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For other uses, see Gibraltar (disambiguation).
Flag of Gibraltar Coat of Arms with text "Montis insignia calpe" (Latin: "Badge of the Rock of Gibraltar")
(In detail) (Full size)
Motto: Nulli Expugnabilis Hosti
(Latin: Conquered By No Enemy)
Languages English (official),
an English-influenced
Spanish dialect called Yanito
is also spoken
Capital (Gibraltar)
Coordinates 36°07′ N 5°21′ W
Head of state Queen Elizabeth II
Governor and
Sir Francis Richards
Chief Minister Peter Caruana
 - Total
 - % water
not ranked (192 if)
6.5 km²
 - Total (2003 E)
 - Density
not ranked (190 if)
Currency Gibraltar Pound (ISO 4217: GIP)
Time zone
 - in summer
Anthem Gibraltar Anthem
National day 10 September
National colours red and white
Internet TLD .gi
Calling code 350¹
1. 9567 from Spain

Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. It is located in southwestern Europe adjoining the southern coast of Spain, a strategic location on the Strait of Gibraltar that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, also placing it between Europe and Africa. The British Armed Forces had a major presence on the territory, and although the forces presence now is much reduced, there are many reminders of their previous importance.

The issue of sovereignty over Gibraltar is a major issue of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations. Spain often requests the return of sovereignty over Gibraltar. A majority of 98.97% of the population voted in a referendum in November, 2002 not to share sovereignty.

Gibraltar is a part of the European Union, although some aspects of European law and convention, such as the Customs Union & Common Agricultural Policy, do not apply here.

The name of the rock comes from the Arabic name of Jebel Tarik (جبل طارق) meaning Tariq's mountain. It refers to the Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who conquered Spain in 711. Earlier it was Calpe, one of the Columns of Hercules. Today, Gibraltar is also known colloquially as 'Gib' or 'the Rock'.



See History of Gibraltar.

The somewhat disputed status of Gibraltar gives its inhabitants a great deal of national pride.  This can be seen in these flags hanging from a building in the tercentenary celebrations of the capture of the Rock by the British.
The somewhat disputed status of Gibraltar gives its inhabitants a great deal of national pride. This can be seen in these flags hanging from a building in the tercentenary celebrations of the capture of the Rock by the British.


Main article: Politics of Gibraltar, see also Disputed status of Gibraltar.

As an overseas territory of the UK, Gibraltar has had considerable internal self-government since the introduction of its present constitution in 1969. The Governor of Gibraltar, appointed by Queen Elizabeth II, is responsible for defence, foreign relations, internal security and financial stability. All other matters, defined as 'domestic', are the responsibility of the Council of Ministers, with the leader of the majority party in the elected House of Assembly appointed as Chief Minister.

The issue of sovereignty continues to dominate Gibraltar politics. Both main political parties, the Gibraltar Social-Democrats (GSD) and the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP) are opposed to any transfer of sovereignty to Spain. Spain continues to request the return of sovereignty over the territory, and the British Government, whilst stating that no change would take place without the consent of the people of Gibraltar, in 2002 accepted the principle of joint sovereignty between the United Kingdom and Spain. All local political parties opposed this move, instead supporting self-determination for the Rock, as do the main UK opposition parties. The notion of accepting an arrangement with Spain was resoundingly rejected by the population in two referenda held in 1967 and in 2002, the latter just months after the joint sovereignty principle was accepted by the British government. On both occasions well over 95 percent of voters said they wanted to remain British; on the latter occasion, the percentage was 98.97 percent.

(For details on Gibraltar's status in the EU, see Special member state territories and their relations with the EU.)


Defence is the responsibility of the United Kingdom. Military forces are commanded by Headquarters British Forces Gibraltar.


The army garrison is provided by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment, originally a part-time reserve force which was placed on the permanent establishment of the British Army in 1990. The regiment includes full-time and part-time soldiers recruited from Gibraltar, as well as British Army regulars posted from other regiments.

Royal Navy

The Royal Navy maintains its Squadron at the Rock. The squadron is responsible for the security and integrity of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). The shore establishment at Gibraltar is named HMS Rooke after Sir George Rooke who captured the Rock for Archduke Charles (pretender to the Spanish throne) in 1704. British and US nuclear submarines frequently visit the Z berths at Gibraltar (source: Hansard).

Royal Air Force

The Royal Air Force station at Gibraltar forms part of Headquarters British Forces Gibraltar. Although aircraft are no longer permanently stationed at RAF Gibraltar, a variety of RAF aircraft make regular visits to the Rock.

Intelligence Services

The Rock is a sigint listening post for telecommunications throughout North Africa, and because of its strategic location it still remains a key base for NSA and GCHQ coverage of the Mediterranean.

Death on the Rock

In 1988 the British SAS killed 3 IRA terrorists on Gibraltar as part of Operation Flavius. They were in Gibraltar to bomb a Military Parade. A car, hired by the terrorists was subsequently discovered laden with Semtex explosives.

Military Significance

Throughout modern history, beginning when it was assaulted by the British Navy and held as a naval base thereafter, Gibraltar has been of great military importance as a garrison and base for logistical protection in the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic. In every major war involving the United Kingdom it has been a naval and aviation facility of key strategic value.


1939 map
1939 map
The Rock of Gibraltar as seen from ground level, 2003
The Rock of Gibraltar as seen from ground level, 2003
Present-day Gibraltar
Present-day Gibraltar

The territory covers 6.543 square kilometres (2.53 square miles). It shares a 1.2 kilometre land border with Spain and has 12 kilometres of shoreline. There are two coasts (sides) of Gibraltar - the East Side which contains the settlements of Sandy Bay and Catalan Bay and the West Side where the vast majority of the population lives.

The climate is Mediterranean with mild winters and warm summers. Its terrain is a narrow coastal lowland bordering the 426-metre-high Rock of Gibraltar. It has negligible natural resources and limited natural freshwater resources, until recently using large concrete or natural rock water catchments to collect rain water. It now has a desalination plant soon to be replaced by a reverse osmosis plant (currently operational) built into the rock itself.

Gibraltar is one of the most densely populated territories in the world, with approximately 4,245 people per km2 (10,979 per sq mile). The growing demand for space is being increasingly met by land reclamation, which comprises approximately one tenth of the territory's total area.

The Rock itself is made of limestone and is 426 metres (1,396 feet) high. It contains many miles of roads, most of which are closed to the public. Most of its area is covered by a nature reserve, which is home to around 250 Barbary Apes, the only semi-wild monkeys in Europe. Superstition holds that if ever the Apes leave so will the British, so they are well looked after by the government (a situation rather analogous to the ravens of the Tower of London).


Gibraltar is divided into 7 residential areas. They are listed below, with population figures from the Census of 2001:

Residential area Population %
1 East Side 429 1.54%
2 North District 4,116 14.97%
3 Reclamation Areas 9,599 34.91%
4 Sandpits Area 2,207 8.03%
5 South District 4,257 15.48%
6 Town Area 3,588 13.05%
7 Upper Town 2,805 10.20%
Gibraltar 27,495 98.18%


Main article: Culture of Gibraltar

The King Fahd ben Abdelaziz Al Saaud Mosque, also known as the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, at Europa Point, the most southerly part of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is home to people from all major religions. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus continue to co-exist peacefully on the Rock.
The King Fahd ben Abdelaziz Al Saaud Mosque, also known as the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque, at Europa Point, the most southerly part of Gibraltar. Gibraltar is home to people from all major religions. Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus continue to co-exist peacefully on the Rock.

The culture of Gibraltar reflects Gibraltarians' diverse origins. While there are Andalusian and British influences, the ethnic origins of most Gibraltarians is not confined to British or Andalusian ethnicities. Most ethnicities include Genoese, Maltese, Portuguese, and Germans. A handful of other Gibraltar residents are Jewish of Sephardic or of North African origin or even Hindu.

British influence remains strong. Although Gibraltarians often speak to each other in an English-influenced Andalusian dialect called Yanito or Llanito, English is the language of government, commerce, education and the media. Gibraltarians going on to higher education attend university in the UK, and patients requiring medical treatment not available on the Rock recieve it there.

Gibraltar celebrates its National Day annually on 10th September, the date chosen to commemorate the 1967 Referendum which was the first act of self-determination of the people of Gibraltar. Despite the political undertones of the day, it is very much a festive occasion, with everyone dressing in Red & White and congregating in the main square (Casemates) to celebrate. 30,000 red and white balloons are released followed by music, dancing and other events around Gibraltar.


See also

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