20km (12 miles) E of Algeciras, 77km (48 miles) SW of Marbella

Where else would you find a town that is also a country? Gibraltar is only 5.8 sq. km (2 1/4 sq. miles) in size, but it has its own airport, currency, postage stamps, newspapers, radio, TV, naval and military garrisons, two cathedrals, and a casino. "The Rock" enjoys a pleasant climate and has a recorded history dating from A.D. 711 and traces of cave occupation 40,000 years ago.

The Rock of Gibraltar is a massive limestone rock rising out of the sea to a height of 425m (1,396 ft.). It is often referred to as the Gateway to the Mediterranean and was originally a Phoenician trading post called Calpe. In Greek mythology it was the northern bastion of the Pillars of Hercules. Abyla (now Jebel Musa at Ceuta) was the southern bastion. Hercules is said to have stood with a foot on each "pillar," pushed them apart, and formed a bridge across the straits. During Phoenician domination of the Mediterranean, it was recorded that Calpe was the end of the world, the point beyond which no trader should venture.

In 711, a Berber called Tariq ibn-Ziyad landed and named the Rock "Gibel Tarik" (mountain of Tarik), from which the name of Gibraltar is derived. The Rock was captured from the Moors in 1309 by the marauding Guzman El Bueno and then recaptured by the Moors in 1333. In 1462 Spain seized and fortified the Rock against further attack but, in 1704, during the Spanish War of Succession, a joint Anglo-Dutch fleet, under the command of Prince George of Hesse Darnstadt, made a surprise attack, capturing the fortress with little opposition.

The Spanish and the French have since made attempts to conquer the Rock by siege, bombardment, tunneling, and, finally, with specially reinforced ships, upon which the British rained red-hot cannonballs that set the ships afire.

There have been three treaties confirming Gibraltar as a British possession -- Utrecht, 1713; Seville, 1727; and Versailles, 1783. In two world wars, the Rock was invaluable in keeping the Mediterranean open in spite of aerial bombardment. Its only land frontier -- referred to by many Gibraltarians as the Garlic Wall -- was closed by the Spaniards in 1966, in an attempt to enforce Spanish sovereignty on the people. The Spanish finally banned all trade to Gibraltar in 1969 in an attempt to bring further pressure to bear. But the Gibraltarians, in a free vote, decided by 12,138 to 44 to remain under British rule.

The Franco government closed the gate to Gibraltar, creating a blockade and causing much hardship for people on both sides of the frontier. The closure lasted from 1969 to 1985. Under King Juan Carlos, the frontier was reopened to visitors entering from Spain. "Gib," its nickname, is today a major offshore financial center.

Two languages are spoken here: English and Spanish. The community is made up of Gibraltarians, Britons, Spaniards, and a few Italians and Indians. In recent years Moroccans have taken over many of the jobs.

The town of Gibraltar is on the west side of the Rock around the harbors. You can visit the top attractions in 3 to 4 hours. Most visitors, however, allot a full day.