The triangular Alcazaba (citadel) with its thick walls and towers was the main form of defence for the Alhambra against attack. This is the oldest part of the Alhambra complex and was the site of the original red castle. It was Mohammed I who built the surrounding walls and the three towers: the Torre de la Vela (Watchtower) in the far-right corner, the Torre Quebrada (the “Broken” Tower) and the Torre del Homenaje (the Keep). A further tower was added subsequently: the Torre de la Pólvora (the "Gunpowder" Tower). Work on the palaces began later and the Sultan lived here until they were finished. In the photo on the left, you can see the Torre de la Vela with its flags and belltower and the citadel.
The Alcazaba was the main military residential area and where the soldiers responsible for defending the Sultan and the Alhambra lived. A walkway runs through the middle of the Alcazaba and the smaller houses on the left were probably for single soldiers without families while the larger ones on the right were for soldiers and their families.
The houses were built around an inside courtyard: downstairs would be the main living room, the food store and the latrine with more rooms upstairs.
As a city in its own right, this area would have had silos, an arsenal, steam baths and a bread oven where food would be prepared. Below the Alcazaba are the dungeons and this was where the captured prisoners were held. In the photo on the left, you can see the Torre de la Vela and the battlements.
After the Moors ere expelled, the Alcazaba was adapted to modern methods of military attack and defence and subsequent towers were constructed. The semicircular Torre del Cubo ("Turret Tower"), for example, was built at the base of the Torre del Homenaje for reinforecement.
For more photos of the Alcazaba, please visit this page.
VISITING THE ALCAZABA:
You will enter the Alcazaba through the gate below the Torre Quebrada. Follow the route round to right and the Torre del Homenaje (Watchtower) is straight ahead. This is the highest tower in the Alhambra and from the roof you have a fantastic view of the Alhambra complex as well as Granada.
It is possible to climb several of the towers on the right for fantastic views of Granada, the Albaicín and Sacromonte: Torre del Cubo, the Puerta de las Armas and the Torre de la Vela). There are steps inside the Torre de la Vela but it is worth the view when you get up there.
After coming down from the Torre de la Vela, the visit continues through into the Jardín de los Adarves (Ramparts Garden). Be caureful not to miss the famous inscription "Dale limosna ..." on the Torre de la Pólvora behind you as you go into the gardens.
This famous quotation by Francisco de Icaza loosely translated means: "Give him alms, woman, for there is nothing sadder in life than being blind in Granada".
The garden area was originally a moat but was filled in for military purposes towards the middle of the 16th century. Following the eventual expulsion of the Moors in 1609 when there was no longer any threat of a further Moorish invasion, the area was converted into gardens. Legend has it that the money for the design of the gardens and the fountain was provided by the gold coins found in some porcelain jars which were discovered in the ramparts.