Sunday, January 16, 2011

Walking Trees and Divine Waters

I have now been in Spain longer than I have been in any foreign country. Every other trip I’ve taken overseas—Austria, Guatemala, Japan, China—has been exactly two weeks long. In celebration, I visited the Alhambra this weekend.

The Alhambra, like the Hagia Sophia, braids Christian and Muslim influence into a single thread. Both cultures have had their way with the Alhambra: built first by the Muslims, and tampered with by the Christians (it’s a theme around here). Charles V’s palace, probably the largest and most intrusive of the Christian additions, is neat, clean, and grand in a comfortable sort of way. But it was the palaces of the Arabic kings that startled me with their unique beauty.

“Narnia, Narnia, Narnia, awake.  Love.  Think. Speak.  Be walking trees.  Be talking beasts.  Be divine waters.”

When Aslan says these words, he breathes life into Narnia. That’s how the Alhambra feels. I could see this place as the origin of life, with its ebullient fountains and gardens made of the greenest greens you could think of.

Even the famous lamppost of Narnia exists here in Granada in the form of hanging lanterns above the narrow streets. Aladdin-style horseshoe-doors dominate the façades and tessellations cover the walls of all the important buildings, making the Arabic influence outstanding.

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