The Alhambra or Red Castle is built on a hill overooking Albaicin and bordered by the Darro River. In 1984 it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Construction began at Alcazaba which was a fortress built in the the 9th Century. Not until the 13th century when the Alhambra was occupied by Mohammed I (founder of the Nasrid Dynasty) did it really start to grow. During this time the towers were built and the Darro river was diverted to flow through the gardens. Mohammed V, the eight Nasrid ruler in the 14th century, was one of the last to add to the construction of the Alhambra.
Moorish rule of Granada ended with Muhammad XII and the end of the Reconquista with King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile in 1492. The Catholic Kings added to the structure and did live in the castle until it was abandoned in the 18th century. In 1828 rehabilitation began.
The Alhambra is divided into sections based on its funtion. The Alcazaba, a military base that housed guards and their families; the palatial zone, which contained several palaces for the sultan and his kin; and the Medina, a quarter where court officials lived and worked.
The Nasrid palaces were divided into three independent areas. These areas included the Mexuar, a semipublic part of the palace (for justice administration and state affairs); the Comares Palace, the official residence of the sultan that was comprised of several rooms that surrounded the Court of the Myrtles (an outdoor area containing a large central pond lined with myrtle bushes); and the Palace of the Lions, a private area of the palace for the king and his family and mistresses. These areas are adorned with ornage ceramic, engravings and fountains.
The Generalife, built in the 13th century, was a garden retreat for the Sultans of Granada. The lack of ornate ceramaics, simple construction and gardens suggests that this was a place of leisure, not ceremony. The water runs continuously through the fountains and ponds of the Generalife by gravity.