Photographer's Note

Only in the Bosporus Straits in Istanbul can an individual stand in Europe and see Asia, and only at the Straits of Gibraltar can one stand in Europe and see Africa. I recently returned from a cruise on the Crystal Symphony that started in Barcelona, sailed east to Palomós and Monte Carlo; then sailed westward to Saint-Tropez, Mallorca, Cartagena, Gibraltar, Cadiz and finally, Lisbon. This was a working vacation for me, as a guest lecturer giving a pair of lectures on board. A high point of the cruise occurred when the Symphony anchored off the coast of Saint-Tropez on 15 August, and I had the pleasure to meet new, but already good friends, Ghislaine Scarici Pounardjian (Gigidusud) and her husband Patrick. We made this a micro Trek-earth meeting, walking around the narrow streets, and traipsing around the "Brigitte Bardot Beach." I dedicate this photo to Ghislaine and Patrick.

In view is the Middle Atlas Mountains, the portion of the Atlas Mountains entirely in Morocco. These majestic mountains span more than 2,000 km (1,200 miles), from the Moroccan port of Agadir in the southwest, to the Tunisian capital of Tunis in the northeast. The straits are just 14 km (8 miles) wide at the straits. On a clear day, one can gaze across the Straits of Gibraltar, UK and see Tangiers, Morocco in North West Africa.

Lord Horatio Nelson won the Battle of Trafalgar 38 km to the west of the Rock. Herman Melville wrote about it, so did Mark Twain. During WWII, the British dug 30 miles of secret tunnels to store battle logistics. In the earth’s tectonic past, the site saw even greater turbulence. Six million years ago the Straits of Gibraltar closed up, choking off the water inflow from the Atlantic, and the hydrologically deficit Tethys Sea, ancestral waterway of the Mediterranean, remained dry for the next million years. Then when the straits opened up again, the entire basin filled up within a century by the rushing Atlantic Ocean, creating the present Mediterranean Sea.

Tens of thousands of years ago the Neanderthals had lived in the area. Three thousand years ago the Phoenicians, creators of the Phonetic alphabet, obsessive navigators, and ubiquitous colonizers of the Mediterranean rim, also settled here… as did later the Romans, the Vandals, the Visigoths… In AD 711, a Moorish incursion across the straits took place, with their commander Tariq-ibn-Ziyad, staking claims on the rock in the name of the burgeoning Islam, and naming it after himself, Jabal-i-Tariq, “the Rock of Tariq,” a moniker that would become permanent, after morphing one more time into “Gibraltar.” Since 1704 it has been British.

Postscript: In his comment, Ike Harel makes a good point, "There is yet another place where you can see two continents: Eilat, in the south tip of Israel, Asia and Africa." This is indeed true. And for completeness, there are two other waterways I can think of where this happens: at the Bering Straits one can stand in North America and see Asia. Many of us remember the the American 2008 Vice-Presidential Candidate, Sarah Palin's words, "You can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska." At the Panama Canal, North and South America are separated by a narrow waterway. Where waterways are not involved, then continental borders appear in other locations. Our good friend Serghei Pakhomoff, who frequently signs off, "From the Sunny Urals," knows Asia and Europe intimately.

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Additional Photos by Bulent Atalay (batalay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6809 W: 476 N: 12169] (41257)
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