The Spanish city where water defies gravityAt Granada's famed Alhambra palace, a 1,000-year-old feat of hydraulics still impresses engineers tod...The Spanish city where water defies gravity
At Granada's famed Alhambra palace, a 1,000-year-old feat of hydraulics still impresses engineers today.
Water is everywhere in Granada's ornate and lavish Alhambra, a 13th-Century palatial complex that's one of the world's most iconic examples of Moorish architecture. It flows in channels that cool the buildings; spurts from fountains in grand rooms and charming courtyards; and sprays in such a way that, from certain angles, it perfectly frames majestic arched doorways. The same intricate system brings colour to the famed gardens of the Generalife, the former summer palace next door.
At the time, this was one of the most sophisticated hydraulic networks in the world, able to defy gravity and raise water from the river nearly a kilometre below.
The 1,000-year-old feat still impresses engineers today: in an essay on key moments in the history of water in civilisation, Unesco's International Hydrological Programme noted that "modern water technology is indebted to the legacy of [these] water gardens and bath houses", which were once only enjoyed by the wealthy and powerful, but today have made baths and private home gardens affordable and practical.
For millennia, major cities have sprouted on the banks of rivers, the shores of lakes and the coastlines of seas. This was true too of the great Kingdom of Granada, which developed along the Darro and Genil rivers in what would become Spain's autonomous community of Andalusia. To the Islamic rulers who controlled this and other parts of Spain for almost 800 years, water played an integral function in society, not only for survival, but for religious and aesthetic purposes too.