Travel

The Spain Diaries: Gibraltar

A view from The Rock of Gibraltar looking down onto the town, home to 30,000 people, made up of a mixture of Gibraltarians, British, Spanish, Arabic and Far Easterners.
Picture: Sean McKee

OK, so Gibraltar is not technically part of Spain. But I guessed that while I was on the South Coast, it would be a good idea to visit this little limestone outcrop, which has been the centre of a diplomatic row between Spain and Britain over its sovereignty this year.

Once you cross the invisible border onto the densely populated Peninsula, you are faced with the daunting task of crossing the runway of the airport to enter the main populous area. Labelled as the ‘third most dangerous airport in the World’, it certainly wasn’t the most welcoming of activities to run gung-ho across the runway. It had to be built on this part of the peninsula as it was the widest part, and the only place a runway could fit.

Although the airport operates flights only to Britain, it does not stop tourists from visiting. The main township is a haven for cruise ships, and is a regular destination stop. With an array of established British shops and some designer boutiques offering Tax Free shopping, it is easy to see why.

The wildlife are also an integral part to the tourism industry. The Rock of Gibraltar, the famous landmark on the outcrop, is home to semi-wild Barbary Macaques, the only  tribe of wild Apes in Europe. The climb to the very top of the rock is home to an open roofed enclosure for the apes, where they are allowed to roam free and interact with their human visitors. Dolphins are also a regular spot from the quayside, and make for some picturesque moments. Having recently dropped concrete blocks deep into their seas in order to build an artificial reef, the sea life will definitely be thriving around ‘Gib’ in years to come.

One opportunity I gave a miss which I now regret was the opportunity to take a quick ferry to Morocco, which is merely only an hour away and clearly visible across the Mediterranean Sea, and in particular from the top of the rock (even if it was overcast). There is also an option to fly by helicopter, which takes around 30 minutes, but thats requires crossing the border into Spain and flying from nearby Algiers.

The highlight of my visit was the range of food outlets available, particularly along the luxury quayside, home to exclusive residents, mainly British ex-pats who work for British companies that have taken advantage of Gibraltar’s low corporation taxes and set up base there.

The mixture of civilisations that have inhabited Gibraltar over the years is evident through the food of the native Gibraltarians. Calentita, a baked bread-like dish made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper, is considered Gibraltar’s national dish. However the influence of migrants from Britain, Spain, North Africa and other Southern parts of Europe have created an eclectic mix of Arabic, Mediterranean and British cuisines that can be enjoyed.

Choose a clear day to visit Gibraltar and take advantage of the incredible views from the top of the Rock, it will be a busy day, but everything to be seen can be done in a single day, before popping back over the border to Spain and exploring nearby towns such as La Linea.

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