Though people have lived in the vicinity of Gharnatah (Granada)
since ancient times, it became a significant settlement during
the 11th century, when al-Andalus was ruled by the muluk
al-tawa'if (the "party kings"). Immigrants from
the nearby city of Elvira populated Granada under the Banu Ziri,
the Berber rulers of the city. In the 13th century, Christian
rulers in the north of Spain united their efforts and marched
on the Muslim cities of Sevilla and Cordoba, among others.
They had been held in check by the Almoravids and Almohads during
the 12th century, but these Berber dynasties slowly disintegrated.
Muhammad Ibn Ahmar, the founder of the Nasrid dynasty, established
control in Granada and made a treaty with the Christian kings,
ensuring the survival of the kingdom of Granada. Refugees from
the former Muslim territories flocked to the last remaining
Muslim kingdom on the peninsula. The Nasrids maintained Granada's
precarious position until the end of the 15th century, when
Isabella and Ferdinand decided to make war on Granada, conquering
it in 1492.
While many Muslims fled to North Africa, a significant number
remained under Christian rule, initially under favorable terms.
The Christian authorities and the Church became increasingly
hostile to Muslims and Jews as Spain's national identity coalesced
around a Catholic identity. In 1609, after a series of resistance
movements led by Muslims during the 16th century were defeated,
the Spanish crown pronounced an edict forcing Muslims to leave
Spain or convert to Christianity. Many Muslim families emigrated
to North Africa, where they maintained fond memories of the
great civilization they had lost.
We will spend several days in this important city. During our
first day, we will walk along the streets of the new city, familiarizing
ourselves with the layout and observing various Islamic monuments,
including a funduq (caravansery) where merchants used
to rest and store their goods. We will also visit the extant
hammam (Arab bath) which was constructed in the 12th
century under the Zirid rulers. We will spend the evening in
the old city of Granada, known as the albaicin, where
the modern Muslim community makes its home. There are many Muslim
restaurants and tea shops in this neighborhood.
The following day we will visit the Alhambra palace complex,
as well as the summer retreat of the Granadan kings, known as
the Generalife (from jannat al-arif, "garden of
the architects"). The Alhambra is named for the reddish
color of its walls, and was called al-hamra' in Arabic.
There is a free day scheduled in Granada for those who would
like to revisit the Alhambra or spend more time in the Albaicin,
or simply explore further.