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Outside the walls of the Alhambra, to the east, on the side of the hill known as the Cerro del Sol, is the Generalife, an area used by the Nasrid sultans for both leisure and agriculture. In mediaeval times it boasted at least four orchards and a palace that the Vizier Ibn al-Yayyab called the Royal House of Happiness. There has always been a close relationship between the Alhambra and this rural estate, such that the history of one cannot be understood without referring to that of the other.
Next to the Generalife Palace are the remains of a building known as the “Casa de los Amigos” (literally, “Friends’ house”), which has been chosen by the Council of the Alhambra and Generalife as this month’s Space of the Month.
It is generally believed that the “Casa de los Amigos” must have been a residence for guests of the Sultan, in line with the Treatise on Agriculture by Ibn Luyun (1282-1349) which stated that all recreational palaces should have lodgings for friends and guests.
Opinions are divided as to when the house was built. Some believe it dates from the early Nasrid period, in the 13th century and is therefore closer to the Almohad tradition, while others claim it dates from the later Nasrid era, and may well have undergone important changes in the late 15th and 16th centuries.
La Casa de los Amigos is laid out around two courtyards on different levels, a structure similar to that of the Nasrid houses in the Alhambra. The entrance is in the southern wall, off a rising cobbled street that also linked the alley leading to the hamman (bath) with the middle gardens of the Generalife.