CARMEN DE LA VICTORIA


 
The word "carmen" comes from the Arab word karm, meaning "vine" and by extension this word has ended up as a definition for the typical moorish houses where vines were grown as a way to provide food as well as shadow against the summer sun. These carmens still are legion in and around the Albayzin : austere houses from the exterior, hidden behind high white walls, letting nothing guess about the luxurious gardens and the peace it offers when you cross its threshold. 


The Carmen de la Victoria is one of many of these Carmens which you can find in the Albayzin. Moreover, being a public building since it was bought by the University of Granada you will be able to visit it and absorb its magic.

The Carmen de la Victoria stands half-way up the Cuesta del Chapiz, on the right hand at the end of the Paseo de los Tristes, after the Palacio de los Cordovas.

To enter, just ring the bell : the guardian is not too picky. Then, climb up the stairs and lose yourself inside the astonishing gardens, until you spot the view to the Alhambra which will leave you probably speechless.


The Carmen de la Victoria is property of the University of Granada. As such it is used as a residence for guests of the University and as a place to organize meetings, parties and exhibitions. 

The carmens are in direct correspondance with the original muslim philosophy which encouraged people to cultivate their interior self than to adorm their exterior one. In a sense, the Alhambra is the perfect carmen : a fortress of rigourous cubes sheltering astonishingly brillant palaces.


ESCALERA DEL AGUA

When you visit the Generalife, don't miss the Escalera del Agua, located on the high part of the gardens, after the Patio de la Sultana




As most of the things in the Generalife, it offers only a shadow of its former Andalusian self, but you can have a pretty good idea of the way the architects of these gardens where expert to combine pleasures (a refreshing piece of ingeniery to escape heat and sun) with the practical (the water provided could be used to operate the ritual cleansing before to reach the prayer room on the height of the gardens).


PARADOR DE SAN FRANCISCO

If you plan to sleep as close as possible from the Alhambra this Parador, just at the end of the Calle Real, is for you. A "Parador" is a kind of hotel located inside a castle, a convent, or any place with a historical or architectural value, renovated and refurbished to meet the needs of modern guests.





The Parador de San Francisco was, at the origin, as is recalled poetically above, the palace of an unknown prince. After the end of the Reconquista, the piece of land and all the buildings were converted as a convent of Franciscan monks. Even if you are not a guest of the Parador, you can visit the Patio inside, which was a chapel and a place of burial, as indicate the marble stone stuck into the walls. At the other end of the patio you can find a dome with muqarnas, typical of the Nazari architecture. 




The convent was used as a temporary resting place for the Catholic Kings Isabella and Fernando while the Royal Chapelle was built in the cathedral. Later on, it slowly fell into disrepair. In the XIXth century, it was abandoned, and it's only in 1929 that it was restored and saved from destruction. In 1954 it opened its door as a Parador.



  

El BAÑUELO

During the Muslim era, Granada had countless hammam or Arab baths. El Bañuelo, in the Carrera del Darro is the last one to have survived the Reconquista in the city itself (there are other ones which have been preserved in the Alhambra), because it became part of a private mansion. Built during the 11th century, it is well hidden behind an unpreposterous facade :



The bañuelo has been recently restored and in order to cover the costs of the restoration and conservation of the place. In consequence the entrance, which was free until now, will now be charged for a "symbolic cost" from the 1st of September 2014.

You can enjoy the place from Monday to Sunday, 9h30-14h30 and 17h-21h. 


As in Roman times, the Arab baths were a public building where people could gather to pass time, meet and relax, but also had a religious meaning because this is where they could wash their sins. They counted three to four rooms usually, one room for hot water, one for cold water and one for warm water.


The ceiling of hammams are dotted with octogonals and star-shaped skylights in order to lessen the weights of the vault, let the steam escape and let light enter.

ARABESQUES 3





MIRADOR DE DARAXA

This mirador is one of the most sublime example the architectural achievement of the Nasrid period, so precise and intricate are the details of its decoration, with two lateral arches and a double-arch in the front, facing the Patio de la Lindaraja, which was closed in the time of Carlos V in a cloister-like fashion. During the Nazari era, the Mirador de Daraxa had a direct view on the Albayzin and the Generalife. 

Its name comes from the Arabic Ayun Dar-Aisha, meaning : the eyes of the Aisha's house.


About the windows, there are 2 poems in Arabic, by Ibn Zamrak

I have tried to translate it as best as I could from the Spanish translation, because most of the time the translation you find on Internet website is simply rubbish : 


All the arts have gifted me their beauties,
giving me perfections and splendours.
Who sees my beauty, will judge me like the wife
Who comes holding a jar, and will beg her favours.

When one contemplates closely my beauty
He will trick his eyes with a delusion
Because he will think the moon 
Has deserted its place in the sky
To make this place its palace.



I am not alone because from here 
I contemplate an admirable garden.
No eye has seen something like it.
This is the crystel palace;
But who has seen it can confound it
With a tempestuous and thrilling ocean.
All of this was made by the Imam Ben Nasr*


(¡May God be the guardian of his greatness among the kings!)
His ancestors won an even greater glory
Because the gave asylum to the Prophet and his people.


* : the Imam Ben Nasr is Mohammed V, the 8th emir of Granada, who built the Palace of the Lions.

Its name comes from the Arabic Ayun Dar-Aisha, meaning : the eyes of Aisha's house.



PATIO DE LA LINDARAJA

During your visit of the Alhambra, this will be located right after the Palacio de los Leones and the Emperor's Chambers and just before the Partal.

It has a cloister-like atmosphere, but it was not always so : in the photo below you can see on the right the Mirador de Daraxa, which closes the Palacio de los Leones. In the Nazari era, from this Mirador you had an open view on the Generalife and the Albayzin, until they closed the patio with the construction on the left side. 


The idea of closing the patio came after the reconquest and to do it they used columns and stones from other parts of the Alhambra, more precisely from the Patio de Machuca (next to the Mexuar).


You can have a glimpse of an old hammam of the Palaces when you explore a bit the corridors :


SEX : EL NIÑO DE LAS PINTURAS 2

A few more graffitis from the guy who is to Granada what Banksy is for London...



Joe Strummer's portrait, near the Placeta Joe Strummer.


Cuesta Vistilla de los Angeles

Cuesta Vistilla de los Angeles


Autograph of the artist

Baño de la Mezquita

Just behind the church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra, you can find the so-called Baño de la Mezquita, a hammam which reminds us that the aforementioned church stands on the ground of an older mosque.




It is not as impressive as the Bañuelo which you can find in the Carrera del Darro, but still, it offers a glimpse of the past.



ARABESQUES 2





PLACETA CARVAJALES : my favourite view of the Alhambra

Most people go to the Mirador de San Nicolas and they are right : it's indeed grandiose, with the Sierra Nevada, the sky and all... But if you want a really great view of the Alhambra, without the bother of a lot of people around you, and see the monument as a huge ship on the crest of a green wave of trees, you need to find this Placeta Carvajales. You won't be disappointed.



The place in itself is small and slightly abandoned to its fate :





PALACIO DAR-AL-HORRA

It's probably one of the best kept secret of the Albaycin... but not for long. After three months of restoration, the Palacio Dar al-Horra will reopen to the public and will be included in an offer of visit joined with the Alhambra.

It was one of the best kept secret of the Albayzin due to the difficulty to reach, and second because it was free ! Just like the Bañuelo on Carrera del Darro, the restoration implies a cost which might lead to a "symbolic cost of entrance".

Be aware that the pictures following were taken in 2012. So the Palacio might offer a slightly different scene from now on.




Dar-al-horra means House of the Lady. The lady in question was Aicha bin Mohamed, who was the mother of Muhamed XII, best known as Boabdil, the last sultan of the emirate of Granada. She is the one who is supposed to have said to her son, after the fall of Granada : Weep as a woman what you couldn't defend as a man.


Taken over by the Christians after the Reconquista, the palace was converted into a convent and remained so until the 20th Century. However, many of the Arab arts details, frescos and engravings have been preserved.



 Last but not least, it has a lovely little garden. Don't forget that palace during your visit.