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Granada: The land where pomegranates grow
THE STORY BEHIND A PLACE NAME

Granada: The land where pomegranates grow

Legend has it that the city’s name comes from a tree growing in the fortress, but another tale compares the setting sun to the bright red fruit

Friday, 8 September 2023, 16:22

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There are several versions of the origin of the word Granada. Some say that the name was given by the Romans and that it comes from the Latin ‘granatum’, which means pomegranate tree - ‘granada’ is pomegranate in Spanish. Other sources say that the name comes from the Arabic ‘Gar-anat’, meaning ‘pilgrims’ hill’.

The first recorded population in Granada were the Iberians. This civilisation first settled in the city in the seventh century BC. In 180 BCE, Roman troops conquered the area, renamed it Ilíberis and it was recognised as a city by Caesar.

After several centuries of Roman domination, the Visigoths took control of the area in the fifth century and it gained in civil and military importance. As a result of the continued growth of the population, buildings were constructed and a city wall was built.

Before the ninth century, the most important town in the area was called Medina-Elvira and was located where the town of Atarfe, just outside Granada, is today.

It was under Muslim rule that Granada was renamed Ilbira or Elvira, but under the Zirid dynasty the name was changed from Medina-Elvira to Medina Garnata, much closer to the modern-day name. The following evolution was a phonetic one, leading eventually to Granada.

Legend has it that it was a pomegranate tree growing in the fortress that gave the city its name; in Christian times the term Agranata began to be used, which evolved into the current name.

Another version states that someone watching the sunset over the city once compared the image with that of an open pomegranate.

Either way, it would seem that the city of the Alhambra is named after the bright red fruit, which is grown abundantly in Granada and Malaga provinces and is in season in the autumn and winter months.

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