The Alhambra. Incredible but Sheesh.

The Alhambra is one of the most beautiful historic places I’ve ever visited. Overlooking the city of Granada, the site is 26 acres of gardens, fountains, and castles originally built by Muslim rulers and later adapted to suit Spanish kings. Although the site is beautifully restored and maintained, I never felt a sense of peace or mystery there. Visitors used to complain about “gypsies” hustling them outside the complex. Today, they can complain about employees hustling them inside the complex. I had to show my ticket and passport 6 times in an hour and fend off mansplaining tour guides. Visitors are required to walk along a roped off, pre-established route where you just know hidden cameras are watching. I left feeling like I’d misbehaved.

Oh well.

My photo doesn’t show the Alhambra’s artistry — I chose this photo looking out of an unadorned window because it suggests a little mystery. For more photos and history, here’s a good site https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/early-europe-and-colonial-americas/ap-art-islamic-world-medieval/a/the-alhambra.

8 comments

  1. You’re replicating a trip my difunta esposa and I did in 1973, and I returned 5 years ago. What I learned the first time was shallow : “the Muslims” had great taste.

    It was a long time, much richer and more complex than I’d understoo. The age of tolerance lasted maybe the first 200 of the 7 or so hundred years. And early in the _reconquista_, Christian rulers were culturally very Arab, and explicitly allowed a last Muslim dynasty to have Grenada, rather briefly till Granada was finally “reconquered”.

    I never did really visit the palace in Sevilla, supposedly also exqmm uisite, also late and also changed hands between Muslims and Christians at least once.

    All great.

    You’re doing a really great trip – yet a again.

    1. I’m not surprised that you know the historic subtleties! I am going on a walking tour with a historian tomorrow, which I hope will give me a little more insight. And I love your observation that “the Muslims had great taste,” even if you think it’s shallow. I was here 40 years ago and my main takeaway was “There were Muslims here?”

  2. The picture you featured is haunting. Its perspective through a narrow slit which the viewer is only permitted a mere glimpse of unknown colorful wonders beyond the field of vision is reflective of the theme of your experience. It’s a perfect allegory- the sense of confinement and constraint experienced by the observer. Brava!

  3. What Vic said. And now, I want to see some pictures. I imagine it would inspire me for a lifetime. But then, empires are losing their moral luster lately. Love you/.

  4. A great reminder that rulers and cultures come and go and what we know of them is filtered. Like now.

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