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A visit to The Rock

We drove to the city of Algeciras to buy our ferry tickets to Morocco and for a day trip to Gibraltar. Algeciras is an industrial town with little interest to the traveler except for those heading to or from North Africa. Coming from Cádiz, the entrance to the city is graced by a statue of the great guitarist Paco de Lucía, a native algecireño.

Gibraltar is a short drive from the port of Algeciras. The one and only road leading into the peninsula crosses the runway of the airport and when a plane is either approaching the airport or in position for take off, the road is closed by a crossing guard arm similar to the ones used on railroad crossings. The picture was taken just before crossing the border and after we watched the landing of the Easyjet flight.

The Rock.

Europa Point is the southernmost tip of Gibraltar. It is the site of a shrine that houses a 15th century statue of Mary and Child that was miraculously unscathed during a destructive pirate attack. I so wanted to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Europe and see this treasure but it was midday and the doors were closed. We then proceeded to the observation deck where we got a glimpse at northern Africa, some 15 miles away. Europa Point is also the site of the largest mosque outside a non-Islamic country. It was built in 1997 at the behest of the King of Saudi Arabia to serve the Muslim population who did not have a place of worship in Gibraltar. While we were there, we heard the call for prayer coming from the loudspeakers located high on the minaret.

The Apes' Den is home to the tailless Barbary Macaque. Reportedly there are 240 apes roaming free around the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Legend has it that the territory will remain under British rule for as long as the apes remain in the peninsula. When numbers were at their lowest during WWII, reinforcements were brought in from Morocco. We tried to get a good shot of the apes but they were more interested in finding lunch than posing for the camera.

We spent the rest of the day walking around Gibraltar Town, eating fish and chips and listening to the Gibraltarians who spoke "llanito", a dialect of Andalusian Spanish heavily influenced by English and other Mediterranean languages. In the early evening hours, we strolled through the pedestrian only streets. Gibraltar is a duty-free shopper’s paradise and it seems to be the shopping mecca of the western Mediterranean. Main Street and the adjoining lanes are chock-full of shops selling the typical items found on duty-free shops — jewellery, sunglasses, cameras, electronic items, glassware, porcelain, perfumes, leather goods, silks, and cashmere. We did a bit of window shopping but did not make any purchases since that required paying in British pounds (unfavorable exchange rate). I came across the post office and would have loved to send myself a postcard but found it closed.

In the early evening hours we drove to the town of Tarifa from where we were to take the ferry to Tangiers early the next morning. I took this picture of the Strait of Gibraltar with the Moroccan coast in the background the following day just before boarding the ferry.

Comments (11)

Very cool! I've never known anyone who's actually been to "The Rock." Love those monkeys. And do you often send yourself postcards? It's a great idea!

Wow - I read a book that was set there but haven't seen pictures. You bring things to life! :)

This is such a cool post! I have always been curious about Gibraltar. Loved reading about your time there and seeing your fabulous photos!

I'm reading a novel called "The Flamenco Academy" that mentioned the guitarist in your photo. I just read that part last night so came back to check out the photo again!


Maria, that is so cool -- I love your photo of The Rock (actually, I love all of your photos!)

I kind of enjoy hearing the call to prayer from mosques, it seems so exotic. However, when I was in Istanbul staying in a hotel (with cheap windows) near the Blue Mosque, it woke me every morning around 5:30 a.m. That got a bit tired!

The tailless apes look very, very well fed -- life there must be good!


Awesome post, Maria! My mom visited Gibralter on her trip last spring, but didn't mention about the road crossing the runway. How cool that they use a similar system to railway crossings, that must be so bizarre to see in person!

Annie, I have only sent myself a postcard once before, a commemorative postcard on the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul. I now regret not sending one from Marrakech and Fes.

That is such a cool coincidence that Paco de Lucia is mentioned in the book you're reading. Never heard of the "The Flamenco Academy". Is it non-fiction?

Leslie, I'll post this in your blog, I'd like to know the title of the book.

Girasoli, I was also curious about Gibraltar and for the longest time, when I was very young, I had the misconception that it was a rock and nothing else. I guess I slept thru that geography lesson or saw too often the Prudential commercial.

Sandra, I also enjoyed hearing the call for prayer and was actually disappointed when we missed it when we were traveling between cities. I found it very fascinating.

Anne, I think it would be hard to notice the runway crossing unless the arm is down. It was strange to be so close to the runway and the aircrafts.

No, "The Flamenco Academy" is a novel by a Texas writer named Sarah Bird. I'm only about a third of the way thru but am really enjoying it. It's set in New Mexico and these two teenage American girls are studying flamenco at the University with a Gypsy woman from Spain.

Annie, the book sounds very interesting. I'm going to check if my local library has it.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Maria, how wonderful to have visited Gibraltar. I love all of your photos. While in Spain I purchased one of Paco de Lucia's CD's! Really amazing. That's a great shot of the Strait of Gibraltar with the Moroccan coast in the background. How fun that you were able to travel there! I'm enjoying reading about your trip a lot!

Kathy, I knew you had to be a fan of Paco de Lucia. I love his music. He's such an innovative musician and a great flamenco guitarist.

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