A Fortress, A Palace, A City


Who would have thought that beggars and thieves once bunked in the regal Alhambra in Granada?

Archeological excavations indicated that this was where Romans lurked in the early days. Earliest known historical records showed that the strategically located site was occupied and used as a fortress during the civil war fought within the Caliphate of Cordoba. As was typical of battles in the 9th century, the fortress was more than chipped but not entirely ruined since neither canons nor bombs were invented then. Further works in the same century saw the castle of Alhambra built – I still am uncertain if this was for the military or royalty. In any case, it was destroyed yet again, fell into disrepair and vines grew all over it. Forgotten. I suppose this was when the beggars and thieves saw their chance and they all Hi-Ho-ed their way there to make camp.

The transformation of the site began in the 13th century when the first king of the Nasrid Dynasty declared that he wanted to live there, and turned it into a royal residence through one convenient flick of his finger that launched a thousand slaves into action (this is my imagination speaking). More significantly, the finger flick marked the beginning of the Alhambra’s most glorious period.

His heir and heirs after, apparently had the same eye for architecture and all things beautiful, consecutively constructed towers and annexes of magnificent yet intricate structures that were based on the arabesque artform. Some of these are still standing within the Nasrid Palace, and they are a sight to behold. When you get tickets to enter, you’d be assigned a designated time to enter the Nasrid Palace. Be there on time and check that you are at the right location. We almost missed our opportunity because we were stupidly waiting by another entrance that is not the Nasrid. We eventually realised our mistake, ran to the right gate, begged and the guard let our pitiful selves in! Thank goodness; or I’d have to flog me for coming all this way only to wait at the wrong door and have the correct door slam in my face.

Catholic Monarchs came by too, and put slabs of stones on top of those of the Nasrid kings. Charles V built his imposing palace smack in the middle of nowhere. It stuck out like a sore thumb, but it is a nice place. Then the French attacked and bombed everything (18th century, canons are readily available).

I am so glad for the restoration and preservation efforts, without which we’d never be able to beg to see the Nasrid Palace.


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