Alhambra in Granada, Andalusia, Spain
© Armand Tamboly/Getty Image
Pearl Among the Emeralds. The Alhambra in Granada, Spain
The winds of history have long blown through the beautiful halls of the Alhambra. Though it had been the location of fortresses as far back as the 800s, construction of the Alhambra (Arabic for 'red castle') began in 1238 under the rule of Muhammad I Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Emirate of Granada. Ensuing leaders would continue construction of the complex, turning it into one of the finest examples of architecture from the historic Islamic world. The palace was the final hold of the Moors before the completion of the Christian Reconquista in 1492, when the Alhambra became the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella. They greeted Christopher Columbus there later that same year.
While Spanish rulers would soon leave their imprint on the complex, with Spanish Renaissance architecture standing in contrast to the existing structures, the next few centuries would see the Alhambra gradually fall into disrepair and disuse, including a damaging occupation by Napolean's forces during the Peninsular War of 1807-1814. After Napolean's defeat, the grand palace was rediscovered among European and American travelers, which led to several extensive restorations. In 1984 the Alhambra was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today it's one of Spain's most-visited tourist destinations.