The Alhambra

The Alhambra

A visit to see exquisite architecture with bored children 

When I was in art school studying Scene Design for Theatre one of our projects was to create a design for the Marriage of Figaro. Since it takes place outside of Seville, in a palace, I decided to set it at the Alhambra. Doing research was always one of the most fun parts of any project and pouring over books on Islamic design was like devouring a visual feast.

For a little background, the Alhambra is a palace in Granada, Spain built by Islamic Amirs, the Nasrids, who descended from an Arabic tribe originally from the area of Medina before they ruled over Spain. As with all traditional Islamic art and design figurative work is haram (or forbidden) so there is a strong emphasis on pattern and language. Throughout the castle there are thousands of inscriptions. The walls are literally covered in poetry that says something about the space you are in and the spiritual intent. The mathematical patterns that repeat throughout the grounds create beauty through the geometry and math they demonstrate. It is truly mindblowing.

This spring an opportunity appeared to take my daughters to Portugal to visit some friends who had moved there. Since we were going to be in the the south in the Algarve, it was a chance to scoot over to see for myself this beautiful place and I did not want to miss it.

We made the four+ hour drive from the Algarve and found our way to the where we were staying in Granada. The city is at the beginning of a mountain. Like the mountains here in California, the ones there are also called the Sierra Nevadas, which means snow covered. The highest peak is over 11,000 feet and has a ski resort, the southernmost one in Europe. We stayed close to the castle. In the evening the neighborhood was lively and people stayed out late eating and drinking. It felt like the sun stayed up later.

In the morning we awoke and headed to the castle. It was a warm day. We made it to our timed entry and went inside. Looking around you see the math and beauty of the exquisite patterns. All around is stunning detail. The colors are soft, the textures are varied. In all the complexity it flows together. Even the water moves in a carefully crafted way. I was in awe.

European Cathedrals are famous for their rose windows, but here there were 3D fractal/rose windows. They are something really special to see and awe inspiring in the best kind of way.

Pattern Gallery

Garden Gallery

Architecture and Heat are Lame

Unfortunately, my daughters weren’t as overcome with the beauty and being from SF, they weren’t enjoying the heat. The two sisters did not enjoy the hall of The Two Sisters nearly as much as I did. As I was ooohing and ahhhing they were hoooing and humming. The complaints got louder and more persistent and they preferred going to our appointed meeting place to meet up with rest of our party. There was some interpersonal friction and we weren’t able to stay and see the whole thing.

I was very happy seeing the grounds and the Nasrid Palaces, but a little sad I wasn’t able to make it to the Generalife. Andalusia was really interesting and I’d love to have some time to do nothing there and relax and explore and get to know it better.

Written by jennalex

Artist and designer who explores the relationship between the natural world and the digital world and aims to create art and design that expands people's consciousness and creates meaningful experiences.

August 18, 2023