Gibraltar is a peninsula with an area of 2.25 square miles linked to the southern tip of Spain, facing the northern coast of Africa and dominating the western entrance to the Mediterranean. Together with Jebel Musa (Mons Abila in Latin) in Morocco, Gibraltar (Mons Calpe) formed the Pillars of Hercules. One of the world’s most famous landmarks, the Rock of Gibraltar rises to approximately 1,400 feet and has been a key strategic site for many centuries.
Gibraltar’s strategic importance has given it a long and turbulent history and an influence on world events out of all proportion to its size and population.
Its name is a legacy of the 8th century Arab invasion of mainland Spain, when the Moorish leader Tarik based his troop-ships there. The name is derived from Gibel (or Jebel) Tarik – the mountain of Tarik. Although it was captured and held briefly by the Kingdom of Castile between 1309 and 1333, the Rock remained as a symbol of Moslem domination of the Western Mediterranean until finally regained by Spain in 1462. Britain captured the Rock in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession. Its cession to Great Britain in perpetuity was confirmed by the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, when it became a British possession.
Wide publicity has been given over many years to Spain’s claim to the Rock, the British possession of which it regards as prejudicing its territorial integrity. Despite its obligations under the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain has besieged the Rock on a number of occasions, the most notable being the Great Siege of 1779 to 1783. More recently, pressure has taken the form of a closure of the land frontier between 1969 and 1982. In response to this threat, the constitution granted in 1969 enshrines a commitment by the British Government, which has been frequently reaffirmed, never to cede the territory to Spain against the wishes of the population.
In the ancient times, right through the age of empires and in the global conflicts of our own century, Gibraltar has stood guard over the western Mediterranean, its unique position making it the focus of a continuous struggle for power. This spectacular rock monolith, covering a land area of about six square kilometres, is situated at the southern tip of Spain overlooking the strait to Africa. It is known as the Meeting Place of Continents.
Gibraltar’s history and environment are captivating. From its formation millions of years before and the myths surrounding its dominant presence, to the territory’s status today as a prominent tourism and business destination.
When you first see the Rock of Gibraltar, whether it is from the air, from the sea or from the Costa del Sol , it is its impressive stature, towering isolated above the surrounding countryside, that causes the greatest impact. It has had this effect on people for many thousands of years. Gibraltar is a beacon which signals the position of the Strait of Gibraltar, the narrow neck which separates Europe from Africa and provides the only link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
Here, the sub-tropical climate is warm and welcoming throughout the year. The local people smile their welcome with friendly charm born from a blend of many cultures united in a unique community.