A walk in the Albaicin of Granada

Last time I went to Granada I walked around the Albaicin again. My only purpose was to visit the Arab baths of El Bañuelo, but in the entry ticket (5€) includes the visit to two more monuments in this historical neighborhood. Take into account that on Sundays the visit to the El Bañuelo is free, by the way it is worth the price of the combined ticket for the three monuments.

So the first stop was in the oldest and best preserved baths in the Iberian Peninsula. Their origin is from the 11th century and they were open until the command by Philip the 2nd, who ordered the closure of all the baths in order to punish and control the Moorish population. His son Philip the 3rd was the king who finally ordered the expulsion of the Moorish people.

The Walnut Tree baths, as they were known back in time, were later called the Baths of the Palaces and of the Gate of Guadix. They are compounded by the cold, tepid and warm halls and the ceiling is starred by octagonal skylights. The coming of day light into the rooms gives a delightful atmosphere to the place. Moreover, lot of the caliphal capitals of the columns, made in bee’s nest style, are very well preserved.

The second place included in the entrance was the Moorish House or Casa Horno de Oro, located in the street Horno de Oro (Golden oven). Originally it was a nazarite house from the 15th century, but its architecture changed a little bit after the Castillian conquest. For example, the original entrance is small, very simple and it inhibits a direct view into the courtyard. But there is one more entrance, this time with an arch, that was built in the 16th century following the laws that forbade the Moorish population to have any privacy at home.

The house is built around a rectangular courtyard with a pool in the middle, which is the traditional structure of houses in Islamic style. The galleries in the second floor are two of them from the 15th century, and the other two from the 16th due to the Christian influence. In Toledo it was very typical to close the second floor with four galleries, not only two.

Being in this house is delicious. There is nothing but silence only broken with the sound of the water in the fountain that fills the pool. The nazarite decoration in stucco and plaster combines perfectly with the Mudejar wooden craftwork in the ceilings.

In the way to the third and last monument included in our ticket we saw a carmen. It was open to the public and for free. It was the house of the Belgian painter and artist Max Moreau, who lived there for the last 30 years of his life. It was my first time inside of a carmen, and now I can guarantee for sure that a carmen is a piece of heaven.

Finally, we visited Dar Al Horra palace, which was my favorite. It was erected for the royalty of the city of Gharnata (Arabic voice for Granada) in the 11th century and in the 15th it was the residence of the Sultaness Aixa, mother of Boabdil. According to the legend she said to her son, the Sultan of Gharnata, “cry as a woman what you could not defend as a man”, when they were leaving the Nasrid kigdom after it fell in the hands of the Catholic Monarchs. This legend is just a fairy tale written by Washington Irving in “Tales of the Alhambra”, but curiously local people think is completely true.

Isabella, the Catholic Queen, first ceded the Dar Al Horra palace to her secretary and very soon after that it became part of a Monastery. In the 20th century it was finally transferred to the state ownership and restored. Like the Moorisk house in Horno de Oro, the structure is arranged around a central courtyard or patio, and all the rooms are opened and look towards the central pool. The main element in this palace is its tower. While climbing to the top more rooms are disposed around it, with elegant and highly decorated arches and ceilings. Some of the inscriptions in Arab are phrases of celebration like “blessing”, “happiness” or “continuous joy”.

I didn’t have any idea of the existence of these monuments and at the end of this walk I felt like I did a travel in time. Every time I’ve been in the Albaicin I just walked around its bucolic streets, eat some tapas and maybe enjoy the views of the Alhambra from the famous San Nicolas viewpoint. But this time I think I really discovered the Albaicin and its singular history. I highly recommend to dedicate an afternoon to do this journey to Nazarite Gharnata.

4 thoughts on “A walk in the Albaicin of Granada

  1. Oh, Penelope … how I love your posts! Your writing and photos are so evocative that I’m immediately immersed in what you’re describing (to the point of almost imagining the fountains in the Casa Horno de Oro). Thank you for this beautiful, educational mini-vacation.

    Liked by 1 person

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