“Granada is the perfect dream and fantasy, forever ineffable…,”said Federico García Lorca, about the city of his birth. And one of the most ineffable neighbourhoods for fantasising, among all those who visit Spain, is without doubt the Albaicín.
In 1994 it was declared a Unesco world heritage site, due to its “rich legacy of local Arab architecture with which the traditional Andalusian architecture was harmoniously combined”, joining the already recognised monumental ensemble of the Alhambra and the Generalife.
It has to be seen to be believed, but it also demands a few hours of our time; not time lost, but time gained. The Albaicín can be accessed from various parts of the city. A common route is to begin from the Carrera del Darro or from our own Hammam Al Ándalus at Santa Ana 16, and climb to the upper neighbourhood through the little streets, discovering its history and its present, as one of the most beautiful, significant population centres of Granada and the Spain of the Muslims.
It was here where the Zirid, the first Muslim court, was established in the 11th century, when they built walls, the Alcazaba Cadima, which is preserved to this day, along with the Puertas de Elvita, Monaita, De las Pesas and Fajalauza; walls, towers and part of the urban layout. One of the jewels of the Albaicín is the Bañuelo, a building from the 11th century, which contained the Arab baths: the historic model and most loved precursor for our Hammam in Granada.
Peak splendour for the Albaicín was in the last years of the Nasrid period, with a population of over forty thousand inhabitants and thirty mosques.
Later, following the Reconquest by the Catholic Monarchs, the neighbourhood underwent huge changes, because the Moorish had to abandon their homes, the mosques were demolished, and on the same sites numerous churches were built, although from its beginnings to the present it has not lost its particular character.
Located on a hill, you must be prepared to negotiate its alleyways, while forever climbing hills or steps towards the miradores, before later returning through its labyrinth. Without fail you will discover details not found in the guidebook, together with churches, palaces, cisterns, squares, houses and Cármenes, the villas surrounded by typical gardens. The latter are a type of detached house surrounded by a high wall which separates it from the street, and which contains within a market garden or ornamental garden. Some cármenes are beautiful, but privately owned, and can thus only be guessed at or glimpsed; others are open to the public.
From the Hammam Al Ándalus in Granada we can enjoy the bustle and the charm of the streets in this delightful neighbourhood. We wanted to be part of it through all our hopes and efforts. Our Arab baths had to be at the foot of the Alhambra and the start of the Albaicín, because we know that it is necessary to be very close to history in order to make history.