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Origin of the Backyard Paradise: Lessons from the Alhambra

Origin of the Backyard Paradise: Lessons from the Alhambra

5 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?


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. 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, 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.


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.

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 sell like this Pompano Patio Cover extend the space of the house while providing shade and airflow:

Sojag Pompano Wall Gazebo - Grey

Sojag Pompano Wall Gazebo - Grey


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

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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 Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo by Palram - Canopia is just a modern version of this pavilion:

Palram - Canopia | Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo

Palram - Canopia | Monaco Hexagon Garden Gazebo


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

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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.


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
  • Plants: Fruit trees, Vines, Flowers - scent


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

Creating your own backyard paradise has never been easier.  

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