Most people go to Granada in Spain to see the famous Alhambra.
Unlike the Alhambra in Bradford, the Alhambra in Granada is not a theatre. So if you want to see The All Star 60s Show, Elvis Wang or Sally Morgan (Psychic to the Stars, apparently) then don’t go to the Alhambra in Spain…unless those particular shows are heading there sometime soon on a very unlikely world tour.
The ‘real’ Alhambra in Granada is a Moorish Palace. This doesn’t mean More-ish in the way that Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut Cornflakes are, but Moorish as in ‘The Moors’. These were the North African Muslims that invaded Andalucía in Southern Spain umpty-two centuries ago, rather like the British invade it every summer these days.
Just as the British like to feel at home in Spain by wearing Premier League football shirts, the Moors brought a touch of their homeland culture to Spain. They did this by building mosques and palaces of ethereal beauty and fantastic ornamentation. Bear in mind that this was around the time that the rest of us were laying the foundation stones of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals which are all, let’s face it, a little bit samey.
There are two things that make Moorish buildings different to Gothic architecture.
First of all Gothic is all about pointy arches whereas Moorish is all about roundy arches. Secondly they don’t have any images in Moorish buildings. Hence there are no statues or paintings. This is because images of real things are forbidden in the Muslim religion, which makes you wonder how they built the Alhambra without any drawings or plans. Perhaps the architect had to rely on a mental picture that he communicated by pointing a lot. I wonder if he could get away with using an Etch a Sketch these days, he’d just have to give it a quick shake when the Imam walked by.
Anyway, because you couldn’t go covering mosques in endless pictures of saints and crucifixions, you had to get a bit more creative with your interior decor. So the keystones of Muslim art become intricate patterns, colourful tiles and florid calligraphy.
The Alhambra is the best, if not the only, remaining example of a Moorish palace. It was home to several generations of Nasrid princes that ruled over that corner of Spain. It sits on top of a very steep hill. This made it both a very private royal residence and the perfect spot to pour boiling oil on your enemies. Unfortunately Boabdil*, the last of Nasrid princes, was a bit of a half-wit and he had to hand over the keys to the catholic King of Spain after getting the barrel labelled ‘boiling oil’ confused with the one that said ‘warm cocoa’.
Despite knocking down the Alhambra’s Grand Mosque, in a fit of Papish pique, the Spanish kings did the decent thing and kept a lot of the Moorish palace in a state of reasonable preservation. This could also have been a long-term tourism strategy, as they may have had an inkling that many centuries later EasyJet would be offering returns to Malaga at a mere £59.99, plus booking fee.
Whilst we’re on the subject of tourism-strategy, the present managers of Andalusian tourism might endear themselves to the world a little more if their website were a tad more honest about what’s open and what isn’t. Especially before a traveller like me parts with £59.99, plus booking fee, and travels the best part of two thousand miles to find that the famous Court of The Lions and the Hall of The Kings are closed for long term renovations.
If they had been up-front about those small details, I may have delayed my trip for a couple of years until the work is finished. Just like the rest of the world’s tourists might do.
Isn’t that right, Agencio de Granada Tourismo?
*”Boabdil” would be a great name for a cat.
**See my other attempts to upset the Spanish by clicking here.