Spaced out

Peter Harvey has discovered two spacious rooms, lightly high in the Alhambra.

“Room of the beds” is the literal translation of “Sala de las camas,” which must lead not a few visitors to giggle and wonder what the difference is between a “room of the beds” and a bedroom. Traditional use in English for such spaces, often assumed by orientalists with imperialist agendas, pace Edward Said, to be regal knocking-shops, favours the evocative “chamber of repose,” although you’d still have to drop “real,” royal, in this layout.

How did the hall acquire its name? I don’t think Washington Irving bothered about it, although he rather liked the view of the Vega from the tower-top. But a brief trawl fails to discover it in pre-mid-19th century Spanish. So were its name and function in fact dreamed up by an English-speaking tourist or a French army captain, translated poorly into Spanish once they realised there was money to be made and then back again? Is all human communication in fact an out-of-hand game of Chinese whispers? Etc etc.

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