Seeing the Alhambra (Part I)

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Andalucía

A couple hours later at 5am, my alarm went off. My roommate and I got ready quietly as to not wake up the other girls in our apartment. Half-awake but excited, we left our hostel and headed out into the sleepy town. The air was cool and the stars were still out. The main street was empty except for a few people at a nearby bus stop and the cabs searching for customers. Since it was too early to take the bus we needed, we hopped into a taxi. Destination? The Alhambra!

After a few minutes of driving uphill, we reached the Pabellón de acceso and joined the short queue at the ticket office. Both of us had been unable to purchase tickets online ahead of time—they can sell out really fast—and to buy them on the day of, the safest bet was to line up long before the office opened. So, knowing that we would be waiting for a couple hours, we sat down and made ourselves comfortable by the cyprus trees.

It was chilly up here but I loved being out at this hour. While sprinklers sprayed the gardens behind us and a few guards strolled around, we began chatting with the other tourists in line and discussed everything from travel to politics; okay, the latter may have been because of me. Slowly, daylight spread across the sky and a few coffees later, we had our tickets! But since we received entry for the afternoon visit, we decided to go down to see a friend of ours in the meantime.

We then separated and I had a long, delicious brunch before making my way back. Being early May, there was white fluffy stuff flying all around from the trees but on that path up to the Palace, there was so much of it that it seemed like it was snowing in summer. I thought it was absolutely beautiful—although someone pointed out that those with allergies may not agree—and I wish I could have captured it on camera. The uphill walk also turned out to be quite a leg workout so, I was happy to finally reach the top and enter the complex.

The entire Alhambra is huge but I started by seeing the best part first, i.e. the Nasrid Palaces. The first set of rooms are part of the Palacio del Mexuar. The one seen above was used for prayers.

I walked around slowly, taking in everything around me. The architecture and design, the use of space and water… it was all simply breathtaking. I felt like a kid let loose in a candy store.

The Patio de los Arrayanes, Court of the Myrtles, is in the Comares Palace which made up the official residences of the emir. Construction began in the 14th century under Yusuf I and finished under his son Mohammed V. The white portion is a result of the Charles V Palace built after the fall of Granada.

Behind this lovely Patio is Torre de Comares which is the biggest one of the towers and most noticeable from outside.

It was also cool to see where the inspiration for the Alcázar of Sevilla had come from but I am glad I saw it before the Alhambra or I may not have been able to enjoy it as much. I mean, how can you be satisfied once you’ve seen this?

A close-up of the woodwork in the Hall of the Ambassadors, or the throne room, inside the Torre de Comares.

After taking a final glance back at the Court of the Myrtles, I then made my way to the Palacio de los Leones which exudes majesty and power on a whole other level.

Mohammed V is also to credit for the building of the Palace of the Lions and actually, for a lot of the Alhambra that we see today as he made improvements as well. This Palace formed the private residences of the emir and his family.

The light reflecting off the floor here was blinding after a while but I’m glad it produced great photos!

There were several private rooms branching out from the Patio and I happily got lost around here a few times only figuring the way out after asking an amused guard.

The Sala de Dos Hermanas, Hall of the Two Sisters, has some of the most incredible ceilings I’ve ever seen.

The way out from the Patio led to a balcony with this gorgeous view; just when you think it can’t get better.

Towards the centre left of the photo, you can see the tower of the Church of San Nicolás in the Albaicín where I had been the day before. At the bottom is the main street that runs along the Darro River.

I then took a seat in the Patio de Lindaraja which was lovely with orange trees around the square and a fountain in the centre. After spending a few minutes resting here and allowing everything to sink in more, I was ready to go explore the second part of the Alhambra and began making my way over to the gardens.

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