Ceuta (UK: //, US: //, Spanish: [ˈθeuta]; Berber languages: Sebta; Arabic: سبتة, romanized: Sabtah) is an 18.5 km2 (7 sq mi; 4,571 acres) Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa (Spanish sovereignty of the city is contested by Morocco), separated by 14 km (9 mi) from Cadiz province on the Spanish mainland by the Strait of Gibraltar and sharing a 6.4 km (4 mi) land border with M'diq-Fnideq Prefecture in the Kingdom of Morocco. It lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of nine populated Spanish territories in Africa and, along with Melilla, one of two populated Spanish territories on mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995. On that date Statutes of Autonomy were passed for both Ceuta and Melilla, the latter having been part of Málaga province.
Location of Ceuta within Spain
|Coordinates: 35°53′18″N 5°18′56″W|
|First settled||1st millennium BC|
|End of Muslim rule||14 August 1415|
|Ceded to Spain||1 January 1668|
|Autonomy status||14 March 1995|
|• Type||Autonomous city|
|• Body||Council of Government|
|• Mayor-President||Juan Jesús Vivas (PP)|
|• Total||18.5 km2 (7.1 sq mi)|
|• Land||18.5 km2 (7.1 sq mi)|
|Elevation||10 m (30 ft)|
|Highest elevation||349 m (1,145 ft)|
|• Density||4,600/km2 (12,000/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+2 (CEST)|
|ISO 3166 code|
|Congress||1 deputy (out of 350)|
|Senate||2 senators (out of 264)|
Ceuta, like Melilla and the Canary Islands, was classified as a free port before Spain joined the European Union. Its population consists of Christians, Muslims and small minorities of Sephardic Jews and ethnic Sindhi Hindus.
The name Abyla has been said to have been a Punic name ("Lofty Mountain" or "Mountain of God") for Jebel Musa, the southern Pillar of Hercules. The name of the mountain was in fact Habenna (Punic: 𐤀𐤁𐤍, ʾBN, "Stone" or "Stele") or ʾAbin-ḥīq (𐤀𐤁𐤍𐤇𐤒, ʾBNḤQ, "Rock of the Bay"), in reference to the nearby Bay of Benzú. The name was hellenized variously as Ápini (Greek: Ἄπινι), Abýla (Ἀβύλα), Abýlē (Ἀβύλη), Ablýx (Ἀβλύξ), and Abílē Stḗlē (Ἀβίλη Στήλη, "Pillar of Abyla") and in Latin as Mount Abyla (Abyla Mons) or the Pillar of Abyla (Abyla Columna).
The settlement below Jebel Musa was later renamed for the seven hills around the site, collectively referred to as the "Seven Brothers" (Greek: Ἑπτάδελφοι, translit. Heptádelphoi; Latin: Septem Fratres). In particular, the Roman stronghold at the site took the name "Fort at the Seven Brothers" (Castellum ad Septem Fratres). This was gradually shortened to Septem (Σέπτον Sépton) or, occasionally, Septum or Septa. These clipped forms continued as Berber Sebta and Arabic Sabtan or Sabtah (سبتة), which themselves became Ceuta in Portuguese (pronounced [ˈsewtɐ]) and Spanish (pronounced [ˈθeuta]).
Controlling access between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar is an important military and commercial chokepoint. The Phoenicians realized the extremely narrow isthmus joining the Peninsula of Almina to the African mainland makes Ceuta eminently defensible and established an outpost there in the early 1st millennium BC. The Greek geographers record it by variations of "Abyla", the ancient name of nearby Jebel Musa. Beside Calpe, the other Pillar of Hercules now known as the Rock of Gibraltar, the Phoenicians established Kart at what is now San Roque, Spain. Other good anchorages nearby became Phoenician and then Carthaginian ports at what are now Tangiers and Cadiz.
After Carthage's destruction in the Punic Wars, most of northwest Africa was left to the Roman client states of Numidia and—around Abyla—Mauretania. Punic culture continued to thrive in what the Romans knew as "Septem". After the Battle of Thapsus in 46 BC, Caesar and his heirs began annexing north Africa directly as Roman provinces but, as late as Augustus, most of Septem's Berber residents continued to speak and write in Punic.
Caligula assassinated the Mauretanian king Ptolemy in AD 40 and seized his kingdom, which Claudius organized in 42, placing Septem in the province of Tingitana and raising it to the level of a colony. It subsequently romanized and thrived into the late 3rd century, trading heavily with Roman Spain and becoming well known for its salted fish. Roads connected it overland with Tingis (Tangiers) and Volubilis. Under Theodosius I in the late 4th century, Septem still had 10,000 inhabitants, nearly all Christian citizens speaking Latin and African Romance.
Vandals, probably invited by Count Boniface as protection against the empress dowager, crossed the strait near Tingis around 425 and swiftly overran Roman North Africa. Their king Gaiseric focused his attention on the rich lands around Carthage; although the Romans eventually accepted his conquests and he continued to raid them anyway, he soon lost control of Tingis and Septem in a series of Berber revolts. When Justinian decided to reconquer the Vandal lands, his victorious general Belisarius continued along the coast, making Septem an outpost of the Byzantine Empire around 533. Unlike the Roman administration, however, the Byzantines did not push far into hinterland and made the more defensible Septem their regional capital in place of Tingis.
Epidemics, less capable successors, and overstretched supply lines forced a retrenchment and left Septem isolated. It is likely that its count (comes) was obliged to pay homage to the Visigoth Kingdom in Spain in the early 7th century. There are no reliable contemporary accounts of the end of the Islamic conquest of the Maghreb around 710. Instead, the rapid Muslim conquest of Spain produced romances concerning Count Julian of Septem and his betrayal of Christendom in revenge for the dishonor that befell his daughter at King Roderick's court. Allegedly with Julian's encouragement and instructions, the Berber convert and freedman Tariq ibn Ziyad took his garrison from Tangiers across the strait and overran the Spanish so swiftly that both he and his master Musa bin Nusayr fell afoul of a jealous caliph, who stripped them of their wealth and titles.
After the death of Julian, sometimes also described as a king of the Ghomara Berbers, Berber converts to Islam took direct control of what they called Sebta. It was then destroyed during their great revolt against the Umayyad Caliphate around 740. Sebta subsequently remained a small village of Muslims and Christians surrounded by ruins until its resettlement in the 9th century by Mâjakas, chief of the Majkasa Berber tribe, who started the short-lived Banu Isam dynasty. His great-grandson briefly allied his tribe with the Idrisids, but Banu Isam rule ended in 931 when he abdicated in favor of Abd ar-Rahman III, the Umayyad caliph of Cordoba. Ceuta reverted to Moorish Andalusian rule in 927 along with Melilla, and later Tangier, in 951.
Chaos ensued with the fall of the Spanish Umayyads in 1031. Following this, Ceuta and Muslim Iberia were controlled by successive North African dynasties. Starting in 1084, the Almoravid Berbers ruled the region until 1147, when the Almohads conquered the land. Apart from Ibn Hud's rebellion in 1232, they ruled until the Tunisian Hafsids established control. The Hafsids' influence in the west rapidly waned, and Ceuta's inhabitants eventually expelled them in 1249. After this, a period of political instability persisted, under competing interests from the kingdoms of Fez and Granada as well as autonomous rule under the native Banu al-Azafi. The Fez finally conquered the region in 1387, with assistance from Aragon.
On the morning of 21 August 1415, King John I of Portugal led his sons and their assembled forces in a surprise assault that would come to be known as the Conquest of Ceuta. The battle was almost anti-climactic, because the 45,000 men who traveled on 200 Portuguese ships caught the defenders of Ceuta off guard and only suffered eight casualties. By nightfall the town was captured. On the morning of August 22, Ceuta was in Portuguese hands. Álvaro Vaz de Almada, 1st Count of Avranches was asked to hoist what was to become the flag of Ceuta, which is identical to the flag of Lisbon, but in which the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Portugal was added to the center; the original Portuguese flag and coat of arms of Ceuta remained unchanged, and the modern-day Ceuta flag features the configuration of the Portuguese shield.
John's son Henry the Navigator distinguished himself in the battle, being wounded during the conquest. The looting of the city proved to be less profitable than expected for John I; he decided to keep the city to pursue further enterprises in the area.
From 1415 to 1437, Pedro de Meneses became the first governor of Ceuta.
The Benemerine sultan started the 1418 siege but was defeated by the first governor of Ceuta before reinforcements arrived in the form of John, Constable of Portugal and his brother Henry the Navigator who were sent with troops to defend Ceuta.
Under King John I's son, Duarte, the colony at Ceuta rapidly became a drain on the Portuguese treasury. Trans-Saharan trade journeyed instead to Tangier. It was soon realized that without the city of Tangier, possession of Ceuta was worthless. In 1437, Duarte's brothers Henry the Navigator and Fernando, the Saint Prince persuaded him to launch an attack on the Marinid sultanate. The resulting Battle of Tangier (1437), led by Henry, was a debacle. In the resulting treaty, Henry promised to deliver Ceuta back to the Marinids in return for allowing the Portuguese army to depart unmolested, which he reneged on.
Possession of Ceuta would indirectly lead to further Portuguese expansion. The main area of Portuguese expansion, at this time, was the coast of the Maghreb, where there was grain, cattle, sugar, and textiles, as well as fish, hides, wax, and honey.
In the 1540s the Portuguese began building the Royal Walls of Ceuta as they are today including bastions, a navigable moat and a drawbridge. Some of these bastions are still standing, like the bastions of Coraza Alta, Bandera and Mallorquines.
In 1578 King Sebastian of Portugal died at the Battle of Alcácer Quibir (known as the Battle of Three Kings) in what is today northern Morocco, without descendants, triggering the 1580 Portuguese succession crisis. His granduncle, the elderly Cardinal Henry, succeeded him as King, but Henry also had no descendants, having taken holy orders. When the cardinal-king died two years after Sebastian's disappearance, three grandchildren of King Manuel I of Portugal claimed the throne: Infanta Catarina, Duchess of Braganza, António, Prior of Crato, and Philip II of Spain (Uncle of former King Sebastian of Portugal), who would go on to be crowned King Philip I of Portugal in 1581, uniting the two crowns and overseas empires known as the Iberian Union, which allowed the two kingdoms to continue without being merged.
During the Iberian Union 1580 to 1640, Ceuta attracted many residents of Spanish origin. Ceuta became the only city of the Portuguese Empire that sided with Spain when Portugal regained its independence in the Portuguese Restoration War of 1640.
The city was attacked by Moroccan forces under Moulay Ismail during the Siege of Ceuta (1694-1727). During the longest siege in history, the city underwent changes leading to the loss of its Portuguese character. While most of the military operations took place around the Royal Walls of Ceuta, there were also small-scale penetrations by Spanish forces at various points on the Moroccan coast, and seizure of shipping in the Strait of Gibraltar.
In July 1936, General Francisco Franco took command of the Spanish Army of Africa and rebelled against the Spanish republican government; his military uprising led to the Spanish Civil War of 1936–1939. Franco transported troops to mainland Spain in an airlift using transport aircraft supplied by Germany and Italy. Ceuta became one of the first casualties of the uprising: General Franco's rebel nationalist forces seized Ceuta, while at the same time the city came under fire from the air and sea forces of the official republican government.
The Llano Amarillo monument was erected to honor Francisco Franco, it was inaugurated on 13 July 1940. The tall obelisk has since been abandoned, but the shield symbols of the Falange and Imperial Eagle remain visible.
When Spain recognized the independence of Spanish Morocco in 1956, Ceuta and the other plazas de soberanía remained under Spanish rule. Spain considered them integral parts of the Spanish state, but Morocco has disputed this point.
Culturally, modern Ceuta is part of the Spanish region of Andalusia. It was attached to the province of Cádiz until 1925, the Spanish coast being only 20 km (12.5 miles) away. It is a cosmopolitan city, with a large ethnic Arab Muslim minority as well as Sephardic Jewish and Hindu minorities.
On 5 November 2007, King Juan Carlos I visited the city, sparking great enthusiasm from the local population and protests from the Moroccan government. It was the first time a Spanish head of state had visited Ceuta in 80 years.
Since 2010, Ceuta (and Melilla) have declared the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or Feast of the Sacrifice, an official public holiday. It is the first time a non-Christian religious festival has been officially celebrated in Spain since the Reconquista.
Ceuta is dominated by Monte Anyera, a hill along its western frontier with Morocco. The mountain is guarded by a military fort.
Monte Hacho on the Peninsula of Almina overlooking the port is one of the possible locations for the southern pillar of the Pillars of Hercules of Greek legend (the other possibility being Jebel Musa).
Ceuta has a maritime-influenced Subtropical/Mediterranean climate, similar to nearby Spanish and Moroccan cities such as Tarifa, Algeciras or Tangiers. The average diurnal temperature variation is relatively low; the average annual temperature is 18.8 °C (65.8 °F) with average yearly highs of 21.4 °C (70.5 °F) and lows of 15.7 °C (60.3 °F) though the Ceuta weather station has only been in operation since 2003. Ceuta has relatively mild winters for the latitude, while summers are warm yet milder than in the interior of Southern Spain, due to the moderating effect of the Straits of Gibraltar. Summers are very dry, but yearly precipitation is still at 849 mm (33.4 in), which could be considered a humid climate if the summers were not so arid.
|Climate data for Ceuta city (1m altitude)|
|Record high °C (°F)||21.7
|Average high °C (°F)||16.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||13.6
|Average low °C (°F)||11.1
|Record low °C (°F)||1.3
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||122
|Average precipitation days||7||8||6||5||3||1||0||1||2||5||7||9||54|
|Average relative humidity (%)||72||75||68||71||66||67||61||70||72||75||73||73||70|
|Source: Weather.com, WorldWeatherOnline, and Agencia Estatal de Meteorología|
Ceuta is known officially in Spanish as Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta (English: Autonomous City of Ceuta), with a rank between a standard Spanish city and an autonomous community. Ceuta is part of the territory of the European Union. The city was a free port before Spain joined the European Union in 1986. Now it has a low-tax system within the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union. As of 2018, its population was 85,144.
Ceuta has held elections every four years since 1979, for its 25-seat assembly. The leader of its government was the Mayor until the Autonomy Statute had the title changed to the Mayor-President. As of 2011, the People's Party (PP) won 18 seats, keeping Juan Jesús Vivas as Mayor-President, which he has been since 2001. The remaining seats are held by the regionalist Caballas Coalition (4) and the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE, 3).
Due to its small population, Ceuta elects only one member of the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the Spanish legislature. As of the 2019 election, this post is held by José Simón of the PSOE.
Dispute with Morocco
See also: Greater Morocco
The government of Morocco has repeatedly called for Spain to transfer the sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla, together with the rest of the Spanish plazas de soberanía on the North African coast, on the grounds of asserting its territorial integrity. Morocco has claimed the territories are colonies. One of the chief arguments used by Morocco to reclaim Ceuta comes from geography, as this enclave, which is surrounded by Morocco and the Mediterranean Sea, has no territorial continuity with the rest of Spanish territory. This argument was originally developed by one of the founders of the Moroccan Istiqlal Party, Alal-El Faasi, who openly advocated the Moroccan conquest of Ceuta and other territories under Spanish rule.
The official currency of Ceuta is the euro. It is part of a special low tax zone in Spain. Ceuta is one of two Spanish port cities on the northern shore of Africa, along with Melilla. They are historically military strongholds, free ports, oil ports, and also fishing ports. Today the economy of the city depends heavily on its port (now in expansion) and its industrial and retail centers. Ceuta Heliport is now used to connect the city to mainland Spain by air. Lidl, Decathlon Group and El Corte Inglés (hardware) have branches in Ceuta. There is also a casino. Border trade between Ceuta and Morocco is active because of advantage of tax-free status. Thousands of Moroccan women are involved in porter trade daily. Moroccan dirham is actually used in such trade, despite the fact that prices are marked in euro.
The city's Port of Ceuta receives high numbers of ferries each day from Algeciras in Andalusia in the south of Spain, along with Melilla and the Canary Islands. The closest airport is Sania Ramel Airport in Morocco.
A single road border checkpoint to the south of Ceuta near Fnideq allows for cars and pedestrians to travel between Morocco and Ceuta. An additional border crossing for pedestrians also exists between Benzú and Belyounech on the northern coast. The rest of the border is closed and inaccessible.
There is a bus service throughout the city, and while it does not pass into neighboring Morocco, it services both frontier crossings.
Due to its location, Ceuta is home to a mixed ethnic and religious population. The two main religious groups are Christians and Muslims. As of 2006 approximately 50% of the population was Christian and approximately 48% Muslim. However, by 2012, the portion of Ceuta's population that identify as Roman Catholic was 68.0%, while the portion of Ceuta's population that identify as Muslim was 28.3%.
Christianity has been present in Ceuta continuously from late antiquity, as evidenced by the ruins of a basilica in downtown Ceuta and accounts of the martyrdom of St. Daniel Fasanella and his Franciscans in 1227 during the Almohad Caliphate.
The town's Grand Mosque had been built over a Byzantine-era church. In 1415, the year of the city's conquest, the Portuguese converted the Grand Mosque into Ceuta Cathedral. The present form of the cathedral dates to refurbishments undertaken in the late 17th century, combining baroque and neoclassical elements. It was dedicated to St Mary of the Assumption in 1726.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ceuta was established in 1417. It incorporated the suppressed Diocese of Tanger in 1570. The Diocese of Ceuta was a suffragan of Lisbon until 1675, when it became a suffragan of Seville. In 1851, Ceuta's administration was notionally merged into the Diocese of Cadiz and Ceuta as part of a concordat between Spain and the Holy See; the union was not actually accomplished, however, until 1879.
Primary and secondary education is possible only in Spanish however a growing number of schools are entering the Bilingual Education Program.
Like Melilla, Ceuta attracts African migrants who try to use it as an entry to Europe. As a result, the enclave is surrounded by double fences that are 6 m (20 ft) high and hundreds of migrants congregate near the fences waiting for a chance to cross them. The fences are regularly stormed by migrants trying to claim asylum once they enter Ceuta.
Notable people from Ceuta
1083 to 1700
- Qadi Ayyad (1083 in Ceuta – 1149) born in Ceuta, then belonging to the Almoravids was the great imam of that city
- Al-Idrisi (1100 in Ceuta – 1165 in Ceuta) was a Muslim geographer, cartographer and Egyptologist. He lived in Palermo at the court of King Roger II of Sicily, known for the "Tabula Rogeriana"
- Abu al-Abbas as-Sabti (1129 in Ceuta – 1204 in Marrakesh) is the patron saint of Marrakesh
- Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta (c. 1160 – 1226) was a Jewish physician and poet, and disciple of Moses Maimonides
- Abu al-Abbas al-Azafi (1162 in Ceuta – 1236) a religious and legal scholar, member of the Banu al-Azafi who ruled Ceuta
- Mohammed ibn Rushayd (1259 in Sabta – 1321) was a judge, writer and scholar of Hadith
- Álvaro of Braganza (1440–1504) was a president of Council of Castile.
1700 to 1800
- George Camocke (1666–1732) was a Royal Navy captain and former admiral for Spain who was exiled to Ceuta to live out the last years of his life.
- Don Fernando de Leyba (1734 in Ceuta – 1780) was a Spanish officer who served as the third governor of Upper Louisiana from 1778 until his death.
- Brigadier General Francisco Antonio García Carrasco Díaz (1742 in Ceuta – 1813 in Lima, Peru ) was a Spanish soldier and Royal Governor of Chile
- Sebastián Kindelán y O'Regan (1757 in Ceuta – 1826 in Santiago de Cuba) was a colonel in the Spanish Army who served as governor of East Florida 1812/1815, of Santo Domingo 1818/1821 and was provisional governor of Cuba 1822/1823
- Isidro de Alaix Fábregas Count of Vergara and Viscount of Villarrobledo, (1790 in Ceuta – 1853 in Madrid) was a Spanish general of the First Carlist War who backed Isabella II of Spain
1800 to 1950
- General Francisco Llano de la Encomienda (1879 in Ceuta – 1963 in Mexico City) was a Spanish soldier. During the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) he remained loyal to the Second Spanish Republic
- General Antonio Escobar Huertas (1879 in Ceuta – executed 1940 in Barcelona) was a Spanish military officer
- África de las Heras Gavilán (1909 in Ceuta – 1988 in Moscow) was a Spanish Communist, naturalized Soviet citizen, and KGB spy who went by the code name Patria
- Eugenio Martín (born 1925 in Ceuta) is a Spanish film director and screenwriter
- Jacob Hassan, PhD (1936 in Ceuta – 2006 in Madrid) was a Spanish-Jewish philologist
- José Martínez Sánchez (born 1945 in Ceuta), nicknamed Pirri, is a retired Spanish footballer, mainly played for Real Madrid, appearing in 561 competitive games and scoring 172 goals
- Manuel Chaves González (born 1945 in Ceuta) is a Spanish politician of the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party. He served as the Third Vice President of the Spanish Government from 2009 to 2011
- Ramón Castellano de Torres (born 1947 in Ceuta) is a Spanish artist, thought by some to be an expressionist painter
- José Ramón López (born 1950) was a sprint canoer. He won the silver medal in the 1976 Summer Olympics.
1950 to date
- Miguel Bernardo Bianquetti (born 1951 in Ceuta), known as Migueli is a Spanish retired footballer who played central defender.
- Francisco Lesmes and Rafael Lesmes Bobed brothers and Spanish footballers.
- Ignacio Velázquez Rivera (born 1953), first Mayor-President of Melilla
- Juan Jesús Vivas Lara (born 1953 in Ceuta) became the Mayor-President of Ceuta in Spain in 2001
- Pedro Aviles Gutiérrez (born 1956 in Ceuta) is a Spanish novelist from Madrid.
- Nayim (born 1966 in Ceuta) is a retired Spanish footballer; he scored a last-minute goal for Real Zaragoza in the 1995 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup Final.
- Eva María Isanta Foncuberta (born 1971 in Ceuta) is a Spanish actress
- Mohamed Taieb Ahmed (born 1975 in Ceuta) is a Spanish-Moroccan drug lord responsible for trafficking hashish across the Strait of Gibraltar and into Spain.
- Lorena Miranda (born 1991 in Ceuta) is a Spanish female water polo player. She won the silver medal in Water polo at the 2012 Summer Olympics.
- Anuar Tuhami (born 1995 in Ceuta) is a Spanish-Moroccan footballer.
Twin towns and sister cities
Ceuta is twinned with:
- AD Ceuta FC, football club
- Arab Baths in Ceuta
- Hotel Tryp Ceuta
- Ceuta border fence
- Ceuta and Melilla (disambiguation)
- Plazas de soberanía – Spanish exclaves on the Moroccan coast
- Porteadoras – mule ladies, bale workers
- Royal Walls of Ceuta
- Spanish Morocco
- European enclaves in North Africa before 1830
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