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Breathtaking Beauty


ONE can die happy after a visit to the Alhambra. Breathtaking visually, the Alhambra’s real beauty lies in the harmonious planning of architects who kept building the palace, seemingly working hand-inhand over 600 years, many dynasties and two di erent faiths.

By the time the Muslim sultans were defeated by Catholic monarchs towards the end of the 15th Century, 600 years of construction and reconstruction had been carried out on the Alhambra.

Despite guard-changes and the fact that the Alhambra sits on an uneven site, the custodians managed to keep the axes of all Alhambra’s courtyards square, giving it a look of complete regularity and harmony.

While civilisation, elsewhere and in other times, has often been found ruined by conquest, these values held sway over the divisiveness of theological conviction, leading to the upholding, preservation and continuance of the monument.

For a period, the Alhambra lay in near ruin, a victim of the elements and apathy of governing bodies. Just about anyone could take up residence in the rooms, halls, chambers and towers of the Alhambra.

After much restoration and preservation, the Alhambra is well kept to this day, preserved and guarded by Spain’s tourism authority in Granada. Tourist visits to the palaces once the domicile of Nasrid Sultans, are strictly regulated.

While the attraction is open, 363 days a year from morning to night, the number of visitors per day is limited.

The city’s authority strictly limits the number of visitors to the Alhambra to 6,600 people a day. The Alhambra and Generalife as the whole complex is known, is open throughout the year with shorter hours in winter months.

For effect — both ghostly and night lighting — try the night visit. It’s just that you will have to forego the Nasrid Palaces and the Generalife and the beautiful formal gardens.

Visitors are advised to plan well and well ahead, and for an idea of how the Council of the Alhambra feels about its charge, this is how the director welcomes visitors to its website: “The Alhambra, in pace with its history, has become the destination of many tourists and probably the best treasure of the city of Granada. To enjoy the beauty of the palatine chambers, the scents of the courtyards and gardens, the games of light and colour of the richly decorated halls and the impressive views of the Albaycin and the Vega constitutes a privilege for our senses.

“A place for cultural meeting and the destination chosen by millions of people worldwide lead us to rethink its value in a global world subjected to multiple stresses.

We all have to make an effort to preserve this extraordinary heritage and promote attitudes of respect and coexistence. “The Alhambra has lived, is living and will continue living, and making the heritage maxim possible as an evolutionary concept not anchored in time. Today the Alhambra will be a part of you, because it is ours, yours and everyone’s.”

Ahhh, Spaniards. Aren’t they just all heart, and all art? Still, Granada is not just about the Alhambra.

Wherever else the visitor might board for her stay in the city, she doesn’t want to miss visiting the Granada’s Old Quarter for its shopping and F&B outlets.

In all, Granada is a sprawling city offering an extensive number and variety of commercial outlets. A personal opinion, however, is that nowhere else in this Andalusian enclave do shopping, merrymaking and history mix as perfectly together as a tourist package offering.

Virtually next to the Alhambra complexes and at a lower altitude, the Old Quarter houses a large

variety of shops. Most prominent of all is Alcaiceria Street, which runs from the Plaza Alonso Cano, full of souvenir shops and typical tourist bric-a-brac.

The neighbourhood of the Alcaiceria was once an Arab marketplace almost completely destroyed in a re in the mid-1800s.

It is now the home of the Great Bazaar of Granada, originally a series of streets peppered with stalls selling Arabic silks, spices and other precious goods. These days, however, the only remaining section is Alcaiceria, which leads all the way to the Granada Cathedral, a three-minute walk northeast of Alcaiceria.

A mini architectural wonder in comparison to the Alhambra, the Granada Cathedral makes visitors stop and stare. And then take pictures. And then stare some more.

As humongous as the Cathedral is, it’s such a pity that the buildings around it in the city are constructed so close by; these fairly huge buildings are in such close proximity that they prohibit a grand view of the cathedral as one of its beauties deserves to provide.

On Calle Navas (Navas Street) one can find the equivalent of tapas row. Most bars will serve tapas when you order a drink, and most have areas for dining.

Sometimes when there is even a small crowd, it can get hard to squeeze in along the bar at some of the tapas restaurants.

There are also regular restaurants albeit with small tables as the whole area is smallish anyway. From big fish platters and paella pans to little side-plates of fried prawns to nibble on, the Old Quarter has a bit of everything for all appetites (and budgets!).

To the north and across a valley from the steep rise that the Alhambra sits majestically upon is the Albaycin. An old Moorish quarter of the city, the Albaycin is located on a hill, providing a stunning view of the Alhambra almost in its totality. When the sun is about to set, one might need to take a sharp breath and hold it in, when gazing upon the Alhambra.

Later in the night, with no sun but aided by lighting, there is even more drama to the Alhambra’s look. Make no mistake; these photographs HAVE NOT been touched up!

Source: The Malay Mail Rethink the news