Witness of a sultan’s infidelity
Legend has it that this cypress tree, planted in a courtyard of the Generalife, was a silent witness of the clandestine love affair between Morayma, the wife of king Boabdil, and the handsome knight of the Abencerrajes tribe. The lovers met under its shade in the moonlight and were denounced to the last Arab king of Granada. The rage of Boabdil was so great that in retaliation for this, he ordered the beheading of several knights of the noble Muslim Abencerrajes tribe. According to legend, even today the iron rust stains at the bottom of the fountain of the Sala de los Abencerrajes contain the blood that was shed in revenge.
The story was possibly a tale imagined by romantic travellers who visited Granada in the 18th century. Yet if the sultan’s cypress tree could talk, it may well tell even more amazing stories.
The botanists José Tito and Manuel Casares believe that this specimen of cupressus sempervirens was, until it died, the oldest cypress tree in Granada.
It already appears quite tall in an engraving dated back to 1500. Here it is depicted as part of a line of trees of the same species, giving their name to the place where they stand: the courtyard of Cypresses.
According to botanists, there is no doubt that, given its size, the tree was planted in Moorish times and may have lived for more than 600 years. It is thought to have been destroyed by lightning. However, Tito and Contreras believe that it actually died of old age.
The tourists that visit the Alhambra today can only see its dried up trunk and an inscription of the legend – nothing compared to its former magnificence. The cypress tree forms part of one of the most charming rooms in the summer residence of the kings of the Nasrid dynasty. It is located in a courtyard that used to be lined next to other trees (which have already become extinct) next to a pond enclosed by evergreen shrubs. Here there are also islets bursting with lush vegetation in the centre of the courtyard as well as another small pond with a fountain made of stone.