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“The greatest piece of gardening in the world is a little staircase in the Generalife,”

The gardens of the Generalife, Spain in Arabic are ‘Jinnah al-Arif’ which means ‘Gardens of the Architect’. The gardens are situated in a high area above the Alhambra’s main Palaces in Granada, Spain. The gardens and the Alhambra Palaces have been a UNESCO world heritage site since 1984. These stunning gardens were built in the 14th century during Muhammad III’s reign as his royal summer retreat. When we visited the Generalife Gardens, they were called by our guide simply ‘The Summer House’.

Walking from the Alhambra Palaces towards the Summer House the Medieval Moorish formal style of the Palaces gives way to a small botanical European style garden. The view ahead is breathtaking and marked by a massive stone wall high on the hill fringed by cypress trees roses, orange trees and masses of foliage.

As you walk up the hill, the stone wall aids in just giving you a hint in your vision of what is ahead. Through the gate, you are suddenly in a beautiful European garden that is absolutely stunning. Water features, divine deep green hedges, nooks and crannies of massive green walls and exciting views with masses of huge roses.

Continuing up the steps, there is a space full of enchanting elements straight from a storybook. The handrails become a space for water channels constructed by the Sultan to allow ablution rituals before prayers. At the top of the hill is a romantic Neo-Gothic style lookout with gorgeous views of the estate and surrounding gardens and hills.

The garden is filled with fountains, courtyards, and ancient irrigation channels with masses of fragrant roses and other flowers reminiscent of Arabian Nights’ old tales from childhood stories. It is all completely breathtaking and extraordinarily beautiful.

Cypress pines hug the end of the beautiful water channel lined with roses and hedging- magnificent.

The garden has numerous delightful niches, viewpoints, and secluded spots to sit and enjoy the views and blooms.

“One leaves the encompassing walls of the Alhambra by a door at the back, and walks into the lovely garden of a pleasure-house that stands a little higher. This, though not very large, is a striking building with wonderful gardens and waterworks, the finest I have seen in Spain. It has many courts, all abundantly supplied with water, but one in particular with a canal running through the middle, and full of fine orange-trees and myrtles. One gets a view outside from a loggia, and below it the myrtles grow so high that they almost reach to the balcony. The foliage is very thick, and the height so nearly the same that it all looks just like a green floor. There is water flowing through the whole palace, and even at will in the rooms, some of which are joined on to a grand summer-house”.

Navagero, a Venetian noble describing the Generalife

“That’s all there is, just the sound of the water, this very simple staircase, and the dappled light coming through the green bay trees, and it’s the best thing in gardening that I know anywhere in the world.”

Russell Page

Travels abroad become more vivid as you reflect on experiences once home, and you wish you just go back to see again the uniqueness of certain places. The Summer House is one such place. Fortunately, I was able to visit for several hours but it was far too brief, and The Summer House Garden and Alhambra Palaces demand extensive time to fully appreciate the magnitude of the beauty, and uniqueness of the history.

Content Di Baker 2019

Images Di Baker at Alhambra Spain 2018

Title quote Russell Page

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