Smithsonian Journeys Dispatches

La Alhambra - One Great Reason to Visit Granada

The original Alhambra was a primitive red stone castle used by Arabs for shelter from battle during the rule of Abdullah ibn Muhammad (r. 888-912). The tiny castle didn't prove much of a shelter and fell to ruin. During the Nasrid Dynasty, the last Arab Muslim Dynasty in Spain, interest in the site was rekindled and a palace complex was completed there during the 13th and 14th centuries. Muslim rulers lost Granada and the Alhambra in 1492, when King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella conquered the surrounding region.

The Hall of the Abencerrajes, so named for knights that may have been beheaded there, is topped with a Mocárabe dome. Mocárabe, also known as honeycomb or stalactite work, may be representative of the cave where Muhammad received the Koran. The following inscription is written in the hall: "There is no other help than the help that comes from God, the clement and merciful One."

La Alhambra was famously the childhood home of Katharine of Aragon, the first of Henry VIII's six wives. Today, La Alhambra is Spain's most famous example of Islamic architecture; additions and alterations have been made to the site by Spain's Catholic rulers since the 16th century.

Click here to learn more about Spain and how you can visit the Alhambra yourself.