Like many cities around the Mediterranean Sea, Granada has seen many settlers from different origins, Iberian Celts, Greeks, Romans and Visigoths. But the Berbers had the strongest impact as they established Muslim domination over the city in 711, a domination that was to last nearly 800 years.
The Berbers were led by the Umayyad dynasty, and were helped in their conquest of the town by a Jewish community that had established itself on the edge of the city. This community was called “Gárnata” and gave its name to the city we know today. The name literally means “pomegranate”, hence the presence on that fruit of the city’s coat of arms.
The Umayyad dynasty was succeeded by the Zirid, the Almohad and finally the Nasrid dynasties. By the 13th century, the Reconquista was well under way and Granada became a place of refuge for Muslims. Although much of the original Moorish kingdom of Al-Andalus had been retaken by the Christian, it is during this period that Granada enjoyed its most flourishing economy. Under the ruling of the Nasrid, the city experienced a golden age and became a prominent European city, rich in both wealth and culture. Most of the Alhambra palaces date back from this period.
The Reconquista officially ended on 2 January 1492, when Granada’s sultan, Muhammad XII ‘Boabdil’, surrendered the city to Isabel I of Castile and Fernando II of Aragon, the Catholic Monarchs (los Reyes Católicos). This event marked the beginning of the Spanish ‘blood purification’ (limpieza de sangre), as well as religious persecutions for the Muslims and the Jews.
A long decline followed due to persecution and finally, in the 17th century, to the expulsion of the talented population, who was mainly Jewish and Muslim. However, 19th century Romanticism sought to put an end to this by initiating a restoration of Islamic heritage.
Like the rest of Spain, 20th century Granada had to live through Franco’s rule. Although the city was on the dictator’s side, some rebellion happened. It is estimated that over 4000 of Granada citizens were assassinated at the start of the Spanish Civil War, including the famous poet Federico García Lorca.
Today Granada is famous for its prestigious University and its vibrant night-life. But it remains a famous testimony of the Islamic cultural legacy, which makes it a hot spot among tourist destinations.