Checkout Secure

Origin of the Backyard Paradise: Lessons from the Alhambra

Origin of the Backyard Paradise: Lessons from the Alhambra

7 minute read

The backyard is an integral part of American life.  It’s always been important to homeowners as a safe and enclosed space where the kids and dogs can play.  The yard ascended to most-prized status during the pandemic, when everyone stayed home and focused their efforts on transforming it into their private oasis, their backyard paradise.  Post-Covid, real estate studies suggest that the backyard and outdoor space has become one of the top features buyers look for in a house.

But where did the backyard come from?

Ancient Origin of the Backyard

When I visited the Alhambra, the great Moorish fortress complex in southern Spain, in March 2023, I learned a lot about its history and its evolution. It's a massive complex, with many buildings, gardens and multiple levels.  Most of the buildings are open to the outdoors and connected to courtyards, covered walkways, and elaborate gardens. 

Some of the elements sounded very familiar: 

  • Gardens as outdoor rooms, extensions of the living areas, embellished with textiles, screens, and cushions to add function
  • The rooms extending the courtyard space with rows of pillars instead of walls
  • Water and shade designed for royalty with deep pockets; water as power
  • Walls created by tall hedges or cypress trees, with long shadows adding another dimension due to year-round unrelenting sun
  • Plants including fruit trees, vines and flowers to scent and adorn, enhancing relaxation

To understand the elements of the Alhambra, you have to start in the Middle East.  Here you will find the origins of the walled garden so fundamental to Persian and Islamic architecture.


Walled Gardens

Man has been creating walled gardens for 12,000 years, both for cultivating plants and as refuge from the sun and the heat of the day.  In fact, the word “paradise” originated from the Persian word for “walled garden.”  From the Garden of Eden to the mythical Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the backyard paradise has always figured strongly in ancient lore.

The Persian garden was designed to represent Eden and the four Zoroastrian elements of heaven, earth, water, and plants. The Persian garden was always divided into four sections, with water playing a crucial role in both irrigation and adornment.

Here are some ways in which the Persian garden has left its mark on modern American backyard design:

  • Emphasis on Nature and Tranquility: Persian gardens were known for their focus on creating a tranquil and serene environment. This emphasis on nature, with elements like water features, lush vegetation, and shaded areas, has influenced the modern American backyard. Many homeowners seek to create a peaceful retreat in their outdoor spaces, incorporating plants, water features, and comfortable seating areas.
  • Water Features and Reflective Pools: Persian gardens often featured elaborate water features, including fountains and reflective pools. This influence is evident in modern American backyard design, where water features such as ponds, waterfalls, and fountains are popular elements. These not only add aesthetic appeal but also contribute to a sense of calm and tranquility.
  • Geometric Layouts and Symmetry: Persian gardens were known for their geometric layouts and symmetrical designs. While modern American backyards may not strictly adhere to these principles, there is a tendency to incorporate some level of symmetry and organized layout. This can be seen in the arrangement of paths, flower beds, and outdoor structures.
  • Use of Tiles and Mosaics: Persian gardens often featured intricate tile work and mosaics. This influence can be observed in modern American backyard design, with the use of decorative tiles in outdoor spaces, particularly in areas like patios and around pools. These tiles add a touch of artistry and contribute to the aesthetic appeal of the backyard.
  • Integration of Outdoor Rooms: Persian gardens were designed as multifunctional spaces with distinct areas for various activities. This concept has influenced the creation of outdoor rooms in modern American backyards. Homeowners often design different zones for dining, lounging, and recreational activities, mirroring the idea of creating functional, segmented spaces within the outdoor environment.
  • Incorporation of Shade Structures: Persian gardens incorporated shaded areas, such as pavilions and pergolas, to provide relief from the sun. This has influenced modern American backyard design, where structures like pergolas, gazebos, and shade sails are popular for creating comfortable outdoor living spaces.

Alhambra backyard paradise


Unlike English gardens which encourage strolling, the Islamic garden was designed for relaxation and contemplation.  They were all about creating formal but intimate spaces cooled by water and shade where the nobility could take refuge from the sun and heat.  Generous proportions and good flow from one space to another were key.

The patio covers we offer, like this Sojag Pompano Wall Gazebo, extend the space of the house while providing shade, airflow, and protection from the elements:

Sojag Pompano Wall Gazebo - Grey

Sojag Pompano Wall Gazebo - Grey

$1,089.80 $1,399.99

This unique sun shelter is designed to be an extension of your home. The structure is crafted from durable aluminum and the roof is made of polycarbonate panels. The Pompano allows you to be protected from the sun, all the… Read More

View Product

Strolling around the gardens, I kept thinking about the backyards in America.  When I saw this elaborately tiled and carved room surrounded with arched windows, I immediately recognized it.  It's essentially a GAZEBO!  Look at the ceiling - it looks like some of the ones we sell.  It is known as the Generalife Pavilion and the arched windows offer a panoramic view of the Lower Gardens.


This elegant Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo by Palram - Canopia is just a modern aluminum and polycarbonate version of this pavilion:

Palram - Canopia | Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo

Palram - Canopia | Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo

$2,569.80 $2,999.99

The Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo gives you that outdoor gathering space that you’ve always wanted. Decorative yet functional, the roof ornament keeps rain out and vents smoke and humidity. The stylish and durable design features a durable corrosion-resistant powder-coated aluminum… Read More

View Product

Modern Backyard Functionality

The modern American backyard serves many more purposes today than just relaxation and repose; it’s a venue for parties, games, entertainment, family gatherings, mealtimes; swimming pools allow for recreation.  You can create your backyard paradise any way you wish, according to your needs and interests.

Modern shade solutions extend the indoors outside, allowing you to enjoy the backyard even when it’s hot and sunny.  Sunrooms and fire tables extend the outdoor season well beyond summer, sometimes even year-round.

But if you want to transform it into a haven for pleasure and relaxation, like in ancient times, there are ways to do that too.

Elements of a Backyard Paradise

As we've seen, there are many elements of a Persian garden paradise which can be applied to the modern backyard: 

  • Courtyards
  • Columns or pillars instead of walls
  • Tall hedge “walls”
  • Water – pools and fountains
  • Geometric sections, quadrants - add structure to a large space
  • Plants: fruit trees, vines, flowers scent the air


Cooling water is not only visually aesthetic; the sound of moving water drowns out ambient noise and aids in relaxation.  Water elements are an excellent way to increase appeal and enhance enjoyment of a garden space.  Here are some beautiful fountains you can incorporate into your backyard to evoke the feel of a Persian garden.

Peacock and Urns Garden Water Fountain

Classic Mosaic Tile Garden / Patio Fountain

This elegant lion fountain, designed to go in a corner, is a nice way to add water to an outdoor space.

Saint Remy Lion Garden Corner Fountain

Summary: Creating Your Backyard Paradise

While modern American backyards may not replicate the exact layout and features of ancient Persian gardens, the influence is evident in the shared appreciation for nature, water elements, geometric designs, and a desire to create harmonious outdoor spaces that provide both aesthetic pleasure and functional use.  With modern products, creating your own backyard paradise has never been easier.

« Back to Blog

Added to cart!
⭐  Free Delivery Nationwide ⭐ Assembly Available! ⭐ Free shipping when you order over XX You Have Qualified for Free Shipping *** FREE DELIVERY! *** View Full Product Details You Have Free Shipping On This Order! Free shipping when you order over XX ou Have Qualified for Free Shipping