chapiz, two Moorish palaces from the 16th century. In front of the statue of Chorrojumo, the gypsy patriarch whom the painter Manuel Fortuny immortalized. A little later, the Zambra de María la Canastera, converted into a museum, is worth a visit.

You can stop at Casa Juanillo to try its famous tortilla, and head to the Museo Cuevas del Sacromonte, which recreates the habitat and lifestyle of the neighborhood. The Ethnological Museum of Gypsy Women also provides an interesting view of this ethnic group. You should arrive at the last guided tour of the Sacromonte Abbey, at 18.00, to be amazed by the impressive history of the place.

It is a privilege to go down with the sunset over the Alhambra. The Sale El Gallo is a good place to recharge; and after dinner, you can visit different caves, such as Los Tarantos, which offers flamenco zambras that end at an appropriate time.

Corral del Carbón

Corral del Carbón

Corral del Carbón, called al-fundaq al-yadida in Arabic, meaning New Corn Exchange, was constructed in the first half of the 14th century, functioning as a storehouse and point of sale for wheat, as well as accommodation for the merchants who brought it to Granada.

After the end of Al-Andalus in the 16th century would become a theatrical courtyard and in the 17th century, it was also a neighbors’ courtyard, the rooms of the lower floor being used to store coal, from which its current name is taken.

In 1887, it was declared a National Monument, miraculously saved from profiteering. Corral del Carbón was then a house inhabited by 36 families. In the first third of the 20th century, Leopoldo Torres Balbás acquired it for 128,000 pesetas from the sale of tickets to the Alhambra, restoring it between 1929 and 1931.

Corral del Carbón is accessed by a single door which imitates those of the eastern Iwanes, with a large, acute horseshoe arch of scalloped brick, with arabesque spandrels carved from plaster. Over the door is surah 112 of the Quran “God is one, God is Eternal, He neither begets nor is born, nor to Him is there any equivalent” and has two double windows, one on the first floor and another on the upper floor, topped with beautiful eaves with a large overhang, supported by corbels angled upwards.

Behind the facade, the hallway, which takes up the space of the first two floors, has a beautiful ceiling of and two blind arches on each side, with seats. The interior of the corn exchange, centered around a large, almost square patio with a pillar, was divided between three floors. The lower floor was for goods and pack animals, and the two upper floor, each with 22 small rooms, with lamps but without beds, with only large mats, were the rooms in which the merchants slept, wrapped in large cloaks. Through two different pipes in the central pillar of the patio, water flowed from the Darro river, arriving from the Romayla canal, and from the Genil river, arriving from an urban branch of the Gorda canal.

The floors are supported by stone pillars on the ground floor, and brick on the upper floors, with wooden footings very similar to those that the Maristán had. There were no windows in the whole building, to prevent the goods being stolen, and for which the corn exchange master (fundeqayr) was responsible, who lived in the rooms over the door, monitoring the arrival and departure of goods, Its only door was hermetically closed at sunset, the merchants not being able to leave until dawn. Just before sunset, they were told to gather their property and animals, opening the doors afterwards, thereby preventing anyone from taking what was not theirs.

Hall of Abencerrajes in Palace of the Lions

Hall of Abencerrajes in Palace of the Lions

This is the stunning centrepiece of the Alhambra, the most brilliant Islamic building in Europe, with perfectly proportioned rooms and courtyards, intricately moulded stucco walls, beautiful tiling, fine carved wooden ceilings and elaborate stalactite-like muqarnas vaulting, all worked in mesmerising, symbolic, geometrical patterns. Arabic inscriptions proliferate in the stucco work.

Admission to the palacios (included in the Alhambra ticket) is strictly controlled. When you buy your ticket, you'll be given a time to enter. Once inside, you can stay as long as you like.

The palace was originally divided into three main areas: the Mexuar, the administrative and public part of the complex; the Palacio Comares, the emir’s official residence; and the Palacio de los Leones, his private quarters.

Entrance is through the Mexuar, a 14th-century room used as a ministerial council chamber and antechamber for those awaiting audiences with the emir. The public would have gone no further.

From the Mexuar you pass into the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, a courtyard where the emirs gave audiences, with the Cuarto Dorado (Golden Room) on the left. Opposite the Cuarto Dorado is the entrance to the Palacio de Comares through a beautiful facade of glazed tiles, stucco and carved wood.

Built for Emir Yusuf I, the Palacio de Comares served as his official residence. It's set around the lovely Patio de los Arrayanes (Patio of the Myrtles) with its rectangular pool. The southern end of the patio is overshadowed by the walls of the Palacio de Carlos V. Inside the northern Torre de Comares (Comares Tower), the Sala de la Barca (Hall of the Blessing) leads into the Salón de los Embajadores (Chamber of the Ambassadors), where the emirs would have conducted negotiations with Christian emissaries. This room's marvellous domed marquetry ceiling contains more than 8000 cedar pieces in a pattern of stars representing the seven heavens of Islam.

The Patio de los Arrayanes leads into the Palacio de los Leones (Palace of the Lions), built in the second half of the 14th century under Muhammad V. The palace rooms surround the famous Patio de los Leones (Lion Courtyard), with its marble fountain channelling water through the mouths of 12 marble lions. The courtyard layout, using the proportions of the golden ratio, demonstrates the complexity of Islamic geometric design – the 124 slender columns that support the ornamented pavilions are placed in such a way that they are symmetrical on numerous axes.

Of the four halls around the patio, the southern Sala de los Abencerrajes is the most spectacular. Boasting a mesmerising octagonal stalactite ceiling, this is the legendary site of the murders of the noble Abencerraj family, whose leader, the story goes, dared to dally with Zoraya, Abu al-Hasan's favourite concubine. The rusty stains in the fountain are said to be the victims’ indelible blood. At the eastern end of the patio is the Sala de los Reyes (Hall of the Kings) with a leather-lined ceiling painted by 14th-century Christian artists. The name comes from the painting on the central alcove, thought to depict 10 Nasrid emirs. On the northern side of the patio is the richly decorated Sala de Dos Hermanas (Hall of Two Sisters), probably named after the slabs of white marble flanking its fountain. It features a fantastic muqarnas dome with a central star and 5000 tiny cells, reminiscent of the constellations. This may have been the room of the emir's favourite paramour. At its far end, the tile-trimmed Mirador de Daraxa (Daraxa lookout) was a lovely place for palace denizens to look onto the garden below.

From the Sala de Dos Hermanas a passage leads through the Estancias del Emperador (Emperor's Chambers), built for Carlos I in the 1520s, and later used by the American author Washington Irving. From here, descend to the Patio de la Reja (Patio of the Grille) and Patio de Lindaraja before emerging into the Jardines del Partal, an area of terraced gardens. Leave the Partal gardens by a gate facing the Palacio de Carlos V, or continue along a path to the Generalife.

The Palacios Nazaríes are also open for night visits.

An Islamic Tour of Granada

An Islamic Tour of Granada

Embark on a mesmerizing journey through the enchanting city of Granada, where the echoes of its Islamic past reverberate through its streets, architecture, and culture. This SEO-friendly Islamic tour of Granada invites you to explore the rich history, breathtaking landmarks, and spiritual significance that define the city’s Islamic heritage.

Tour Summary

Granada’s Islamic Legacy: Unveiling the Alhambra Palace

Unravel the Alhambra’s significance in Islamic history.
Explore the intricate designs of the Nasrid Palaces.
Witness the stunning Generalife Gardens.

Albaicín: The Moorish Quarter’s Charms

Wander through the narrow streets of Albaicín.
Admire the Alcazaba Cadima’s remains.
Experience the captivating Mirador de San Nicolás.

Islamic Art and Architecture at the Madrasah Yusufiyya

Delve into the architectural marvel of Madrasah Yusufiyya.
Appreciate the fusion of Islamic and Spanish styles.

Spiritual Haven: Granada’s Historic Mosques

Visit the Grand Mosque of Granada.
Learn about its role in preserving Islamic heritage.

Halal Culinary Delights: Exploring Islamic Gastronomy

Indulge in authentic Andalusian halal cuisine.
Discover the flavors that shaped Granada’s Islamic past.

Islamic Heritage Walk: Tracing the Steps of History

Follow a guided walking tour of significant sites.
Immerse yourself in the stories of the past.

Granada’s Islamic Legacy: Unveiling the Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra Palace stands as a testament to Granada’s Islamic heritage. Immerse yourself in the captivating Nasrid Palaces, where intricate Islamic designs adorn every surface. Discover the delicate beauty of the Court of Lions, with its iconic fountain representing paradise. Stroll through the Generalife Gardens, which offer resplendent views of the Alhambra and showcase the harmonious connection between architecture and nature.

Albaicín: The Moorish Quarter’s Charms

Step back in time as you traverse the charming labyrinth of Albaicín. Lose yourself in the authentic Moorish atmosphere as you explore the remains of the Alcazaba Cadima, a fortress that once guarded the city. Don’t miss the Mirador de San Nicolás, where you can gaze upon the Alhambra against the backdrop of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Islamic Art and Architecture at the Madrasah Yusufiyy

The Madrasah Yusufiyya stands as a masterpiece of Islamic art and architecture. Marvel at the intricate stucco decorations and geometric patterns that adorn its walls. The fusion of Islamic and Spanish elements in its design is a testament to the city’s cultural diversity.

Spiritual Haven: Granada’s Historic Mosques

Pay homage to Granada’s Islamic heritage by visiting the Grand Mosque of Granada. This spiritual sanctuary serves as a beacon for the city’s Muslim community, offering a place of worship and reflection. Learn about the mosque’s vital role in preserving Islamic traditions in Granada.

Islamic Heritage Walk: Tracing the Steps of History

Embark on a guided Islamic heritage walk through Granada’s historic sites. Listen to expert guides as they transport you back in time, sharing stories of the city’s Islamic past. Immerse yourself in the captivating narrative that unfolds through its architecture, streets, and landmarks.

Unveil the hidden treasures of Granada’s Islamic heritage through this captivating tour. From the awe-inspiring Alhambra to the charming streets of Albaicín, every corner of the city carries the echoes of its rich history. Embrace the fusion of cultures, art, and spirituality that define Granada, and immerse yourself in an unforgettable experience that celebrates its Islamic legacy.

Halal Culinary Delights: Exploring Islamic Gastronomy

Savor the rich flavors of halal cuisine that bear witness to Granada’s Islamic past. Sample traditional dishes influenced by the region’s history, such as aromatic tagines and delectable sweets. Delight in the melding of culinary traditions that have shaped Granada’s gastronomic landscape.