Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance of the Mediterranean. It has an area of 2.3 square miles (6.0 km2) and a northern border with the Province of Cádiz in Andalusia, Spain. The Rock of Gibraltar is the major landmark of the region. At its foot is a densely populated city area, home to almost 30,000 Gibraltarians and other nationalities.
An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne. The territory was subsequently ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. It was an important base for the Royal Navy; today its economy is based largely on tourism, online gambling, financial services, and shipping.
The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations as Spain asserts a claim to the territory. Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and again in 2002. Under the Gibraltar constitution of 2006, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defence and foreign relations, remain the responsibility of the UK Government.
Flag of Gibraltar
The flag of Gibraltar is an elongated banner of arms based on the coat of arms of Gibraltar, granted by Royal Warrant from Queen Isabella I of Castile on 10 July 1502.
An escutcheon on which the upper two thirds shall be a white field and on the said field set a red castle, and below the said castle, on the other third of the escutcheon, which must be a red field in which there must be a white line between the castle and the said red field, there shall be a golden key which hangs by a chain from the said castle, as are here figured”.
The flag was regularised in 1982 and is formed by two horizontal bands of white (top, double width) and red with a three-towered red castle in the centre of the white band; hanging from the castle gate is a gold key centred in the red band. The flag differs from that of other British overseas territories, in that it is not a British ensign. The castle does not resemble any in Gibraltar, but is supposed to represent the fortress of Gibraltar. The key is said to symbolise the fortress’ significance as Gibraltar was seen to be the key to Spain by the Moors and Spanish and later as the key to the Mediterranean by the British.
The flag is flown throughout Gibraltar, sometimes officially alongside the Union Flag and flag of Europe. Prominent places which fly the flag include the frontier with Spain, at the top of The Rock and on the Parliament Building.
The flag is a symbol of Gibraltarian nationalism, and is very popular among Gibraltarians. For the Gibraltar National Day (10 September), many Gibraltar homes and offices hang the flag from their windows and balconies, and some individuals even wear and dress their vehicles with the flag for national day celebrations. This was also seen during the 2004 celebrations of the tercentenary of British Gibraltar.
Gibraltarian students attending university abroad have been known to take Gibraltarian flags with them, putting them up in university accommodation rooms and hanging them from windows.
A Lego flag of Gibraltar 4 metres high and 8 metres long can be seen at the John Mackintosh Hall, which is a cultural centre housing the public library as well as exhibition rooms and a theatre. At the time of its construction, the Lego flag of Gibraltar was the largest flag ever to be made from Lego bricks with a total of 393,857 bricks being used.
Coat of arms of Gibraltar
The coat of arms of Gibraltar was first granted by a Royal Warrant passed in Toledo on July 10, 1502, by Isabella I of Castile during Gibraltar’s Spanish period.
The arms consists of an escutcheon and features a three-towered red castle under which hangs a golden key.
The arms were described in the Royal Warrant as consisting of:
An escutcheon on which two thirds of its upper part shall have a white field; in the said field set a red Castle; underneath the said Castle, on the other third of the escutcheon, which must be a red field in which there must be a white line between the Castle and the said red field; on this a golden key which shall be on that with a chain from the said castle…”
The arms consist of a shield parted per fess:
- 1st Division: Two thirds Argent, a triple-towered castle of Gules, masoned and ajouré of Sable.
- 2nd Division: One third Gules, a key of Or hanging by a chain also of Or from the castle.
The castle has its roots in the heraldry of the Kingdom of Castile, the largest and most important medieval Spanish kingdom, of which Isabella was Queen.
The preamble to the warrant granting the coat of arms to Gibraltar said:
“…and we, deeming it right, and acknowledging that the said City is very strong and by its situation it is the key between these our kingdoms in the Eastern and Western Seas and the sentinel and defence of the Strait of the said Seas through which no ships of peoples of either of these Seas can pass to the other without sighting it or calling at it.”
The idea of Gibraltar being the key to Spain or the Mediterranean originated well before the Spanish conquest. The followers of Tariq ibn-Ziyad, who invaded Spain via Gibraltar in 711, are said to have adopted the symbol of the key when they settled in Granada. The coat of arms was accompanied by the inscription “Seal of the noble city of Gibraltar, the Key of Spain”.
The name Gibraltar is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Ṭāriq (جبل طارق), meaning “Mountain of Tariq”. It refers to the Rock of Gibraltar, which was named after the Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the initial incursion into Iberia in advance of the main Umayyad force in 711 under the command of Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I. Earlier, it was known as Mons Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules.
Evidence of Neanderthal habitation in Gibraltar between 28,000 and 24,000 BC has been discovered at Gorham’s Cave, making Gibraltar the last known holdout of the Neanderthals. Within recorded history, the first inhabitants were the Phoenicians, around 950 BC. Subsequently, Gibraltar became known as one of the Pillars of Hercules, after the Greek legend of the creation of the Strait of Gibraltar by Heracles. The Carthaginians and Romans also established semi-permanent settlements. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Gibraltar came briefly under the control of the Vandals.
The area later formed part of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania from 414 AD until the Islamic conquest of Iberia in 711 AD.
In 1160, the Almohad Sultan Abd al-Mu’min ordered that a permanent settlement, including a castle, be built. It received the name of Medinat al-Fath (City of the Victory).
On completion of the works in the town, the Sultan crossed the Strait to inspect the works and stayed in Gibraltar for two months. The Tower of Homage of the Moorish Castle remains standing today. From 1274 onwards, the town was fought over and captured by the Nasrids of Granada (in 1237 and 1374), the Marinids of Morocco (in 1274 and 1333) and the kings of Castile (in 1309).
In 1462, Gibraltar was finally captured by Juan Alonso de Guzmán, 1st Duke of Medina Sidonia.
After the conquest, King Henry IV of Castile assumed the additional title of King of Gibraltar, establishing it as part of the comarca of the Campo Llano de Gibraltar.
Six years later Gibraltar was restored to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, who sold it in 1474 to a group of conversos (Christian converts from Judaism) from Cordova in exchange for maintaining the garrison of the town for two years, after which time they were expelled. In 1501 Gibraltar passed back to the Spanish Crown, and Isabella I of Castile issued a Royal Warrant granting Gibraltar the coat of arms that it still uses today.
In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet, representing the Grand Alliance, captured the town of Gibraltar on behalf of the Archduke Charles of Austria in his campaign to become King of Spain. The occupation of the town by Alliance forces caused the exodus of the population to the surrounding area of the Campo de Gibraltar.
As the Alliance’s campaign faltered, the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht was negotiated and ceded control of Gibraltar to Britain to secure Britain’s withdrawal from the war. Unsuccessful attempts by Spanish monarchs to regain Gibraltar were made with the siege of 1727 and again with the Great Siege of Gibraltar (1779 to 1783), during the American War of Independence.
Gibraltar became a key base for the British Royal Navy and played an important role prior to the Battle of Trafalgar and during the Crimean War of 1854–56, due to its strategic location. Its strategic value increased with the opening of the Suez Canal, as it lay on the sea route between the UK and the British Empire east of Suez. In the later 19th century there were major investments in improving the fortifications and the port.
During World War II, Gibraltar’s civilian population was evacuated (mainly to London, England, but also to parts of Morocco, Madeira and Jamaica) and the Rock was strengthened as a fortress. Spanish dictator Francisco Franco’s reluctance to allow the German Army onto Spanish soil frustrated a German plan to capture the Rock, codenamed Operation Felix.
In the 1950s, Franco renewed Spain’s claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar and restricted movement between Gibraltar and Spain. Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to remain under British sovereignty in the Gibraltar sovereignty referendum, 1967, which led to the passing of the Gibraltar Constitution Order in 1969.
In response, Spain completely closed the border with Gibraltar and severed all communication links. The border with Spain was partially reopened in 1982 and fully reopened in 1985 prior to Spain’s accession to the European Community.
In a referendum held in 2002, Gibraltarians rejected by an overwhelming majority (98%) a proposal of shared sovereignty on which Spain and Britain were said to have reached “broad agreement”.
The British government has committed itself to respecting the Gibraltarians’ wishes. A new Constitution Order was approved in referendum in 2006. A process of tripartite negotiations started in 2006 between Spain, Gibraltar and the UK, ending some restrictions and dealing with disputes in some specific areas such as air movements, customs procedures, telecommunications, pensions and cultural exchange.
Gibraltar is a British overseas territory. The British Nationality Act 1981 granted Gibraltarians full British citizenship.
Under its current constitution, Gibraltar has almost complete internal democratic self-government through an elected parliament, elected for a term of up to four years.
The unicameral parliament presently consists of seventeen elected members, and the Speaker who is not elected, but appointed by a resolution of the parliament.
The government consists of ten elected members. The head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by the Governor of Gibraltar. The governor enacts day-to-day matters on the advice of the Gibraltar Parliament, but is responsible to the British Government in respect of defence, foreign policy, internal security and general good governance. Judicial and other appointments are made on behalf of the Queen in consultation with the head of the elected government.
The 2011 election was contested by the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD), Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP)-Gibraltar Liberal Party (GLP) Alliance and the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP formed in 2006 and fielded candidates in the 2007 election, but none were elected. The head of government is the Chief Minister (as of December 2011, Fabian Picardo). All local political parties oppose any transfer of sovereignty to Spain, instead supporting self-determination. The main UK opposition parties also support this policy and it is UK Government policy not to engage in talks about the sovereignty of Gibraltar without the consent of the people of Gibraltar.
Gibraltar is part of the European Union, having joined through the European Communities Act 1972 (UK), which gave effect to the Treaty of Accession 1972, as a dependent territory of the United Kingdom under what was then article 227(4) of the Treaty Establishing the European Community covering special member state territories, with exemption from some areas such as the Customs union and Common Agricultural Policy. The treaties relating to coal, steel, agriculture, and fisheries do not apply simply because Gibraltar does not produce any of those resources. After a ten-year campaign for the right to vote in European elections, since 2004 the people of Gibraltar have participated in elections for the European Parliament as part of the South West England constituency.
The United Nations Committee on Decolonization includes Gibraltar on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. Gibraltar has been on the list since December 1946.
Gibraltar’s territory covers 6.843 square kilometres (2.642 sq mi) and shares a 1.2-kilometre (0.75 mi) land border with Spain. The town of La Línea de la Concepción, a municipality of the province of Cádiz, lies on the Spanish side of the border.
The Spanish hinterland forms the comarca of Campo de Gibraltar (literally “Countryside of Gibraltar”). The shoreline measures 12 kilometres (7.5 mi) in length. There are two coasts (“Sides”) of Gibraltar: the East Side, which contains the settlements of Sandy Bay and Catalan Bay; and the Westside, where the vast majority of the population lives. Gibraltar has no administrative divisions but is divided into seven Major Residential Areas.
Having negligible natural resources and few natural freshwater resources, limited to natural wells in the north, until recently Gibraltar used large concrete and/or natural rock water catchments to collect rainwater.
Fresh water from the boreholes is supplemented by two desalination plants: a reverse osmosis plant, constructed in a tunnel within the rock, and a multi-stage flash distillation plant at North Mole.
Gibraltar’s terrain consists of the 426-metre (1,398 ft) high Rock of Gibraltar made of Jurassic limestone, and the narrow coastal lowland surrounding it. It contains many tunnelled roads, most of which are still operated by the military and closed to the general public.
The climate of Gibraltar is Mediterranean/Subtropical with mild winters and warm summers. There are two main prevailing winds, an easterly one known as the Levante coming from the Sahara in Africa which brings humid weather and warmer sea currents and the other as Poniente which is westerly and brings fresher air and colder sea.
Its terrain consists of the 430-metre (1,411 ft) high Rock of Gibraltar and the narrow coastal lowland surrounding it. Rain occurs mainly in winter, the summers are generally dry.
Average morning relative humidity: 82%, evening relative humidity: 64%. Sunshine hours is till 2,778 per year, from 150 in November (5 hours of sunshine every day) to 341 in July (11 hours of sunshine every day).
The average annual temperature is 18 °C (64 °F): 21 °C (70 °F) during the day and 15 °C (59 °F) at night.
In the coldest month – January, the typically temperature ranges from 11–18 °C (52–64 °F) during the day and 9–14 °C (48–57 °F) at night (sometimes above and below these temperatures), the average sea temperature is 15–16 °C (59–61 °F).
In the warmest month – August, the typically temperature ranges from 25–31 °C (77–88 °F) during the day, above 20 °C (68 °F) at night, the average sea temperature is 22 °C (72 °F).
Average number of days above 21 °C (70 °F) is 181, average number of days above 32 °C (90 °F) is 5-6 (2 in July, 3 in August).
Flora & Fauna
Over 500 different species of flowering plants grow on the Rock. Gibraltar is the only place in Europe where the Gibraltar candytuft (Iberis gibraltarica) is found growing in the wild; the plant is otherwise native to North Africa. It is the symbol of the Upper Rock nature reserve. Olive and pine trees are among the most common of those growing around the Rock.
Most of the Rock’s upper area is covered by a nature reserve which is home to around 230 Barbary Macaques, the famous apes of Gibraltar, albeit that biologists insist that technically the apes are wild monkeys. These are the only wild apes or monkeys found in Europe.
This species, known scientifically as Macaca sylvanus, is listed as endangered by the IUCN Red List and is declining. Three-quarters of the world population live in the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco.
Recent genetic studies and historical documents point to their presence on the Rock before its capture by the British. A superstition analogous to that of the ravens at the Tower of London states that if the apes ever leave, so will the British. In 1944 British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, was so concerned about the dwindling population of apes that he sent a message to the Colonial Secretary requesting that something be done about the situation.
Other mammals found in Gibraltar include rabbits, foxes and bats. Dolphins and whales are frequently seen in the Bay of Gibraltar. Migrating birds are very common and Gibraltar is home to the only Barbary partridges found on the European continent.
In 1991, Graham Watson, Gibraltar’s MEP, highlighted conservationists’ fears that urban development, tourism and invasive plant species were threatening Gibraltar’s own plants as well as birds and bat species.
The British military traditionally dominated Gibraltar’s economy, with the naval dockyard providing the bulk of economic activity. This however, has diminished over the last twenty years, and is estimated to account for only 7% of the local economy, compared to over 60% in 1984. Today, Gibraltar’s economy is dominated by four main sectors: financial services, Online gambling, shipping and tourism (including retail for visitors).
In the early 2000s, many bookmakers and online gaming operators relocated to Gibraltar to benefit from operating in a regulated jurisdiction with a favourable corporate tax regime. However, this corporate tax regime for non-resident controlled companies was phased out by January 2011 and replaced by a fixed corporate tax rate of 10%.
Tourism is also a significant industry. Gibraltar is a popular port for cruise ships and attracts day visitors from resorts in Spain. The Rock is a popular tourist attraction, particularly among British tourists and residents in the southern coast of Spain.
It is also a popular shopping destination, and all goods and services are VAT free. Many of the large British high street chains have branches or franchises in Gibraltar including Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and Mothercare. Branches and franchises of international retailers such as Tommy Hilfiger and Sunglass Hut are also present in Gibraltar, as is the Spanish clothing company Mango.
A number of British and international banks have operations based in Gibraltar. Jyske Bank claims to be the oldest bank in the country, based on Jyske’s acquisition in 1987 of Banco Galliano, which began operations in Gibraltar in 1855. An ancestor of Barclays, the Anglo-Egyptian Bank, entered in 1888, and Credit Foncier (now Crédit Agricole) entered in 1920.
In 1967, Gibraltar enacted the Companies (Taxation and Concessions) Ordinance (now an Act), which provided for special tax treatment for international business. This was one of the factors leading to the growth of professional services such as private banking and captive insurance management. Gibraltar has several positive attributes as a financial centre, including a common law legal system and access to the EU single market in financial services. The Financial Services Commission (FSC), which was established by an ordinance in 1989 (now an Act) that took effect in 1991, regulates the finance sector. In 1997, the Department of Trade and Industry established its Gibraltar Finance Centre (GFC) Division to facilitate the development the financial sector development. As of 2012, Gibraltar has 0.103 Big Four accounting firm offices per 1,000 population, the second highest in the world after the British Virgin Islands, and 0.6 banks per 1,000 people, the fifth most banks per capita in the world.
The currency of Gibraltar is the Gibraltar pound, issued by the Government of Gibraltar under the terms of the 1934 Currency Notes Act. These banknotes are legal tender in Gibraltar alongside Bank of England banknotes. In a currency board arrangement, these notes are issued against reserves of sterling. Clearing and settlement of funds is conducted in sterling.
Coins in circulation follow British denominations but have separate designs. Unofficially, most retail outlets in Gibraltar accept the Euro, though some payphones and the Royal Gibraltar Post Office do not.
Gibraltar is one of the most densely populated territories in the world, with a population estimated in 2011 of 29,752, equivalent to approximately 4,959 inhabitants per square kilometre (12,840 /sq mi). The growing demand for space is being increasingly met by land reclamation; reclaimed land currently comprises approximately one tenth of the territory’s total area.
The demographics of Gibraltar reflect the many European and other economic migrants who came to the Rock over three hundred years, after almost all of the Spanish population left in 1704.
Regarding the origin of names in the electoral roll there are: British (27%), Spanish (24%, mostly Andalusians but also some 2% of Minorcans), Genoese and other Italians (20%), Portuguese (10%), Maltese (8%). There are also small (less than 1%) peoples of other groups such as Moroccans, French, Austrians, Chinese, Japanese, Polish and Danish.
The 2001 Gibraltar Census recorded the breakdown of nationalities in Gibraltar as being 83.22% Gibraltarian, 9.56% “Other British”, 3.50% Moroccan, 1.19% Spanish and 1.00% “Other EU”.
The official language of Gibraltar is English, and is used by the government and in schools. Most locals are bilingual, also speaking Spanish, due to Gibraltar’s proximity to Spain.
However, because of the varied mix of ethnic groups which reside there, other languages are also spoken on the Rock. Berber and Arabic are spoken by the Moroccan community, as are Hindi and Sindhi by the Indian community of Gibraltar. Hebrew is also spoken by the Jewish community and the Maltese language is spoken by some families of Maltese descent.
Gibraltarians often converse in Llanito, a vernacular unique to Gibraltar. It is based on Andalusian Spanish with a strong admixture of British English and elements from languages such as Maltese, Portuguese, Genoese Italian and Haketia (Ladino).
Over 500 Llanito words, for example, are of Genoese and Hebrew origin. Llanito also often involves code-switching to English.
According to the 2001 census, approximately 78.1% of Gibraltarians are Roman Catholics. The sixteenth century Saint Mary the Crowned is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Gibraltar, and also the oldest Catholic church in the territory. Other Christian denominations include the Church of England (7.0%), whose Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is the cathedral of the Anglican Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe; the Gibraltar Methodist Church, Church of Scotland, various Pentecostal and independent churches mostly influenced by the House Church and Charismatic movements, as well as a Plymouth Brethren congregation. Several of these congregations are represented by the Gibraltar Evangelical Alliance. There is also a ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and two congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 2.9% advised that they have no religion.
The third religion in size is Islam (4.0% of the population). There is also an established Hindu population (1.8%), members of the Bahá’í Faith and a long-established Jewish community, which, at 584 persons, accounts for 2.1% of the population. There are four functioning Orthodox synagogues in Gibraltar and several kosher establishments.
Education in Gibraltar generally follows the English model, operating within a three tier system. Schools in Gibraltar use the Key Stage modular approach to teach the National Curriculum. Gibraltar has fifteen state schools, a MOD school, a private school and a college of further education.
As there are no facilities in Gibraltar for full-time higher education, all Gibraltarian students study elsewhere at degree level or its equivalent and also for certain non-degree courses. A university for the territory is currently under planning. The Government of Gibraltar operates a scholarship/grant system to provide funding for students studying in the United Kingdom.
All Gibraltarian students used to follow the UK student loans procedure, applying for a loan from the Student Loans Company which was then reimbursed in full by the Government of Gibraltar. In August 2010, this system was replaced by the direct payment by the government of grants and tuition fees. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians continue their studies at university level.
All Gibraltarians are entitled to health care in public wards and clinics at the hospital and primary health care centre. All other British citizens are also entitled to free of charge treatment on the Rock on presentation of a valid British passport during stays of up to 30 days. Other EU nationals are equally entitled to treatment on presentation of a valid European Health Insurance Card.
Dental treatment and prescribed medicines are free of charge for Gibraltarian students and pensioners. First-line medical and nursing services are provided at the primary care centre, with more specialised services available at St Bernard’s Hospital. Psychiatric care is provided by King George V Hospital.
The culture of Gibraltar reflects Gibraltarians’ diverse origins. While there are Spanish (mostly from nearby Andalusia) and British influences, the ethnic origins of most Gibraltarians are not confined to these ethnicities. Other ethnicities include Genoese, Maltese, Portuguese, and German. A few other Gibraltar residents are Jewish of Sephardic origin, Moroccan, or Indians.
British influence remains strong, with English being the language of government, commerce, education and the media.
Gibraltar’s first sovereignty referendum is celebrated annually on Gibraltar National Day (10 September). It is a public holiday, during which most Gibraltarians dress in their national colours of red and white and 30,000 similarly coloured balloons are released, to represent the people of Gibraltar. The 300th anniversary of Gibraltar’s capture was celebrated in 2004 on Tercentenary Day (4 August), when in recognition of and with thanks for its long association with Gibraltar, the Royal Navy was given the Freedom of the City of Gibraltar and a human chain of Gibraltarians dressed in red, white and blue, linked hands to encircle the Rock. On 4 June 2012, the Gibraltar Diamond Jubilee Flotilla, inspired by the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, celebrated sixty years of the Queen’s reign.
The Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation operates a television and radio station on UHF, VHF and medium-wave. The radio service is also internet-streamed. Special events and the daily news bulletin are streamed in video. The other local radio service is operated by the British Forces Broadcasting Service which also provides a limited cable television network to HM Forces. The largest and most frequently published newspaper is the Gibraltar Chronicle, Gibraltar’s oldest established daily newspaper and the world’s second oldest English language newspaper to have been in print continuously with daily editions six days a week. Panorama is published on weekdays, and 7 Days, The New People, and Gibsport are weekly.
British domestic TV and radio is widely available throughout Gibraltar.
Native Gibraltarians have produced some literature of note. The first in fiction was probably Héctor Licudi’s 1929 novel Barbarita, written in Spanish, chronicling the largely autobiographical adventures of a young Gibraltarian man. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, several anthologies of poetry were published by Leopoldo Sanguinetti, Albert Joseph Patron and Alberto Pizzarello. The 1960s were largely dominated by the theatrical works of Elio Cruz and his two highly acclaimed Spanish language plays La Lola se va pá Londre and Connie con cama camera en el comedor.
In the 1990s, the Gibraltarian man-of-letters Mario Arroyo published Profiles (1994), a series of bilingual meditations on love, loneliness and death. Of late there have been works by the essayist Mary Chiappe, such as her volume of essays Cabbages and Kings (2006) and by M. G. Sanchez, author of the books Rock Black: Ten Gibraltarian Stories (2008) and Diary of a Victorian Colonial (2009). Mary Chiappe and Sam Benady have also published a series of detective books centred on the character of the nineteenth-century Gibraltarian sleuth Bresciano.
Musicians from Gibraltar include Charles Ramirez, the first guitarist invited to play with the Royal College of Music Orchestra, successful rock bands like Breed 77, Melon Diesel and Taxi. Albert Hammond had top 10 hits in the UK and US and has written many songs for international artists such as Whitney Houston, Tina Turner and Julio Iglesias.
The cuisine of Gibraltar is the result of the rich diversity of civilisations who held the Rock during its history; from the Berbers of North Africa to the Andalusians and British.
The culinary influences include those from Malta, Genoa, Portugal and Andalusia. This marriage of tastes has given Gibraltar an eclectic mix of Arabic, Mediterranean and British cuisines. Calentita, a baked bread-like dish made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper, is considered Gibraltar’s national dish.
In 2007, there were eighteen Gibraltar sports associations with official recognition from their respective international governing bodies. Others have submitted applications for recognition which are being considered. The government supports the many sporting associations financially. Gibraltar also competes in the bi-annual Island Games, which it hosted in 1995. Football is a popular sport in Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Football Association applied for full membership of UEFA, but their bid was turned down in 2007 in a contentious decision.
Following another application, Gibraltar was confirmed as UEFA’s 54th member on 24 May 2013. Cricket enjoys massive popularity in Gibraltar. The Gibraltar national cricket team won the European Cricket Championship Division Two in 2000 and 2002. Rugby union is fairly popular and one of the fastest growing team sports, Gibraltar Rugby Union Football Union has now applied for membership of Europe’s governing body for rugby and await a decision. A complaint has been received from the Spanish Federation.
The Gibraltar Rifle Association (GRA) was Gibraltar’s most successful team at the 2009 Island Games, earning four gold medals. The first was won by Heloise Manasco and Stephanie Piri in the ISSF 10 m Air Rifle Team event. Manasco later went on to win a second gold in the individual competition. Wayne Piri and Adrian Lugnani took the gold medal in the ISSF 50 m Small Bore Team event with Wayne winning the fourth gold for Gibraltar in the individual competition of the same event.
Darts is also a popular sport, with the Gibraltar Darts Association (a full member of World Darts Federation since 1977) running leagues and other regular tournaments. In 2010, Gibraltar hosted and won the Mediterranean Cup, competing against France, Italy, Turkey, Malta and Cyprus.
Gibraltar were given full UEFA membership in May 2013, have only played two official matches so far, a 0-0 draw against Slovakia and a 1-4 defeat to the Faroe Islands (which saw Gibraltar score its first ever official goal). On 23 February 2014, Gibraltar were drawn in UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying Group D with Germany, Poland, Georgia, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland.
Gibraltar has a digital telephone exchange supported by a fibre optic and copper infrastructure; the telephone operator Gibtelecom also operates a GSM network. Internet connectivity is available across the fixed network. Gibraltar’s top-level domain code is .gi.
International Direct Dialling (IDD) is provided, and Gibraltar was allocated the access code +350 by the International Telecommunication Union. This has been universally valid since 10 February 2007, when the telecom dispute was resolved.
Within Gibraltar, the main form of transport is the car. Motorcycles are also very popular and there is a good modern bus service. Unlike in other British territories, traffic drives on the right, as the territory shares a land border with Spain.
There is a Gibraltar Cable Car which runs from ground level to the top of the Rock, with an intermediate station at Apes’ Den.
Restrictions on transport introduced by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco closed the land frontier in 1969 and also prohibited any air or ferry connections. In 1982, the land border was reopened. As the result of an agreement signed in Córdoba on 18 September 2006 between Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and Spain, the Spanish government agreed to relax border controls at the frontier that have plagued locals for decades; in return, Britain paid increased pensions to Spanish workers who lost their jobs when Franco closed the border. Telecommunication restrictions were lifted in February 2007 and air links with Spain were restored in December 2006.
Gibraltar maintains regular flight connections to London and Manchester. Scheduled flights to Morocco and Madrid proved unsustainable due to insufficient demand. Bmibaby started flights from East Midlands Airport to the Rock in March 2012, but the airline closed in September 2012.
GB Airways operated a service between Gibraltar and London and other cities for many years. The airline initially flew under the name “Gibraltar Airways”. In 1989, and in anticipation of service to cities outside the UK, Gibraltar Airways changed its name to GB Airways with the belief that a new name would incur fewer political problems. As a franchise, the airline operated flights in full British Airways livery. In 2007 GB Airways was purchased by easyJet which began operating flights under their name in April 2008 when British Airways re-introduced flights to Gibraltar under their name. Monarch Airlines operates a daily scheduled service between Gibraltar and Luton and Manchester. The Spanish national airline, Iberia, operated a daily service to Madrid which ceased due to lack of demand. In May 2009 Ándalus Líneas Aéreas opened a Spanish service which also ceased operations in March 2010. An annual return charter flight to Malta is operated by Maltese national airline, Air Malta.
Gibraltar Airport is consistently listed as one of the world’s scariest for air passengers.
It is exposed to strong cross winds around the rock and across the Bay of Algeciras, making landings in winter particularly uncomfortable. Its location is unusual not only because of its proximity to the city centre resulting in the airport terminal being within walking distance of much of Gibraltar but also because the runway intersects Winston Churchill Avenue, the main north-south street, requiring movable barricades to close when aircraft land or depart. New roads and a tunnel, which will end the need to stop road traffic when aircraft use the runway, were planned to coincide with the building of a new airport terminal building with an originally estimated completion date of 2009, although due to delays was completed in 2011.
Motorists and pedestrians crossing the border with Spain are occasionally subjected to very long delays, an issue the Gibraltar government has failed to solve. Spain has occasionally closed the border during disputes or incidents involving the Gibraltar authorities, such as the Aurora cruise ship incident and when fishermen from the Spanish fishing vessel Piraña were arrested for illegal fishing in Gibraltar waters.
The most popular alternative airport for Gibraltar is Málaga Airport in Spain, some 120 kilometres (75 mi) to the east, which offers a wide range of destinations, second to Jerez Airport which is closer to Gibraltar. In addition, the Algeciras Heliport across the bay offers scheduled services to Ceuta.
Gibraltar receives a large number of visits from cruise ships. The Strait of Gibraltar is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.
Passenger and cargo ships anchor in the Gibraltar Harbour. Also, a ferry links Gibraltar with Tangier in Morocco. The ferry between Gibraltar and Algeciras, which had been halted in 1969 when Franco severed communications with Gibraltar, was finally reopened on 16 December 2009, served by the Spanish company Transcoma.
Whilst railway track extends to the outskirts of La Linea from an aborted rail expansion project in the 1970s, the closest train station in Spain is San Roque station, accessible via buses from La Línea.
Ferries by FRS running twice a week from Gibraltar to Tanger-Med port provide access to the Moroccan railway system.
The Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) and Gibraltar Customs are Gibraltar’s principal civilian law enforcement agencies. Outside the United Kingdom, the RGP is the oldest police force of the former British Empire, formed shortly after the creation of London’s Metropolitan Police in 1829 when Gibraltar was declared a crown colony on 25 June 1830.
In general, the Gibraltar force follows British police models in its dress and its mostly male constables and sergeants on foot patrol wear the traditional custodian helmet, the headgear of the British “bobby on the beat”. The helmet is traditionally made of cork covered outside by felt or serge-like material that matches the tunic. The vehicles also appear virtually identical to typical UK police vehicles, with the exception of the drive side.
The force, whose name received the prefix “Royal” in 1992, currently numbers over 220 officers divided into a number of units. These include CID, Drug Squad, Special Branch, Firearms, Scene of Crime Examiners, Traffic, Marine and Operations units, sections or departments.
Gibraltar’s defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom tri-services British Forces Gibraltar. In January 2007, the Ministry of Defence announced that the private company – Serco – would provide services to the base.
The announcement resulted in the affected trade unions striking.
- The Royal Gibraltar Regiment provides the army garrison with a detachment of the British Army, based at Devils Tower Camp. The regiment was originally a part-time reserve force until the British Army placed it on a permanent footing in 1990. The regiment includes full-time and part-time soldiers recruited from Gibraltar as well as British Army regulars posted from other regiments.
- The Royal Navy maintains a squadron at the Rock. The squadron is responsible for the security and integrity of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). The shore establishment at Gibraltar is called HMS Rooke after Sir George Rooke who captured the Rock for Archduke Charles (pretender to the Spanish throne) in 1704. The naval air base was named HMS Cormorant. Gibraltar’s strategic position provides an important facility for the Royal Navy and Britain’s allies. British and US nuclear submarines frequently visit the Z berths at Gibraltar. A Z berth provides the facility for nuclear submarines to visit for operational or recreational purposes and for non-nuclear repairs. During the Falklands War, an Argentine plan to attack British shipping in the harbour using frogmen (Operation Algeciras) was foiled. The naval base also played a part in supporting the task force sent by Britain to recover the Falklands.
- The Royal Air Force station at Gibraltar forms part of Headquarters British Forces Gibraltar. Although aircraft are no longer permanently stationed at RAF Gibraltar, a variety of RAF aircraft make regular visits and the airfield also houses a section from the Met Office.
Gibraltar has an important role in UKSIGINT and provides a vital strategic part of the United Kingdom communications gathering and monitoring network in the Mediterranean and North Africa.