GIBRALTAR

2004

Gibraltar is the name given to the narrow passage that separates Europe in the north from Africa in the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. It is also the name given to the great rock which stands as a sentinel at the Strait just off the southern Spanish coast. Jim had sailed by the Rock twice, in 1965 and in 1966, and Diane once, in 1966. But neither had visited the community there at its base until 2004.

Gibraltar is a British Colony, and its friendly inhabitants proudly speak a mixture of English and Spanish. They number about 35,000 souls. The name is a corruption of Jabal-al-Tarik, after the Moorish leader Tarik who captured it n 711 AD. The Spanish controlled it from the late 1400s and England took it over in 1704. Spain has never accepted English sovereignty over the Rock, and they and the French have laid siege to it repeatedly in 1704, 1723, and 1789-93 AD. The siege tunnels dug by the English still survive.

The Rock is home to a large number of Barbary Apes. How these apes got here is open to several theories. But Winston Churchill once claimed that as long as the apes are on the Rock, it will never fall from English rule. (During WWII, the numbers dwindled. So a special expedition was sent to Africa to bring more in!) The apes have gotten very used to human beings - "familiar" some might say. Diane was able to befriend one!

The Rock historically supported a naval and air base for the English that was of immense strategic importance. Today, although no longer of military significance, the Gibraltar residents maintain their staunch commitment to Britain. Recent referenda on a Spanish suggestion for joint-control soundly rejected any new arrangement. Gibraltar is a shipping and trade center and a tourist destination.

Gibraltar was regarded as one of two Pillars of Hercules in the ancient world. The other, closer to Africa, was Jebel Musa. The pillars were thought to be created by Hercules, who created a gate in the rock that held in the Mediterranean Sea. The monument of the Pillars sits at the entrance to a large park area.

Everything in Gibraltar is measured by acres, instead of miles. The harbor is some 440 acres in area. The city is expanding despite its natural limitations by filling in the bay. The Rock is not really an island. It is joined to the mainland of Spain by a very narrow strip of land that is regarded as neutral territory.

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