To the south of La Linea

To the south of La Linea (literally 'the line' -- i.e. the boundary line) lies a large rock, separated from the mainland by a flat sandy waste. It was first settled by the Moors in A.D. 711, and its present name is a corruption of the name of their leader, Tarik; 'Djebel el Tarik' (now named Gibraltar) originally meant 'Tarik's hill'. It has been a British Colony since the 1713 treaty of Utrecht, controls the western entrance. into the Mediterranean, and is a perpetual insult to patriotic Spanish pride. The 'Rock', as its name implies, is simply a large outlier of limestone; the problem of water supply has been overcome by the construction on the eastern slope of large concrete slabs which collect dew and rain.

Gibraltar's annual rainfall is high (35 inches), when compared with that of nearby Málaga (1808 inches), and is due mainly to the easy passage through the straits of depressions, which give rise to heavy winter rain, although there are three months of drought in summer. Strategically of vital importance, economically it is of little use. There is some tinning of fish and fruit, using labour from the Spanish mainland, but Gibraltar is chiefly concerned with goods in transit and with the supplying of bunker coal and petroleum to ships entering for refuelling purposes. The peninsular railway terminus is at Algeciras, which faces Gibraltar across the Bay of Algeciras, and is also the Spanish embarkation point for North Africa. Gibraltar is linked to Spain only by a road, which crosses the air-strips built on the low flat northern end of the tiny peninsula; air services to all parts of the world are frequent, and on the western side of the Rock lie the well-equipped harbour and naval dockyards.

The Barbary Apes live among the higher crags, existing on scant vegetation, and are occasionally enticed from their rocky heights for the benefit of tourists. The human inhabitants live in the town on the south-western side, their houses clinging precariously to the steep rugged slopes.

This south coast region, one of the richest and pleasantest areas in Spain, owes many of its characteristics to the huge mass of highland behind it. The Sierra Nevada shelters the plains from cold winds, and this, combined with a southerly aspect, ensures a high average annual temperature. The mountains attract a good deal of moisture, and retain a cover of snow well into spring, thus ensuring a perennial water supply for the plains below. In addition, they form a barrier passable only at a few points, making communication with the rest of Spain slow and difficult, but helping at the same time to preserve local customs. The sea is the other dominating influence, helping communications and ameliorating climate. South Spain looks away from the mainland over the Mediterranean to the Barbary States; and it is not surprising to find much of North African origin in the names, customs and people of this lovely Moorish oasis tucked away on the fringe of Europe.

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