The Rock of Gibraltar is a place rich in history — with traces of human existence dating as far back as the age of the Neanderthals.
There has been a longstanding battle between Spain and Britain for sovereignty of the place, set in southwestern Europe; and a unanimous vote by the people of Gibraltar to remain under British rule rendered it still to be a British territory up to this day. Nonetheless, Gibraltar's culture is a combination of all the influences that have landed in the region, Spanish and British notwithstanding, and its landmarks are worth seeing.
Indeed, that cultural influence includes things Judaic, since a Jewish presence is still going strong on Gibraltar, with Shaar Hashamayim — established by Isaac Nieto, Gibraltar's first rabbi — due to celebrate its 260th anniversary this coming new year. And the Gibraltar Jewish Community Organization will observe a major anniversary in 2010; it will be 95 years since the publication of its "Junta General de Ozer Dalim," establishing the organization.
Here are 10 things to see and do:
· Dolphin and whale watching. Gibraltar's bay has an amazing display of dolphins and whales in their natural habitat. A trip down this bay is worth making just to witness the beauty of these sea creatures playing and showing off their splendor.
· Cable ride. For a spectacular view from the top of the Rock of Gibraltar, you can take a cable-car ride. During the ride, you will also get to see the majestic spread of Spain up north and Africa down south.
· Water sports. You can go jet skiing and paragliding to enjoy the beautiful waters down in the Catalan or Sandy bays and other beaches. Be one with the underground flora and fauna by diving into the waters, too, if you love exploring under the sea.
· Migrating birds. Migratory birds flock to the Rock of Gibraltar to escape the wintry months of their homes. Thousands of different birds come here, and the sight is amazing.
· Monkeys without tails. This is one of the most-famous tourist attractions in Gibraltar. The macaques, otherwise known as the tailless monkeys, are said to be the only species of wild primates that can be found in the whole of Europe. There is also a wonderful legend regarding the existence of these macaques in Gibraltar, one which states it will cease to be a British territory once these monkeys have also ceased to exist.
· The local museum. Here, you will find the earliest evidences of human existence in Gibraltar. The local museum houses a skull of the Neanderthal man said to have first inhabited the place. You also will learn all about the historical battle between the British and Spanish troops for the right to own the Rock of Gibraltar.
· Botanical Garden. It reportedly dates back to the early 1800s.
· Shrines and houses of worship. Gibraltar has been subject to many influences, including religion, and a visit to the aforementioned Shaar Hashamayim should be on your schedule.
· Changing of the Guards. Typically British, this ceremony, which takes place a couple of times within the day, is something to watch out for. You will witness the discipline and, perhaps, a little stoicism in the behavior of the guards that is quite entertaining and awe-inspiring at the same time. You can see this in the place where Gibraltar's governor resides.
For more information, visit: www.gibraltar.gi.