Do Not Weep Like A Woman: the real story behind those Alhambra Quotes and instagram captions in Granada, Spain

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These Alhambra quotes tell the incredible story behind the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Granada. And they illuminate today’s myths about beauty, brutality and motherhood. 

See also the best road trip itinerary through southern Spain here.

Do not weep like a woman - Alhambra Quote

“Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man.”


In the scorching cauldron of Andalusia, the Sierra Nevada mountains rise up to tickle the skies and gather snow to whiten their peaks. Beneath them, amidst rolling countryside of rust-coloured paths, cypress trees and white-washed towns, the city of Granada gets on with life.

On its steepest slope sits the Alhambra.

Spain - Andalusia - Granada - Alhambra Hillside View

The Alhambra: The “Red One” in Arabic

The name comes from the Arabic “al hamra,” the red one. Its stocky outside walls wear the standard European fortress look, albeit with an unexpected glimpse of charisma at sunset, when they glow a soft copper-red against the lilac night sky.

Inside, however, reveals a completely different world.

Alhambra Granada Spain Fountain and Water

History of the Alhambra

Like many castles in Europe, work on the Alhambra began seven or so centuries ago. Unlike most of the others, this work took place at the request of the Moorish Sultans, kings who used Arabic instead of Latin and who practised Islam instead of Christianity.

Islamic Influence Across Southern Spain

Their work and influence live on across the Iberian peninsula, from the architecture of the haunting Mezquita in Cordoba to the expressions of everyday Spanish. 

Ojalá in Castilian derives from In šāʾ Allāh in Arabic. Both translate to a form of “god be willing” that has taken on more of a “fingers crossed” meaning in more secular times.

Yet, it’s within the vast grounds of the Alhambra that the majesty of the Moorish heritage becomes clear. While French and English kings sheltered in draughty, damp castles subsisting on turnips and porridge, the Nasrid kings floated through elaborate engravings, elegant courtyards and olive groves in their Generalife summer palace.

Instead of howling wind and dripping rain, the lyrical chatter of fountains filled the air. Instead of wall to wall mildew, ivory carvings decorated the space.

Carvings inside the Alhambra in Granada

The real story behind those Alhambra quotes and instagram captions

Yet for all the delicate beauty of the building, the history of the Alhambra issues another deeper message about today’s myths that link beauty with doing good, and motherhood with kindness.

When the Moors lost this paradise to the reconquest of the Catholic monarchs, the last sultan of the Alhambra sobbed as he watched them enter.

In an era devoid of political correctness, his mother turned to him and uttered the phrase that became immortal:

“Do not weep like a woman for what you could not defend as a man.”


Not that the incoming mother, Queen Isabella, offered up a much better alternative. She sent her baby daughter off to marry the King of England, who turned out to be the murderous and maniacal King Henry VIII.

Did you know? American author Washington Irving lived in the Alhambra itself while he wrote his book The Tales of the Alhambra in 1828.

 So it was with some trepidation that I walked around the rose-scented gardens of the Alhambra with my own mother, an inspirational woman who has also shown great courage, strength and guidance over the years.

She also tells me the truth.

“I’ve looked at your twitter feed. It’s boring. I don’t see the point.”

Ouch. Fair enough. Back to the drawing board.

And, hey, getting things into perspective, at least I don’t have to marry a tyrant.

Visiting the Alhambra

Unlike most tourist attractions, to get inside the Nasrid Palaces you MUST, MUST, MUST, MUST book in advance. If you turn up on the day, you are likely to gain admission to the rest of the (stunning) grounds but you may miss out on the intricate Nasrid Palaces.

Guided tours are available but you can happily spend a day wandering around this beautiful complex on your own.

Alhambra Granada Spain-24


The Sultan’s mother wasn’t the only person to have been moved by events here, although happily, these other Alhambra quotes are somewhat lighter. Many of these are perfect for an Alhambra instagram caption.

Lope de Vega, poet and playwright at the time of Shakespeare and Don Quixote’s Cervantes, wrote this about Granada.

  • “I do not know what to call this land upon which I stand. If what is beneath my feet is paradise, then what is the Alhambra? Heaven?”

Mexican poet and historian Francisco de Icaza returns to the bittersweet with a remark made about giving alms to the blind:

  • “Give him alms, woman, as there is nothing in life as the sadness of being blind in Granada.”

Nobel prize winning Federico García Lorca, somewhat unsurprisingly, put into words the beauty of the Alhambra better than me:

  • “ In the waters of Granada, only the sighs row.”

Dutch mastermind M. C. Escher fell in love with the Alhambra and incorporated many of its ornamental motifs into his later work:

  • “The Alhambra in Granada is the most fertile source of inspiration of all those from which I have drunk.”

And another Nobel prize winner, the one famed for simplicity, Hemingway himself said this:

  • “If you were to visit just one city in Spain, it should be Granada.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Spain - Andalusia - Granada - Snowy mountain skyline

More on Travel in Andalusia

The sun-scorched region of Andalusia that stretches across southern Spain couldn’t be richer in history, culture and great landscapes if it doused itself in gold and swam in an oil slick. 

Having lived in the intriguing city of Seville for many years, let me move beyond sharing Alhambra quotes and share more about the region itself.



Check out these unusual things to do in Spain.

28 thoughts on “Do Not Weep Like A Woman: the real story behind those Alhambra Quotes and instagram captions in Granada, Spain”

  1. Hi there,
    This is one of the most beautiful blogposts on the Alhambra on the net! Beautiful pictures and good essay! Did you also visit the Alhambra at night? I bought the tickst online, the only hassle was to get them from the ATM of the La Caixa bank and it is an old inkjet printer,which prints each of your tickst. We were 4 of us and I had booked 4 tickets each and we got to the ATM abt 40 minutes before our time slot to enter the Nasride palace. I am so glad I followed the advice not to go by the main entrance ad take the side entrance, which lands you to visa vie the Palace of King Charles and behind it- hidden by it- the Nasride (Morish) palace!

  2. Great post, evoked some happy memories in me! really need to return to visit. although it was not so long ago i was last there. I stopped at a good hotel called abadia hotel if anyone is going i would reccomend there, it had an arabic theme similar to that of the alhambra.

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