Monday, February 1, 2010

The Alhambra's Generalife gardens, reported from Spain

(Contributed by guest blogger Cara Greenberg who is reporting from Spain.)

The fabled Alhambra, last stronghold of the Muslim rulers of Spain, has been on my bucket list for ages. Last week, I finally made it there, and I wasn’t disappointed. High above the modern city of Granada, the 13th century citadel, extraordinarily intact in all its spectacular decorative detail, is surely one of the world’s aesthetic wonders.

A gentle climb away from the three royal palaces is a peaceful area called the Generalife (from the Arabic Jennat al Arif, or ‘Garden of the Architect’), used by the sultans as a cool summer retreat. Surrounded by pools and fountains, the terraced gardens were re-landscaped in the 1920s and ‘30s in formal French style, with topiaried cypresses and myrtle-edged parterres.

I love the look of the paving here on paths and patios, though it’s not comfortable to walk on. Made of river pebbles laid out in patterns -- some scroll-like, others geometric -- it’s a technique you see all over the city of Granada, part of the Muslim decorative legacy.

At the moment, the Generalife gardens look “a bit dull,” our guide kept apologizing. In May, he told us, there’s an explosion of roses that lasts through November. The greenest section in winter is the pool court, where sunken gardens in the Islamic style contain lavender, thyme and other herbs, irises, and pomegranates…

To read more about the Alhambra and Generalife and see more pictures, go to


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