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King for a Day at the Alhambra

 The Alhambra in Granada, Spain

Okay, so it was really only an afternoon, but my CEA excursion touring the Alhambra here in Granada still gave me a taste of how it feels to be royalty. Granada has a rich history. The Arabs ruled over Granada for hundreds of years, until 1492 when the Spanish kings, Ferdinand and Isabella, conquered Spain. During their reign over Spain, the Arab kings made themselves at home. Literally. As the ancient palace of the Arab kings, the Alhambra is one of Spain’s main tourist attractions. The Alhambra, which gets its name from its red color, is situated on the top of a hill overlooking Granada. Basically, a photographer’s dream come true.

Of course I had seen the Alhambra countless times from a distance before our official CEA visit, but I still had no idea how huge it is. Even now, it is hard to come up with words to give it justice. We started the tour in a garden area filled with mazes of hedges and flowers and fountains. Our tour guide told us that when the Alhambra was in use, it was self-efficient and the gardens that are now merely decoration once grew the crops needed to sustain the village of people who lived within. Because it wasn’t just a palace where the royal family lived, it was a village in itself, where more than just the royal family and servants lived.When you look out from the garden area of the Alhambra, not only do you see the city of Granada, but also a forest of trees (where we walked together the other day) you would never guess existed from within the city.

 A view of the garden in the Alhambra

Moving on from the gardens and into the first buildings, we learned a trick for knowing how nice the houses would be. (Oh, did I mention that the different kings made bigger and grander palaces for themselves within the Alhambra? So it’s not really one palace but several.) The trick: the pool outside the house signifies how nice the house and important its inhabitants are. The bigger and grander the pool outside the higher your expectations should be for the inside.

The picture I most often see of the Alhambra is of the biggest pool and fountain with the grandest quarters for the queen, the king, and his concubines. I have to admit; they really lived it up there. The building is open, with the king’s quarters on one side of a great white stone courtyard and the queen’s quarters on the other side. On the king’s side is a private staircase so he can discreetly visit his concubines. By following a type of open hallway you come upon a view of the city.

 The pool outside the king's quarters

Have you ever just looked at something, a view of the mountains or a pretty flower or the stars in the sky, and realized how big and beautiful the world is? Well, seeing the Alhambra was kind of like that. It knocked the words right out of me. All I can say about it is that the Alhambra left me speechless. And anyone who knows me can tell you that is not an easy feat.

My tour of the Alhambra may not have involved any royal treats like getting fanned by servants while getting a pedicure. Simply seeing the detail and beauty of the Alhambra where Spanish royalty grew up and spent their days made me feel like a princess.

Amber Johnson is the Fall 2014 CEA Mojo Blogger in Granada, Spain. She is currently a junior at Colorado State University.

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