Saturday, February 9, 2013

Alhambra III--The Nasrid Palaces

The highlight of visiting the Alhambra is seeing the Palacios Nazaries, or the Nasrid Palaces. Three palaces were built by Muslim caliphs during the 14th century. The Comares Palace was built by Yusuf I (who ruled from 1333-1354). The Mexuar Palace was built by Ismail I in the 1360s. The Palace of the Lions was built in the late 1300s by Muhammad V. The buildings were constructed from rather modest materials (plaster, timber, and tiles), but the craftsmanship is simply amazing. They wanted to build a bit of paradise on earth, to show off their wealth, and to deny their waning power. When the Christians took over in 1492, they made some modifications but hardly any.

The Palaces are so popular that visitors need to buy timed tickets to enter. But first they stand in a long line a half hour before the ticket time. We dutifully did that, though J and L wandered in and out of line a few times. We finally got close enough to see the entrance, which leads into the Mexuar Palace.

Almost to the front of the line!
Court of Machuca next to the entrance

Door into the Mexuar Palace

The name "Mexuar" is derived from the Arabic Maswar, the hall where the council of ministers met and the sultan would dispense justice to the people. This was our first taste of the ornate beauty we were about to feast on.

Later Christian addition

One glorious ceiling

A glorious wall (click to enlarge)

The ceiling of the Golden Room

Patio del Mexuar

The Patio del Mexuar was finished in 1365 and was the meeting room for the sultan to consult his council or to listen to the petitions of his people.

Next to the Mexuar Palace is the Comares Palace. The Room of the Ship has some more amazing detail work. It is called thus for its ceiling which is like a ship's hull inverted.

Decorative ceiling in Room of the Ship

Wall details

Another ceiling, from the Salon de Embajadores I think

The Room of the Ship leads into the Salon de Embajadores, the largest and most important room in the Alhambra. It served as the throne room and as the meeting area for ambassadors. The ceilings there represent the seven heavens of the Muslim cosmos.

Wall and one ceiling in the Hall of the Ambassadors

A quiet corner

The scale of the work is amazing

The Salon leads out onto the Patio de Arrayanes or the Court of the Myrtles. It is so called for the myrtle plants around the central pool. The pool not only serves as a graceful and calming visual, but also reflects the light into the various windows around the courtyard.

Done ambassadoring, J and I are ready for more

Patio de Arrayanes

Various beneficiaries of the pool's light

J and the fountain

The final famous palace is the Court of Lions or Patio de los Leones. The lion-based fountain is the most emblematic part of the Alhambra and is an extremely popular spot to take photos.

Lion fountain and delicate columns holding up the arcades

Plenty of visitors here

J and the fountain II

We moved on from here to the Hall of Kings or Sala de los Reyos. Important art was kept there though removed long ago.

The hall is the art now

Many splendid arches

Just beyond the Hall of the Kings is the apartment where Washington Irving, famous author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle (though at the time he was famous for a biography of Christopher Columbus), lived for a few months and was inspired to write his book of Tales of the Alhambra.

Washington Irving slept here

We ran into yet more gardens and fountains on the tail end of the Nasrid Palaces tour.

Another sweet garden

Another courtyard with a fountain

View from one of the towers along the wall

The Alhambra is not impervious to the occasional cheesy tourist photo op, which L gladly took advantage of.

Raising money for archeology, I think

The last bit was the archeological dig area of the Palace of Yusuf III, which also has some nice workmanship and a small, green pool.

The doors lead up to the top of this small tower

View from the top of the tower

We enjoyed the visit though the children's energies were drained by the beauty and the walking. We decided to find another snack before wandering off to see more of the Alhambra.

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