Gibraltar is a British overseas territory occupying a narrow peninsula overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar. 'The Rock' is just that - a colossal chunk of ancient limestone that was thrust up from the seabed millions of years ago to form what is now the highly visible Rock of Gibraltar.
Its history is inextricably linked to its strategic position. Its first important military encounter was in AD 711 when Tarik-ibn-Zeyed led a huge Moorish army that was to conquer most of the Iberian Peninsula. Moors and Christians fought many battles here during the 14th and 15th centuries and the Spanish Christians finally succeeded in dispatching the Arabs back to Africa in 1462. British forces took the Rock in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession and British sovereignty over Gibraltar was subsequently recognised by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.
Gibraltar attractions include the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Some 500 species of small flowering plants grow there as does wild olive and pine. As far as fauna is concerned, there are rabbits, foxes and monkeys! Yes, monkeys inhabit the Rock - the Barbary apes are the only wild monkeys in Europe. Other attractions include St Michael's Cave, the Moorish Castle and the Great Siege Tunnels.
Down in the town centre, Main Street is unmistakably British with Marks and Spencer, BhS, pubs and bright red post boxes. Nearby Casemates Square, however, has a more continental air with many open-air cafes.
Contrary to popular belief the majority of Gibraltarians are not of English or Spanish ancestry - Genoese, Maltese, and Portuguese formed the majority of the population when the Rock was ceded to Great Britain.
English is the official language, which is used for government and business purposes but many Gibraltarians speak Llanito, a mixture of English and Andalucian Spanish.
23 Nov 2011