The Alhambra, the palace complex of the Nasrid sultans (r. 1230–1492), perched on a hill overlooking Granada, is—along with the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Taj Mahal in Agra—one of the iconic monuments of Islamic architecture. Romantically beautiful, with its stuccoed halls and courtyards, sparkling fountains, and lush gardens looking out on the snowy Sierra Nevada and the verdant vega of Granada, it is also the most visited tourist site in Spain, with 2.4 million visitors in 2014. Felix Arnold, a senior research fellow of the German Archaeological Institute in Madrid and a trained architect and archaeologist who has conducted extensive fieldwork in Spain, Egypt,...

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