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Gibraltar - Overview

Gibraltar is situated at the southernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula where Europe is closest to Africa. Also known as 'the rock', Gibraltar is just 5km long though the highest point is actually 1400 feet above sea level. Spain is the nearest neighbour to the north, and Morocco is just 26 km across the sea. The rock has a population of just below 30,000 people and is a popular destination for both expats and holidaymakers. The official language is English although Spanish is frequently heard. The rock is situated in the GMT+1 time zone.

The rock itself is limestone and the territory has over 12 km of coastline, which incorporates a number of attractive beaches. The upper part of the rock is now a nature reserve which attracts a large number of visitors each year.

In 1713 Gibraltar passed into British hands and this has been the cause of some political issues. The rock remains a colony of Britain, although it is self governing. The head of government is the Chief Minister, although the British monarch remains the head of state. The British authorities are represented by a Governor. The Chief Minister is head of a Council of Ministers which deals with all internal matters, although foreign and defence issues are dealt with directly by the British government. A referendum in 2002 rejected the suggestion that sovereignty of the colony should be shared with Spain.

Gibraltar is popular with visitors for shopping as there is no tax on goods there and has a number of opportunities for those who enjoy water sports and other outdoor activities such as caving. Tourism is one of the main sources of income for the rock, along with offshore banking and financial services. Gibraltar uses the Gibraltar Pound as its currency, and it has the same symbol as the British pound. They have their own notes and coins, but UK currency is readily accepted and some shops and restaurants will also accept Euros and US dollars.

The colony is home to a British Royal Navy base and cruise ships in the Mediterranean stop there frequently for passengers to take advantage of the tax free shopping. Gibraltar has a mix of British and Mediterranean customs and expats, particularly those from the UK, are drawn there because of the good weather and the strong British influences. The cost of living is relatively high due to the cost of buying or renting property as land available for development is scarce due to the small area of the territory, although salaries are fairly good for those who choose to work there.

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