The Alhambra takes its name from the reddish colour of its walls ('Qa'lat al-Hamra' meaning 'Red Fortress'). This fortified town occupies a strategic position at the top of al-Sabika Hill, on the left back of the Darro, to the east of the city, and facing the districts of the Albaicin and the Alcazaba. Its origins date back to the 9th century, when Sawwar ben Hamrun took refuge at the Alcazaba and set about repairing the damage caused by the civil wars which had affected the Caliphate of Cordoba, of which Granada was a part.
The golden age of the Alhambra came in the 13th century, when it became the residence of Nazari King Mohamed ben Al-Hamar.
The Alhambra was left to fall into decay as of the 18th century, with the main part of the fortress destroyed by an explosion during the period of French domination. No reparation, restoration or conservation work began on it until the 19th century, and such work is still underway today. The most commonly-used decorative features among Granadan architects are plant-based decorative elements and, to a lesser extent, diamond-shaped ribbons and nets. The walls of the castle are adorned with calligraphic designs, which include three poems written by three poets of the Court of Granada, namely Ibn al-Yayyab, Ibn al-Jatib and Ibn Zamrak. The major concern of the architects responsible for designing the Alhambra was to see that every last nook and cranny was adorned with decorative features. This being the case, most of the interior arches are false and entirely decorative, serving no structural purpose whatsoever. The Alhambra is Spain's most visited monument, attracting some 3.3 million tourists in 2010.
This is the spot where the royal palaces once stood and then the lodgings of Emperor Charles V.© Karol Kozlowski
These gardens extend from the exit of the cemetery right up to the esplanade with the Ladies Tower.© Cor Van Der Waal / 123RF
Alhambra was named "al-hamra" in Arabic because of its walls that turned red in the sun.© Karol Kozlowski
There are many elements testifying to the presence of the Muslims in Alhambra: the madrasah, the mosques, the hammams, the patios, the decorations with ceramics, and arabesques.© Sborisov / 123RF