Alhambra Palace: The Unique Architecture of Muslim History -Ahmad Bhuiyan
Andalusia, the glory of the Muslim world, has been lost in the whirlwind of time. However, the historic Alhambra Palace still stands in modern Spain as a reminder of Andalusia’s glorious past. Alhambra is a unique example of the architecture and culture of the last century of Muslim rule in Andalusia.
It continues to bear the signature of the hard work and talent of the Moorish architects of the period for the past few centuries. Located in Granada, Spain, this medieval architecture is famous for its elaborate architecture, intricate and elaborate decoration, charming gardens and fountains. While praising the beauty of Alhamra, the Moorish poets said, ‘Pearl studded with emeralds’.
Alhamra has been endowed with such a unique image due to the location of the eye-catching palace amidst the surrounding dense green forest. Today’s article will discuss Alhamra’s history, architectural style, naming and other aspects.
The magnificent Alhambra Palace is located in a rare natural beauty spot on the Sabic hill west of the city of Granada. The river Daro flows on the left side of the palace. The location of the Alhambra was cleverly chosen to overlook the old Moorish city of Albayzín and the sloping meadows in front of it. Alhambra offers a magnificent view of the city of Granada.
Alhamra’s name is first found in historical accounts in the 9th century. Where Alhamra is today, there was a ruined Roman fort in the 9th century. In 889 a man named Sawar Ibn Hamdun took refuge in that fort. He later rebuilt the castle to crush the Caliphate of Córdoba and fight a civil war again. Then the place expanded and the population increased.
Because at that time the rulers of the Jiri dynasty started building a city called Albayzin. Alhamra remained like ten other fortresses until Muhammad bin Al Hamar, the founder of the Nasrid Empire, came here. He built a royal residence here. And since then the most glorious period of Alhamra began.
During his time, the watch tower and keep were built in the old part of the fort. A canal was cut from the river Daro to ensure its own irrigation system for the palace gardens. Then other forts and storerooms were built. However, the Alhams we see today are credited to Sultan Yusuf I and Muhammad V.
They expanded the city further. He built many mosques and hammams. Alhambra’s unique and magnificent interior decoration came from their hands. After the fall of Granada in 1492, Alhambra was used as the royal residence of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. After their conquest, some of Alhamra’s designs were covered with whitewash, others were destroyed.
King Charles I demolished much of the Alhambra’s Winter Palace and built his own castle in the Renaissance style. Then the destruction of Moorish industry continued. The towers were destroyed by the French in a battle in 1812. In 1821 Alhamra was also badly damaged by the earthquake. What remains now has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alhambra is currently one of Spain’s top tourist attractions.
Alhamra is short form of Arabic kala’at alhamra. It means Red Fort. There are three theories as to why Alhamra is named Alhamra.
One. Because of its red colored walls.
Two. Named after Muhammad Alhamar, the founder of the Nasrid dynasty.
Three. Another name for Nasirid dynasty was Banu Alhamar. Alhamra may have been named after this.
The palaces of Alhambra are very complex in architecture. Numerous columns, arcades, fountains, running water and clear ponds add to the complex architectural style of its aesthetic decoration. The exterior of the palaces, however, is kept plain. Alhamra is designed in such a way that a lot of light and air can enter inside. The inner walls of the palace are decorated with engravings of poems by the Moorish poet Ibn Zamrak. There are also various intricate geometrical crafts and arabesque work.
Arabesque is a design of interlaced flowers on a surface. The work of overlapping straight lines in a rhythmic linear pattern also falls within the arabesque. There are also works of alcatado tiles used in the Muslim world, laceria work with mathematical designs, stucco and foliate ornaments. There are also variations in the decoration of palace ceilings. Makarnas design for domed ceiling decoration made of wood.
This Andalusian aesthetic interior decoration was a contribution to Granada’s flourishing Andalusian art. Moorish artists gathered material for the invention of this new art from the Byzantine and contemporary Abbasid caliphates. Some were also self-invented, such as ornate arches and domed ceiling craftsmanship. This architectural style, developed during the late Granada period, has had a great influence on modern Muslim architecture today, especially in the Maghreb.
Alhambra has thirty towers and four main gates inside the 1730m walled city. It consists mainly of three parts – the alcazaba, the residence of the royal army guarding the palace, the citadel, the residence of the ruler’s family, and the city, or medina. The royal officials lived in the city. The three most famous structures of the Alhambra are the Komaris Palace, the Court of Lions and the Partal Palace. All were built in the 14th century. Now there is a brief discussion about them.
Behind El Mexues is the front door of the Comares Palace, rich in fountains and squares. This front door is built on a raised platform. The front door opens to a courtyard, with a large courtyard and pond. This part is known as the Court of Marthas. This is the core of Komaris Palace.
The largest tower in the Alhambra is the Komaris Palace. Here is the throne room Hall of Ambassadors. The interior decoration of this room is very elegant. The room has arched windows. The floor has stucco work. The walls are decorated with geometric designs.
Court of Lions
It is located just after Komaris Palace. But it is a separate building. After the fall of Granada the two palaces were combined. Muhammad V made the Court of Lions a sight to behold. The fountain in the marble basin with its complex water flow system is located behind the twelve lions carved in stone.
Narrow columns surround this square. To the west of the Court of Lions is the Macarnus Chamber. The elaborate domed ceiling of this chamber is one of the finest architectural features of the Alhambra.
The Nasrid rulers did not just confine themselves within the four walls of the palace. For their entertainment there was the lovely garden of Generalife.
The word Generalife is derived from the Arabic ‘Jannat Chal Arifa’. Jannat means paradise or garden in Arabic. One of the most protected structures of the Nasrid Empire, it has a variety of water flows, fountains and flowers.
The Nasirids planted roses, oranges and myrtle flowers here. This garden has been created keeping in mind the paradise described in the Quran. The Qur’an says “And beneath it will be flowing streams.” (Surah Baqarah: verse 25). Based on this, architects have tried to transform Alhambra into a fountain-filled heaven on earth.
Even after the fall of Granada, the palace’s royal status remained intact. Christian royalty continued to use the palace as their residence. The Spanish emperor Charles V (1700-1746) took the initiative to give Christian symbols to the architecture in accordance with its Islamic character. For this he built a Roman style palace within the Al-Hamra complex. But even then the palace was not able to have any influence on the architecture of Al-Hamra, instead the palace became an integral structure mixed with the entire structure of Al-Hamra.
Al-Hamra was abandoned after the eighteenth century. As a result, the palace began to suffer due to carelessness and neglect. In the 19th century, the palace was renovated and opened for tourism.
In 1984, UNESCO declared Al-Hamra as part of the World Heritage Site considering its historical importance. Currently, the name of Al-Hamra comes first as the most attractive tourist center in Spain. About 2.5 million tourists visit it every year.
The writer is a student of University of Dhaka.