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Travel - March 29, 2021

Spanish Africa: Ceuta and Melilla

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If you happen to consider Spain, you in all probability consider a European nation which has its arm round Portugal the place they eat tapas and paella.

Nevertheless, what if I informed you that Spain can also be an African nation? The truth is, it’s the smallest nation in Africa, and no, I’m not speaking concerning the Canary Islands

Be taught extra about Ceuta and Mellia, the African components of Spain, on this episode of The whole lot All over the place Each day. 


This episode is sponsored by the Vacationer Workplace of Spain.

Whereas it’s simple to consider Spain because the nation which sits on the Iberian Peninsula, you will need to do not forget that Spain is definitely greater than that.

Whether or not it’s the Canary Islands within the Atlantic Ocean, the Balearic Islands within the Mediterranean Sea, Ceuta and Melilla on the continent of Africa, or the tiny exclave of Llivia completely surrounded by France, there’s extra to Spain than what you first see on the map.

You can begin researching your dream journey to Spain at present by visiting Spain.information the place you may get all the things it’s good to know to plan your Spanish expertise.


After I say that there are components of Spain in Africa, I’m not making an attempt to be difficult and play with phrases. I’m not saying that Spain used to have colonies in Africa, though that’s true. I’m additionally not making an attempt to outline the Canary Islands, that are part of Spain off of the coast of Africa, as being in Africa. 

I imply, in essentially the most literal sense doable, that a part of Spain is in Africa. 

There are two very small Spanish cities situated on peninsulas that are on the African mainland, bordering Morocco

The cities are Ceuta and Melilla, and their very existence is, as you in all probability would anticipate, are because of historic quirks and happenstance. 

As a result of geography, Spain has all the time had a detailed relationship with Africa. Phonecians primarily based in Carthage in what’s at present Tunisia established settlements on the Spanish coast. 

The Roman province of Hispania was a part of a better empire that included all of North Africa which bordered the Mediterranean. 

After the Roman empire fell, Islamic Moors from North Africa conquered and managed Spain for over 700 years. 

So, there has all the time been a forwards and backwards between North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. 

Ceuta and Melilla, each being Spanish territories in Africa, have totally different but comparable histories regardless of being about 130 miles aside from one another. 

Ceuta is situated straight throughout the ocean from Gibraltar. So, for those who ever wish to stump somebody ask them what nation lies straight south of Gibraltar and what nation lies north of Gibraltar. The reply is identical. Spain is on each ends. 

Ceuta makes the counterpart of the Pillars of Hercules which have been the traditional names for the 2 promontories which guarded the Strait of Gibraltar. 

As with most all the things within the area, it has an historic historical past. Carthage, Mauritania, and Numidians all managed the world earlier than Rome. 

The Umayyad Caliphate managed it for hundreds of years. When the Caliphate of Cordoba fell in 1031, it then was handed between numerous North African kingdoms with assist from numerous kingdoms within the Iberian Peninsula. 

Ceuta got here below European management on August  21, 1415, when King John I of Portugal launched a shock invasion of town.  Ceuta served as a buying and selling outpost for items that got here from inland Africa, in addition to served as a base to assist management a lot of northern Morocco. 

This Portuguese historical past is why the flag of Ceuta is nearly equivalent to the flag for the Metropolis of Lisbon, save for the coat of arms. 

From 1580 to 1640, Spain and Portugal have been united throughout the Iberian Union. Throughout this era, town attracted extra folks from Spain than Portugal, because of its shut proximity to Spain. 

When Portugal regained its independence in 1640, Ceuta was the one a part of Portugal whose loyalties have been on the facet of Spain. 

In 1668, Portugal formally ceded the territory to Spain within the Treaty of Lisbon. 

In 1694, the Moroccans laid siege to Ceuta, which started the longest siege in world historical past. The siege wasn’t lifted till 1727. 

Throughout the interval, the Spanish deserted town as a result of plague, and the Moroccans then took it over, solely to desert it themselves just a few months later when struggle broke out over the Moroccan throne.

The complete siege ended up being a colossal waste of sources. 

The historical past of Melilla is barely totally different. It isn’t situated in such a strategic place as Ceuta. 

Like Ceuta, it was managed by all the traditional civilizations within the area. 

It got here below Spanish management in 1497, and the invasion wasn’t actually a lot of an invasion. Town had been all however deserted by the Islamic rulers within the area. 

As with Ceuta, the Moroccans made makes an attempt at taking town, however it was by no means as excessive of a precedence. 

Given its proximity to Algeria, Melilla truly had a small commerce struggle with Frace, who managed Algeria within the early twentieth century. 

At this time, each cities are totally built-in components of Spain, despite the fact that they aren’t on the Iberian Peninsula. 

They every have comparable populations. Each Ceuta and Melilla have about 85,000 folks. Each of the cities have very numerous populations, with a mixture of Spanish and Arabic folks.  Each cities have combined Christian and Muslim populations. 

Each cities are additionally the one locations in Spain the place the Islamic vacation of Eid is an official vacation. 

Whereas each cities are a part of the European Union, every has a singular standing. Spain is a part of the Schengen Zone, so that you don’t want any kind of particular visa to enter both metropolis. 

Nevertheless, given the truth that they’re the one components of the EU that border a non-European nation, they do examine passports when going again to continental Europe. 

This truly affected me once I visited Ceuta a number of years in the past. I did a day journey to the city of Tetouan in Morocco. After I crossed again into Ceuta, they only waved me in with out stamping my passport. 

The following day, once I boarded the ferry, they wouldn’t let me on board as a result of I didn’t have an entry stamp after getting an exit stamp to go to Morrocco. So, I needed to take a taxi all the best way again to the border to get my stamp, after which all the best way again to the port. 

The official language in each cities is Spanish in fact, however you’ll hear Arabic and Berber spoken in each cities as properly. Most Arabic audio system can even communicate Spanish, however the reverse will not be essentially the case. 

Each cities are fairly simple to go to. Not fairly as simple as the remainder of Spain as they aren’t related to the remainder of the nation by highway, however nonetheless not that tough.

Each cities have common ferry service from mainland Spain. The ferry to Ceuta goes from Algaceris and the ferry to Melilla leaves from Malaga and Almería. 

I ought to observe that Ceuta and Melilla should not the one a part of Spain in Africa. 

Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera is basically simply an tiny island with a sand spit connecting it to Morroco. The border right here is barely 80 meters large, making it the shortest section of a world border on the earth. 

Nobody actually lives there apart from some momentary navy personnel who’re there simply to determine a presence. 

Past these three locations which have an precise border with Morroco, there are additionally eight tiny, uninhabited islands which can be simply off the coast of Morocco which is part of Spain as properly. Collectively they’re generally known as the Plazas de soberanía. 

So, to summarize, sure, Spain does have a really small of Africa. The whole space of all the things is about 11 sq. miles, out of a complete of  11,000,000 sq. miles for all the continent. 

At 1 millionth the entire space, that will make Spain the smallest nation in Africa. 

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