Moorish Architecture in Granada
Whilst it is famous for the Alhambra there are many other sites with splendid Moorish architecture in Granada, some of these offer a more real feeling of the daily life and culture of that time. Many of the Moorish buildings were destroyed by the Catholics over the past centuries, but seven remain, and have been restored and are open to the public interested in the Islamic heritage of Granada. I would highly recommend a tour of these buildings before exploring the Alhambra, as they might otherwise be deemed too basic and boring in comparison, by many visitors – perhaps like visiting the servants quarters after the Palace.
Breakfast at Cafe Baraka
We had started our day with a leisurely breakfast at cool, Café Baraka next-door. Our plan was to spend the rest of the morning exploring these Moorish sites and then get the full on experience in the afternoon at the lavish Alhambra.
The Hammam (El Bañuelos)
Five of the original buildings are located in the picturesque Albaicin a short stroll from breakfast. Our first stop was the Hammam, the ancient Arab Baths. Past the entrance we first walked through a pretty courtyard with its fountain and then arrived in the first room of the Bañuelos, the cold room, then the warm and hot rooms lay beyond, the traditional layout of most hammams. Nowadays it is hard to imagine that these rooms were once filled with the chatter of locals, the rooms have lost most of their features but some have survived, including the intricate ornaments on the columns. The roof was just being restored at our visit and the star-shaped skylights created fascinating light effects on the walls. Interactive I-pads showed the history and some interesting facts and photos of the Arab Baths, a welcome feature for kids.
Experience a the Arab Baths
Jerome would have preferred to visit a working hammam, rather than an empty shell of a building. He had enjoyed our experience in the Arab baths in Morocco and would have loved to spend the morning in real baths instead. The Hammam is a great way to unwind after a day wandering through the streets of Granada and tourists have the option of the modern Arab style baths at Al Andalus, will quickly whizz you into the atmosphere of 2001 nights, while being scrubbed clean with the well deserved relaxation afterwards.
Casa de Zafra
Not far from the Hammam, up a steep, narrow alleyway, is the Casa de Zafra. It is an excellent example of an old Moorish dwelling from the 14/15th century and has been beautifully preserved. The house, arranged over two floors surrounding a sunny patio with a water reservoir took us straight back to our stay in Marrakesh. The first floor balconies offered a panoramic view of the Alhambra and the rooms have retained their beautiful paintings.
Casa Horno de Oro
Just around the corner, is the Casa Horno de Oro, a house of similar style to Casa de Zafra. Again it has been constructed around the rectangular patio with a shallow pool at its centre. I somehow preferred this Moorish House, the design was slightly more appealing to me, Jerome, however said he could not really see any difference at all…
Stroll Through the Albaicin
Strolling through the Albaicin, this time with the aim to reach the last Andalusian Monument on our list, the Casa Del Chapiz, we were aware of the Spanish charm and the beauty of the houses throughout the quarter. The balconies adorned with colourful tiles, pretty flowers peeking over the walls and the cobbled streets laid in intriguing patterns.
Casa del Chapiz
Casa Del Chapiz, is two mansions, that used to belong to Arab families that converted to Christianity when the city was conquered. The house contains offices, but the two lovely patios and the extensive gardens make it a worthwhile visit. The pool inside the courtyard was filled with lily pads and goldfish. The garden offered incredible views of the Alhambra complex and the rooftops of the Albaicin. The paths between the flowerbeds provide the perfect place for kids to run around and let off some steam or to just sit and enjoy the sun.
Discovering the Cave Houses
Straight across from Casa del Chapiz we took a seat on the tiny square at a little café for a fresh orange juice and a cup of coffee. The street was lined with walls covered in street art and graffiti. The road leads to the holy mountain, dotted with cave houses an area, which with more time we should be discovered to get an insight into the lives and architecture of these underground dwellings.
The Most Famous Sight in Granada
For us it was time, after spending the morning exploring the Andalusian Monuments of Moorish architecture, to head up the hill, to the most famous sight of all in Granada, the Alhambra. Visiting this splendid palaces and gardens was definitely the highlight of our trip to the city, discover with us in our following post.
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