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Granada lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada and at the edge of the fluvial plain of the river Vega, 65 km away from the Costa del Sol. With its 250 000 inhabitants, Granada is one of Spain's largest cities. Its unique geographical situation as well as its rich cultural and historical heritage have made Granada one of the most important and interesting cities in Spain. Moreover, it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world.
The oldest traces of a settlement in Granada date back to the Bronze Age. The proximity to the Mediterranean induced Phoenicians, Greek and Carthaginians to settle there. They found Granada an excellent trading place.
Like them the Romans left archaeological evidence of their times. In 1013 Granada became the capital of the Nasrid Empire, and reached its greatest economical prosperity and magnificence between 1344 and 1396. The influence of Arabic culture has left visible traces in the city and can be seen in impressive buildings and fortifications such as the Alhambra. At the time of the Reconquista, the reconquering of the Iberian peninsula from the Moorish Arabs, Granada was the last city to be conquered by the Catholic Kings in 1492. Their entry into Granada marked the advent of a period of Renaissance splendour during which numerous new Christian building were erected.
There are many regional festivities following both Moorish and Christian traditions, which take place all the year round in Granada. On January 2nd the Fiesta de la Reconquista takes place with many processions, and the flag of the Catholic kings is flown over the town hall. The festivities of Corpus Christi and Holy Week are celebrated with great splendour. The International Theatre Festival at the end of May and the International Music and Dance Festival count among the major festivals in Europe. On the Albaicín Celebrations taking place on 29th July, pilgrims on horseback and in coaches process to the Ermita de San Miguel, the hermitage of St Michael.
Economy and Tourism
Granada is the seat of several national administrative institutions, a large university and many organizations and businesses dealing with tourism. Another significant economic sector is the agricultural industry with the cultivation of grain, tobacco, sweet beet, almonds, olives and citrus fruit. Traditional Moorish craft still plays an important role with its typical products being copperware, carpets, embroidery, ceramics, jewellery and wrought iron and wooden inlay works. Hand-made guitars from Granada enjoy an excellent reputation among musicians.
The long period of Moorish reign has left the city its most important buildings, among them the world-famous Alhambra.
The Alhambra is the oldest and best preserved Arab palace of its time. This fortress lying high above the city was the seat of the last Muslim kings in Spain. On a hill opposite the Alhambra lies Le Albaicín, the old Arab district, with its beautiful view of the Alhambra. Another attraction for tourists is Granada's proximity to the Sierra Nevada, whose snow-covered summits can be seen from a distance of 45 km.
Knowledge and Learning
The University of Granada already existed under the Arab rulers in the 14th century and was christianized with the arrival of the Catholic Kings. With its 60 000 students, 3000 professors and 2000 administration employees it is the most important economic factor for the city. Granada University has two sites in Mellila and Ceuta, two cities lying on Spanish sovereign territory in Morocco. It is thus the only European university present on two continents.