Granada is a little over two hours’ drive  from Malaga and is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains where the three rivers, Beiro,  Daro and Genil meet and is more than twelve hundred feet above sea-level. Granada is celebrated to-day for two of the most famous vestiges of Arab Spain, namely:  The Alhambra Palace and the Generalife Gardens both of which give the old city a very special cachet and make it one of the most prized tourist attractions in Spain.  
The drive from Malaga to Granada was smooth and extremely pleasant. Spain boasts some of the finest highways in Europe that cut through lush landscapes of hills and valleys and invariably across luscious fields and orchards of olive, mango, pomegranate, lemon and lime among others. Moreover, the  Mediterranean coast is hardly an hour’s away  from the core of the city.  Our main purpose to visit Granada was to see the famous  Alhambra Palace and the Generalife Gardens which rank among the jewels of Islamic art and architecture in Spain.
Granada was founded in the ninth century at the end of a long civil war among the Arab warlords for military and political supremacy and which, when it ended, saw the severance of all ties with the Caliphate in Damascus and the establishment of an autonomous kingdom of Granada by the Moorish General, Ziri ibin Manad, which would last close to three centuries during which period the city would expand well beyond the Daro River to reach the hills of Alhambra and beyond to the Albayzin – an  area where can still be seen many characteristics of Arab Spain in terms of its layout and narrow pebbled streets and colourful walls and bustling bazaars. At night, from the hills of Albayzin, under the lights, one gets a most magnificent night view of the Alhambra Citadel and Palace perched as it is on the hills on the other side of river. The fortress was primarily constructed to thwart frequent incursions  by the Christian forces from the north, notably, the kingdom of Castillo. The Alhambra Palace was added to the Citadel by the first ruler of the Nasrid dynasty, Mohammed I (1238-1273) to serve as a royal residence, which, once finished, heralded « the beginning of Alhambra’s most glorious period. »
The whole Alhambra complex would continue to be fortified and reinforced with new constructions and watch towers by the successors of the Emir Mohammed I, namely: Mohammed II (1273-1302), and Mohammed III (1302-1309) to keep intruders away. Mohammed II also added a beautiful Mosque to the complex, which, unfortunately, was demolished after the fall of Granada in 1492 and replaced by a church – the Church of Saint Mary. The whole complex of Alhambra took one hundred and seventy years to be completed. However, most of what has been restored and preserved  at the complex are what was built by the last Nasrid rulers, namely the Emirs:  Yusuf I (1333-1353) and Mohammed V (1353-1391). They embellished the compound with the gorgeous buildings and enticing marble colonnades and arches and stuccoed domes and with the magnificent Generalife gardens just next door, the Alhambra  became magnificent work of Islamic artwork that continues to fascinate and fill visitors with awe even to-day. One cannot help to marvel at the highly sophisticated stage of Islamic art and engineering that went into the conception and building of this beautiful complex.
The Alhambra Palace (Qal’at al-Hamra in Arabic) which means « Red Castle », stands proud on the top of the hills of Assabica in southern Granada. However, after the fall of Granada to the Christians, the complex would be vandalized and neglected for centuries only to be ‘rediscovered’ by European scholars and travellers in the nineteenth century and who clamoured for its restoration. To-day La Alhambra complex and the Generalife (Jan’nat al-Arif in Arabic)  are reckoned among the prime jewels of Islamic art and craftsmanship and both rank among the prized tourist attractions of Spain. Every year thousands come to Granada to see and marvel at the Alhambra which, along with the magnificent Generalife Gardens, are part of  UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.
No mention of the Alhambra Palace can be complete without a mention of the magnificent Palacio Generalife Gardens, which stands just next to the Alhambra. It was to be the summer palace of the Emirs. Before the Spanish conquest both were joined by a covered walkway. However, the walkway has long been gone. The Generalife Gardens is a masterpiece of artwork. Its setting and layout with its beautiful flower beds and delicately trimmed dark green hedges of pines and cypresses give it an out-of-this-world look.  Indeed, it is a spot of soothing beauty, calm and serenity where the air is ever filled with the caressing, incessant sound of running water from several small canals down the balustrades of stairs and fountains all are fed with water from the Daro River brought up through an intricate network of canals and aqueducts that run some eight kilometers. The fabulous gardens that comprise boxwood trees, rose, carnation and gillyflower bushes and shrubs ranging from willow to cypress, form a magnificent masterpiece of the art of horticulture. To those who are familiar with Islamic culture, there is no doubt that the designers had endeavoured to replicate on earth and in the mind and heart of the believers, the images of Paradise as etched by the Al-Mighty in the Holy Qur’an.
Also, worth mentioning is the Charles V Palace in the Alhambra complex. It was built by the Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, who ordered its construction close to the Alhambra Palace as a permanent residence. To accommodate the Emperor’s wish, some structures in the
Alhambra complex had to be demolished. The Charles V Palace, which very much reflects the Renaissance style, undoubtedly, stands as an incongruous ‘intruder’ amidst the amazing masterpiece of Islamic architecture that is the Alhambra Palace. Yet viewed by itself, the Charles V Palace is still impressive by its square roof and series of colonnades and circular patio. To-day the Palace houses the Art Museum of Granada.
There is no doubt that the allure, beauty and charm of La Alhambra and Generalife stay with you long after you leave the place. You wonder at the inspiration and the sophistication of the art and crafts of the builders and the love and dexterity that went into fashioning such an architectural  masterpiece. It, sure,  stirs the imagination as one basks in the glow of the poetry and music of the place filled with the constant humming of running water amidst a smiling bower of well-trimmed green hedges and the enhanced splendour of the resplendent colours flowers abloom all around under the bright sun of the temperate fall weather that Spain is blessed with. Indeed, La Alhambra is a godly place, where for some brief moments one does feel part of a realm that lives more often in one’s dream and imagination.
We thoroughly loved the time we spent in Granada and at the Alhambra Palace  as we got set for our next stop, which was the other majestic city of medieval Spain – Cordoba, which also enjoyed great prominence during the time of Arab rule.