The Water Palace : Alhambra, Generalife and Albayzin, Granada

The city of Granada in southern Spain is where the 800-year-long Muslim occupation of the Iberian peninsula finally ended. Palace construction started during the 13th century to protect the city from Christian attacks. It took some 170 years to complete. The Alhambra castle was a showcase of Islamic art and seen as a realization of paradise on earth.

This room is known as The Hall of the Two Sisters. It is decorated throughout from wall to ceiling. The ceiling represents the cave where the prophet Muhammad received revelations from God.

These three-dimensional decorations known as Mocarabes are a characteristic feature of Islamic architecture. They consist of smaller indented pieces neatly arranged together. The wall here is completely covered in Arabesque patterns. Plants and geometric designs surround Arabic characters in relief.

This is the Ambassadors Room. The 18 metre high canopy ceiling is a mosaic of cedar wood inlaid with mother-of-pearl. It is a recreation of the desert night sky. The courtyard also contains familiar features to desert people. The columns are modelled from palm trees. Water used to flow constantly from the mouth of each lion on this fountain. The desert people yearned for the oasis and considered water as the symbol of life.

The task of supplying water seemed very difficult – Alhambra stands on top of a steep hill. However; it was brought successfully from a mountain river 6 kilometres away. It came via irrigation channels and aqueducts. The supply system uses the topography of the area. Sloped water channels allowed water to flow freely. The water reflects the palace. Its fleeting image resembles that of a desert mirage.

The combination of water and light creates a dream-like atmosphere here. The Muslim occupation of the Iberian peninsula came to an end with the fall of Granada at the end of the 15th century. However, the beauty and the glory of Alhambra, the paradise of the desert, continue to shine to this day.

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