Almeria City - The Alcazaba

The Alcazaba of Almeria © Michelle Chaplow
The Alcazba of Almeria © Michelle Chaplow

Alcazaba de Almeria

The hilltop Alcazaba's hefty walls and towers dominate the city and command magnificent views over the old town below and across to the Mediterranean. Measuring 25,000m2, this was the largest fortress built by the Moors; today, as with many publicly-owned historic monuments, this magnificent and ancient castle is not as well maintained as it deserves.

History of the Alcazaba

The Alcazaba was founded during the first half of the 10th century by Cordoban Caliph Abd al-Rahman III, who also built Medina Azahara. Construction on the fortress was started in 955AD, and Almeria subsequently became an important trading port city with the Mediterranean and North Africa. Then Almeria gained taifa (independent city state) status, and its prosperity peaked - trading goods included silk, woven from thread made by silkworms in the Alpujarra, olive oil, ceramics and gold coins. The palace in the Alcazaba would have been resplendent. After the taifan era, the city passed to the Almoravids.

At this period in the history of Almeria, such was the city's status and importance within Al-Andalus that the saying went: "When Almeria was Almeria, Granada was but its farm."

Two centuries after being built, having withstood two sieges, the Alcazaba was captured by Catholic King Alfonso VII in 1147, allied with the Italian city states of Genoa and Pisa. Alfonso held it for just a decade. During this time, many trading ties were severed, and the fortunes of the city suffered. Almeria never recovered from this sudden and dramatic economic - and architectural - collapse.

The Almohads (who also built the Giralda and Torre del Oro in Seville) recovered the city in 1157, ruling until 1228. Afterwards came the Nasrids, who built the Alhambra, ruling Almeria from Granada. In 1489, in the twilight years of the Moorish era, Almeria was once again captured by Catholic monarchs - this time, Isabella and Ferdinand. At this point, the fortress's role became more military, and the castle at the northern end was built. Once Granada was taken in 1492, another chapter began for Andalucia.

What you can see inside the Alcazaba

The interior of the Alcazaba is divided into three walled recintos, or compounds, spreading up the long slope from the lowest part near the entrance; the first two are Islamic, and the third is Christian. A long fortified wall, the Muralla de Jayran (or Jairan), named after the 11th century king who built them, stretches from the Alcazaba, down the hill and up the other side to the Cerro de San Cristobal. From here the panoramic views take in the Alcazaba itself, as well as the city and port stretched out below.

You enter the Alcazaba by climbing up the steps from Plaza Almanzor, entering through the Puerta de la Justicia (Justice Gate).

First Enclosure

The triangular-shaped area you arrive in, the lowest of the three sections of the Alcazaba, was formerly the barracks for the fortress, and once had houses and streets. Now consisting of terraces across the hillside, with trees including palm, cypress, azalea, fig and carob, and beds of rosemary and lavender, it has towers along the wall. Look out for the stunning pink flowers of the Jupiter's tree in spring.

The pretty patterned floor, with bricks and tiles, features pools, channels and fountains in stars and other typical geometric designs often seen on azulejos (ceramic tiles), recalling the typical Arabic systems used to irrigate their gardens. The northern wall, where the Muralla de Jayran begins, is the only complete section of original wall

This part of the fortress was renovated in the late 20th century by the Alhambra's conservation architect, inspired by the Generalife. The gardens were planted, and pathways laid out, over the archaeological remains, without respecting the original layout of this section.

Near the top is the original Arabic aljibe, or water cistern, which stored water to irrigate the gardens.

Second Compound

This area was the heart of the Alcazaba, where the Palace complex of the Caliph was located. The wall separating the first and second compounds is called the Muro de la Campana de la Vela. It has a bell which was rung to warn the inhabitants when pirates were approaching. Climb up the towers (closed on windy days) for a great view of the Alcazaba.

At the eastern end of the Palace Complex, you can see the Ermita de San Juan chapel, which was converted from a mosque by the Catholic Monarchs. Nearby is the Caliphal aljibe which you can enter; images of flowing water are projected onto the walls.

You can also see a reconstruction of a Moorish-era house with two bedrooms, arranged around a central arcaded patio, which would have housed senior staff. It's fascinating to see the décor and furniture that would have been used, as well as original ornaments, toys, glassware and glazed pottery from the period, excavated in the area.

The remains of the old Arab baths, dating from the Nasrid era, can be seen in the upper part of this enclosure. The Moors' system of sanitation was advanced, as cleanliness - ritual washing before prayer, as well as regular bathing - is a key factor in Islamic culture and religion.

At the top of this section, on the right, is the Torre de la Odalisca, dating from Nasrid times.

Game of Thrones

The Casa del Alcaide (Governor's House), located where the Taifa ruler Al-Mutasim's palace would have been, was also built in the 20th century to imitate the Alhambra. If the garden looks familiar, with its colonnade looking onto an Islamic-style rectangular pool, it's because a scene in Series 6 of Game of Thrones - featuring a Dornish dastardly deed - was filmed here. To make the garden look like the fictional Kingdom of Dorne, the pool was merged by computer with the grutesco wall of the Alcazar of Seville, where scenes in Series 5 were shot.

 

Third Enclosure

The Tercer Recinto at the north-west end of the Alcazaba is a fortress which was added by the Catholic Monarchs. Its thick stone walls and sturdy round towers are in much better condition than the rest of the Alcazaba. The Torre de Homenaje, the large square tower near the wall of this topmost compound, was the residence of the fortress- governor.

 

Address

Calle Almanzor, 04002 Almeria. Tel 950 801 008

Opening hours

Tuesday to Saturday 09.00 to 18.00 hrs
Sunday and holidays 09.00 to 15.00 hrs
Monday Closed (except public holidays)

In Spring from 1 April to 15th June Tue to Sat opening is extended to 20.00hrs.

In Summer from 16 June to 15th September Tue to Sat opening is to 15.00hrs plus 19.00 to 22.00 hrs with special cultural activities on many evenings.    

Open most holidays. Closed on 1, 6 Jan, 1 May, 24, 25, 31 December. 

ADMISSION

Entrance: Free to European citizens, 1.50 € to others, although in practice they don't charge anyone.

 

Summer Guided Tours


In the Summer there are free group guided tours called Conoce tu Alcazaba (know your Alcazaba) on Saturdays and Sundays at 10.00hrs (from 17th June to 17th July) 

 

Disabled Access

The Alcazaba de Almeria has parcial Access for those with reduced mobility. 

Call the ticket office in advance to make arrangements to access the ‘Third Enclosure' via the moat entrance. Tel 950 801 008.

The easy accessible route is undertaken by exploring the ‘Third Enclosure' (Patio de Armas) first then descending to the ‘Second Enclosure' and then to the remainder of the site. In the Second enclosure there are disabled toilet facilities. See pdf plan of this route.

Summer Cultural Events

 

Free summer cultural events at the Alcazaba
Free summer cultural events at the Alcazaba. Those marked with a star (*) it is recommended to pass by the Alcazaba entrance ticket office earlier in the day to collect your free ticket.

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