After Seville, we pressed on to Granada, in particular, to see the Alhambra. We loved Granada. The city was impressive with an obvious and prevalent culture of family. People were out day and night together and enjoying family time. It was one of the most social Spanish cities we have seen and we loved it there. Below is a street parade, which the entire town seemed to show up for… Flemenco dancing in the street, and the Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador in the town’s center. * Next to this church is the Royal Chapel of Granada (Capilla Real de Granada) where King Ferdinand II (1452–1516) and Queen Isabella I (1451–1504) are buried.
Also surprising was the ancient yet growing Arab community in an area of Granada called the Albayzín. This residential area is situated on a hill opposite the Alhambra (hence the gorgeous views) with small streets and Moorish vernacular architecture. It has historically been an area of artists, Jews and Muslims. The vantage point to view the Alhambra was stunning from the Plaza St. Nicholas.
Last year we studied the Christian structures that dominate Spain and France. This year we took this concept one level deeper to study the Moors, Jews, and even the pagans predating the 1st century. The Alhambra palace itself was a full day to see and gave an extraordinary insight to the history and religious politics of Spain from its rich Muslim past through the tumultuous transfer to the Roman Catholics in the 13th century. It slowly fell into disrepair after the Moors were driven out 800 years ago. Amazingly, it was the American author Washington Irving, visiting from the US in the early 19th c., who wrote extensively about the faded crumbling glory of the Alhambra that brought international attention to the area. As a result, the Andalusian government committed to renovate and revive the palace to its current glow. The Alhambra gives us a clear view of what the Muslim palaces looked like before they were destroyed and replaced by Christian houses of worship.
As a Muslim fortress, the Alhambra prepared us for what we might experience in Istanbul, or so we thought…