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Perspectives on Gibraltar

sunny 22 °C

The British enclave of Gibraltar is, in essence, a small island at the very tip of Spain. We live on a small Canadian island, so we decided to put Gibraltar in perspective by comparing the two. Gibraltar covers just 2.6 square miles while our island of Gabriola is more than eight times the size. However, the population of Gibraltar is 32,000 - eight times the population of Gabriola. If our island had the same population density as Gibraltar there would be over a quarter of a million residents. Even more astounding is the fact that while the whole of Gabriola Island is habitable, almost all of Gibraltar is one uninhabitable sheer-sided mountain that is affectionately known as 'The Rock'...
Gibraltar is a popular tourist destination and, before Covid, it would welcome some 12 million visitors a year. To be on a par with Gibraltar, our island could expect some 96 million visitors a year and we would definitely need more ferries than the two new ones that start service this week. But where do all the tourists stay on 'The Rock'? While some visitors stay on cruise ships, many are day-trippers from Spain. There are a number of fine hotels in Gibraltar for those staying longer, but there is only one that should be on every world traveller's bucket-list. It is rather unimaginatively, though understandably, named, "The Rock"...
This iconic hotel is nestled deep into the side of the mountain and has welcomed the world's statesmen and celebrities since 1932. We have loved our time at "The Rock" with its comfy beds, delicious meals, and spectacular views from our balcony across the Strait of Gibraltar to the coast of Morocco just nine miles away...
However, to truly put Gibraltar in perspective we needed to take the cable car to the top of 'The Rock' from where we could look down at the small city clustered around the port...
To the extreme right of this picture is the international airport that occupies the only flat piece of land between 'The Rock' and Spain. The only road on and off the peninsula cuts right across the middle of the main runway. For obvious reasons, no stopping is allowed on the runway and anyone jumping the traffic lights while a plane is landing is likely in for a nasty shock.
Another oddity of Gibraltar is the troupe of barbary macaques that live high up on 'The Rock'.
These cute little apes are a tourist attraction in themselves as they attempt to snatch a free meal from any unsuspecting visitor carrying a lunch bag.
More than half of the world's maritime trade passes through the Strait of Gibraltar and at any one time upwards of forty freighters, ferries and cruise liners can be seen at anchor or passing through the strait from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic...
Gibraltar's dominant location twixt Africa and Europe means that whoever holds 'The Rock' is able to control this busy waterway. Neanderthals lived in 'The Rock's' many caves some fifty thousand years ago and many invaders have fought over its strategic location for millennia. The British seized 'The Rock' in 1703 and despite several Spanish assaults, have clung on to it ever since. From 1969 to 1982 the Spanish cut off all road access to Gibraltar in the hope of starving the British out. While the Spanish may have successfully used sieges in Medieval times, they had no chance against a community served by a major port and an international airport. Gibraltar even has its own hospital, and a university.

Our few days in The Rock Hotel in Gibraltar were a delight as we hit the heights and strolled in the surrounding sub-tropical botanical gardens...
And in the evenings, we dined on the terrace in the warm glow of the setting sun...
And so, in perspective, Gibraltar is a bustling, thriving place that is, simultaneously, an island of calm in a turbulent ocean.

Posted by Hawkson 08:50 Archived in Gibraltar Comments (9)

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