A few shots and thoughts from the Alhambra. Granada, Spain. 2009

Back in 1982 I was in such a hurry to get to Morocco that I just went past Granada without stopping. Over the years people have told me about the Alhambra and how it’s such an amazing place.

Well, today, many years later I finally visited the much lauded Alhambra and I have very mixed feelings about the experience.

Firstly the Alhambra is one of those very famous places that so many people from all around the world want to visit. Even though it’s autumn and the off season, there large crowds of people waiting to get into the place and as I’ve said before, I’m no fan of crowds.

 The Alhambra gets so many visitors that the custodians limit visits to either the morning, afternoon or night and control the numbers that can enter for each time. This all means lines and waiting around. A word of advice to anyone thinking about visiting at this time of year, don’t bother ordering your tickets through the internet, as you have to go through the rigmarole of retrieving your tickets from machines that take longer to operate that buying the tickets from the ticket office.

 Now that I’ve had my little bitch about the crowds, onto the main event.

From my experience in Morocco years ago I can tell you that the Moors aren’t that into creating beautiful exteriors, as most of their structures I’ve seen, tend to be high walled boxes. What the Moors excel at is interiors and the decoration of surfaces.

 Sure the Alhambra has some gardens with water features,

or reflecting pools, but to my mind they aren’t all that interesting.

I heard a guide telling a group nearby that the moors used the water features as a method of cooling down the buildings during the hotter months. To me, all the water on show also seemed to be a dessert people’s way of displaying wealth.

Over the last couple of months, here in Europe I’ve developed a real dislike for palaces. I always thought that the old TV show, “Lives of the rich and famous” was a sad indictment of the consumerist society in which I live. I hated the idea that there were so many people who wanted to vicariously live a life of so much conspicuous consumption the result of which was an ostentatious and vulgar display of wealth. It really sickens me to think of how these old rulers lived in relation to their subjects. The only thing that helps me get over my revulsion at their greed and insensitivity is the fact that all these great piles of hubris manifest, provided employment for many skilled people that would not have had an outlet for their talents anywhere else.

Although the Moslems are prohibited from creating depictions of animals or humans they make up for that with their calligraphy and patterns.

Just about the whole of the palace is covered with carved plaster and stone.

There were signs asking people not to touch anything but that didn’t stop many thoughtless people from pawing the walls. It never ceases to amaze me how selfish some people can be and how much damage they do. 

Where there aren’t carved surfaces, there are tiles.

 For me the Alhambra got more interesting as I walked through the archways into the rooms inside.

 

The walls were covered with patterns and prayers but it was the ceilings that really sang. Sometimes looking up was like being in a stylized cave

 and other times it was like peering up at a bejewelled night sky.

Of course the Christians finally won back their lands and the Alhambra with them. Surprisingly much of the Islamic decoration was left intact but the new rulers did do a bit of redecoration in their own much heavier and cruder style as in the ceiling shown below.

As sublime as some of what we saw in the Alhambra was, both Engogirl and I felt it was all too much of the same kind of thing and both felt that perhaps the magpie tastes displayed at Randolph Hearst’s much critisized folly, “La Cuesta Encantada” weren’t so off, after all.

6 thoughts on “A few shots and thoughts from the Alhambra. Granada, Spain. 2009”

  1. Its me again!

    I have to agree that large crowds would have dampened my enthusiasm, that’s a shame. I seem to remember that my ticket was valid for two days but that was a long time ago.

    One of the most impressive aspects of visiting the Al Hambra for me was to compare the layout and design with nearby Cathedrals. The outside appearance of the Al Hambra is quite unimpressive and relatively plain, deliberately so as the Moorish rulers apparently felt it not apprpriate to overtly demonstrate their wealth to the rest of the populace. How different with Christian Cathedrals which by their size and external grandeur were designed to make the common man feel insignificant in the presence of “God” or his representatives. No shame there about ostentatious displays of wealth.

    More about the wine later.

    Peter

  2. Peter

    The tickets you buy now are only valid for the half day you buy them for.

    I think the Moors probably hid their wealth to reduce unrest in the lower orders (the Koran says that the wealthy should give alms to the poor) whereas I think the Christian cathedrals were a way that the aristocracy could stay in the good books of the church.

    It’s been fascinating to find out about how much power the popes had for so long and how they just doled out kingdoms to their mates.

    What really bugs me about the cathedrals is that some of them have been reduced to serving as mausoleums for the super-rich and powerful who made their money by making so many other people’s lives absolutely miserable.

    As for the wine, I eagerly await your report. You’re very lucky I’m not omnipotent because you’d be instantly transported to my side every time I was about to get some wine…… come to think about it, I suppose you wouldn’t really mind that so much, would you?

    Then again, knowing what you do about my taste (or should we be honest and just say lack of?)it might just drive you around the bend.

  3. I have many of the same mixed feelings about castles, cathedrals and such, but can’t help but marvel at the art and craftsmanship that went into them. The comparison of the Christian ceiling redo to the originals was interesting. So different.

  4. Tony

    You bet. Lots of people working for a long time.

    Ross

    I almost missed the tiles I was so busy staring at the ceilings.

    Donald

    The fluidity of the design was the best thing about the place.

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