An index to blog posts from our Spain trip can be found on the first entry.
In Granada, you are likely to hear two names in connection with the buildings from the Emirate: Yusuf I and Muhammad V. These two sultans consecutively ruled Granada from 1333 to 1391, except for a three-year period when civil conflict caused Muhammad V to take refuge at the Seville Alcazar and with the Marinid court in Fez, Morocco. Yusuf I became sultan when his brother was murdered, and Muhammad V became sultan when his father Yusuf I was murdered while at prayers in 1354. As you can see, ruling the Emirate of Granada was not for the faint-hearted!
The Madraza of Granada
[Visited on December 31, 2018]
One of the first places that Natasha and I visited in Granada was the Madraza, a higher learning institution founded by Sultan Yusuf I in 1349. As is commonly the case, the Madraza was associated with a mosque, in this case the main mosque of medieval Granada, previously located just across the street. When Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Reconquista by taking Granada in 1492, these institutions were the first to be affected. The Madraza became the town hall (and the neighboring mosque was destroyed to make room for the Catholic cathedral). Sumptuous carved wooden doors with paintings of Christian saints were installed at the Madraza, and an upstairs hall was recreated in fine Mudejar style for the “XXIV Knights Hall.” The ceiling is outrageous, with support beams and ornamentation in a riot of colors.
Happily, the original prayer hall of the Madraza was boarded off during the early remodeling of the building, and a restoration in the 19th century has helped to highlight its original glory. The ceiling and walls of the prayer hall are simply magnificent, just as fine a room as one would expect to see in Seville’s Alcazar, with the added benefit that there are no crowds standing in line to see them. We lingered longer than strictly necessary to breathe in the beauty around us.
The Corral del Carbon
[The rest of this post stems from our visits on January 3, 2019.]
Our day started with a run to the Market at San Agustin and some souvenir shopping near the main cathedral in town.
As we migrated through a maze of shopping stalls (finishing with some glorious embroidered silk scarves), our first destination hove into view. We were back to see the Monumentos Andalusies, and this time we were armed with tickets we had bought online!
The Corral del Carbon was originally called “al-funduq al-jadida,” constructed by Muhammad V in the 14th century as a warehouse where travelling merchants could find accommodations for themselves and their wares. After the Reconquista, charcoal merchants used it as a sales floor, contributing its Spanish name. The structure has a magnificent entry, though its triple-decker internal structure has few original elements remaining.
In the ground-floor corner one can enter a small museum dedicated to explaining the Muslim conquest of the peninsula and the eventual dissolution and defeat of the kingdoms of Al-Andalus. It’s very well done, with a handy timeline, and it features many period paintings and woodcuts of Granada. I appreciated that the Mezquita Mayor (main mosque) was illustrated and located with respect to the main cathedral and royal chapel in Granada. The museum currently features a short film in which Granada is illustrated through text that medieval travelers and diplomats recorded about the city. I wrote in my Albaicin post that Casa de Zafra would be an ideal first stop in your Albaicin tour, but the Corral del Carbon is perhaps even better!
The Baths at Carrera del Darro
In contrast to Carral del Carbon, En Bañuelo is in a structure that shows far more original elements; the renovations have largely tried to return the pieces to their original locations. The annotation and interpretation, however, are at a minimum. The ceramic segmented plumbing pipes are unlabeled, as the hot, tepid, and cold areas. Even a poster explaining when Muslims were required to be ritually clean would have been helpful. An arrow pointing to several stacks of bricks on the sub-floor, reading “hypocaust” would be nice, for that matter! As matters currently stand, visitors mostly say, “ooh, pretty arches!” and “ooh, star-shaped holes for daylight!” The 2014 article I linked at the top of the paragraph produced a three-dimensional photographic model of the entire complex. Archnet has several lovely photos from this site, and they note it dates from the 11th century, from the Zirid dynasty’s control of the city which ended in 1090 A.D.
House of the Golden Oven
Our return to Casa Horno de Oro with our Internet-acquired tickets ran much more smoothly. The structure follows a familiar design; it is a patio surrounded by a two-story structure. It was in a lovely state of preservation, though, and the carved arches and painted wooden ceilings were stunning. I found it difficult to acquire much history on the structure, but it appears to be a “Morisco” (Muslim who accepted conversion to Christianity) house for a wealthy family from the late 15th century.
As we saw at Corral del Carbon, the site featured an exhibit, though not one that related to the history of the house. Three rooms had been hung with art photography from the Albaicin and Alhambra. They were nice additions. Natasha enjoyed three images taken through an horseshoe arch door of a busker interacting with tourists. It was a nice exhibition. I still want to know, though, where is the golden oven?
From there, Natasha and I left in search of lunch. We trudged “over the hump” of the Albaicin, reaching the high ground of Mirador San Nicolas once more. We found a lovely Moroccan restaurant (Restaurante Teteria Marrakech) that could field gluten-free food. I took the easy route with lamb kebab and rice. We emerged to snap some photos from this famous overlook!
The Mother of the Sultan
We had just one more site to visit from the World Heritage roster. The Palacio Dar al-Horra was constructed for Aixa, wife of Sultan Muhammad XI and mother of “Boabdil,” the last Sultan of Granada. It was a glorious home, and much of the decor was in good shape. The palace, already poised on very high ground, unusually features an observation tower. The view from up there was fantastic! I was wowed by Iglesia de San Cristobal, perched right at the top of an adjoining ridge. I also spent some time looking down at the old royal hospital, set in a square subdivided in both dimensions by a cross-hall.
The palace followed the model of the Corral del Carbon and Casa Horno de Oro by hosting a quality exhibition. Their focus was the advanced technology of Al-Andalus (especially in comparison to other European kingdoms of the time). The displays showed advances in Mathematics, Astronomy, Medicine, and Agriculture. Certainly the Muslim’s ability to handle arid climates came in handy. Their insights at water management introduced many new terms to Spanish, and a new growing season became possible, along with the ability to skip fallow periods for fields because the Moors brought new crops to the peninsula.
We gazed down at Granada from our high perch. Natasha pointed below us to the medieval wall for the Albaicin. We had tried to find a good view of it only to realize we had been walking alongside it. I discovered a cat sleeping in the garden and tried to encourage him to come play. We sighed with contentment.