Travel Thursday Encore: Chilly Spain, Part 4

Moving on to greener pastures–like a cow–I headed south, into the Galeria de Abencerrajes–no, I’m tired of translating! Not that I know that one–where Sultan Moulay Abdul Hassan piled the heads of the sons of his first wife–all sixteen of them–so that Boabdil, son of his second wife, could inherit the throne. The metaphorically bloodstained room had a marble basin with oxidized iron stains; some said they were the bloodstains from the previous story, but even as I doubted that, I looked up and gasped. The spectacular honeycombed star-shaped stalactite ceiling was beyond description, so I’m not even gonna try, though I will say the entire star reflecting from the ceiling into the fountain was simply too cool. According to legend this might have been a music room, where listeners could look at the ceiling and imagine they were outside, but seriously, go hunt for images–someone had to get this shot as awesomely as real life. And hey, it might have been me, if you’re reading this after the book comes out.

Washington Irving
BEARS THE SUGGESTIVE NAME OF THE HALL OF THE TWO SISTERS. SOME DESTROY THE ROMANCE OF THE NAME BY ATTRIBUTING IT TO TWO ENORMOUS SLABS OF ALABASTER WHICH LIE SIDE BY SIDE, AND FORM A GREAT PART OF THE PAVEMENT. . . OTHERS ARE DISPOSED TO GIVE THE NAME A MORE POETICAL SIGNIFICANCE, AS THE VAGUE MEMORIAL OF MOORISH BEAUTIES WHO ONCE GRACED THIS HALL, WHICH WAS EVIDENTLY A PART OF THE ROYAL HAREM.

On the north side of the courtyard was the resplendent Sala de las Dos Hermanas–look above for translation–which also has a staggering honeycomb dome, made of five thousand tiny cells, known as the “celestial vault.” From here a secluded portico overlooks the Jardines de Daraxa, though I was thinking I wished I’d seen this roof first, because as great as it was, it couldn’t compare to the previous one. Luckily the filigree surfaces of the wall coverings were so intricate and beautiful that it led the place to be called the most luxurious book of poems ever produced. And what I saw in the book I was given as a study aid helped, especially since it involved one of my favorite artists:
“Especially intriguing is the geometrical complexity that made the Alhambra of absorbing interest to such a lover of visual paradox as the 20th century illustrator M. C. Escher. This is present in the glazed and colored tiles that cover the lower levels of the walls. In their interlacing of abstract shapes–a technique of Persian origin–these create mesmerizing kaleidoscopic effects evoking at times both flickering stars and flowers bursting into bloom.”

{To be continued. . . still more.}

;o)

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