Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Highlights of Gibraltar (United Kingdom)

The Rock of Gibraltar is an impressive and towering sight. Now a British overseas territory, it shares the border with Spain to the north. Gibraltar has historically been an important base for the British Armed Forces and is the site of a Royal Navy base.

The Rock of Gibraltar was one of the Pillars of Hercules and was known to the Greeks as Mons Calpe, the other pillar being Mons Abyla or Jebel Musa on the African side of the Strait. In ancient times the two points marked the limit to the known world, a myth originally fostered by the Phoenicians.
The Rock is not solid as many believe, but is actually a monolithic limestone promontory. A unique feature of the Rock is its system of underground passages, known as the Galleries. The first of these was dug towards the end of the four years’ siege which lasted from 1779-1783. They consist of a whole system of halls, embrasures, and passages, of a total length of nearly 1000 feet (304 metres), and from them may be seen a series of unique views of the Bay of Gibraltar, the isthmus, and Spain.

Most of the Rock's upper area is covered by a nature reserve, which is home to around 250 Barbary Macaques, commonly known as 'apes'; they are the only wild monkeys found in Europe. These macaques, as well as a labyrinthine network of tunnels, attract a large number of tourists each year.

The Moorish Castle is a relic of the Moorish occupation of Gibraltar, which lasted for 710 years. It was built in the year A.D. 711, when Tariq ibn-Ziyad, the Berber chieftain first landed on the Rock which still bears his name. The principal building which remains is the Tower of Homage, a massive building of brick and very hard concrete called tapia, the upper part of which housed the living apartments and Moorish bath of the former occupants.

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