Sunday, November 6, 2016

Al Hambara, Granada, Spain

 The red (female).

That is the direct translation of Al Hambara from Arabic.

Probably because she sits atop the hill like the red queen of the city of Granada.

The Al Hambara palace was a highlight of our trip in southern Spain and a "must-see"! 
^ photo of the palace from the steps on a hillside across the city 
Al Hambara was built by the Arab Moors who ruled this region of Spain between the 700s and 1400s. The Al Hambara was completed towards the end of their rule in the early 1300s. 
We spent 3 hours just touring the palace and the gardens. And our professor had to keep urging stragglers in our group to stop taking photos and move on to the next room. The whole palace is just magnificent! I highly recommend devoting an entire day to leisurely exploring it! 
One of my favorite things about Academic Travel is that we are always traveling at the beginning of March/October, which is the off-season for tourism at 95% of the places we are visiting. So even though the weather may not be ideal, and sometimes I may complain about wishing it were nicer weather to eat outside or enjoy the scenery. It is actually REALLY nice because we have a lot of these really popular tourist sites basically to ourselves. Like when I visited the Mona Lisa in Paris on a random Thursday night in October 2012 right before closing, it was literally JUST my friend and I in the room with the painting. Or when I visited Pompeii, it was a rainy day in March 2013 and the site was empty except for our group. I loved it and will always remember roaming around those ruins in the drizzle. These our completely different experiences then some of my good friends have had who visit these same sites during the summer or spring break and endure large crowds that damper the experience. 

I can imagine Al Hambara also may be less enjoyable with pressing crowds and although I am sure it is gorgeous in the summer greenery, we were lucky to have many of the rooms to ourselves. 
Loyal real life & travel roommate, Marina! ^ (who is living in Morocco right now!)  
^ I learned this kind of dome with what I would (in my non-expertise) call "stalactites" is in reality called a "muqarnas" and is common in Islamic architecture.  
^another more elaborate example of a muqarnas 
love love love 
Fun fact: for fans of the book The Alchemist, by Paulo Cohelo, it is hinted at that this is the city where the main character, Santiago, the shepherd boy, begins his journey. 
I loved all the geometric patterns and intricate details in the craftsmanship of every corner of the palace. In the muslim faith they don't believe in iconography, or in other words, depicting the faces of God or any of the characters in their scriptures. So instead beauty and spirituality are shown through ornate geometric patterns and carvings. Or elaborate calligraphy of scripture verses (scroll to see some pictures of examples)
Looking out from the royal gardens over to the palace 
^ arabic calligraphy 
Looking out over Granada 
Closeup of arabic calligraphy, scripture verses and references to Allah  ^
And to end on a sweet note ;) 
Churros con chocolate 

xx Jess 

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