Alhambra palace urban structure
The Nasrid Alhambra was a palatine city, designed and built for the service of the Court.
Its urban structure, inheriting the purest Andalusian and Islamic tradition, is perfectly organized in its development over the two and a half centuries of existence, with the logical transformations which imply an unstable sultanate and changing politics depending on pacts and vassalage.
A military complex for elite guard guaranteed the interior security of the Sultan, his family and the Government Institutions from the Alcazaba. The Alcazaba was like an independent military city, strategically located and cleverly connected with the rest of the Alhambra, where the guards lived with their families, with homes, a water cistern and baths, as in any quarter of a city.
There was a palatial area reserved for the life of the Sultan and his closest family. Here there were administrative offices, with a clearly formal layout, becoming more private and palatial depending on their departments. There were also spaces for Surah meetings and Councils of Viziers (ministers) and for public audiences. The Sultan called courtly parties coinciding with notable celebrations in the Muslim or State calendar.
In this palatine area, several palaces are set out, built in different periods, either through the adaptation and redecoration of their predecessor, or through the construction or addition of a new palace on its land. A street, with access to different areas of the palaces, would also serve to separate and isolate them from the rest of the Alhambra.
Serving this court was the Alhambra Medina, a whole city designed to cover any need of the Palace. Organized around a main street ascending slightly from west to east, the city had public baths, a mosque, shops, etc.
Next to the Mosque were the Rauda or Cemetery of the Sultans and a Madrasa.
In the lower are, behind the Puerta del Vino which served as the main entrance, there were houses, some very important, where civil servants and Court servants lived, small water cisterns and public spaces. Toward the middle of the street and along its sides are two large areas considered true palaces: the Hall of the Abencerrajes and what was formerly the Convent of San Francisco.
The upper area of the city was occupied by a range of small traditional industries: furnaces for glass and ceramic, a tannery for leather, waterwheels and even a mint for making currency.
The Acequia del Rey (or Sultan) entered the Alhambra through this area, through an aqueduct and a hatch, descending parallel to Calle Real, distributing water to the whole complex through countless channels. Small streets, alleys and small shelters made up the urban landscape of the cit.
The whole Alhambra was surrounded by a wall which made it unassailable in any attack, connecting it with the general wall of Granada. It had four main doors, two the the north – Armas and Arrabal – and two the the south – Justicia and Siete Suelos.