The highlight of my President’s Day quick getaway to the south of Spain was visiting the Alhambra, near Granada. Sure…this “city” serves as evidence of the power of Romans, Goths, Moors and the control of Christian monarchs after 1492. For me, however,the Alhambra’s grace reside in neither the surviving citadel nor the palace of Charles V, or even the three palaces.
The resounding core of the gardens of the sultan’s “retreat” El Generalife – created by Muslim rulers permeates a sense of profound recognition of the resolute seasonality of life, of the fickleness of control, of the joy of
What I LOVED about the Alhambra…
#1 It’s not what you expect. You think it’s just another palace…high up on a hill. Your mental template for it is inadequate. Flawed into its low standard. In reality, three palaces, a fortress, the birthplace of ideas, a testament of philosophical and religious tolerance, gardens….LIFE.
Named for the red clay that laid its foundation, this UNESCO heritage continued my exploration of the Islamic faith and its imprint on my own Judeo-Christian roots.
#2 The Girl Power. Queen Isabella basically always “went her own way.” You can read up about her life a bit, but the interesting thing about her and the Alhambra was that when she conquered Granada, she unified Spain into the modern country we know it as today, and despite being a very devout Catholic, she retained almost all of the Alhambra’s Islamic roots.
#3 This place, a visual feast, sports carvings known as muqarnas: A unique tiered ornamentation that adorns countless domes, vaults, niches, and at times emerges in the shape of stalactites.
One of my prized locations was the Sultana’s Cypress Tree. Legend has it the Sultana met her lover there. Once the king found out she had fallen in love, he could not identify which of his 36 inferiors stole his wife’s heart. So he held a banquet and preceeded to behead them all.
Looking at that spot, so full of life and exquisite eradication, I noticed the columns at the top and bottom were heavy with lead.
Bothering the guide (AGAIN) he gave me a thumbs up for recognizing…yes, even 800 years ago, the architect planned for earthquakes and making the palaces less suspectible to their
force….wow…my eye develops afterall.
#4 The water.
All of the homes in the Alhambra had an inside toilet with running water. Yep, 800 years ago, they figured out how to build aqueducts from the Sierra Nevada’s and run them with natural pumps into the fortress. All the palaces have inner courtyard with fountains, in order to provide the most majestic, peaceful setting to cleanse yourself before saying prayer 5 times a day.
I stole a moment for myself in awe at this reflection. In awe of how dirty life can easily become…and yet how easy it is to clean up. I remembered the act of washing feet for Maundy Thursday, and washing my face at the Mosque with Salih or at the Turkish Bath last Thanksgiving, and a feeling of childish humility swept over me.
#5. A man, speaking about the grandeur of a room…no, THE room where ferociously ambitious Isabel finally grants Christopher Columbus his beloved ships. This devout “christian” power hungry and pioneer female, much like myself, choosing to maintain the quarters full of Islamic homage and sacredness. Glancing at the emblem, repeated over and over again in the room:
There is no winner but Allah.
I consider….how I make myself out to be a “winner” in the heart of my lover, the minds of my patients, the hands of my profession, the spirit of my conscience, the score card of my Creator. And so true, that we all are…banal. temporary. not better than. breathing, shitting, hunger-ing, tiring….
and hopefully giving, receiving, forgiving, challenging…..
I am full.
and so so so still empty.
Does that make any balance?
Okay…lessons learned from the Alhambra:
1) Book A GUIDED TOUR at LEAST 5 days in advance. Doing it yourself, you are likely to miss out on a LOT 2) Bring Snacks and SUNSCREEN 3) Make it a priority to enjoy the scenery, and not just the history. Take a little time to enjoy the view 4) Go in the morning…or evening. It got BUSY around 12:30. 5) Take a great BAG! Congrats to Jo! She’ll be getting her very own IM Yoga Bag…customize and nab your own here.