We arrived early to the port of Malaga. Unfortunately, we sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar in the dark, so we are excited to be on a tour to Gibraltar today. Before the sun was up, we met our guide Alphonso and our drive Jose at the pier. We had a brief view of El Castillo De Gibralfaro. This is a Moorish palace from the 10th century that sits on a hill over looking the city.
Malaga is the capitol of the Malaga Province. It covers 7308 km and has a population of over 1.7 million people. The main industry is tourism, due mainly to the beaches. The other industries are farming and construction. Malaga is the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and now home to a large museum of his works.
On the drive to Gibraltar, we noticed many streams, rivers, and catch basins. Due to the abundant water, the area is home to over 50 golf courses. Along the beach there are numerous watch towers. These were built by the Arabs, to look for pirates.
There are 30 million olive trees in the province with 80% located around the city of Malaga. There are also Umbrella pines and cork trees. The cork is harvested every 9 years. We also had a few views of the Rock of Gibraltar on our drive.
Gibraltar has been a territory of Britian since 1704. It is only 6 square km in size, but due to it’s location in the straight at the entrance to the Mediterrian Sea, it has been a much sought after area. In 1969, in a dispute with Spain, the border was closed and the only access to Gibraltar was by boat or plane. Many of the workers in Gibraltar were Spanish citizens who would travel back and forth. Gibraltar brought in Morroccans to work. They have their own neighborhood and represent 30% of the population. In 1985, the border was re-opened and you can enter by showing a passport. Once to the Spain officials and once to the British officials.
Once inside Gibraltar, we were given 1 hour to explore the city. We walked up the steps to the top of the city wall, where there was a World War I monument.
We loved the English phone booths…
We walked down the main street, bought a postcard and mailed it so that we would have a post mark.
The streets are narrow due to the limited space for buildings. We came across a statue commemorating the formation of the First Body of Soldiers of the Corps. The Begonias were in bloom as well.
We stopped at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, an Anglican Church.
On our way back to the bus parking, we walked along the top of the King’s Bastion. This was originally built in 1704 by the British royal Engineers as a sea wall. They carved 50 km of tunnels into the Rock to quarry the stones for the wall. It then became the an important fort for protection.
It is now considered a Center of Leisure, with restaurants and park benches.
There are cannons along the top of the wall,
Near the bottom, there is a monument to 2 British commanders, who fought during the Great Siege of Gibraltar. From 1779-1783, France and Spain tried to gain control of the The Rock from Britain. General Elliott and General Boyd fought bravely to keep the territory under British control.
Back at the bus parking area, we switched to a Gibraltar guide. He was a real hoot. He did many imitations of the Queen and Winston Churchill, told us lots of information, and sang Beatles songs.
Gibraltar is a British territory but is is independent in finances and structure. They only use the UK for protection. At the military peak, there 1,000 personal and their families living on the Rock. Today, there are 200. Many of the military facilities have been repurposed, such as the Royal Naval Hospital which is now the Community Day Center. A local police force was formed in 1830, and in 1929, driving was changed to the right side to conform with Spain.
There have been 3 phases of sea reclamation. The first was building Reclamation Road on the the sea side of the sea wall. After Queen Elizabeth’s visit on May 10, 1954, the road was renamed to Queen’s Way Road. The Ragged Staff Gates were installed in the early 1800s as a form of protection. The gates were originally only open during the daylight hours.
The roadway tunnels are very narrow, with the last one constructed in the 1960s.
The Rock was formed 2 million years ago and is made of limestone. Since it is porous, rain water seeps through the rock forming cracks and water falls.
We drove along the bay to the most western point, where we had great views of the Strait of Gibraltar. Africa is on the left, with Spain on the right.
There is monument to General Sikorsky who lost his life in a plane crash on 7/4/1943, during World War II.
There is a lighthouse that was constructed in 1838.
A mosque, which is a place or worship, was built in 1991 with 4 million dollars donated by King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. The first mausoleum, which is a shrine, was built in 1333.
It was now time to drive the road up the rock, driving past the Queen’s Balcony where Queen Elizabeth stood looking over the nation of Gibraltar on May 9, 1954.
This also formed St. Michael’s Cave. The cave was discovered in 611 by Greeks who were exploring the Rock. The area outside the cave entrance is inhabited by monkeys.
It has an ever-changing light system, that adds a beautiful effect. It has been terraced for concerts and now serves as a large indoor amphitheater.
There are examples of ribbon and bacon stalactites.
There was information on the formation of the cave.
Back outside the cave, we noticed rings drilled into the rock along the road. We were told that these were used to pull supplies up the winding mountain road.
Since the Rock of Gibraltar has a lot of military history, there are numerous military remnants. There were holes drilled to use as a launching spot for mortars (that didn’t work well). There are tunnels used during World War II for the storage of supplies and water. There are approximately 34 miles of tunnels drilled into the Rock.
We drove down from St. Michaels Cave and stopped to get a better view of the monkeys. They were brought by Arabs to the Rock over 300 years ago. There are currently 5 monkey packs and they do not mix or communicate with each other. Mothers care for the female babies but the Alpha male cares for the male babies. A mother can give birth to one baby every 10 months. The babies are born black but turn brown as they grow.
There are workers there to protect the monkeys but also to help the tourists. There are warning signs, but sometimes the monkeys just do what they want to do.
A member of our tour turned her back on a monkey and he decided to explore her hair. She commented afterwards, that everyone started taking pictures, including her husband, rather than helping her….
We had great views of Gibraltar, Spain across the bay, and the tram system that goes to the top.
On the drive back down we passed old military buildings and a church. We were shown how the design of a door on a house will indicate what nationality designed the house. We were also told that the James Bond movie “They Do it in Daylight” had a car chase filmed on the road up the Rock.
A few random tidbits about Gibraltar. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were married here. In the recent Brexit election, 98% of the residents voted to stay with the EU so they are not sure how the exit will affect them.
Our Gibraltar tour ended at the airport. Due to limited space, the road crossing from Spain travels across the runway. The road is closed 10 minutes before a flight is scheduled to land. There are usually 4 flights per day, all directly from Britain. As part of the disagreement with Spain, no plane coming to Gibraltar is allowed to cross into Spanish air space. The plane must fly down the bay on the Gibraltar side, then make a hard right turn to land at the airport.
We walked across the border to Spain.
We had our last views of the area of Gibraltar and settled in for the 1 1/2 hour drive back to the ship.
Once back in Malaga, we saw a bit of the city on our way to the port.
It was a beautiful afternoon and the ship stayed fairly close to the shore, making for an enjoyable departure from the port. Admiring the sunset was a great way to end the day.