The Aben Humeya Carmen
The Aben Humeya Carmen is in the heart of the Albaicin district of Granada, cradle of the city of Granada and Morisco culture.
Within this rich reservoir of history that is the Granada neighbourhood of Albaicin stands the imposing Aben Humeya Carmen. The building combines two Morisco houses built in the XV and backing onto two of the towers of the Alcazaba Qadima wall built in the XI century.
The name “Aben Humeya” refers to a distinguished Muslim nobleman, a descendant of the Umayyad dynasty of Cordoba, who was called the “King of the Moors” as he led the 1568 rebellion against King Philip II.
The Carmen formed of these two houses has been converted into a Morisco restaurant, so that today there is free access to the gardens and patios. The gateway leads to a garden from which we enter the first house, attached in turn to a Zirid tower enclosing a cistern of which there is evidence in the fragments of Arabic pierced tiles found nearby. The houses still retain traces of great importance of the Nasrid period in some of the carved ceilings and an archway with openings at the sides surmounted by small windows with lattices. The Morisco courtyard has a small pool and is arcaded only in the north and south bays, similar to other Morisco groups.
In the rooms the highlight is the splendid carving in the main room upstairs. The garden is divided into different levels and has been enlivened with small modern details in good taste and tradition among which is a niche with a legend which recalls the illustrious visitor who created it: the prince of Yemen.
The second house is attached to another Zirid tower which can be seen from Calle Guinea, but here we find it combined with the Carmen gardens, forming a splendid viewpoint. From here once more we can see the Alhambra, always with us from any part of the Carmen, but its main interest is, because it is so surprising, the image that comes to us of the Almohad minaret – now the bell tower – of the church of San Juan de los Reyes. Its graceful form and subtle adornment contrast with the cyclopean volumes of the Convent of the Presentation.
The city of Granada has its origins in the district known today as the Albaicin. Archaeological research has found elements dating back to the Bronze Age, around the VIII century BC. But really the most important known traces, which evidence the establishment of a stable population in this place, come from the Iberian period. Excavations in the upper part of the Albaicin, near the Mirador de San Nicolas, led to the discovery of a fortification dating from the second half of the VII century BC, which belonged to the Iliturir or Ilberir settlement, latinised by the Romans to Iliberri or Iliberis. In fact, the Romans conquered this population at the end of the III century BC, which is confirmed by remains found in the same area.
It was in the XI century that the city of Granada was actually founded. After the break-up of the Cordovan Caliphate,a Muslim city arose on the hill of the Albaicin, located in what was called the Alcazaba of Granada (Qasabat Garnata), now the area around the Mirador of San Nicolas. Zawi b. Zirí was responsible for the birth of this city, creating a new medina which was known as the Alcazaba Qadima, the power centre of the Zirid dynasty, where a construction programme was put into operation aimed primarily at defending the area and the palace buildings.
In 1090 the Almoravids overthrew the Zirids and took power; this new period extended throughout the peninsula as did the other Taifa Kingdoms, but it was typified especially by weakness in government with continuous rebellion and internal conflict. Following the death of King Tasufin, the Almohads conquered the kingdom of Granada in 1157, remaining in control of the kingdom until 1212. This period was characterized by rapid growth in the population coming from the various territories which were being conquered by the Christians, and this resulted in the formation of several suburbs (outside the walls) around the Alcazaba Qadima (the old Alcazaba of Granada).
At the start of the XIII century the great decline of Al-Andalus began, the consequence of the progressive Christian conquest which came close to the kingdom of Granada under the Nasrid dynasty founded by Muhammad I. In 1238 he proclaimed Granada as the kingdom’s capital and so it remained until conquered by the Christians in 1492.
In the Nasrid period Albaicin ceased to be the centre of power since Muhammad I decided to move across to the Sabika hill, where he started building the palace city of the Alhambra. However, the district did not lose its presence as part of the medina of Granada during this period. The suburbs that had arisen around the Alcazaba Qadima continued growing in population, in particular the suburb called Albaicin (Rabat Al-Bayyatín).
After the kingdom of Granada was conquered in 1492, the Albaicin gradually became a stronghold for the Morisco population (the Muslims who remained in the peninsula after the Christian conquest was called Morisco). During the first century of Christian rule, during the archbishopric of Don Hernando de Talavera, first archbishop of Granada, there was a peaceful assimilation of the Moors as, under the Capitulations signed in 1492, they were entitled to retain their law and religion.
However, peaceful coexistence between Christians and Moriscos came to an end late in the XVIII century with the uprising in the Albaicin on 18 December 1499, due to the introduction of a radical and prohibitive policy by Cardinal Cisneros, breaking the treaty agreed in the Capitulations.
From the XVI century a strong imposition of Christian culture began, leading, among other actions, to the burning of Korans in Plaza Bibarrambla and the introduction of the first parishes as agencies for indoctrination and control of religious orthodoxy. The Albaicin in the XVI century became the last Morisco redoubt and it was at this time that the first urbanisations took place in the district:
- Some roads and public spaces were widened and enlarged.
- The introduction of parishes led to the building of churches where there had been mosques.
- The first religious orders settled in the area, mostly closed orders, resulting in the creation of new buildings or the adaptation of those existing to the functions of the monastery.
- Grand residences were built in what is known today as the Carrera del Darro, leaving the rest of the neighbourhood without them.
In 1570 came the final expulsion of the Moors remaining from the kingdom of Granada, leaving the Albaicin virtually depopulated. At the time the Crown applied a repopulation policy which failed conclusively as settlers refused to live on the hill. This situation and natural disasters accentuated a process of urban ruin affecting the entire hill except the area on the right bank of the Darro, already occupied by Christian noble classes.
In the XVII century, the Albaicin existed in a permanent state of neglect and ruin, with only a minimal population surviving, generally dedicated to agriculture and a few traditional activities such as: leather embossing, boilermakers, sandal makers, dyers, silk spinners, etc.