WOMEN AND THE ALHAMBRA. THE
FEMALE PRESENCE IN POLITICAL,
ARCHITECTURAL, PICTORIAL AND
SYMBOLIC SPACES
LAS MUJERES Y LA ALHAMBRA. PRESENCIA FEMENINA EN ESPACIOS
POLÍTICOS, ARQUITECTÓNICOS, PICTÓRICOS Y SIMBÓLICOS
BÁRBARA BOLOIX-GALLARDO
LECTURER IN ARABIC AND ISLAMIC STUDIES IN THE DEPARTMENT OF SEMITIC STUDIES
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF GRANADA
bboloix@ugr.es
AbstrAct: the Alhambra, as the main expression of the path of the Nasrid dynasty in history, was an en-
clave where both men and women were present during the trajectory of the kingdom of Granada (13th-15th
centuries). Despite their conscious historiographic «veiling», the latter had a considerable influence in both
the political development and the spatial and aesthetic configuration of this palace. Therefore, its analysis
and reconstruction are not possible today without the application of a gender perspective. Throughout this
paper, we will try to identify the feminine presence in the political, architectural, pictorial, and symbolic
fields at the Alhambra, in order to contribute to a better understanding of both the importance and the
mark that Nasrid women left in this monument.
Keywords: Alhambra, women, politics, architecture, visual culture, poetry, gender studies
resumen: la Alhambra, como máxima expresión del paso de la dinastía nazarí por la historia, fue un en-
clave en que tuvieron presencia tanto hombres como mujeres durante la trayectoria del reino de Granada
(siglos XIII-XV). A pesar de su consciente «velación» historiográfica, estas últimas llegaron a tener un peso
considerable tanto en el desarrollo político como en la configuración espacial y estética de este palacio, cuyo
análisis y reconstrucción no deben ser posibles a día de hoy sin la aplicación de la perspectiva de género.
A lo largo de este trabajo, pretendemos identificar la presencia femenina fundamentalmente dentro de los
ámbitos político, arquitectónico, pictórico y simbólico alhambreños, con el fin de contribuir a un mejor
conocimiento de la importancia y de la huella que las mujeres nazaríes tuvieron y dejaron en este monu-
mento.
PAlAbrAs clAves: Alhambra, mujeres, política, arquitectura, cultura visual, poesía, estudios de género
cómo citAr / how to cite: BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Las mujeres y la Alhambra. Presencia femenina en es-
pacios políticos, arquitectónicos, pictóricos y simbólicos, Cuaderno de la Alhambra. 2020, 49, págs. 347-363
. ISN 0590-1987
CUADERNOS DE LA ALHAMBRA I núm. 49 I 2020 I págs. 347-363
Recibido: 19 octubre 2020 | Revisado: 2 noviembre 2020 | Aceptado: 12 noviembre 2020 | Publicado:24 diciembre 2020
ISSN: 0590 - 1987 I eISSN: 2695-379X I Depósito legal: GR 70-1965
Introduction
The history of the Nasrid dynasty, which ruled
the kingdom of Granada from the 13th to the 15th
century, has generally been interpreted, recons-
tructed and analysed from a predominantly male
perspective in all its various manifestations. This
approach established a biased view of the dynas-
ty’s political trajectory that has endured for cen-
turies and decades, overlooking the contribution
made by women of this lineage. For a long time,
no important questions were asked about the roles
that women actually played in the public sphere
and how they influenced the development of the
Nasrid dynasty, despite their great importance.
Their footprints have been limited to an occasio-
nal series of references scattered across sources
and studies that have, in addition, been left out of
the official historical discourse and the process of
interpreting the facts
1
.
In spite of this, women’s involvement in the di-
fferent facets of Nasrid history (politics, diploma-
cy, economics, etc.) can today no longer be denied
when viewed from various scientific perspectives,
forcing a re-examination of the dynasty from a gen-
1. Among the works that have highlighted the contribution of wo-
men to Nasrid history and have contributed to its visibility, the
following particularly stand out (in chronological order): SECO
DE LUCENA, L.. La sultana madre de Boabdil, Al-Andalus, 12/2
(1947), pp. 359-390; ALBARRACÍN NAVARRO, J.Un documento
granadino sobre los bienes de la mujer de Boabdil en Mondújar
in Manuel González Jiménez (ed.). Actas del I Congreso de Historia
de Andalucía. Andalucía Medieval. Fuentes y Metodología. Cordoba:
Monte de Piedad, 1978, pp. 339-348; DE SANTIAGO SIMÓN, E.
Algo más sobre la sultana madre de Boabdil in Ángel Sáenz-Ba-
dillos Pérez (ed.). Homage to Prof. Dario Cabanelas Rodriguez,
O.F.M., on the occasion of his LXX anniversary Granada: University,
1987, I, pp. 491-496; RUBIERA MATA, M.ª J. La princesa Fāima
bint al-Amar, la "María de Molina" de la dinastía nazarí. Medie-
valismo, 6 (1996), pp. 183-189; CHAROUITI HASNAOUI, M. La
intervención de la mujer en la vida política granadina durante la
primera mitad del siglo XV, in Francisco Toro Ceballos and José
Rodríguez Molina (coords.). Estudios de Frontera. Alcalá la Real y
el Arcipestre de Hita. Jaén: Diputación Provincial, 1996, pp. 323-
334; SALICRÚ I LLUCH, R. El Sultanat de Granada i la Corona
d’Aragó, 1410-1458. Barcelona: Publicacions de l'Abadia de Mont-
serrat, 1998; BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Revelando nuevos vínculos
familiares de la dinastía nazarí en el siglo XIII: Amat al-Azīz y
los Banū Ḥudayr de Crevillente, MEAH, 60 (2011), pp. 57-78; BO-
LOIX- GALLARDO, B. Las Sultanas de la Alhambra. Las grandes
desconocidas del reino nazarí de Granada (siglos XIII-XV). Granada,
Comares - Patronato de la Ahambra y el Generalife, 2013; BO-
LOIX- GALLARDO, B. Mujer y poder en el reino nazarí de Grana-
da: la sultana Fāima bint al-Amar, la perla central del collar de
la dinastía, Anuario de Estudios Medievales, 46/1 (2016), pp. 269-
300; SALICRÚ I LLUCH, R. Sultanas emergentes: visualizaciones
de la mujer musulmana en las fuentes cristianas, en José Rodrí-
guez Molina (ed.). VIII Estudios de Frontera. Mujeres y fronteras.
Jaén, Diputación Provincial, 2011, pp. 477-483, among others.
IL. 1. Pepe Marín. North portico of the Court of the Myrtles reflected in the pool. (2016) APAG.
der perspective that is indispensable for a better un-
derstanding of its internal dynamics. Following
the methodological recommendations of Ame-
rican historian Joan Scott
2
, this approach is not
only decisive in reconstructing a new history of
women, but also a new history –in this case, that
of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada– since, para-
phrasing her ideas, «the inclusion of women in
history necessarily implies the redefinition and
expansion of traditional notions of historical me-
aning, so that it encompasses personal and sub-
jective experience as well as public and political
activities» and gender, as a topic for analysis, is a
decisive part of this.
Reconstructions of the history of the Alhambra,
and analysis of the palace from different points
of view (architectural, aesthetic, etc.), has gene-
rally suffered from this male perspective, with
the exception of the well-known work of some
women researchers who have opened up lines
of research that are as necessary as they are in-
teresting
4
. Taking into account the importance
of considering the feminine component in any
general study of the palace, this work analyses
the presence of Nasrid women in the Alhambra
based on four key areas: political, architectonic,
pictorial and symbolic. This study aims to con-
tribute, as far as possible, to an appreciation of
the Alhambra as an enclave in which very diverse
feminine worlds developed, identifying how fe-
mininity is an essential feature in the historical,
aesthetic and spatial configuration of the Nasrid
palace, and it urges any study of the Alhambra to
constantly apply a gender perspective (Il. 1).
Women and power in the history of the
alhambra
Politics, in its various manifestations, was a field
in which women of the Nasrid dynasty actively and
significantly participated. Due to the idiosyncrasy of
Islamic civilization in medieval times, this involve-
ment was officially prohibited by the male domain,
as acknowledged by and recommended in several
Andalusian and Eastern political treaties, the finest
example being the treatise written by vizier and se-
cretary of the Alhambra Lisān al-Dīn Ibn al-Jaṭīb (d.
776/1374) entitled Al-Maqāma l-siyāsa (The ses-
sion on politics). In this short work, which he dedi-
cated to Nasrid emir Muammad V, (755-760/1354-
1359; 763-793/1362-1391) he offers practical advice
on how to govern and defines a sultan’s group of
women (al-ḥuram) as follows [as for the wives]:
«they are the soil in which the children are
planted, the myrtles of the spirit and the re-
pose of the heart –tired by thoughts– as well
as the soul –cut open by self-esteem, to the
point of intrigue and censure–. (…)Seek out,
then, among them the one who surpasses
the others in the goodness of her character,
the one who shows herself to be proud re-
gardless of her size, as long as [that] does not
harm you in the spirit, so that she may be the
[mother] of your children (...)»
«Forbid them to wink [among themselves],
to be jealous of each other, and rivalry and
preferences of some over others. Put peace
between them in personal affairs, playing
deaf to their demands and showing deferen-
ce to their apprehensions».
«Reduce your encounters with them, which
should be your permanent concern and the
moustached [guardian] of your harem, being
intimate with them [only] when weariness
and tedium reign; and abstain [from it] if you
have much work, anger, sleep or apathy due
to the day’s fatigue (...)».
2. SCOTT, Joan W. “El género: una categoría útil para el análisis
histórico”, in Marta Lamas (ed.), El género: la construcción cul-
tural de la diferencia sexual. Mexico: Universidad Autónoma de
México, 2013 (4th reprint), p. 267.
4. In this context, the well-known works by Elena Díez Jorge on
architecture and women are particularly noteworthy. Due to their
extremely large number, only the following shall be mentioned
due to space limitations: Mujeres y arquitectura: mudéjares y cris-
tianas de la construcción. Granada: Universidad de Granada, 2011
(English version: Women and Architecture: Christian and Mude-
jar Women in Building. Granada: University of Granada, 2011);
“Women and the Architecture of al-Andalus (711–1492): A His-
toriographical Analysis” in Therese Martin (ed.), Reassessing the
Roles of Women as “Makers” of Medieval Art and Architecture. Lei-
den-Boston: Brill, 2012, I, pp. 479-521.
«Do not disown any woman on the advice
of others or due to intrigue, nor should you
entrust her with small or big matters»
5
.
Despite official recommendations to keep women
out of politics and to prevent women’s presence
from encroaching at a government level, the rea-
lity proved very different from the theory as shown
by several cases in which different sultanas clear-
ly crossed the threshold of their private habitat to
enter the public sphere. The political instability of
the Nasrid dynasty, which was comprised of twen-
ty-three sultans of whom at least thirteen died in
organized crimes, and the context of war that cons-
tantly enveloped the kingdom, meant that the wo-
men of the family were frequently left on the front
line
6
. One of the most decisive reasons for these fe-
male interventions was undoubtedly to ensure the
succession to power of a woman’s own first-born
child or other candidates from among her own offs-
pring. To this effect, it is important to bear in mind
the great importance that motherhood had in terms
of the legal, and therefore also social, footing esta-
blished among the different categories of women
members of a royal harem. To define the term, a
harem (al-ḥarīm o al-ḥuram) was the set of private
females belonging to a sovereign who were, as a re-
sult, forbidden (ḥarām) to other men
7
.
Harems were principally complex feminine micro-
cosms because they were made up, as in the case of
the Nasrid dynasty, of two types of women: firstly,
those born into the ruling family itself who were
considered ‘legitimate wives’(zawŷ, plural azwāŷ)
of the sultans. These women were generally pater-
nal cousins (bint ʽamm) –though sometimes mater-
nal cousins (bint al-jāl)– of the reigning sovereign,
since marital union between cousins was frequent-
ly practised at all levels of society in the kingdom of
Granada. It was preferred in Arabic–Islamic cultu-
re for reasons that were mainly economic because
endogamy allowed a family’s heritage to be kept
intact within the family. As a result of their high
social status, these women were considered noble
or ḥurras (‘free’) by birth. The second group in the
Nasrid harem were slaves (ŷawārī, mamlūkāt) who
were intended for procreation; they were genera-
lly Christian women (rūmiyyas) from the north of
the peninsula who were brought to Granada either
through the slave trade or as captives following mi-
litary expeditions. By bearing the sovereign a child,
concubines (ummahāt al-awlād, literally ‘the mo-
thers of the children’)
8
achieved the social status of
free women or ḥurras, because motherhood confe-
rred the right to freedom, and this in turn implied
nobility
9
.
Examining the entire Nasrid family tree, it is pos-
sible to count twenty-three named legitimate wives
and nine Christian concubines documented in Ara-
bic sources, which relate quite explicitly the strate-
gies that some of these women employed to secure
a position for their own children in the government
after the death or dethronement of the reigning
emir. This can be illustrated in detail by describing
the case of Fāṭima bint al-Amar (d. 749/1349),
a woman who epitomised this situation; she was
born in the 13th century but prolonged her political
career well into the 14th century.
Chroniclers always describe Fāṭima in the biogra-
phical shadow of her son but they define her as a
«very noble lady related to the kings [on all four si-
des]», as recounted by Ibn al-Jaṭīb (d. 776/1374)
10
5. IBN AL-JAṬĪB. Al-Maqāma fī l-siyāsa, texto conservado en Al-
Iāa fī ajbār Garnāa. Ed. Muammad Abd Allāh Inān. El Cai-
ro: al-Širka al-Duwaliyya li-l-ibāa, 20014, IV, pp. 625-626 and
inAL-MAQQARĪ. Naf al-īb min gun al-Andalus al-ratīb wa-ikr
wazīri-hā Lisān al-Dīn Ibn al-Jaīb. Ed. Isān Abbās. Beirut: Dār
ādir, 1968, VI, pp.439-440, apud BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Las
Sultanas de la Alhambra, pp. 166-167.
6. On this subject, see VIDAL CASTRO, F. El asesinato político
en al-Andalus: la muerte violenta del emir en la dinastía nazarí
(s. century) in Maribel Fierro (ed.). De muerte violenta. Política,
religión y violencia en al-Andalus (Estudios Onomástico Biográficos
de al-Andalus, 14). Madrid: CSIC, 2004, pp. 349-397 and by the
same author, La Alhambra, como espacio de violencia política en
la dinastía nazarí, en José Antonio González Alcantud (coord.).
La Alhambra: lugar de la memoria y el diálogo. Granada: Comares,
2008,pp. 201-220.
7. See BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. “Los harenes del mundo islámi-
co medieval y su pervivencia romántica en el norte de África” in
Catálogo de la Exposición Odaliscas. De Ingres a Picasso. Granada:
Board of Trustees of the Alhambra and the Generalife (in pro-
duction)
8. BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Las Sultanas de la Alhambra, pp. 170-202.
9. On these themes, see ibid. pp. 187-193.
10. I
āa, I, p. 378; trad. BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Las Sultanas de
la Alhambra, p. 66.
because she was the daughter of emir Muammad
II, sister of Muammad III and half-sister of sul-
tan Nar
11
. The tragic circumstances surrounding
her life made her an active participant in the dy-
nastic affairs of the Nasrid court. Firstly, her father,
Muammad II, died in 1302, then her brother
Muammad III, to whom she must have felt great
loyalty because they shared both the same father
and mother (Nuzha), was deposed by sultan Nar
(their half-brother with a father in common) in 708
(1309); sultan Nar also died two years later. Arabic
sources reveal that Fāṭima was never in agreement
with this shift in politics, which would explain why
she began to plan –from Malaga, the city where she
lived with her husband, Abū Saīd Faraŷ, ruler of
this military stronghold– the coup d’état that would
elevate her own son, Ismāʽīl I, to power at the Al-
hambra.
These developments in Nasrid history are worth
analysing in detail due to the consequences and
great significance that they entailed: Fāṭima was,
like her male brothers Muammad III and Nar,
the daughter of emir Muammad II but, unlike
them, her status as a woman meant that she could
not officially pass on the right to reign, despite the
fact that she was also a direct descendent of the le-
gitimate ruling line that began in the 13th century
with Muammad I, the founder of the dynasty. In
spite of this, following the death of Muammad III
the succession to this dynastic branch found itself
at a dead end because the sultan had produced no
heirs and it was predicted that Nar would not have
any. For this reason, Fāṭima emerged as the conti-
nuer of the lineage, instigating her son Ismāīl I to
take power until he overthrew Nar in 713 (1314).
This meant that her first-born son played a leading
role in an unusual event in the Nasrid dynasty, and
in an Islamic dynasty in general: he rose to power
through his mother’s side rather than his father’s.
This fact was analysed by M
a
Jesús Rubiera
12
, who
reached the conclusion that
«the social solidarity of the Granada linea-
ges was not based on the unilateral –agna-
tic– structure of the Arab-Bedouin model
but rather a bilateral structure, meaning
that cognatic bonds –the feminine line– had
as much importance as agnatic bonds –the
masculine line– (...). However, for a cognatic
bond to be important, it was necessary for
women to transmit the honour and nobility
of their lineage to their descendants so that
they could identify with it».
In fact, the rise to power of Ismāīl I, who was old
enough to do so at 30 years of age, cannot be un-
derstood without this female key, which explains
how he received political legitimacy from his mo-
ther who, unlike his father, was a direct descendant
of emirs. Although medieval Arabic historiography
distinguished this new dynastic branch under the
title of «the dynasty of Ismāīl» (al-dawla al-Is-
īliyya), in reality it should have been called «the
dynasty of Fāṭima» (al-dawla al-Fāṭimiyya) or it
should not have been given any particular name be-
cause sultan Ismāīl directly continued a line that
was already established in power, though he did so
through his mother
14
.
Fāṭima’s political interventions would endure
throughout the course of Nasrid history as much as
those of her own descendants. Once established in
the Alhambra as Ismāīl I’s mother, she would live
through his murder in 725 (1325), following which
her participation in the sphere of power at the Al-
hambra would only intensify further. In the first
place, she held shared political guardianship over
her grandson Muammad IV (725-733/1325-1333),
who was appointed emir at the age of 10. The way
she protected her grandson’s reign is best exempli-
fied by her decision to eliminate vizier Abū Abd
Allāh Muammad Ibn Marūq al-Ašʽarī from the
political scene; he had tried to establish «a perso-
11. On the life and political actions of sultana Fāima, Mujer y po-
der en el reino nazarí de Granada: Fāima bint al-Amar, la perla
central del collar de la dinastía (siglo XIV), Anuario de Estudios
Medievales, 46/1, 2016, pp. 269-300.
12. El vínculo cognático en al-Andalus, Actas del I Congreso de
Historia de Andalucía. Andalucía Medieval, Córdoba, diciembre de
1976, Cordoba: Monte de Piedad-Caja de Ahorros, 1978, I, pp.
121 and 123.
13. He was born in the year 677 (1279).
14. BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Mujer y poder, pp. 278-281.
Female residential spaces in the alhambra. a
palace for women too
The official residence of the Nasrid princesses was,
by definition, the Alhambra enclosure, the seat of
Nasrid power and the dynasty’s dwelling place.
However, not all the women of this lineage saw or
experienced the same Alhambra. It must not be
forgotten that the complex was slowly built from
the 13th-15th century, meaning that generation after
generation of Nasrid sultanas bore witness to the
gradual evolution of its construction. This means
that the family’s first women, who lived in the 13th
century under the first emir, Muammad I (629-
671/1232-1273), inhabited its heart and the plainest
and most primitive Alhambra, i.e. the military area
of the Alcazaba
20
.
Following the rise to power of his son and suc-
cessor, Muammad II (671-701/1273-1301), the
horizons of the Alhambra began to expand as the
kingdom entered the 14th century. Muammad II
is in fact credited with having begun to build Dār
al-Mamlaka al-Sa
īda (‘the House of the Happy
Kingdom’), referring to the Generalife; an enhan-
cement in terms of space that the women of his
time –his legitimate wife Nuzha, his concubine
Šams al-uà, his sister, the famous Fāṭima bint
nal dictatorship taking advantage of the under-age
status of Muammad IV»
15
. The chronicles recount
how one day Ibn Marūq, who used to regularly
visit the house of the sultan’s grandmother (dār
al-ŷadda/dār al-ḥūrra al-kabīra ŷaddat al-sulṭān
)
to consult her on important government matters,
was assaulted there by two slaves who murdered
him in front of Fāṭima, who must have been over
60 lunar years old, on the night of the 2nd of the
month of muḥarram in the year 729 (6 November
1328)
16
.Despite this, the sultana could do little to
prevent the death of her grandson, the emir, who
was killed in an ambush in 733 (1333).
Fāṭima would once again take the reins of power
when her other grandson, Yūsuf I (733-755/1333-
1354) ascended to the throne. He was also declared
to be a minor and insufficiently mature to run the
government by himself because, as Ibn al-Jaṭīb
17
re-
veals, he was not capable of taking
«anything from his estate, nor did he con-
cern himself with any matter that was of his
court, nor did he make any decision other
than what food was on his table behind the
closed doors of his fortress until he reached
adulthood».
Although the sources are not very explicit in identi-
fying what Fāṭima’s political activity involved at this
time, María Jesús Rubiera has suggested her possi-
ble participation in the plan to build the Alhambra
palaces that the sovereign ordered to be constructed,
including the Comares Palace. However, Fāṭima
died during the reign of Yūsuf I due to her advanced
age; her grandson did not hesitate to honour her as
if she were an emir and her funeral rites befitted her
status and her enormous political legacy. At dawn on
7th of ḏū l-ḥiŷŷa 749 (26th February 1349), sultana
Fāṭima died with over ninety lunar years of age and
was interred in the royal cemetery of the Rauda of
the Alhambra, where neither her brothers (Muam-
mad III and Nar), nor her grandson Muammad
IV –all of whom were sultans– were buried. Her life
would be remembered in a heartfelt and lengthy fu-
neral eulogy composed and recited by Ibn al-Jaib in
her honour as «a catalogue of morals and an epitaph
of [illustrious] ancestors» describing her as «the very
best of the kingdom, the central pearl of the necklace
[of the dynasty]»
19
.
15. MARTÍNEZ ENAMORADO, V. Granadinos en la Rila de Ibn
Baṭṭūṭa: Apuntes biográficos, Al-Andalus-Magreb, 11 (1994), p. 218.
16. On the medieval Arabic sources that describe this event, see
BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Woman and Power, pp. 283-286.
17. Kitāb A
māl al-Alām fī man būyia qabla al-itilām min mulūk
al-Islām. Ed. E. Levi-Provençal. El Cairo: Maktabat al-aqāfa al-Dī-
niyya, 2004, p. 305.
18. RUBIERA MATA, MªJ. La princesa Fā
ima bint al-Amar, la
“María de Molina” de la dinastía nazarí, Medievalismo, 6, p. 188.
19. BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Las Sultanas de la Alhambra, pp. 66-
67 and 267-271; BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B. Woman and Power, pp.
288-292.
20. On the adaptation of the Alhambra as the new seat of local
power in Granada, see BOLOIX- GALLARDO, Bárbara. Ibn al-A
ḥ-
mar. Vida y reinado del primer sultán de Granada (1195-1273). Gra-
nada, Universidad de Granada - Patronato de la Alhambra y el
Generalife, 2017, pp. 98-99.
al-Amar and her four daughters– must have wit-
nessed and enjoyed in their daily lives. However,
the Nasrid family tree was quite large and hou-
sing was required for both the members of the
dynasty and also for the extended Nasrid family,
which also included their women. This explains
why construction of the first royal mansions in the
capital, Granada, began in the time of Muam-
mad II, such as the house of Ŷannat al-Manŷa-
ra al-Kubrà
or Huerta Grande de la Almanjarra
–today the Cuarto Real de Santo Domingo– (the
remains of a palace belonging to Muammad II
have recently been found on this site); the nearby
Casa de los Girones; or the house that in Christian
times would be converted into the first Convent of
San Francisco, in the vicinity of the Alhambra
21
.
All of these spaces could have been inhabited by
women during the period.
Under the reigns of Muammad III (701-
708/1302-1309) and Nar (708-713/1309-1314),
neither of whom had any known wives or des-
cendants, «slender and elegant buildings were
erected on the northern walled enclosure of the
Alhambra, showing from the exterior their natu-
re as royal dwellings»
22
, and one example of these
architectural constructions was the Partal Palace.
However, it was the arrival of emir Ismāīl I (713-
725/1314-1325) that brought about the enlargement
of the Alhambra, and also saw the starting point of
a building process that elevated the palace to its
zenith in the 14th century under the governments
of Yūsuf I (733-755/1333-1354) and Muammad V
(755-760/1354-1359; 763-793/1362-1391). This ar-
chitectural growth was a result of the splendour
progressively achieved by the dynasty, which was
also reflected in an increase in the female side of
the Nasrid family tree. This can be seen in the fact
that, from the time of Ismāīl I onwards, the sul-
tans of the line began to take more wives and con-
cubines and to produce more sons and daughters;
this is reflected in the texts and can be interpreted
as a clear indication of the economic power obtai-
ned by the dynasty. In fact, the greatest number of
concubines is registered in the Nasrid family tree
in the times of emirs Ismāīl I and Yūsuf I (three
and two, respectively, in addition to legitimate
wives), and a greater amount of space must have
been required in the Alhambra to house more
members of the family.
In fact, Ismāīl I built his own palace, located to the
west of the Partal Palace and where the Comares
Palace is currently located , and one can imagine
that women in his family environment lived here.
These women must have been numerous because
they would have included the three Christian con-
cubines or rūmiyyas that he took during his life
(Alwa –his favourite–, Bihār and Qamar), but also
the offspring he had with each, including two girls
called Fāṭima and Maryam who resulted from his
union with Alwa
24
.However, the Alhambra also
needed to house the women of the emir’s extended
family, starting with his own mother, sultana Fāṭi-
ma, who moved to the Alhambra from her native
Malaga when Ismāīl I ascended to power. Various
anecdotes in Arabic and Christian sources attest to
this, including one source that recounts how, after
being stabbed by his paternal cousin in his private
council in 725 (1325), he was immediately taken to
one of his rooms in the Alhambra Palace where, as
detailed in the Crónica de don Alfonso el Onceno
25
,
(Chronicle of Don Alfonso El Onceno) , his mo-
ther Fāṭima was waiting: «Et tornó [el alguacil] del
Rey (...) et tomólo en los brazos, et esforzándose,
levólo a un palacio do estaba su madre del Rey».
(«The tornó [minister] of the King (...) took him in
his arms, and struggling, carried him to a palace
where the mother of the King was found.») In turn,
Arabic sources place this sultana in her own house
when they relate how, in the time of her grandson
Muammad IV (725-733/1325-1333), courtier Ibn
Marūq used to regularly enter her house (dār
al-ŷadda/dār al-ḥūrra al-kabīra ŷaddat al-sulṭān
)
to take advice on important government matters
21. FERNÁNDEZ PUERTAS, A. El arte in MªJesús Viguera
(coord.). El Reino Nazarí de Granada (1232-1492). Sociedad, Vida
y Cultura. Volumen VIII/4 de la Historia de España de España edi-
ted by Ramón Menéndez Pidal. Madrid: Espasa Calpe, 2000, pp.
196-220.
22. Ibíd.
23. FERNÁNDEZ PUERTAS, A. Art, p. 224-225.
24.
IBN AL-JAṬĪB. Iāa, I, p. 538.
25. Ed. Francisco Cerdá y Rico. Madrid: Printed by Don Antonio
de Sancha, 1787, pp. 206-207, chap. 5. BOLOIX-GALLARDO, B.
Mujer y poder, p. 282.