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This network of narrow streets laid out in a grid was originally built as an Arab bazaar where raw silk was bought and sold. Mule trains brought the raw material and silk garments down from the mountainous Alpujarras where the silk worms fed on mulberry leaves. The producers often stayed overnight in the nearby Corral del Carbón (Moorish Inn) before taking their wares to market. The market burned down in 1843 and was rebuilt two years later maintaining all the original features like the horseshoe arches and the typical Moorish-style twin windows. It's still a market of sorts although it's mainly tourist souvenirs and knick-knacks for sale.
Don't be put off by the armed guards and the metal detector at the door; you can still enter freely and marvel at the elegant interior courtyard, designed by Diego de Siloé. The security is tight because this is a High Court. It was built at the same time as Plaza Nueva, in which it stands, during the 1530s. The austere Renaissance façade suited its purpose as a prison and house of justice. The inner courtyard has two galleries: the lower one is surrounded by half-barrel arches supported by marble Doric columns and the upper one has a stone balustrade and cornice decorated by carved stone leaves. There is a dungeon under the main staircase where the executioner used to await the court's decisions. Admission: free
Walk this way for an atmospheric stroll through the old Moorish quarter and some fantastic views at the end. From Plaza Nueva head along Calle Elvira briefly before turning up right, through the exotic sights and smells of the new Arabic quarter, to Plaza de San Miguel Bajo and its 16th-century church. It stands on the site of a mosque and you can still see a Moorish well, set in the facade. It's surrounded by Santa Isabel la Real Convent on one side and Dar-al-Horra Palace on the other. Carry on past the convent to San Nicolás Square where you get the best views possible of the Alhambra and the mountains in the distance.
There are many interesting historic sights worth visiting on both sides of this busy shopping street, including the Catedral de Santa María de la Encarnación, Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) and Palacio de la Madraza (Arab University). Heading down from Plaza Nueva, on the left, you'll see the statue of Isabel de Castilla accepting Christopher Columbuss petition for funds to finance his voyages of discovery. Further on to the right you'll enter the Alcaicería, a medieval silk market that is now an area selling crafts and souvenirs.
Al Taqwa Mosque is a city location for Muslim worship and other services. Worshipers gather multiple times a day, to pray towards Mecca. This is a fascinating sight to behold especially during the Holy Month of Ramadan.