by Barbara Nevins Taylor
We heard the trickle, the splash, the play of water almost everywhere in the Alhambra complex high on a hill above Granada in southern Spain. It calmed. It soothed. It cooled the hot, high desert air and encouraged us to linger where we found ponds and fountains and little hideaways of tranquility.
It’s easy to feel like a dreamer in a Medieval paradise when you explore the Alhambra gardens and palaces. You do begin to wonder, though, what the Nasrids, who built it, thought when they created a world onto itself filled with beauty and everything they seemed to need.
Did they ever feel peaceful here?
Spain’s last Muslim rulers, lived in fraught times. They faced challenges to their religious and secular power from rivals within the walls and from the Spanish monarchs beyond.
Generations of Christian kings, eager to claim territory and converts, slowly but surely conquered strongholds first established by Muslims in the 9th Century. Their advance sent believers, from other parts of Andalusia, running south and west toward the Nasrids and Granada.
From 1231 to 1491, the Nasrids built a self-sustaining town within the walls of the fortress and housed their military contingent of as many of 40,000 to keep the Spanish at bay.
And most remarkably, they designed a series of architecturally sophisticated, elegant palaces where they governed, lived and worshiped.
Their rooms and gardens surround courtyards filled with long narrow pools of running water, and sometimes graceful fountains.
Slender columns frame porticos that lead to the labyrinthian rooms elaborately decorated with intricate carving and tile work.
The cool, shaded interior spaces still offer relief from the region’s blazing sun and in some rooms windows set high in the vaulted ceilings allow a soft light to trickle in.
But the use of water and how the Nasrids brought the precious commodity up the hill fascinated us.
They harnessed water from the Darro River, led it through a canal to the Generalife section of the complex where they farmed and raised their cattle, and pumped the water through another canal to the higher level of the Alhambra where they used and stored it.
Wherever water ran, even in pools and fountains, it also irrigated and that’s true even today.
Our short video postcards feature two fountains in the Generalife area. We enjoyed the tranquility and hope you do, too.