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It occupied the slopes of the Hill of the Sun (Cerro del Sol), from which there is a complete view over the city and the valleys of the rivers Genil and Darro. There are different interpretations of the meaning of its name: the Governor's Garden, the Architect's (alarife) Garden, the Vegetable Garden of the Gypsy Festivity Organiser, etc. The Generalife became a leisure place for the kings of Granada when they wanted to get away from the official affairs of the palace.
It was built in the 13th century and it was redecorated by the king Abu I-Walid Isma'il (1313-1324), as it is explained by an inscription that dates from 1319. This means that the Generalife was built before the Comares Palace. In spite of it being very close to the Alhambra and the close relationship between the two complexes, it is considered to be outside the city. A rebellion against Mohammed V even broke out in the Alhambra while he was in the Generalife.
Nowadays the Generalife is formed by two groups of buildings connected by the Patio of the Irrigation Ditch (Patio de la Acequia).
Nevertheless it is difficult to know what the Generalife originally looked like, as it has been altered and rebuilt at different moments throughout the Christian period. These changes were at first necessary due to the sorry state of deterioration and neglect that was the result of the late Muslim period and later on they changed its layout and distorted many of its features.
In the Generalife there is no kind of decorative excess or points of interest in its architecture. Unlike the Alhambra, all the buildings of the Generalife are quite solid, but in general poor and simple. This indicates an intimate and peaceful atmosphere that the kings were looking for when they retired to these gardens to rest. There are only some decorative motifs of plasterwork, which are not very varied, but are exquisitely fine and tasteful.