Home   Search   History of the Project   Contributors   Contact Us   Links   Member


Antonio Almagro* and Luis Ramón-Laca**

Almeria [Al-Mariya] 2

According to al-Udri’s account, the taifa king al-Mu’tasim built a palace in the Alcazaba (see table) to which he brought water through a canal and a well (Seco de Lucena 1967). It had a great receptions hall to the north and to the south a wide orchard in which were cultivated fruits of an outstanding quality and that occupied a length similar to the wide of the Alcazaba. In the 12th century the palace and the garden were reorganized by the Almohades, when a mirador room has been added inside a tower to the north, and again in Nasride times (14th-15th century) (Arnold 2005). Al-Mu’tasim had other properties with gardens outside the city that have not been located until now.

Hyeronimus Münzer, who travelled across Spain between 1494 and 1495, recorded ‘a beautiful valley’ between the towns of Tabernas and Almeria, ‘with riverbanks home to fields and orchards containing palms and olive, fig and almond trees’. He also recorded an aqueduct that brought water to Almeria from a spring about a mile away. As he approached the city he was witness to ‘the most beautiful orchards with walls, baths, towers and acequias built in the Moorish style’ (Münzer 1951: 29).

According to Münzer, the Great Mosque Garden was a vast square garden with lemon and other trees, paved with marble and with a fountain in the middle (Münzer 1951: 29).

The monasteries founded by Ferdinand V of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile probably all had orchards. The Monastery of Santo Domingo had baths and an orchard with an area of 12 tahúllas (13.4 ha), the Convent of La Trinidad was located in La Huerta del Rey [the King’s Orchard], and that of Santa Clara occupied a number of existing orchards and houses (Gil Albarracín 2005; Segura Graíño 1982: 78). In the Monastery of Santo Domingo, Münzer recorded ‘beautiful and vast orchards with many palm trees, once possessions of the richest Muslim families’. He also saw the orchards of the Monastery of San Francisco (Münzer 1951: 29). Part of the Santo Domingo orchards were buried by the new wall erected in 1575. The remainder disappeared under new neighbourhoods (García Guzmán 1982).

Cordoba [Qurtuba] 3

The Old Alcasar [Sp. El Alcázar Viejo] was built by the Ummayads, who ruled Al-Andalus from 756 to 1031, and destroyed by the Berbers in 1013 during the sacking of Cordoba. It occupied the area between the Mosque, the river Guadalquivir, the Moor’s Stream [El Arroyo del Moro] and the Jewish quarter. According to Al-Maqqari (16th-17th c.), there were actually several alcasars inside the Old Alcasar: Al-Qasr al-Hayr [the Enclosing Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Kamil [the Perfect Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Mudjaddad [the Renewed Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Rawda [the Garden Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Zuhur [the Alcasar of the Flowers], Al-Qasr al-Ma‘shiq [the Lovers’ Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Mubarak [the Blessed Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Rustak [the Alcasar of Rustak], Al-Qasr al-Surur [the Joy Alcasar], Al-Qasr al-Tadj [the Crown Alcasar], and Al-Qasr al-Badi‘ [the New Alcasar]. Al-Maqqari informs us that water was channelled from the mountains and spilled into pools of different shapes (made of gold, silver and silvered copper), lakes, ponds and fountains (made of Roman marble). He also mentions a beautiful water spout that shot water to a considerable height (al-Maqqari 1840: 207-212). In the time of Isabella the garden had pathways and a pavilion called El Çenadero de la Reyna [the Queen’s Evening Dining Room], as well as orange trees, vines, a water wheel and a pool used for irrigation. The gardeners were still Moors at the end of the 15th century (Domínguez Casas 1993: 99). Large groves and several towers and buildings can still be seen, although partly in ruins, in the superb drawing by Anton van den Wyngaerde dated 1567 (Kagan 1986: 257-260).

The New Alcasar [Sp. El Alcázar Nuevo] (see table) was built on the Old Alcasar plot during the reign of Alphonse XI of Castile (1312-1350) (Dubourg-Noves 1971). The Morisco Patio [Sp. El Patio Morisco] (see table), a cross-shaped garden with marble pools and flowerbeds framed by acequias lined with blue and green glazed tiles, was unearthed during excavations undertaken in the 1950s (Torres Balbás 1958: 183-186).

The olive trees, orange trees and palms may have been introduced to the Great Mosque Patio (see table) by Christians in the 13th century – hence the name still used today: El Patio de los Naranjos [the Orange Trees Patio]. Torres Balbás (1952: 22) indicated that mosque patios with trees were only found in Al-Andalus, since mosques in other countries were never home to vegetation. The mosque patios seen by Münzer in Almeria and Granada a few years after the Christian conquest were all home to planted trees.

Al-Munyat al-Rusafa [Sp. Arruzafa] was built in 756 by the Emir ‘Abd al-Rahman I of Al-Andalus (born in Syria in 731, died in Cordoba in 788) and burnt in 1010 by the Berbers. Its only remaining trace is its toponym in the Parador Nacional de la Arruzafa. This clearly makes reference to an ancient Byzantine site in northern Syria, Sergiopolis, that lay 40 km south of the river Euphrates. This was known to Muslims as al-Rusafa, and was where ‘Abd al-Rahman I lived with his grandfather the Caliph Hisham b. ‘Abd al-Malik (Damascus, 691-Al-Rusafa, 743). The Muslim chronicles say that ‘Abd al-Rahman I had a beautiful palace there with a large garden for which he imported exotic plants and beautiful trees from very many regions’ (García Gómez 1947: 274, 280-281; Torres Balbás 1950: 449-454; Samsó 1981-1982: 136-7).

Al-Munyat al-Na‘ura [the Water Wheel Orchard] was located southwest of Cordoba, probably on the first meander of the Guadalquivir in a place known as El Cortijo del Alcaide. According to Al-Maqqari, its orchards were watered by a pipe which ended in a pool, over which there was a lion covered in pure gold. The water entered through its hindquarters and poured out through its mouth (al-Maqqari 1840: 241). A team led by Félix Hernández excavated the area in 1957 and found a courtyard with soil made of white marble, water pipes, a sewerage system and the remains of rooms. The excavations plan were unfortunately lost (Castejón 1959-1960).

El Cortijo Alamiriya is located 9 km west of Cordoba at the foot of the mountains. The palace has been identified with Al-Munyat al-Rummaniyya (see table), based on a Caliphal text recording that the slave Durri offered it as a gift to Al-Hakam II (Arjona Castro 1982: 162). The pool, a remarkable piece of Ummayad ashlar work with a capacity of 4000 m3, was filled with water taken from the Guadarromán stream. Ricardo Velázquez Bosco found the remains of a summer house, now disappeared, that stood at the top of three terraces sloping downwards towards the Guadalquivir (Velázquez Bosco 1912: 20-24). The upper terrace now has orange trees while the two lower ones are used for grazing bulls.

The construction of Al-Madinat al-Zahra’ [Zahra’ Town, Sp. Medina Azahara] (see tables 1, 2, 3) began in 936 in the place called Al-Djabal al-‘Arus [the Bride’s Hill] on the south slope of the Sierra, continued over the times of the Caliphs of Al-Andalus ‘Abd al-Rahman III (†961) and his son Al-Hakam II (†976). It was burnt in 1010 by the Berbers. The town was organised in three terraces descending towards the river Guadalquivir and occupied a surface of 115 ha, of which only 5% has been excavated. Although in ruins, the terraces were still visible in the 12th century since al-Idrisi (1901: 212) referred to gardens and orchards in the middle terrace. He was probably talking about the Upper Garden, which was the ceremonial garden where ambassadors were received, and the Lower Garden, most likely the Caliph’s private garden. According to al-Maqqari (1840: 238), the Upper Garden pools, which may have held up 1000 m3 of water, were used to raise fish.

Little is known about the other palaces mentioned in the Muslim chronicles, such as Al-Munyat al-Nasr [Nasr’s estate], Al-Munyat ‘Abd Allah, Al-Munyat ‘Adjab, Al-Munyat al-Mugira, Al-Munyat al-Mushafiyya, Al-Munyat Zubayr, a palace called Dimashq [Damascus], and Al-Qasr al-Farisi [the Persian Alcasar] (Lévi-Provençal 1932: 225). Archaeological remains have been found at Quintos, including El Cortijo de Rabanales, El Cortijo el Castillo and El Cortijo Turruñuelos, where aerial pictures show a buried, cross-shaped structure with dimensions of 500 m by 375 m. Over a period of just two years (starting in 978), Al-Madinat al-Zahira [the Flourishing Town] was built to emulate Al-Madinat al-Zahra’ by the Vizier Al-Mansur Ibn Abi ‘Amir (†1002). However, it was burnt in 1009. Its location is unclear, although according to Ibn Hazm (1971: 200), the route that started at the Arroyo Pequeño to the east of Cordoba, ended in the alley that led to the town. It has been suggested that El Cortijo del Arenal in El Pago de Tejavana is the main centre of the town (Torres Balbás 1956).

Granada (Garnata) 4

The ruins of Al-Dar al-‘Arusa [the Bride’s House, Sp. Daralharoza] are found at El Cerro del Sol [the Sun Hill], which looks over the Alhambra. Due to the lack of springs in the area, it depended on water brought from the river Darro by a complicated delivery system. An acequia went straight into the Cerro del Sol and two inter-linked water wheels raised the water it provided some 60 m to a great pool (albercón) 35 m long by 7 m wide by 2 m deep (nearly 500 m3). Water reached the Daralharoza Palace with pressure through a siphon system crossing a small valley. The palace was probably abandoned in the 15th century since the Ambassador of Venice, Andrea Navagero, saw it in ruins in about 1525 (Torres Balbás 1948). The area was excavated between 1933 and 1936 by Leopoldo Torres Balbás, who found the remains of a palace organised around a patio with a pond in the middle. In the baths there was a fountain (today kept at the Alhambra Museum) of white marble decorated with glazed tiles.

Al-Dishar [Sp. Los Alijares] was located in the plot where the modern cemetery of the town was built. Navagero (1983: 49), who saw the palace in ruins with some myrtle hedges and ponds, recorded the beauty of its views towards la vega. Based on a 16th century source, García Gómez (1934) showed the word alijar to derive from the Arabic al-dishar. In the cemetery, the pond that belonged to the palace can still be seen.

The well known Al-Djannat al-‘Arif [Sp. El Generalife] (see table) was built in the time of the King of Granada Muhammad II (1273-1302), and later enlarged by Kings Muhammad III (1302-1309) and Isma‘il I (1313-1325). Its construction was therefore begun before that of the Alhambra. The original access route, contemplated for approach by horse and today unfortunately closed, is a narrow and sloping alley that begins in front of La Torre de los Picos [the Tower of the Peaks]. The French writer Théophile Gautier saw this entrance in use in the 19th century (Gautier 1920: 81-82). The end of the horse-accessible route was marked by El Patio del Apeadero [the Dismounting Yard], where the podiums used to help riders step down and the drinking trough for the animals are still present. In El Patio de la Guardia [the Guard Courtyard], a narrow staircase led to the Patio de la Acequia [the Acequia Courtyard], which followed the same layout seen in other patios of the Alhambra, although more elongated. According to Navagero (1983: 47-48), the acequia was surrounded by myrtles and orange trees and had a gallery with more myrtles below. These were six or eight paces wide and reached up to the balconies. He saw rabbits below the branches of these trees. According to Navagero, there was another courtyard ‘surrounded by hedges with a large and beautiful fountain that threw water more than ten fathoms into the air’. Casares Porcel, Tito Rojo and Socorro Abreu (2003) recently performed a palynological study of the patio. Crossing El Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana [the Sultaness’ Cypress Patio], which was transformed in the Baroque era, there still stands La Escalera del Agua [the Water Stairs], which Navagero saw in use. Its Spanish name was documented in 1572, when some reparations were made to them [las fuentes que dizen la escalera del agua] (Vílchez 1991). The Generalife is more a country house than a palace; its orchards (La Colorada, La Grande, La Fuentepeña or La Mercería) are, in fact, still cultivated (Bermúdez Pareja 1968: 14).

The famous Al-Madinat al-Hamra’ [the Red Town, Sp. La Alhambra] was built in the left side of the river Darro on a strategic spur of a hill known as Sabika overlooking Granada. The lack of water on the plot was solved with the construction of La Acequia Real [the Royal Acequia] in the middle of the thirteenth century. As noted by Torres Balbás, continuous irrigation over the centuries allowed this dry and sterile hill to be transformed into the superb Alhambra groves and Generalife orchards. The Alhambra began to be used as the courtyard seat from the second quarter of the 13th century, although its palaces were mainly renovated during the 14th century. In Muslim times there were several palaces (cuartos): the Comares Palace built at the initiative of Yusuf I (1333-1354), the Lions Palace built by Muhammad V (1354-1359 and 1362-1391), El Partal (see table) built by Muhammad III (1302-1309), and a palace (see table) today in ruins built by Yusuf III (1408-1417). All these palaces were independent of one another (indeed, the passage used today between the Comares and Lions Palaces did not exist in the Middle Ages), but all followed a similar layout based on a rectangular patio with arcades along the smaller sides (Orihuela Uzal 1996: 228). In an account dated 1362, the Vizier Ibn al-Jatib (1313-1374) tells us that the entrance to the mašwar was through a courtyard (today known as the Machuca Courtyard), which had a roofed gallery and a pavilion that extended beyond it as if suspend over the town. From there, one could hear the murmur of the water of the Alhambra’s pools and even the sound of people coughing in the town. In the middle of the patio the strangely shape pond described by the Vizier can still be seen. It was originally flanked by two fonts one fathom in diameter, and by two lions of gilded copper that spilled water through their mouths (García Gómez 1988. López López and Orihuela Uzal 1990).

The Comares Palace was organised around a patio traditionally known as El Patio de los Arrayanes [the Myrtles Patio] or El Patio de la Alberca [the Pond Patio] (see table). Navagero (1983: 46) records it as having slabs of very white, fine marble, some of them huge. He also recorded a pond and beside it two ‘beautiful hedges of myrtle and some orange trees’.

The name of the Lions Palace (see table) derives from the twelve lions which support the Nassrid fountain in the middle of the patio. There is evidence that it once had vegetation, e.g., in 1502 Antoine de Lalaing recorded six orange trees growing in the corners (Gachard 1876: 206), although this has been a point of some controversy (Nuere 1986). From a windowed balcony known as the ‘Ayn Dar ‘A’iša [the Eye of ‘A’iša’s House, Sp. El Mirador de Lindaraja) one could contemplate the gardens below. An inscription in the plaster identifies the window as a ‘joyful eye, the pupil of Muhammad which opened to the garden’ (Lafuente y Alcántara 1859: 140). The existence of gardens in this area is confirmed since gardeners were brought from Valencia after 1492 to repair the Alhambra orchards, especially those below La Torre de Comares [the Comares Tower] and those next to the baths (Domínguez Casas 1993: 454). According to Herrera (1970 [1513]: 135), the myrtles of the Alhambra and Generalife were pruned into the shape of chairs and other elegant forms. In 1494 there was a purchase of 140 orange trees from Palma del Río to plant in the orchards of the Alhambra (Domínguez Casas 1993: 100, note 493). In 1565 the Flemish botanist Charles de l’Écluse recorded the same cultivar of myrtle (a Betic wide-leaved myrtle, Myrtus bætica latifolia domestica) in other Moorish gardens of Granada, always around the pools (L’Écluse 1601: 65. Ramón-Laca Menéndez de Luarca 1999).

The palace built in the Alhambra by Yusuf III was transformed after the conquest of Granada into the residence of the Count of Tendilla, the first governor (alcaide) of the Alhambra, and then again in the 20th century by Torres Balbás (Ramón-Laca Menéndez de Luarca 2004). According to Münzer (1951: 37, in Brothers 1994), the Count of Tendilla lived in the Moorish style, for he bade Münzer be seated on silk carpets, offering him preserves and other delicacies before showing him the gardens with their lemon trees, myrtles, ponds and marble floorwork.

In the Alhambra, there were also gardens, which were still visible in 18th century architectural plans, in the Abencerrajes Palace (see table) and in the Convent of San Francisco (see table) founded by Ferdinand and Isabella on a Nassrid palace which included a patio similar to that of the Generalife (Orihuela Uzal 1996). There was also a garden in the mausoleum of the Nassrid Kings (rawda) (see table) (Arnold 2003).

Navagero (1983: 49) recorded some myrtles and orange trees in the garden of El Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo (see table), which belonged in Muslim times to the Kings of Granada. The excavation undertaken in the 1990s unearthed a garden formed by a fountain, an octagonal pool and two symmetrical flowerbeds (Almagro and Orihuela 1995. Orihuela Uzal 1996).

Al-Qasr al-Sayyid [Sp. El Alcázar Genil] (see table) was built by the sayyid Ishaq b. Yusuf in 1218 and later transformed in Nassrid times (Calero Secall and Martínez Enamorado 1995: 162). Navagero (1983: 49) saw its garden (known as the Queen’s Orchard) in use. It had a large pond 121 m long and 28 m wide. In 1978, the first author of this work took pictures of the palace; the myrtles could still be seen at that time. Unfortunately they have now disappeared.

Navagero (1983: 409) entered Granada through the neighbourhood known as El Albaicín, where he saw ‘a most beautiful mosque with a delightful garden with lemon trees’. He makes reference to the former Albaicín Mosque, whose patio has been preserved in the Saviour Collegiate Church [La Colegiata del Salvador] (see table). He records that in the courtyard of another mosque there was an olive tree bigger than a holm-oak.

According to Ibn al-Jatib (Simonet 1872: 47, 53), in the 14th century the orchards (sing. djanna, pl. djannat) in the environs of the Alhambra numbered one hundred. There were also other vineyards (sing. karm, pl. kurum) and gardens (sing. bustan, pl. basatin). Several orchards belonging to the Moorish queens, such as the Ginajop, Ginin Cidi Mocliz, Genin Cidi Hamet, Genin Cidi Ali, Alcázar Xenil, Genin Alcadi, and Genin Alfacaz or Alfaraz orchards are mentioned in the capitulatory document of 1493 (Caro Baroja 1985: 100). The gardens received water from La Acequia Real in the case of the Alhambra and La Fuente de Alfacar in the rest of the town (Orihuela Uzal and Vílchez Vílchez 1991). According to Medina (1549: f. 142r), in the 16th century there were some 800 orchards. According to Bermúdez de Pedraza (1608: 22v-23r), most of the houses of Granada had orchards and gardens with orange trees, lemon trees, citrons, laurels, myrtles, fruit trees, herbs and flowers; indeed, the city was home to at least four thousand flower and fruit gardens. All houses had a water supply – the most important had three or more fountains – and all had at least a piece of an orchard, an orange tree or a vine around the patio and fountain. Others had gardens on their flat roofs, which were covered by vines and embellished with flowerpots, orange trees, roses and cypresses, as well as all sorts of herbs and carnations. After the conquest of Granada, and especially after the expulsion of the Moriscos, some noblemen managed to acquire very large plots where they built (or in many cases probably rebuilt) houses surrounded by orchards and gardens (Tito Rojo 1998. Tito Rojo 2000. Barrios Rozúa 2003). Large masses of trees, towers and enclosures are seen in the several drawings of the town by Anton den Wyngaerde (Kagan 1986: 269-275). This type of semirural-urban property received the name of carmen, from the Arabic karm, i.e. vineyard. Carmenes continued to be built between the 16th and 19th centuries, giving the exotic image the Albaicín enjoys today.

Malaga [Malaqa] 5

Al-Qasr al-Sayyid was founded in 1226 by the Caliph of Al-Andalus Al-Ma’mun Abu l-‘Ala’ Idris b. Ya‘qub al-Mansur. It had an orchard, referred to in the Muslim chronicles either as the djanna, munya, or riyad. In the 15th century it was known as La Huerta del Rey [the King’s Orchard] (Calero Secall and Martínez Enamorado 1995). This orchard was perhaps that seen in 1403 from the sea by the Ambassador of the King of Castile, Ruy González de Clavijo, next to unas taraçanas [some shipyards] (González de Clavijo, 1943: 6). The Ambassador recorded ‘many beautiful orchards inside a wall, as well as towers’. No remains exist today, but it can is still seen in the drawing by Anton van den Wyngaerde dated 1564 (Kagan 1986: 222-224).

Murcia [Mursiya]

Al-Qasr Ibn Sa‘d, which Torres Balbás identified with El Castillejo de Monteagudo (see table), was probably built between 1147 and 1165, i.e., during the reign of Ibn Mardanish (1147-1172), and possibly destroyed by the Almohades, who devastated the Murcian vega area (Navarro Palazón and Jiménez Castillo 1995). The courtyard had a cross-shaped garden with two square ponds at the ends of the main axis, first erroneously identified as pavilions. The archaeological remains found by Navarro Palazón and Jiménez Castillo –a vast pool of 161m by 136 m (and mentioned in 1450 in Christian documents), irrigation acequias, an enclosed orchard, an aqueduct, etc.– show that the palace was located within an important estate. The remains of Al-Hisn al-Faradj [The Castle of Larache] is located 500 m from El Castillejo.

The recent excavations carried out in the Convent of Santa Clara la Real (see table) revealed a cross-shaped garden built in the times of the Taifas formed by two wide paths with acequias and a pavilion in the middle. Al-Qasr al-Sagir [The Minor Palace, Sp. Alcacer Ceguir] was built on the ruins of Al-Dar al-Sugrà and later transformed, probably in 1365. It followed the same layout as the Nassrid palaces, with two opposing arcades on the shorter sides of a rectangular courtyard (Navarro Palazón 1995).

Seville [Isbiliya] 6

The Alcasar [Sp. El Acázar] is the result of the continuous overlapping of different courtyards, palaces and gardens built both in Muslim and Christian times, starting in the 8th century. Although it was in the hands of the Castilian kings in the mid 13th century, the labourers – especially the gardeners – continued to be Muslims until the 16th century (Domínguez Casas 1993: 97-98). In the 11th century the Taifas built the Blessed Alcasar [Al-Qasr al-Mubarak], the residence of King Al-Mu‘tamid (born 1040, made prisoner by the Almoravids in 1090) (Guerrero Lovillo 1974). This was built around the original Umayyad core, the Al-Dar al-Imara [the House of Government]. Construction of the Gothic palace was begun in the times of Alphonse X, its main remodelling being promoted by Alphonse XI and his son Peter I, following the Moorish style. The courtyards and gardens were later transformed according to the Renaissance style, although probably maintaining their general Muslim organization, with myrtle hedges and orange and lemon trees. The so-called Mercury Pool [El Estanque de Mercurio], which holds some 670 m3, is probably the original Muslim pool used to irrigate the gardens.

The excavations undertaken in 2002 and 2004 in the Maidens’ Patio [Sp. El Patio de Doncellas] (see table) brought to light a garden with a long pool and two flowerbeds, built (but never in use) during the reign of Peter I of Castile (1334-1369). This discovery has thrown light on other examples of similar patios in the Alcasar, such as El Patio del Yeso (see table) and El Patio de la Casa de Contratación (see table), as well as in other places outside Seville, such as the patio of the Convent of Santa Clara la Real in Tordesillas (Valladolid) (Almagro Gorbea 2005a). The original 14th century garden was restored by the first author with the collaboration of Antonio Orihuela Uzal.

El Crucero (see table) owes its name to its cross shape. It was probably the most important garden made by the Almohades. The original Muslim level of the garden, which was completely surrounded by porticos, is 4 m deeper than that of the current garden. The garden was greatly transformed by King Alphonse X, who built two galleries in a cross-shape along the axis of the garden (Almagro Gorbea, 1999).

Münzer (1951: 64) recorded the Alcoba Orchard [Sp. La Huerta de la Alcoba] (see table) as containing between six and ten orchards of different size, and which contained a great number of myrtles, citrons, lemon trees and orange trees. He was surprised to find a pavilion in one of the orange groves. He mentions the pavilion being rebuilt between 1543 and 1546 by Juan Fernandez, perhaps on the basis of a Muslim qubba. This pavilion has a remarkable likeness to that recently discovered in Rusafa, Syria, which was built between the 7th and the 8th centuries (Ulbert 1994). Navagero (1983: 35-36) confirms the impression of Münzer, recording that in the Alcoba Orchard there were a great many citron, lemon, lime and orange trees.

The Contracting House Patio [Sp. El Patio de la Casa de Contratación] (see table) was segregated from the Alcasar in the 16th century to serve as the contracting house for the Indies (Vigil Escalera 1992). Like the El Crucero (see table) garden, its layout is a cross-shaped courtyard with a fountain in the middle, four acequias, and four flowerbeds with interlaced arches two meters below them. The palynological studies performed during the excavations of the 1980’s showed remains of citrus and palm trees. In the light of the recent findings made in the Maidens’ Patio, this cross-shaped courtyard should perhaps be reinterpreted as a non-Muslim creation. The patio was probably renovated during the reign of Peter I, i.e., in the 14th century, while the first structure (still visible) was built by the Almohades (Almagro Gorbea 2005a).

The name of the Al-Buhayra garden [Sp. La Huerta Dabenahofar or La Huerta del Rey] (see table) is taken from the Arabic for ‘lake’ (buhayra) – although its once nearby namesake has long dried up. The enclosure covered an area of 18 ha. It was built at the initiative of Abu Ya‘qub al-Mansur; work began in 1171. According to Ibn Sahib al-Sala, it was located in front of the Meat Gate (Bosch Vilá 1984: 281). The Muslim chronicles mention the construction of a pavilion and the planting of the orchard in the time of the Taifas. Probably starting around 1171, the Almohades built a large pool at the foot of the pavilion which was filled by a former Roman acequia coming from the surroundings of Alcalá de Guadaira (Torres Balbás 1945). It was surrounded by a clay wall which Abu l-Khayr refers to as Al-Ha’it al-Sultan (the King’s Wall). Ten thousand olive, fig and other fruit trees, as well as vines, were planted there up until 1195. Navagero (1983: 38) saw the pool (whose sides measured 45 m) found in the excavation, as well as a palace and orange trees. The garden was excavated in the1990s and a kind of pavilion was discovered (Amores Carredano and Vera Reina 1992).

Little is known about the other palaces existing in the Taifa period, such as the Al-Qasr al-Zahir (the Brilliant Alcasar) situated on the right bank of the Guadalquivir and surrounded by poplar and olive groves, or the Al-Qasr al-Zahi [the Prosperous Alcasar], a small castle with a qubba known as Al-Sa‘d al-Su‘ud (Guerrero Lovillo 1974: 93-95). There were also some other gardens known as Al-Djannat al-Musalla [the Chapel Gardens] south of the town, and a certain Al-Mardj al-Fidda [the Silver Meadow] close to its walls (al-Himyari 1938: 27). In the Middle Ages there were orchards around the walls, such as La Huerta de los Corrales [the Corral Orchard] at the Carmona Gate, La Huerta del Hoyo [the Pit Orchard] at the Sun Gate, La Huerta de Zulema [the Zulema Orchard] at the Macarena Gate, and La Huerta del Mariscal [the Field Marshal’s Orchard] between the Charthouse and Triana (Montes Romero-Camacho 1985). The size of these orchards ranged form two to five aranzadas (1-2 ha); they normally had a water wheel and a pool. The most common trees cultivated were orange, lime, lemon, fig, quince, plum, apple and myrtles trees, along with vines.

Toledo [Tulaytula] 7

Al-Hisn [The Castle, Sp. Alficén] was completely destroyed and its plot occupied by the Alcasar, the Holy Cross Hospital [Hospital de Santa Cruz] and the Convents of La Santa Fe and La Concepción Francisca. Although it can be seen in a plan drawn in the 16th century by El Greco (Theotocopuli, 1967), the scale is unfortunately too small to tell much about it. A party held at the Castle of Toledo is mentioned by Ibn Hayyan (Ibn Bassan 1979: 126-37. Delgado Valero 1987: 247, note 271), who records that there were two pools with some extremely well-made gilded lion statues in the corners. The water poured out through the lions’ mouths into the pools. At the end of the pools there were two ‘strange and beautiful basins embellished with animals, birds and trees and crowned by two trees of silver, all wonderfully made’.

The King’s Orchard [Al-Munyat al-Na‘ura, Sp. La Huerta del Rey] is among the several orchards around the walls of the city quoted from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 17th century. This is where King Al-Ma’mun ben Di l-Nun (who reigned between 1043 and 1075) had his estate (Torres Balbás 1950: 454-463). Nowadays, it is usually known as El Palacio de Galiana (see table), which beyond doubt corresponds to an old Muslim palace (Pérez Higuera 1991: 343-7). According to Ibn Sa‘id, ‘in this beautiful place there was a luxurious vaulted pavilion built by the King of Toledo’ (Sobh 1986: 53-4). Other authors mention a pavilion of coloured glass embellished with gold on an island a pool in the garden (al-Maqqari, 1840: 239-40. Pérès 1953: 150-1). In 1084, Alphonse VI of Castile occupied the King’s Orchard and established himself in this Muslim palace. In 1090 the Almoravids felled all the trees in the valley and in 1110 devastated it and destroyed the palace. It was again sacked in 1196 by the Almohades at the command of the Sultan of Seville, Ya’qub al- Mansur (Gómez Moreno 1916: 11-2. Torres Balbás 1950: 458). Although the palace was restored in the 13th century (perhaps in 14th), Navagero (1983: 25-26), who saw the palace abandoned in 1525, described the King’s Orchard as a plain irrigated by river water wheels and full of trees and fruits, ‘with everything farmed and made orchards. In the mid 16th century many orchards and groves were still to be found in the Tagus valley, and there were two large, beautiful woods plenty of refreshments and fruit-trees’ (Medina 1549: 87). Two river water wheels are seen in the view of Toledo drawn in 1563 by Anton Van den Wyngaerde (Kagan 1986: 132-134). One seems to be placed exactly in front of the palace. At the end of the 17th century there were still several water wheels in La Huerta del Rey: one called de Raçaçu, another called de la Alberca, one known as de La Islilla, those in the Palacio de Galiana, and one in the orchard of Laytique (Pisa 1695: 25). In the 19th century Gautier (1920: 230-1) recorded a animal-drawn water wheel in a group of trees close to the Palacio de Galiana. The palace was restored in the 1950s under the supervision of Fernando Chueca Goitia and Manuel Gómez Moreno (Delgado Valero 1987: 317).

According to the Arabian traveller Al-Idrisi (12th c.), the Tagus valley was home to orchards (basatin and djannat) irrigated by acequias (saqiyat/sawaqi) and river water wheels (dawalib), as well as numerous farms and castles (al-Himyari 1938: 132-133, 160). According to Ibn Said, there was a grove of wild pomegranates outside the Bisagra Gate (Ibn Bassal 1955: 33). In the 12th century there was a certain Huerta del Qadi [the Qadi orchard] close to the church of San Pedro (González Palencia 1930: 81-82). There was also La Huerta del Ajuneyna [the Ajuneyna Orchard], La Huerta de los Frailes [the Friars’ Orchard], and another orchard belonging to a certain Alhanaxí. Northwest from the town was La Huerta de la Alhofra [the Moat Orchard] and south from the town, in the Iron Gate neighbourhood, lay the Al-Munya al-Kudya [the Alcudia Orchard]. The latter can be seen at the south of the town, between the walls and the river, in a view of Toledo by Petrus de Nobdidus. This engraving, made in Rome and dated 1585, bears the name Guerta de la Alcurnia. According to this engraving, it was a charming enclosure with a small summer house surrounded by trees and with a wall made of masonry – except along the riverside where there was a hedge made of brambles (Martín Gamero 1857: 58). The continuous flooding of the river destroyed the orchard. Today, its toponym Arenal de la Alcurnia (Alcurnia Sandy Ground) is all that survives.


The Convent of Santa Clara (see table) was installed in the palace built at the initiative of Alphonse XI and Peter I. The buildings around the Claustro del Vergel are of the time of Peter I. According to Bujarrabal and Sancho (1990), the old courtyard, which was completely rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries, had arches on all four sides, probably made of brick. The Claustro del Vergel was excavated between 1988 and 1990, revealing a square structure that leaned out towards the gardens. This was interpreted as the foundations of a pavilion like that in the Lions Courtyard of The Alhambra. However, they were probably ponds. It is not clear whether the garden was divided into two or four flowerbeds (Almagro 2005b. Ruiz Souza 1999).

Valencia [Balansiya] 8

Al-Munyat Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz [Ibn ‘Abd al-‘Aziz’s Almunia, Sp. La Huerta Mayor o de Villanueva] was built during the reign of Al-Mansur b. Abi ‘Amir (1021-1061). In the times of the Almoravids it had a vast garden crossed by a acequia. In the middle there was the palace (Torres Balbás 1950).

Al-Rusafa [Sp. La Ruzafa] was located southeast of Valencia (Torres Balbás 1950). See the drawing by Anton van den Wyngaerde, dated 1563 (Kagan 1986: 205-207).

Zaragoza [Saraqusta] 9

The construction of Al-Dja‘fariyya [Sp. La Aljafería] (see table) began in the times of Al-Muqtadir bi-llah b. Hud (c. 1065-1081) and Ahmad al-Musta‘in II (c. 1085-1109). The current Patio de Santa Isabel is the result of several transformations carried out between the Middle Ages and the 20th century, including the original Muslim garden, which was built in times of the Taifas. It is even possible that the garden were greatly transformed in the 14th century in the time of Peter IV El Ceremonioso since its layout partly follows that of El Patio de las Doncellas in the Alcazar of Seville (Sobradiel 1998. Franco Lahoz and Pemán Gavín 1998: 16-20, 30-33).


Al-Himyari. La Peninsule Ibérique au Moyen Âge d’après le Kitab ar-Rawd al-Mi‘tar. Edited in Arabic and translated into French by E. Lévi-Provençal, Leiden,1938.

Al-Idrisi, Descripción de España. Madrid, 1901.

al-Maqqari. Nafh al-tib. The History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain 1. Translated into English by P. GAYANGOS, London,1840.

Antonio Almagro Gorbea. “El patio del crucero de los Reales Alcázares de Sevilla”. Al-Qantara 20(2) (1999): 331-376.

Antonio Almagro Gorbea. 2005a. “El Palacio de Pedro I en Tordesillas: realidad e hipótesis”. Reales sitios 42(163): 2-13.

Antonio Almagro Gorbea and Antonio Orihuela Uzal. “El Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo de Granada”. Julio Navarro Palazón ed. Casas y palacios de al-Andalus, Siglos XII y XIII. Barcelona, 1995: 241-253
Fernando Amores Carredano and Manuel Vera Reina. “Al-Buhayra. Huerta del Rey”. in Magdalena Valor, ed. El último siglo de la Sevilla islámica. Seville1992: 135-143.

Antonio Arjona Castro. Anales de Córdoba musulmana (711-1008). Córdoba, 1982.

Felix Arnold.. “Das Grab im Paradiesgarten zum Mausoleum der Nasridischen Sultane auf der Alambra”. Madrider Mitteilungen 44 (2003): 426-454.
Jose Manuel Barrios Rozúa. coord. El Albaicín: paraíso cerrado, conflicto urbano. Granada, 2003.

Jesús Bermúdez Pareja. “El Generalife después del incendio de 1958”. Cuadernos de la Alhambra 1 (1968): 9-39.

Francisco Bermúdez de Pedraza. Antigüedad y excelencias de Granada, Madrid, 1608.

Jacinto Bosch Vilá. La Sevilla Islámica 712-1248, Sevilla, 1984.

C. Brothers. “The Renaissance reception of the Alhambra: the letters of Andrea Navagero and the palace of Charles V”. Muqarnas 11 (1994): 79-102.

María Luisa Bujarrabal and José Luis Sancho. “El palacio mudéjar de Tordesillas”. Reales Sitios 106 (1990): 29-36.

Maria Isabel Calero Secall and Virgilio Martínez Enamorado. “La arquitectura residencial de la Málaga almohade”. in Julio Navarro Palazón ed. Casas y palacios de al-Andalus, Barcelona, 1995: 157-164

Julio Caro Baroja. Los moriscos del Reino de Granada. Madrid, 1985

Manuel Casares Porcel, José Tito Rojo and O. Socorro Abreu. “El Jardín del Patio de la Acequia del Generalife. II. Consideraciones a partir del análisis palinológico”. Cuadernos de la Alhambra 39 (2003): 87-107.

Rafael Castejón. “Excavaciones en el cortijo El Alcaide. ¿Dal al-Naura?”. Al-Mulk 1 (1959-1960): 161-166.

Clara Delgado Valero. Toledo islámico: ciudad, arte e historia. Toledo, 1987.

Rafael Domínguez Casas. Arte y etiqueta de los Reyes Católicos. Artistas, residencias, jardines y bosques, Madrid, 1993.

P. Dubourg-Noves. “Le style gothique français et les Alcazars chrétiens de Seville et de Cordove (XIIIe siècle)” in Actes du 9e Congrés National des Sociétés Savantes. Pau 1969, Paris,1971: 165-185.

Luis Franco Lahoz and Mariano Pemán Gavín. “De las partes al todo” in La Aljafería II, Zaragoza, 1998: 7-81.

Luis-Prosper Gachard. Collections des voyages des souverains des Pays-Bas 1. Brussels, 1876.

Emilio García Gómez. “La etimología de «Alixares»”. Al-Andalus 2 (1934): 226-229.

Emilio García Gómez. “Algunas precisiones sobre la ruina de la Córdoba omeya”. Al-Andalus 12 (1947): 267-293.

Emilio García Gómez. 1988. Foco de antigua luz sobre la Alhambra. Edition in Arabic and translation into Spanish of a text by Ibn al-Jatib dated 1362, Madrid.

Maria del Mar García Guzmán. “Bienes habices del convento de Santo Domingo de Almería (1496)”. Estudios de Historia y de Arqueología Medievales 2 (1982): 29-42.

Théofile Gautier. Viaje por España, 2 vols. Translated into Spanish by E. de Mesa, Madrid, 1920.

Antonio Gil Albarracín. “Las órdenes mendicantes como agentes urbanos: fundación de conventos y transformaciones urbanas en el oriente andaluz”. VII Coloquio Internacional de Geocrítica. Los agentes urbanos y las políticas sobre la ciudad (Santiago de Chile, 24-27 de mayo 2005) (seen at http://www.ub.es/geocrit/7-colgi.htm on 3rd June 2005).

Manuel Gómez Moreno. Arte mudéjar toledano. Madrid, 1916.

Ruy González de Clavijo. Embajada a Tamorlán. F. López Estrada ed. Madrid, 1943.

Angel González Palencia. Los mozárabes de Toledo en los siglo XII y XIII, preliminary volume, Madrid, 1930.

José Guerrero Lovillo. Al-Qasr al-Mubarak. El Alcázar de la Bendición. Reception speech at Real Academia de Bellas Artes de Santa Isabel de Hungría. Seville, 1974.

Alonso de Herrera. Obra de Agricultura. Edited by J. Martínez Carreras, Madrid (1st edition in 1513, Alcala de Henares, 1970).

Ibn Bassal, Libro de agricultura. Edited in Arabic and translated into Spanish by J. M. Millás Vallicrosa and M. Aziman. Tetuan, 1955.

Ibn Bassan Dajira 4, Cairo, 1979.

Ibn Hazm. El collar de la paloma. Translated into Spanish by E. García Gómez. Madrid, 1971.

Richard L. Kagan. Ciudades del Siglo de Oro. Las vistas españolas de Anton van den Wyngaerde, Madrid, 1986.

Emilio Lafuente y Alcántara. Inscripciones árabes de Granada, Madrid, 1859.

Charles de l’Écluse. Rariorum plantarum historia, Antwerp, 1601.

E. Lévi-Provençal. L’Espagne musulmane au Xème siècle, Paris, 1932.

Angel López López and Antonio Orihuela Uzal. “Una nueva interpretación del texto de Ibn al-Jatib sobre La Alhambra en 1362”. Cuadernos de la Alhambra 26 (1990): 121-144.

Antonio Martín Gomero. Los cigarrales de Toledo, Toledo, 1857.

Pedro de Medina. Libro de grandezas y cosas memorables de España, Sevilla, 1549.

D. Jacques-Meunié and Henri Terrasse. Recherches archéologiques a Marrakech, Paris, 1952.

Isabel Montes Romero-Camacho. El paisaje rural sevillano en la Baja Edad Media. Sevilla, 1989.

Hieronimus Münzer. Viaje por España y Portugal 1494-1495. Translated into Spanish by J. López Toro. Madrid, 1951.

Andrea Navagero. Viaje por España (1524-1526). Translated into Spanish by A. M. Fabié, Madrid, 1983. (originally published: Il viaggio fatto in Spagna et in Francia dal magnifico Andrea Navagiero. Venice,1563).

Julio Navarro Palazón. “Un palacio protonazarí en la Murcia del siglo XIII: al-Qasr al-Sagir” in J. Navarro Palazón ed. Casas y palacios de al-Andalus, siglos XII y XIII. Barcelona, 1995: 177-205.

Julio Navarro Palazón y Pedro Jiménez Castillo. “El Castillejo de Monteagudo: Qasr Ibn Sa‘d” in J. Navarro Palazón ed. Casas y palacios de al-Andalus, siglos XII y XIII. Barcelona, 1995: 63-103.

Enrique Nuere Matauco. “Sobre el pavimento del Palacio de los Leones”. Cuadernos de la Alhambra 22 (1986): 87-93.

Antonio Orihuela Uzal. and Carlos Vílchez Vílchez. Aljibes públicos de la Granada islámica, Granada, 1991.

Antonio Orihuela Uzal. “Los inicios de la arquitectura residencial nazarí” in J. Navarro Palazón ed. Casas y palacios de al-Andalus, siglos XII y XIII, Barcelona, 1995: 225-239.

Henri Pérès. La poesie andalouse en arabe classique au XIe siècle, Paris, 1953.

Maria Teresa Pérez Higuera. “Palacio de Galiana” in Arquitecturas de Toledo. Del romano al gótico, Toledo, 1991: 343-347.

Francisco de Pisa. Descripción de la Imperial Ciudad de Toledo, Toledo, 1695.

Luis Ramón-Laca Menéndez de Luarca. “Plantas cultivadas en los siglos XVI y XVII en la Alhambra y el Generalife”. Cuadernos de la Alhambra 35 (1999): 49-55.

Luis Ramón-Laca Menéndez de Luarca.. “Pedro Machuca y el Marqués de Mondéjar”. Reales Sitios 162 (2004): 42-53.

Juan Carlos Ruiz Souza. “Santa Clara de Tordesillas. Restos de dos palacios medievales contrapuestos (siglos XIII-XIV)” in Actas del V Congreso de Arqueología Medieval Española, Valladolid, Valladolid, 1999: 851-852.

Julio Samsó. “Ibn Hisam al-Lajmi y el primer Jardín Botánico en al-Andalus”. Revista del Instituto Egipcio de Estudios Islámicos en Madrid, 135-141 (1981-1982).

Cristina Segura Graíño. El libro del repartimiento de Almería, Madrid, 1982.

Francisco Simonet. Descripción del Reino de Granada: sacada de los autores arábigos, 711-1492. Granada, 1872.

Mahmud Sobh. 1986. Poetas en la corte de al-Ma’mun de Toledo. Pages 53-54 in Simposio Toledo hispano-árabe, Madrid.

Pedro Sobradiel. La Aljafería entra en el siglo veintiuno totalmente renovada, tras cinco décadas de restauración. Zaragoza, 1998.

José Tito Rojo. “Permanencia y cambio en los jardines de la Granada morisca (1492-1571). Los cármenes y el paisaje urbano”. in Felipe II, el Rey íntimo. Jardín y Naturaleza en el siglo XVI. Aranjuez, 1998: 421-446

José Tito Rojo. El Carmen de la Victoria: un jardín regionalista en el contexto de la historia de los cármenes de Granada. Granada, 2000.

Domenico Theotocopuli. Plano de Toledo. Toledo, 1967.

Leopoldo Torres Balbás. “Notas sobre Sevilla en la época musulmana”. Al-Andalus (10)1 (1945): 177-196.

Leopoldo Torres Balbás. “Dar al-‘Arusa y las ruinas de palacios y albercas granadinos situados por encima del Generalife”. Al-Andalus 13(1) (1948): 185-203.

Leopoldo Torres Balbás. “Los contornos de las ciudades hispanomusulmanas”. Al-Andalus 15(2) (1950): 437-486.

Leopoldo Torres Balbás. La Mezquita de Córdoba y la ruinas de Madinat al-Zahra. Madrid, 1952.

Leopoldo Torres Balbás. “Al-Madina al-Zahira, la ciudad de Almanzor. Al-Andalus 21(2) (1956): 353-359.

Tilo Ulbert. “Ein umaiyadischer Pavillon in Resafa-Rusafat Hisam”. Damaszener Mitteilungen 7 (1994): 214-231.

Ricardo Velázquez Bosco. Medina Azahara y Alamiriya. Madrid, 1912.

Manuel Vigil Escalera. El jardín musulmán de la antigua Casa de Contratación de Sevilla. Sevilla, 1992.
Vílchez, C. El Generalife. Granada, 1991.

* Escuela de Estudios Árabes (CSIC), Cuesta del Chapiz, 22, 18010 Granada, Spain. E-mail: aalmagro@cica.es
** E. T. S. de Arquitectura y Geodesia (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares), c/ Santa Úrsula, 8, 28806 Alcalá de Henares, Spain. E-mail: 10199luislaca@coam.es

[1] Most of the information contained in this catalogue is taken from the PhD dissertation of the second author, which was presented at the School of Architecture in Madrid in April 1998. The bibliography, both in Arabic and Western tongues, has been updated with more recent works. The drawings were made at the School of Arabic Studies in Granada (Escuela de Estudios Árabes, CSIC) over the last fifteen years. We would like to express our gratitude to Expiración García, for checking the manuscript, and Adrian Burton for correcting the English version.

[2] Almeria was conquered by Ferdinand V of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile in 1489.

[3] Conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1236.

[4] Conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1492.

[5] Conquered by Ferdinand and Isabella in 1487.

[6] Conquered by Ferdinand III of Castile in 1248.

[7] Conquered by Alphonse VI of Castile in 1085.

[8] Conquered by James I of Aragon in 1238.

[9] Conquered by Alphonse I “the Fighter” of Aragon, in 1118.

Drawing by Mahvash Alemi
 © Middle East Garden