The sun still set and the alleyways of Seville still sleeping, I gathered my things and headed towards the train station to catch a ride to Granada. It was a three hour drive, but to be honest I slept for most of it and awoke just in time for the most glorious sunrise over the vineyards of southern Spain. What an absolute delight!
My first stop in Granada was obviously the Alhambra which is world famous and an absolute must when visiting this region. It’s an old royal palace, very similar to the Alcazar in Seville, where you can see both the Islamic and Catholic influences. I first began the tour strolling through the luxurious gardens that are perched up on a mountain overlooking all of Granada. Cyprus trees were everywhere, as I later learned represent a direct connection to heaven and Earth. In fact, I was taken a back by all the vegetation throughout the gardens finding redwoods, bamboo, and other wildlife that had been shipped and planted here for the royals enjoyment. I was told that the Alhambra was a castle for the pleasures…taking in all of the wonderful smells, sounds, views, and tastes of the region.
When the Catholics came to power in 1492 there was a lot of unrest and people were scared for their lives. One very interesting fact that I learned was pork became Spain’s most beloved food of choice to save their lives. Muslims are forbidden to eat this meat, so to prove their ethnicity and beliefs they ate pork to stay alive. Now jambon can be found on literally every street corner.
Growing up my father was a builder and I remember playing with his blue prints when I was a little girl. I couldn’t help but think how much he would appreciate all these different kinds of architecture. I thought it was especially interesting how different the Catholic and Islamic palaces are. For instance, the Moore palaces hardly have any windows and are very barren from the outside. However, the interior is always so colorful and ornate. The Arabs believed that beauty was seen from the inside out and to not be too showy to the external world. This prevents envy. They would also make intentional mistakes throughout the palace to prove that no one is perfect, except Allah. In contrast, the Catholic palaces are all open air, with Roman pillars, tons of windows, and all about show. I believe both to be amazingly beautiful in their own right, but subscribe to the Moore philosophy in my heart.
While living in the Alhambra may have seemed like a dream, it actually sounded like quite the nightmare. For instance, nine out of the eleven Nazareth family members were poisoned over their thirst for power. This means their own blood relatives murdered them (Hamlet anyone?!). The King even killed thirty-six of his men in one room of the castle claiming they had performed adultery with his Queen, when really he just wanted to relinquish more power over his kingdom. There was so little trust within this kingdom that the King had the structure built so that sunlight would blind anyone who entered the palace, so the King could get a good look at them first…friend or foe?
Leaving the Alhambra I walked down the alleyways to the city center. I loved getting lost in the narrow streets and found my way to Boho hill (as one of my friends calls it lol). On this hill are hundreds of little shops that make you feel like you’re no longer in Spain and have traveled to Morocco. I was in heaven as I perused the hundreds of Arabian candles, lanterns, and jewelry. It was such a delight to see the Islamic art and traditions still present here, especially after my trip to the Alhambra. It was sad to know that many mosques were crumbled under this very ground, but uplifting to see people caring out their traditions and sharing their art in the streets. I made my way back to the train station that evening, watching the sun set over the snow capped mountains of Granada. Another beautiful day that I am so grateful for. Another day that reminds me of how we must not stomp on others heritage and beliefs. It’s so much more beautiful when we can enjoy it all in its entirety.