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June - July 2009


Amazing Andalusia

by Bajrang Bahadur Mathur

Andalusia is the southern province of Spain with a Mediterranean and an Atlantic coastline. The three most visited towns of this region are Granada, Cordoba, and Seville. All these towns have buildings of historic and architectural importance. The region also possesses archaeological sites dating back to the Roman Period. For many centuries Spain was a host to Arabic Culture and these parts in particular were the centre of the Moorish empire. It was a place of encounter and clashes of Christian and Muslim traditions and cultures. In addition to the architectural heritage it is also steeped in traditions of flamenco music, dance, cuisine and bull fighting.

1. Panoramic view of Alhambra,Granada Massive Palace of Moors with back drop of snow-covered peaks of Sierra Nevada mountain range

Granada is situated at the foothills of Sierra Nevada, which is the highest mountain range in Spain and a National Park. The best monumental site of Andalusia is in Granada and it is the Massive Moorish Citadel, Alhambra. It consists of a series of fortifications, palaces and gardens. Alhambra was the home to many Arab Sultan rulers. The present complex is the outcome of additions to it by those who lived in it. They all followed the principle and theme of ‘Paradise on Earth’ as described in the Koran. The design of palaces was based on traditional elements e.g. colonnades, arcades, landscaped courtyards, flowering plants and trees, pools and fountains. These elements not only added the aesthetic pleasures, but also provided essential cooling to rooms for the comfort of occupants.

L. Richly decorated room of the Moorish parts of the palace; R. Sketch of the Pavilion with reflecting pool in the grounds of Alhambra

Palace of Charles V is the exception to other additions to the complex as it was built in Renaissance style. The palace design is some what peculiar as it is a square building with a round colonnaded courtyard.

The Generalife is the Summer Palace and is also called as ‘the garden of the lofty paradise’. The gardens are truly tranquil and picturesque.

L:Sketch of beautifully landscaped pedestrian approach to the Summer Palace; R: Generalife, Summer Palace

City of Granada as seen through the arches of Summer Palace

In the town centre there is the impressive Granada Cathedral which includes the historic Royal Chapel. Albaycin is a large ancient Arab quarter with narrow streets and white washed houses. Nearby on the hill there are dwellings which once housed a large gypsy community.

The hills and valley floor between Granada and Cordoba are mostly covered by olive trees. Thereare some 240 million olive trees in Spain which is a major producer of good quality olive oil.

L: Mezquita, the main mosque and Cathedral of Cordoba; R: Grand internal view of Granada Cathedral

Cordoba is an old town and contains many impressive reminders of the past. In the 10th century it was the largest town in the world due to its population, which ranged from quarter to half a million inhabitants.

Unique double horse shoe arches of Mezquita

Mihrab, a richly ornamented prayer niche in the Mezquita

Mezquita – Cathedral is an outstanding building. This ancient mosque has some 1000 columns with double horse shaped arches. The arches are characterised by the use of alternative red and yellow stones. A Gothic Cathedral was built within the mosque after the re-conquest of the city by Christians. The complex has a courtyard garden with orange trees. Originally the courtyard was planted with palm trees in the Islamic times. Other places of interest in town are the Synagogue and the Roman Bridge.

Belfry of Giralda, Seville Cathedral

The ruin of amphitheatre, Italia

Seville is situated on the banks of the Guadalquivir River and is the historic, cultural and Capital city of Andalusia. It has some 14 historical sites and over 300 monumental groupings. The symbol of the city is Giralda, which is the oldest Arab minaret and now part of the Cathedral of Seville as its Belfry. Besides its many architectural attractions, the cathedral also contains the famous historic tomb of Christopher Columbus. In the city there are many charming buildings which were built for the 1929 Latin American Fair and also for the 1992 World Expo. The other noteworthy buildings in the city are the Archbishops Palace- still used by the clergy, Real Alcazar- the Royal Residence, Jewish Quarter, Casino and Bullring.

Sculpture of a ‘Reader reading a book whilst sitting in a book’

L:Mosaic floor in the ruins of a dwelling, which is still in very good condition, Italia; R:
Flamenco dancer

Italica is a short distance away in the north of Seville. It is a remarkable archaeological complex and is considered to be the first Roman metropolis in the Iberian Peninsula. The layout of streets with public and private buildings is the testament to engineering techniques and grand master planning. The ruin of the amphitheatre dominates the site, and many other buildings have been excavated and displayed e.g. market, baths and houses.

The art, architecture and archaeology are amply on display in Andalusia, which is well worth exploring. It is rich in the legacies of Moors and Romans.

Bull on the wall

Giralda Tower in Seville

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