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Amsterdam to Rome Cruise Post #9 – ‘Rock Of Gibraltar: The City of Ferocious Macaques and the Wedding of John & Yoko’

Rock of Gibraltar from the Seven Seas Voyager cruise ship

Rock of Gibraltar from the Seven Seas Voyager cruise ship

It was a day at sea on the Regent cruise ship, en route to Valencia, Spain. I awoke to a voice on the PA system alerting guests of the Rock of Gibraltar to our north. I opened the curtains and went out onto my balcony, welcomed by the wondrous view of the 1,398ft high limestone rock situated on the Iberian Peninsula. The gigantic, pale-grey monolith, comprised of crystalline and dolomite minerals, shimmered in the morning light. Wanting a closer view of the Rock, I quickly got dressed and headed for the 13th floor observation deck.

Rock of Gibraltar, Spain

Rock of Gibraltar, Spain

While Gibraltar itself was an extraordinary sight, I was overcome by a sense of awe upon entering the mouth of the Mediterranean. So smooth and calm the sea was, compared to the Bay of Biscay, which had caused three rather restless nights due to rocking and rolling  in six-meter swells. As I looked out to the north, there was the continent of Europe and when I turned to the south, there was Africa (Tangiers, Morocco), with its arid, chocolate-brown Rif mountain range. I experienced a peculiar sensation, being able to see two very different worlds at the same time – only a small expanse of 50 miles of sea between the continents. What with Ebola, HIV and internal conflicts in Africa, it was quite a contrast to behold that mass of land, so peaceful and serene, from the vantage point of the ship.

Looking south into Morocco from the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.

Looking south into Morocco from the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.

Bordering Spain, the Rock of Gibraltar is actually the crown property of the United Kingdom, which has over 300 years of sovereignty over it. Although a beautiful geological specimen, Gibraltar isn’t exactly a paradise of open space. A population of 30,000 occupies the mere 2.6 square miles of the peninsula; therefore homes are crammed together at the base of the Rock. Additionally, there is a nature reserve on the Rock’s upper area, which is home to 300 Barbary macaques – the only wild population of monkeys in Europe. The macaques may appear like cute primates to pet and play with, but last year, more than 50 people were treated in the hospital following serious attacks.

Barbary Macaque (of Gibraltar)

Barbary Macaque (of Gibraltar)

The Rock of Gibraltar also has a rich historical and pop-cultural history. In ancient times, the Rock’s peak marked the limit to the known world, a myth originating with the Greeks and the Phoenicians. Historians and anthropologists also believe that Gibraltar may have been the place where the Neanderthals died out. Studies suggest they were living in a cave site on the south east of Gibraltar up to 24,000 years ago. Also, in March 1969, the site became iconic when John Lennon married Yoko Ono in a 10-minute ceremony. Within an hour of their marriage, the newlyweds flew to Amsterdam where they spent their honeymoon in bed, accompanied by the world’s press, to call for world peace.

John Lennon and Yoko Ono tying the knot at the Rock of Gibraltar

John Lennon and Yoko Ono tying the knot at the Rock of Gibraltar

 John Lennon and newfound wife, Yoko Ono held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam

Newlyweds, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace, one at the Hilton Hotel in Amsterdam

One day I hope to set foot on Gibraltar– a floating mirage, alone and seemingly untroubled …and into that Sea… as only Tennessee Williams could say…“in the blaze of summer — and into an ocean as blue as my first lover’s eyes!”

A view of the Rif Mountain Range, Morocco

A view of the Rif Mountain Range, Morocco

All photographs except 4-6 taken by Ryan Oksenberg

Comments

  1. Alan Mandell says:

    Another fascinating article! It’s also a wonderful History lesson.

    Many thanks and keep writing!!

    Love,
    Alan

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