When walking through the intricate streets of the Albaicin of Granada we can see a lot of beautiful tiles in the houses with the name of “Carmen de…”. They are historical houses of this neighborhood whose origin dates back from Al-Andalus period.
The polymath, poet, writer, historian, philosopher, physician and politician of the Nasrid Kingdom Ibn al-Khatib wrote in the 14th century about the green paradise in the surroundings of Granada compound by vegetable patches, gardens and wal-kurum. According to Vincent, B. in “Andalucía en la Edad Moderna, (1985)” (Andalusia in the Modern Times) the word karm, which means vineyard, started to be used in the 16th century to name a house with a garden with some vegetable fruits and vineyard.
It seems the wal-kurum had originally only rural identity and their gardens were larger, denser and more luxuriant than the karm of the 16th century, or the carmen of nowadays. In Al-Andalus period they were property of the upper social classes of the Nasrid kingdom, for their delightful and joy. Their agricultural productivity was a secondary purpose but there are still conserved almost 30 aljibes (water wells) in Albaicin that were used to irrigate gardens and vegetable patches.
With the persecution of the Muslim people after the conquest by the Catholic kings (15th century), the Albaicin started to be a neighborhood with a majority of Moorish population as it works as a refuge for them. The expulsion of the Moorish people in 1609 changed again the landscape in Granada, specially in Albaicin as it was almost completely abandoned. The rural character of the neighborhood changed to an urban shape: the houses were had a bigger size and their gardens started to be smaller, conserving just some plants, flowers (jasmine, rose, carnation…), ornamental trees, fruit trees (pomegranate, lemon, orange, peach…) and traditionally a vineyard too.
Lately Baroque, Renaissance and Romantic art styles influenced the decoration of these gardens and houses in the 19th and 20th century, making them up what they are nowadays: A typical house that has a garden with some fresh fruits and a high wall which separates it from the street.
The carmenes of the Albaicin are a piece of Heaven in land. The smell and the fresh atmosphere you can breathe there will make you think you are not in a city. Most of them also look towards the Alhambra so they have amazing views of one of the most spectacular monuments in Andalusia.
I post here some pictures of some carmenes that I found in the website granadaporelmundo.com to enjoy their beauty.
Are you visiting Andalusia? Maybe I can help you to organize your trip or I can be your guide. Penelope