“Leave me in Granada in the middle of paradise where my soul wells with poetry”
-José Zorrilla, Poet
Andalucia lies at the crossroads of continents, peoples, religions and history.
Civilizations have flourished in Southern Spain since antiquity. Its Golden Age came about after the arrival of the armies of Islam, who had swept out from Mecca in the seventh century across the vast deserts of North Africa and crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in the eighth century. This newly-conquered land, at the very edge of Islam, would be known as al-Andalus (Andalucia).
The Moors created a stunning civilization that outshone its neighbors in Christendom and in the rest of the Islamic world. Medieval Andalucia was a light in the (so-called) Dark Ages of Europe – a land where Muslims, Christians, and Jews joined to create an intellectual, advanced, and tolerant society.
Muslim poets sang of their beloved land as a terrestrial paradise. Jewish poets called al-Andalus their second Jerusalem.
No place could serve as greater testament to the glories of Andalucia than the hills of Granada – especially that legendary hill known as the Alhambra, even now considered one of the Wonders of the World.
The fort, palace, and gardens of Alhambra, whose refinement and beauty were legendary even in their own days, were the heart and soul of the Moors.
The beauty of the Alhambra Palace, described by contemporary poets as “a pearl set in emeralds,” and the Generalife Gardens, is that the Moors were brilliant architects of not only bricks and mortar, precious marble, and delicately carved wood, but also of trees and flowers, cascading fountains, and tranquil pools.
Ultimately, Granada is considered by most to be the last stronghold of the Moors before their defeat in 1492 to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, and it was here that the surrender was signed.
On the hill opposite the Alhambra, lies the best-preserved Moorish quarter in Europe – the Albayzin. Here, the mansions (carmens) and gardens of the Moorish nobility enjoy privileged views of one of the Wonders of the World. The labyrinthine streets of the Albayzin are filled with tapas bars, dark cafes (and yes, souvenir stores) and are reminiscent of Morocco and of all its mystery.
We can arrange access to one of these (carmens) for private cocktails at sunset, private evening walks through the Albayzin, and if you wish, a visit to one of more authentic gypsy families of the Sacromonte hills.