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Thursday, September 12, 2013 (read 611 times)
Granada: Parksby Abigail
Awarded the prestigious title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, the Generalife gardens of the Alhambra welcome its visitors to a horticultural paradise far from the “hustle and bustle” of city life. Less known, however, is the fact that Granada itself is a city filled with hidden parks and gardens. The fatigued tourist does not have to stumble far, therefore, to find the perfect stopping place between manic sightseeing tours.
The Generalife Gardens of the Alhambra
Dating back to the 12th Century, the Generalife gardens and adjoining palace were originally the royal summer residence of the ruling Muslim emirs. Thanks to the multiple comparisons between a garden and heaven in the Qur’an, the Moorish Generalife gardens of the Alhambra were designed to replicate heaven on earth. As a consequence, the Generalife invites tourists to explore some of the most breathtaking and beautifully-maintained gardens in the world. Sharing a love for the calming sound of water and the sweet-scented smells of fragrant flowers, Moorish royalty demanded that the Generalife gardens were landscaped accordingly to fulfill such desires and, considering that their stay in the summer residence lasted for more than three centuries, the emirs were seemingly delighted with the “end product”.
Today, visitors will equally find themselves in awe of the splendor of the gardens. Showcasing aromatic rose gardens, sheltered cypress and oleander-edged walkways and an abundance of long narrow pools, including the frequently-photographed arched fountains of the Patio de la Acequia, the Generalife gardens are truly a sight to behold at every turn. Moreover, found amid the gardens is the Generalife Open Air Theatre. Opened in 1954 as a ballet centre, the theatre has since greatly expanded its selection of productions and, in late June, it is home to some of the most exceptional artistic performances of Granada’s International Festival of Music and Dance. Whilst sitting back and soaking up the late evening rays, previous visitors to the theatre have been treated to unique dance interpretations of the globally-renowned works of Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dalíand Miguel de Falla.
A popular wedding destination: El Carmen de los Mátires
By walking for just ten minutes along the Alhambra hills, visitors to the Generalife gardens can explore yet another botanical gem: the Carmen de los Mártires (Carmen of the Martyrs). At the request of Queen Isabella I in the late 15th Century, this site was originally the location for a shrine which commemorated the lives of the multitudes of Christians subjected to great suffering at the hands of Arab rulers. Today, however, the Carmen comprises of a restored 19th Century mansion house surrounded by an assortment of charming gardens. From French to English to Spanish-style, from palm to orange to magnolia tree and from rose bush to jasmine flower to water lily, the incredibly diverse gardens leave their visitors in horticultural bliss. It is no wonder that so many brides-to-be want their all-important wedding photographs to be taken in such a picturesque setting!
Whether visiting in the Middle Ages or present day, leading the life of a King or a tourist, Granada’s parks and gardens have provided, and will continue to provide, the individual with a place in which they can relax, reflect and recharge.
Photo by Alex Torres
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