Map of Gibraltar
Map of Gibraltar

Introduction to Gibraltar

Gibraltar is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom on the southern part of the Iberian Peninsular at the entrance of the Mediterranean south of Spain. A strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar that links the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, also placing it between Europe and Africa. Gibraltar has been important base for the British Armed Forces for three hundred years. Although that presence is now much reduced, this has left many unique structures and artifacts of historical interest.

The issue of sovereignty over Gibraltar is a major issue of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations. Spain requests the return of sovereignty over Gibraltar, captured in 1704.

Britain, whilst stating that it has no doubt about the legality of its claim, has explored options for joint sovereignty.

This is consistently rejected by the Gibraltarians. A majority of 98.97 percent of the Gibraltar population voted in a referendum in November 2002 not to share sovereignty with Spain.

Gibraltar is a part of the European Union, having joined under the British Treaty of Accession, with exemption from some areas such as the Customs Union & Common Agricultural Policy.

The name of the rock comes from the Arabic name of Jebel Tarik (جبل طارق) meaning Tariq's mountain. It refers to the Ummayad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the Muslim conquest of Spain in 711 at the head of an army of Berbers, Syrians and Yemenis. Earlier it was Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules. Today, Gibraltar is also known colloquially as 'Gib' or 'the Rock'.

The territory covers 6.543 square kilometres (2.53 square miles). It shares a 1.2 kilometre land border with Spain and has 12 kilometres of shoreline. There are two coasts (sides) of Gibraltar - the East Side which contains the settlements of Sandy Bay and Catalan Bay and the West Side where the vast majority of the population lives.

The Rock from the Sea

The climate is Mediterranean with mild winters and warm summers. Its terrain is a narrow coastal lowland bordering the 426-metre (1.397.6-foot) high Rock of Gibraltar. It has negligible natural resources and limited natural freshwater resources, until recently using large concrete or natural rock water catchments to collect rain water. It now has a desalination plant soon to be replaced by a reverse osmosis plant (currently operational) built into the rock itself.
Flag of Gibraltar
Flag of Gibraltar

Cultural notes about Gibraltar

The Culture of Gibraltar reflects Gibraltarians' diverse origins. While there are Spanish and British influences, a result of the territory's status as a British 'overseas territory' (colony) and its proximity to Spain, the ethnic origins of most Gibraltarians are neither British or Spanish, including Genoese, Maltese, Portuguese, and Germans. Others are Jewish of Sephardic or North African origin. Many Gibraltarians of Genoese origin came to the Rock in the 18th century, with the Maltese and Portuguese following in the 19th century, coming to work and trade in the British military base.

During the Second World War, the whole civilian population of the Rock was evacuated, in the interests of the British military, which decreed that 'the fortress comes first'. They were moved to the UK, particularly to Fulham and Kensington in London and Ballymena in Northern Ireland, as well as Jamaica and Madeira. This served to strengthen a Gibraltarian, as opposed to simply British, identity, and after the war, there was a successful campaign for repatriation.

Spain has often denigrated the Gibraltarians, who it describes as 'the present inhabitants', on the grounds that they are not indigenous, and that the original Spanish inhabitants were expelled when the Anglo-Dutch expedition force seized the Rock in 1704. It has used these arguments to argue that Gibraltarians are not a 'colonial' people, but rather, a 'colonising' people. This is despite the fact that many Gibraltarians can trace their ancestry on the Rock back further than most North Americans or Australasians of European origin can trace their ancestry in their countries, and indeed many Latin Americans living in former Spanish colonies. Consequently, many Gibraltarians regard Spanish politicians, with considerable suspicion. Apart from the annoyance of the territorial claim, relations with the Spanish are good. Many Spaniards work in Gibraltar and Gibraltarians shop and visit Spain regularly.

Official Canadian government advisories for travelling to, in and around Gibraltar

Most Canadian visitors to Gibraltar do not experience problems. The crime rate is low. Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and theft of unattended baggage, occurs. Unattended vehicles are occasional targets. Exercise normal precautions and ensure personal belongings, passports, and all other travel documents are secure. The main emergency services number is 112. The number for ambulance and police is 199, and fire is 190.
Country Data
Population 27,833
Capital City Gibraltar (Gibraltar)
Major Cities(s) Gibraltar
Major Religion(s) Roman Catholic 76.9%, Church of England 6.9%, Muslim 6.9%, Jewish 2.3%, none or other 7% (1991)
Physical Size 7 km²
Land Area 7 km²
Water Area 0 km²