GibraltarStatus: British dependent territoryGibraltar, long famous as the "key to the Mediterranean", which has been held by Britain since 1704, lies near the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula.
The Rock of Gibraltar (Arabic Jebel al- Tarik) rears out of the sea on the east side of Algeciras Bay, linked with the mainland of Spain by a narrow isthmus. The town of Gibraltar lies on the west side of the Rock, which rises from the sea in a series of terraces. Since Gibraltar has for all practical purposes no sources of water of its own, large cisterns ("water catchments") have been hewn out of the rock at its higher east end. The only monkeys living wild in Europe are the Barbary apes of Gibraltar. The population of Gibraltar is a mixture of people from all parts of the British Isles, from Spain, Portugal, Morocco and other Mediterranean countries, as well as some Indians. The language pattern is equally mixed: in addition to English in all its variations and of course to Spanish, Gibraltar has a dialect of its own, basically Spanish but with an admixture of English. Since the withdrawal of most of the British troops and the loss in jobs which followed, Gibraltar has tried to attract investment from the EU and become a financial center. Tourism (4.1 million in 1991), the sale of stamps, and the commercial harbor are significant sources of income together with a modest degree of industry (oil, foodstuffs). The currency is the Gibraltar pound and since 1991 a coin worth 70 ECU (50 pounds) has been in circulation.TransportThe runway of the civil airport is built out into Algeciras bay and is crossed by the road to the Spanish frontier (with traffic light control), there are flights to London and Tangier (Morocco). There are also ferry services to and from Tangier.Vehicles on Gibraltar drive on the right.
At the southern tip of the peninsula is Europa Point, with a restaurant, a lighthouse and the old chapel of Nuestra Señora de Europa. From here there are magnificent views of Algeciras Bay, the African coast and Apes' Rock. On the east side of the Rock road runs from north to south by way of Eastern Beach and Catalan Bay Village (tourist center), below the Water Catchments, to Sandy Bay.
History and Constitution
The Straits of Gibraltar, known in antiquity as the Fretum Gaditanum or Fretum Herculeum, are a strategically important link between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. In ancient times the rock of Gibraltar, then known as Calpe, and its counterpart on the African side, Mt Abyla (Jebel Musa), near Ceuta, were known as the Pillars of Hercules - set up by Hercules, as legend had it, at the gateway to the great Ocean. In A.D. 711 the Moors landed here under their general Tarik, who named the rock Jebel al-Tarik ("Mount of Tarik"), which in course of time became Gibraltar.In 1462 Spain at last recovered Gibraltar from the Arabs. During the War of the Spanish Succession, in 1704, it was taken by British troops, and under the treaty of Utrecht in 1713 it was formally assigned to Britain. All later attempts by Spain to recapture Gibraltar were unsuccessful. The Franco regime also sought Arms of Gibraltar to recover the territory, but in a referendum held in 1967 more than 95% of the inhabitants voted in favor of staying with Britain. In 1969 a new constitution came into effect under which the colony became the City of Gibraltar, under British sovereignty. Thereupon Spain closed the frontier with Gibraltar. Under a treaty signed at Lisbon in 1980 Britain and Spain agreed on the reopening of the frontier, though it was not in fact opened until 1985. In 1987 agreement was reached on the "joint use" of the territory so as to promote the development of tourist facilities and the use of the airport.ConstitutionGibraltar enjoys self-government in internal affairs, but Britain remains responsible for foreign affairs, defense and internal security. The head of state is the Governor as representative of the Queen and commander-in-chief, assisted by the nine-member Gibraltar Council. The executive, the Council of Ministers (between four and twelve in number), headed by the Chief Minister, is elected by Gibraltar's 15-member Parliament.
Beyond the Apes' Rock, on the left, a flight of steps leads up to the Highest Point (425m/1395ft).
From the square Main Street, in which are most of Gibraltar's hotels, shops and public buildings, runs past the Post Office and the Exchange (with the Town Hall to the rear) to the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a former mosque which was rebuilt in Gothic style in 1502. Southwest of this are the Synagogue and, in Bomb House Lane, the Gibraltar Museum, the most striking item in which is a large model of the peninsula. In Cathedral Square stands the Moorish-style Anglican Cathedral (1821). Near the south end of Main Street is the Governor's Residence (the Convent), originally a Franciscan convent built in 1531.
Upper Rock Nature Reserve (Apes' Rock)
Apes' Rock is home to Barbary apes which are the only monkeys living wild in Europe. A British army corporal is assigned the duty of feeding these living symbols of Gibraltar. Visitors should be wary in their dealings with the apes, which tend to bite.Upper rock is a nature reserve and offers great views. It is also a good area for viewing migrations of birds between Africa and Europe.
The old town of Gibraltar, North Town, begins beyond the airport, which is laid out on the isthmus of level ground, with Casemates Square. Above this, to the east, is the Moorish Castle, originally built in the eighth Century and rebuilt by the Almohads in the 14th Century, of which only the keep and a few fragments of masonry remain.
From Main Street Willis' Road leads past the Moorish Castle into Queen's Road, a narrow road which runs along the Rock, half way up, affording fine views. At the near end of this road, on the left, are the Upper Galleries, which were hewn from the rock during the Franco-Spanish siege of Gibraltar in 1779-83 and still house cannon.
Alameda Botanic Gardens
At the end of Main Street are the Southport Gates, beyond which is the Alameda, a public garden with luxuriant subtropical vegetation and an open-air theater. At the north end of the gardens is a cableway running up to the Signal Station (395m/1295ft), near which are the Water Catchments (reservoirs).
Address: Red Sands Road, Box 843, Spain
On the east side of the Alameda is the beginning of Europa Road, a 5km/ 3mile long scenic road which climbs steeply up the west side of the Rock between the houses and gardens of South Town and then runs down between the jagged rock faces of Europa Pass.
St Michael's Cave
Farther south from the Highest Point a track leads off Queen's Road to St Michael's Cave, the largest cave on the Rock, with fine stalactites and stalagmites. In summer the cave is used as a concert hall. At the end of Queen's Road there is a sharp bend turning back into Europa Road.
The museum focuses on the cultural and natural history of Gibraltar, including the Strait of Gibraltar. Established in 1930, the museum is housed in Bomb House, the former residence of the Principal Artillery Officer.
Address: 18-20 Bomb House Lane, Box 939, Spain
Northwest of the square is the harbor, and just beyond this the Old Mole, built in 1309, which along with the North Mole marks the northern end of Gibraltar's large harbor.
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