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Sahara

Day 1: Gibraltar

Gibraltar 
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Africa, seen from O'Hara's Battery and seagull toilet. The distant peak of Jebel Musa (2671 feet) breaks the clouds on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar. Along with the Rock; this was one of the two Pillars of Hercules, which the Greeks believed marked the end of the known world. We shall see.
Michael Palin - SaharaOnly 300 miles from the Sahara Desert there is a place where brass bands play, warm beer is served and a blue lamp marks the police station. Where people shop at Marks & Spencer and twenty-one gun salutes sound on royal birthdays. Where Noel Coward played cabaret and John Lennon got married.

This corner of a foreign land that seems forever England is a gnarled limestone rock, nearly 4 miles long and 1400 feet high, tucked into Spain's lower regions like a prostate, dominating the dozen miles of ocean that separate Europe from Africa.

For the Berber chief Tariq Ibn Ziyad, who first settled on the Rock thirteen centuries ago, it held the promise of escape from the hostile Sahara and a stepping stone to the rich underbelly of Europe. It became known as Jebel el Tariq, Tariq's mountain, which, eroded down to the single word Gibraltar, it has remained ever since.

The Britishness of Gibraltar, which began with Admiral Rooke's invasion in 1704, is well entrenched. Contemplating my map of North Africa outside Pickwick's Pub, I order a coffee. No messing with latte or machiato here.

'Coop or Moog?' I'm asked in a thick Geordie accent.

I choose cup.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 1
  • Country/sea: Gibraltar
  • Place: Gibraltar
  • Book page no: 12

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