The Islamic Garden … A Paradise on Earth
Should the Arab world be outside your reach, you’ll find that most memorable effect fully realized in the gardens of the Alhambra, looming over the city of Granada in southern Spain’s Andalusia region. Despite the crowds you may expect to encounter, a tour of Granada rightly pivots upon the Alhambra’s wonders: The immense hilltop complex standing as a testament to eras of occupation by Romans, Goths, and the control of Christian monarchs after 1492. Yet, the grandeur of the Alhambra monument resides in neither the surviving citadel nor the palace of Charles V, but rather in the Medieval epoch’s Nasrid palaces, and the exquisite gardens of the sultan’s retreat, El Generalife – created by Muslim rulers.
Avid hikers may choose to follow a maze of narrow, winding streets to the monument’s gateway, but a bouncing ascent aboard a minibus is the usual transport from Granada‘s centrally located Plaza Nueva: The Nasrid Palaces – Inside the gracefully proportioned halls of the Nasrid palaces, a spell is cast by vast sweeps of rhythmically carved motifs, covering plaster walls and soaring wooden ceilings. The visual feast is heightened by the carvings known as muqarnas: A unique tiered ornamentation that adorns countless domes, vaults, niches, and at times emerges in the shape of stalactites.
El Generalife – Positioned high above the surrounding river valleys, the Moorish-designed royal gardens of the Alhambra and the Generalife manifest the ideals of an earthly paradise in sheltered courtyards cooled by shallow marble fountains or mirror-like pools of water. Providing an escape from the intense Mediterranean sun the gardens are replete with luxuriant vegetation; cypress, myrtle, and box shrubbery; abundant citrus, plum and magnolia trees. A floral perfume sweetens the air of the Generalife, where peering through arches sculpted out of massive, architectural hedges, you’ll savor images of canals flanked by allées of roses.