The Generalife Was the Summer Palace and Country Estate of the Arab Sultans:
The Generalife was the summer residence and country estate of the Arab sultans. It was designed as a retreat close to the Alhambra and this was where the sultan could come to perhaps escape the palace politics and to enjoy some tranquility.
Situated on a hill on the northern end of the Alhambra, there is a pathway that leads to the Generalife from the Alhambra. During the time of the Moorish rulers, there were fruit orchards and vegetable patches in the Generalife, decorative gardens, the palace and other buildings.
A Tour of the Generalife
The Generalife comprises a lower garden section, the palace residence and upper gardens. Work on the Generalife gardens began in the 13th century, but what we see today is the result of modification works that have been carried out over time. For one, the vegetation would have been quite different over 700 years ago.
Walking through the Lower Gardens is quite an adventure. Hidden amongst the thick conifer hedges are beautiful hidden gardens of roses, water fountains and ponds and flower and herb beds. Archways are cut in the thick hedges and you never know what you’re going to see when you peer through these arches.
In the Generalife Palace complex is the stunning Patio de la Acequia, an enclosed oriental garden built around a long central pool. Water was an important feature of the Alhambra design and here the rows of water jets form graceful water arches over the long pool. At the northern end of Patio de la Acequia is the entrance to the sultan’s palace. From the palace balcony is a nice view of Albaycin.
Next to the Patio de la Acequia is the the Patio de la Sultana an intimate courtyard and garden area with a U-shaped pool. During its heydays, there was a Palace Bath here.
To get to the Upper Gardens (Jardín Alto) walk through the Gate of the Lions and climb up the staircase with flowing water. From here you can make your way out of the Generalife.
The origin of the name Generalife has long been disputed and there are many interpretations of its source. Generalife in Arabic is “Yannat-al-Arif” meaning architect’s garden and having walked through the Generalife on a couple of visits and been delighted by its many designs and features, perhaps ‘an architect’s garden’ appropriately describes the place.
Map of The Generalife: