What is a Carmen ?
It is the typical house of Granada. This is why the town is called « the city of carmens. »
The carmen’s origin is Arab, as is shown by its name as well as its architectural and spacial features. The Arabic karm means literally ‘vineyard’, and the common standard for all carmens is that they should have a vine arbour protecting the main entrance from the sun.
The carmen perfectly combines the built and the green areas. The geen area in itself unites the notions of orchard and garden. This union turns the carmen into a personal paradise and allows for the fulfilment of the five senses : the view and the fragrance of the flowers and trees, the flavour of the orchard fruit, the smoothness of the rose petals, the water flowing through fingers, the birds’ twitter and the murmur of the fountains.
Indeed water is the other essential element in this type of house. Water that does not only serve to quench thirst or to water the plants, but that is first and foremost a symbol of life. When it stands in ponds, it is still and mirror-like. Otherwise, it gushes from fountains or babbles along in irrigation canals.
Paradise was mentioned before, for it best describes what the carmen means to its owner. It represents the beauty of the interior space which is defended by walls and railings from the envy or curiosity of those outside. It is a special, private and selective world which fills one with wonder when one finally realises what it is all about : enjoying a simple life while contemplating the beauty of nature, although it is located in the heart of the old historic town and close to the main monuments and places of entertainment.
The poet from Granada Pedro Soto de Rojas (1584-1658), who saw the whole of Granada as a carmen, expressed it thus :
« Granada, an enclosed paradise for many, an open garden for the very few. »