Alhambra is an ancient palace, citadel, and fortress of the Moorish monarchs in the city of Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Also called the red fortress, Alhambra means red castle or vermilion in Arabic, signifying the reddish walls and towers surrounding the complex. While it is pretty irregular in shape, the complex covers approximately 26 acres, having more than a mile of walls, 30 towers, and several smaller structures. Since it was designed as a military area at the start of construction, the Alhambra is strategically positioned on top of a plateau known as al-Sabika, which is at the base of the Darro River. Additionally, it is west of the city and lies in front of the neighborhoods of Albaicin and Alcazaba.

While the Alhambra does not have an exact date for the start and finish, historians believe that it was constructed between the years of 1238 and 1358, during the reign of the founder of the Nasrid dynasty, Ibn al-Ahmar and his successors. Those successors include Muhammed II, Muhammed III, Yusef I, Muhammed V, and several others. Ibn al-Ahmar established the foundations for the Alhambra, building three towers known as the Broken Tower, the Keep, and the Watch Tower. In order to institute it as a royal residence, he canalized water from the Darro River. Not to mention, he built corridors for troop and younger guards, even beginning the construction of several palaces and ramparts. His son and grandson, Muhammed II and Muhammed III picked up where he left off, continuing the work of the palaces and ramparts. Although this was done, the majority of the well-known structures of the complex were constructed by Yusef I and his son Muhammed V. Structures built by Yusef I include the Fourth Comares, the Gate of Justice, and the Baths, while Muhammed V built the Patio of the Lions and a number of rooms.

Years later, King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile conquered Granada in 1492, exiling the last Nasrid ruler, Muhammad XII. This signaled the end of centuries of Islamic control, prompting significant alterations to the Alhambra, with a considerable amount of the interior being destroyed and furniture removed. When Charles V became king, he requested a portion of the complex to be dismantled for the purpose of building a Renaissance-style palace for himself, which he named the Charles V Palace. The Emperor’s Chambers, the Queen’s Dressing Room, and a church were among the structures he built. Following the completion of these structures, the Alhambra was abandoned for hundreds of years. Numerous towers were blown up by a French force during the Peninsular War in 1812, and the complex was further damaged by an earthquake in 1821. To restore and repair the Alhambra, architect José Contreras started a program in 1828, which was funded by Ferdinand VII in 1830. After Contreras passed away, his son and grandson carried on his efforts up until their deaths. Ultimately, additional restoration and conservation work still continues today. Because the Alhambra attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors and is considered one of the most beautiful historical sites, it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

Editors, History.com. “Alhambra.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 12 Mar. 2018, https://www.history.com/topics/landmarks/alhambra.

Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Alhambra”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 29 May. 2021, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Alhambra-fortress-Granada-Spain.