Friday, November 29, 2013

The Public Alhambra: Fatima's Perspective - Part II

What would it be like to have certainty or even the smallest inkling that your sibling had murdered your beloved parent? It was the dilemma my heroine Fatima faced in 1302 when her father Muhammad II died suddenly. In Sultana's Legacy, Fatima seeks vengeance for her cruel loss, but in reality I have no idea how she reacted. The fact that her husband Faraj took the pragmatic approach and continued to enjoy good relations with his brother in-law doesn't tell me anything other than how he might have kept a level head so he could also hold on to the governorship of Malaga. With her murderous brother now in charge, the world around Fatima would have been rapidly altered.

"Psychotic" or "sociopath" are the terms that come to mind when I consider Muhammad III. Sometimes it's hard to believe he and Fatima were full-blooded siblings, but they shared several traits in their interests in learning and patronage of the arts. So what turned them in two different directions, allowing Fatima to become the devoted matriarch of the Nasrid Dynasty and making Muhammad III into a vicious killer?

The saying, "there's one in every bunch" is exemplified in Muhammad III. Of all the Nasrids, who could be quite cruel when they wanted, he stands out. One of my "favorite" stories of him is about how he treated the servants of his father, whom he had arrested, likely because they knew something about the role of the poisoned cake that had come from Muhammad III's house and led to the pain-filled death of Muhammad II. The warden took pity on the prisoners thrown into a dank hole at Alcazaba and threw down some bread to them. When Muhammad III found out, he had the jailor's head cut off and let the blood drip down on the condemned so "they could have something to drink." Doesn't get any crazier than that.

Of Muhammad III, the best that can be said of him is that he is responsible for Alhambra's mosque, which is now the St. Mary Church at Alhambra, and the bath attached to the mosque, as well as the area known as the Partal, an extension of his father's palace on the higher ground. The lantern of the mosque is in Charles V's palace. Like many of the members of his family who contributed to the grandeur of Alhambra, Muhammad III was an adherent of Islam. While he had access to the oratories in the Mexuar or the precursor of the Compares tower, the mosque allowed the denizens of the royal city a place where they could worship. The bath house fulfilled the ritual washing requirement.

The bath, as with many other areas of Alhambra, shows its age and cannot have accommodated many people at one time. The private bath of the royal family, entered through the Court of Myrtles or later, the Court of Lions makes it unlikely that Muhammad III, Fatima or any member of their households would have used the place. Still, the rulers of Granada never fully insulated themselves from the public. Fatima's great-grandson, Muhammad V, was known to ride through the streets at times unattended. His father Yusuf I was received with so much acclaim in Gaudix in 1352, the women of the town who would have normally veiled themselves, took off their veils to greet him. Unfortunately, the Nasrids often had more to fear from each other than any outsider, as Fatima must have discovered to her horror.

This is my last entry on the public face of Alhambra. Soon I'll have more on the private areas and post some of over 1,000 pictures taken on this latest trip within and outside Alhambra on my Facebook page.

Have a great weekend!

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