From Medina-Elvira to Medina-Garnata
Before the 11th century the most important town of the region was called Medina-Elvira and was located in Atarfe. But then the rulers of the Zirid dynasty changed the capital from Medina-Elvira to Medina Garnata. From Medina-Garnata comes the name “Granada”, due to phonetical evolution.
If we strip down the name, we find out that “medina” comes from Arabic and is a form of referring to cities, similar to our use of the suffix “-town”. When it comes to the origin of the word “Garnata”, we find different explanations.
Some have the theory that the word comes from Latin (“granatum” which is in Spanish “granado”) and means pomegranate tree. The pomegranate is called “granada” in Spanish and would therefore give the town its name. Other sources claim that the name comes from Arabic (“gar-anat” which means “hill of the pilgrims”). Now we will see that both versions have a poetical relation.
The desert’s fruit
If there is a fruit that has been iconic for its people then it is the pomegranate.
The fruit comes originally from the region between Iran and the Himalaya. The Persians in Iran adored the Pomegranate and in the Coran it is portrayed as a tree of the paradise. One day the pomegranate crossed from Iran the gulf and reached the desert. There it gained more importance, as it was possible to transport the fruit over large distances in the desert without it losing its qualities due to its thick skin.
It was the Berber, nomads living in North Africa, who brought the pomegranate to Europe.
Earlier I said that both theories about the origin of Garnata could be related. Either it were the Romans who called the city after the fruit, a symbol of union between cultures. Or it were the Arabs who called the town “hill of the pilgrims”, referring to those travelers from the desert who finally came home after their voyage through the desert.
The symbolism of this fruit is very wide. In every culture they attribute to the pomegranate either similar or own and new concepts. Those significations are of little importance for the city, a city in which the pomegranate means above all something different, something more similar to the Gelem Gelem of the Gypsies than to any classic attribute. For Granada the name honors all those people that have been travelling and travelling to finally reach their home.