Daily Archives: 30 July 2007

Gibraltar is Pretty Close to Spain


Of course, Gibraltar is quite near to Spain.


Geographically it is even part of Spain. Or at least part of the Iberian Peninsula. The rock of Gibraltar occupies a strategic position at the entrance to the narrow strait and guards the only exit from the Mediterranean to the wide Atlantic Ocean beyond.


Gibraltar has been in the historical limelight for over 3,000 years. 4,000 years ago the ancient mariners didn’t dare pass the rock for fear of the currents. The Phoenicians sailed past it and used it as an important landmark, marking the entrance to the Atlantic. The Greeks gave it the name Calpe which means urn, possibly because of it’s shape.

The name Gibraltar derives from the Arabic Jabal-al-Tariq (mount of Tariq), dating from the 711 A. D. capture of the peninsula by the Moorish leader Tariq. This Arabic name has altered over the centuries to the present form of Gibraltar.

The Spanish held the peninsula until 711 and again from 1309 to 1333 but did not really recover it from the Moors until 1462. It was during the capture of Gibraltar by the Castillians that the streets of the lower town were constructed and Gibraltar became a proper city. It was not until the time of Cromwell that Britain first became interested in the rock, although it was not captured until the War of the Spanish Succession.

The English have maintained possession since 1704 despite continuous Spanish claims. Gibraltar became British in 1730 under the Treaty of Utrecht and later was declared a colony. The British post was besieged again and again unsuccessfully by the Spanish and French (1704, 1726 and again 1779-1783). During the last siege, the rock was defended by a force of 7,000, commanded by the Governor, General Sir George Elliot. The battle eventually ended in February of 1783. The city took many years to rebuild, hence the lack of any Moorish buildings, there.


Spain has never been able to accept the loss of Gibraltar with good grace. The Spanish have tried to recapture it by military or diplomatic means, but without success so far. Gibraltar has been a fortress for centuries and evidence of this can be found all over the rock, from guns to battlements and gun turrets. The museum of Gibraltar houses an impressive collection of artefacts dating back to pre-historic Gibraltar, when the first humans settled in caves.

As you see from all this, Gibraltar could easily be Arabic today, or French, instead of British. I believe that it would be wrong nowadays for Gibraltar to belong to the Arabs, or the French, just as I believe that it is wrong for the British to continue claiming Gibraltar as theirs.

Instead, I imagine that Gibraltar should be neither British nor Spanish, but Gibraltarian. With the existence of the European Union, it should be easy to give independence to Gibraltar and allow it be a sovereign Member State of the European Union, a bit like Andorra.

I wonder if we all will live to see that happen, one day?