The surroundings of Granada have always seen human presence. Recent discoveries indicate that human antecessors populated the area at least one million years ago, in what is now considered the oldest human presence in Europe. Iberians populated the region in the 8th century B.C. and received the influence of Phoenicians, Greeks and Punics. The Romans also settled near Granada and called their new city Illiberis, giving way for the Visigoth presence after the fall of the Roman Empire. The Arabs who conquered the Iberian Peninsula in 711 established a mighty kingdom (the Caliphate of Córdoba) whose permissive attitudes allowed the flourishing of sciences and arts by the three civilizations: Muslims, Christians and Jews. The first settlement of what is Granada today was the work of the Jews prior to the arrival of the Muslims, who founded a small community called Garnata. When the Arabs came to Granada they called Garnata al-yahud, which means Granada of the Jews.
The Caliphate of Córdoba was dismembered as a result of a cruel civil war, and the enormous kingdom was replaced by smaller states called Taifa kingdoms. The kingdom of Granada was established by the Nasrid dynasty in 1013, and lasted until the final defeat of Spain’s Muslims by the Christian troops in 1492. For almost five hundred years the Arabs lived in relative peace with the Christians, and were pushed back when occasional disputes arose. The Nasrid kings build an impressive palace that was also a fortress: The Alhambra. This compound still dominates the city as it was built on the top of the Sabika hill, and it is a constant remainder of the origins of the city and its culture. Finally, the Catholic Monarchs embarked themselves into the final reunification of Spain, which was accomplished on 2nd of January 1492 when Boabdil (the last Muslim king) surrendered the city to King Ferdinand of Aragon and Queen Isabella of Castile. The fall of Granada released the kings of urgent pressures and allowed them to tackle other ambitious projects: the immediate consequence was that they granted permission to Columbus to set sail in search for a new route for the Indies. Only ten months after the fall of Granada (12th October 1492), Columbus discovered America.
Granada lived then a period of relative splendor. Many Christian buildings were erected in the city, the Catholic Monarchs made the city their final burial place and Emperor Charles the Fifth wanted to make Granada the capital of Spain. For this purpose, he built what it was meant to be his Royal Palace, right in the heart of the Alhambra. By doing this, Christian and Muslim civilizations were forever intermingled in the city. The Emperor, however, became increasingly busy waving religion wars in Central Europe and his successor and son, Phillip the Second, finally decided to establish Madrid as the capital of Spain due to its central location.
Granada lived a relatively obscure existence for three centuries. The 19th century, however, was very convulsing. Napoleon’s troops invaded Spain and cruelly ruled the city for two years. The city favored many of the conspiracies of liberal activists against the absolutist king Ferdinand the Seventh. In the aftermath of the suffocation of one of these movements, Mariana Pineda, a young widow and mother, was executed after refusing to betray and reveal her fellow conspirators. Mariana Pineda became a symbol of freedom and the courage and determination of women against tyranny.
The 20th century was marked by the devastating consequences of the Spanish Civil war. Granada sided with Franco since the first day, and therefore there was not any significant fighting. The repression against those who remained loyal to the Republic and progressive forces was, however, devastating. One of the greatest poets of the whole century, Federico Garcia Lorca, was killed by firing squad soon after the beginning of the war. Other prominent figures such as the Rector of the University, the Mayor of the city and many intellectuals were also executed.
Granada, as well as the rest of Spain, lived an murky existence during the 40 years of Franco’s dictatorship. His death in 1975 woke up the city from this prolonged sleep, and soon became the vibrant, intercultural and lively city that it is today. The University has played a fundamental role in this transformation.
Granada is today a lively city of around 250.00 inhabitants, which is the center of a half-million people metropolitan area. Granada’s history attracts many tourists who join the locals in contemplating the many monuments that are scattered throughout the city center, intermingled with modern constructions of daring architecture. The Albayzin district was declared World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1984, and its white and narrow streets paved with artistic cobblestone motifs allow the visitor unexpected views of The Alhambra and the city below. The glorious cultural past has emerged again with a full array of activities ranging from music, theater, lectures or exhibits, to name a few. The city has all sorts of modern infrastructures, and travel to and around the city is easy by air, train or bus.
Granada’s attractions include the most Southern Europe Ski resort (Sierra Nevada), where the 1996 World Ski Championships took place. The proximity of the seashore makes Granada one of the few places in the world where you can ski in the morning and spend the afternoon on the beach. And don’t forget that the Granada Soccer team plays in the first national division, so you may have the chance to see the most famous players of the world from Real Madrid or Barcelona when they pay their annual visit to Granada. For the basketball lovers, Granada will host some games of the 2014 World Basketball Championships.
The peculiar city atmosphere, a combination of cosmopolitan and traditional life, ancient and modern, has attracted many foreign souls. Some of them settled in the city; others brought their memories back home with the deep desire to return again.
There are many reasons to live and study in Granada. We can give you some, but at the end of your stay you will probably have found your own personal reasons behind the uniqueness of the city. Granada is a university-city with an extremely low crime rate. The student population reaches 65.000, which means that one every three inhabitants is a university student, including 10.000 foreign students. The University of Granada is the leader in sending and receiving European students of the Erasmus international mobility program (over 2.000 students each semester).
Academic excellence is not incompatible with leisure and fun. You will enjoy traditions and festivities (tapas is a must!!), but also a rich offer of sport activities. The size of the city and the central location of the Center for Modern Languages and the host families allow a hidden pleasure: walk. You will seldom use any transportation in your every-day life, and soon you will surprise yourself by finding around a corner some familiar faces. Probably by then you are just another local, in a place where it is easy to get fully immersed in the language and the culture.