Vol.13, No.2 | [Article] The ‘Pearl Set in Emeralds’: The Alhambra, Convivencia, Conflict, and the Lost Dream of Paradise in Al-Andalus



The Alhambra, the most famous symbol of the presence and glory of Muslim
civilization in Spain, is not one structure but a complex of buildings that
embodies centuries of myth, history, conflict, and culture. This paper will
explain how and why the Alhambra has been one of the most contested sites
on earth, and how its natural surroundings, architecture, gardens, and
decoration mirror the struggles, the creative genius, the dreams, and the
desires of all those who have fought, lived, prayed, and meditated in the “Pearl
Set in Emeralds,” or simply visited it. Inasmuch as it has been a site of conflict,
the Alhambra is also quite possibly the single most enduring monument to
Spain’s uneasy attempts to create a civilization of convivencia in the midst of a
world of divisions – a dream that lives on to this day.