The city of Granada is located near the southern tip of Spain, on the hills at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. An important city during the period of Umayyad rule (756-1031 AD) and under the Almohad and Almoravid dynasties of the twelfth and thirteenth-centuries, Granada is most famous for the palaces within the palatine city of the Alhambra.
Founded by Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr, who escaped to Granada after the Castilian conquest of his native Zaragoza, Granada was the capital of the Nasrid Sultanate, and as such became the last Islamic kingdom of the Iberian Peninsula following the Castilian conquest of al-Andalus in the thirteenth-century.
The medieval city was composed of separate quarters, each with its own mosques and baths. Granada's suburbs developed along the banks of the Darro River, on the plain and hills below the Alhambra. The government functions of the Nasrid rulers were concentrated in the Alhambra, while commercial, religious, and civic institutions were concentrated in Granada proper.
The Albaicín, a walled suburb on the hill opposite that of the Alhambra, is the best-preserved section of the medieval city, but retains only a fraction of the mosques and celebrated courtyard houses that once existed there.
Dickie, James. 1992. "Granada: A Case Study of Arab Urbanism in Muslim Spain." In The Legacy of Muslim Spain, edited by S. K. Jayyusi and M. Marín. Leiden ; New York: E.J. Brill, 88-111.
Hermann, Elizabeth Dean. 1996. Urban formation and landscape: symbol and agent of social, political and environmental change in fifteenth-century Nasrid Granada. Harvard Univ.: PhD. Dissertation.
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The Generalife, built during the reign of Muhammad III (1302-1309), was used as a Nasrid summer retreat. The name may be derived from the Arabic jinan al-'arif (gardens of the overseer). Separated from the Alhambra by a gorge, and overlooking the Nasrid palatine city, the Generalife is composed of terraces arranged on the hillside, with pavilions overlooking the courtyard and lush gardens. From the Generalife, the Nasrid rulers and their guests would also have enjoyed views of a productive landscape of orchards, crops, and grazing animals.
The Acequía Court, located on the lowest terrace, consists of a rectangular court divided into four quadrants by long water channels, with a basin at the centre. A gallery with a mirador runs along the west side of the court, providing dramatic views of the landscape and of the Alhambra. A pavilion on the north end also contains a mirador, and overlooks the Albaicin quarter of Granada. The three-storied pavilion on the southern end of the court was used as a residence. Both pavilions open onto the Acequía Court through arcades.
The highest terrace of the complex is linked to the lower levels by a stairway whose water-channel balustrade connects three circular landings, each with its own shallow basin and jet at its centre. Each landing provides dramatic views over the landscape, juxtaposed with the visual play of water and stone.
Dickie, James. "The Hispano-Arab Garden: Notes Toward a Typology." In The Legacy of Muslim Spain. ed. Salma K. Jayyusi. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992.) 1016-35.
ibid. "The Islamic Garden in Spain." In The Islamic Garden. ed. E.B. MacDougall and R. Ettinghausen. (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks, 1976). p. 89-105.
Ruggles, D.F. "The Alhambra." In Gardens, Landscape, and Vision in the Palaces of Islamic Spain. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2000). p. 168-174.
Vilchez Vilchez, Carlos. El Generalife. (Granada : Proyecto Sur de Ediciones, 1991. )