This mid-seized Spanish city close to the Mediterranean coast has a unique flavour and architecture mostly due to Moors who came from North Africa early in the 9th century, and who in three years, conquered much of the Iberian Peninsula.
Moors originated in the Sahara, and to them water is one of the great riches and delights.
Granada was inhabited since the dawn of history first by Ibero Celts, then Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, and Byzantines. Jews were established well before the 8th century and were instrumental in helping Tariq bin-Ziyad, the leader of marauding Moors, to conquer the city.
The city located at 738 metres above sea level is somewhat cooler than coastal urban centres, and today is home to approximately 240 000 people.
Moors stayed in Spain and Portugal until 1492 until Isabella and Ferdinand (Los Reyes Catolicos) were able to expel them from the Peninsula for good.
While Moors were in Spain, they introduced their distinct architectural style, and Alhambra in Granada is a perfect example of this type of building.
The Alhambra was built by a succession of Moorish kings, and features water displays – fountains, pools, and garden that fascinate all visitors. Moors brought with them advanced agricultural techniques including irrigation, and under Moorish rule the economy thrived. Jews were the craftsmen and intellectuals advising rulers
Alhambra was so beautiful that catholic monarchs could not bring themselves to destroy it, as was customary at the time, for conquerors to do.
Over time, the Alhambra fell into disrepair, and Napoleon’s troops destroyed completely. Only in 1870 was this magnificent palace restored to its former glory. Today it is a Mecca for tourists visiting Granada, and millions who visit Spain make a point to plan a side trip just to visit Alhambra. At the centre of the complex is a fountain supported by a dozen stylized lions constantly spouting water.
This was installed to add beauty to the palace and to keep it cool.
The most magnificent room in Alhambra is the Hall of the Ambassadors – the audience chamber of Moorish kings. Several Moorish-designed mosques have been restores and are well worth visiting. In addition to the above, the Cathedral, the Albaicin (Arab and Jewish quarter), the Charterhouse (The Carthusian monastery), the Royal Gate (Calle de los Reyes Catolicos), Botanical Gardens, and Almoabit (the Mosque of Almoravids) are highly recommended.
There are many hotels catering to a range of tourists. Those who look for luxury will feel comfortable at parador hotels (restored and converted monasteries or castles). Frugal tourists can book into bed and breakfast operations.
Restaurants are a plenty from neighbourhood tapas establishments to fine restaurants.
Several North American airlines fly non-stop to Madrid. There you can transfer to other Spanish cities including Granada, but most prefer to take the train or rent a car.
For more information consult tourspain.Toronto.on.ca