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Autonomous city
Autonomous city of Ceuta
Ciudad autónoma de Ceuta (Spanish)
Ceuta, as seen from Monte Hacho
Ceuta, as seen from Monte Hacho
Flag of Ceuta
Coat of arms of Ceuta
Coat of arms
Location of the Autonomous City of Ceuta
Location of the Autonomous City of Ceuta
Country Spain
Autonomous city Ceuta
First settled 5th century BC
End of Muslim rule 14 August 1415
Ceded to Spain 1 January 1668
Autonomy status 14 March 1995
Founded by Carthaginians
 • 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[1] 349 m (1,145 ft)
Population (2011)[2]
 • Total 82,376
 • Density 4,500/km2 (12,000/sq mi)
Demonym Ceutan
ceutí (es)
ISO 3166-2 ES-CE
Postal code 51001–51005
Official language Spanish
Parliament Cortes Generales
Congress 1 deputy (out of 350)
Senate 2 senators (out of 264)
Website .es.ceutawww

Ceuta (Spanish pronunciation: ; Arabic: سبتة‎, Sibtah) is an 18.5-square-kilometre (7.1 sq mi) autonomous city of Spain and an exclave located on the north coast of Africa, sharing a western border with Morocco. Separated from the Iberian peninsula by the Strait of Gibraltar, Ceuta lies along the boundary between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Ceuta, along with the Spanish exclave Melilla, is one of two permanently inhabited Spanish territories in mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995, when the city's Statute of Autonomy was passed.

Ceuta, like Melilla, was a free port before Spain joined the European Union. As of 2011, it has a population of 82,376.[2] Its population consists of Christians, Muslims (chiefly Arabic and Berber speakers), and small minorities of Jews and Indian Hindus. Spanish is the official language. The majority of the city's population are ethnic Spanish who are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco.[3] A poll conducted by Instituto Opina found that 87.9% of people from mainland Spain consider the two cities (Ceuta and Melilla) to be Spanish.[4]


The Royal Walls of Ceuta and navigable moats
A street of Ceuta c. 1905-1910
Calle de Compañía del Mar in Ceuta

Ceuta's location has made it an important commercial trade and military way-point for many cultures, beginning with the Carthaginians in the 5th century BC, who called the city Abyla. It was not until the Romans took control of the region in AD 42 that the port city, then named Septem, assumed an almost exclusive military purpose. It changed hands again approximately 400 years later, when Vandal tribes ousted the Romans. After being controlled by the Visigoths, it then became an outpost of the Byzantine Empire (in Greek Abyla, Ancient Greek: Άβυλα). Ceuta was an important Christian center since the fourth century (as recent discovered ruins of a Roman basilica show[5]), and consequently is the only place in the Maghreb where the Roman heritage has survived continuously until modern times.

Around 710, as Muslim armies approached the city, its Byzantine governor, Julian (described as King of the Ghomara) changed his allegiance, and exhorted the Muslims to invade the Iberian Peninsula. Under the leadership of the Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad, the Muslims used Ceuta as a staging ground for an assault on Visigothic Iberian Peninsula. After Julian's death, the Berbers took direct control of the city, which the indigenous Berber tribes resented. They destroyed Ceuta during the Kharijite rebellion led by Maysara al-Matghari in 740.

Ceuta lay in ruins until it was resettled in the 9th century by Mâjakas, chief of the Majkasa Berber tribe, who started the short-lived Banu Isam dynasty.[6] His great-grandson briefly allied his tribe with the Idrisids, but the 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 Umayyad caliphate in 1031. Following this Ceuta and the rest of 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 of 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 Kingdom of Fez and the Kingdom of Granada. The Kingdom of Fez finally conquered the region in 1387, with assistance from the Crown of Aragon.

In 1415, during the Battle of Ceuta, the city was captured by the Portuguese during the reign of John I of Portugal. The Benemerine sultan besieged the city in 1418 but was defeated. Phillip II (King of Spain 1556-1598), ascended the Portuguese throne in 1580 and Spanish kings of Portugal governed Ceuta for 60 years (Iberian Union). During this time, Ceuta attracted many residents of Spanish origin.[7] Ceuta became the only city of the Portuguese Empire that sided with Spain when Portugal regained its independence in 1640, and war broke out between the two countries.

On 1 January 1668 by the Treaty of Lisbon, King Afonso VI of Portugal recognized the formal allegiance of Ceuta to Spain and formally ceded Ceuta to King Carlos II of Spain. However, the originally Portuguese flag and coat of arms of Ceuta remained unchanged, and the modern-day Ceuta flag features the configuration of the Portuguese shield. The flag has the same background as that of the flag of the city of Lisbon. The city was besieged by Moroccan forces under Moulay Ismail from 1694 to 1727.

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 repressed the citizens of Ceuta, while at the same time the city came under fire from the air and sea forces of the official republican government.[8]

A monument was erected to honour Francisco Franco; the Llano Amarillo, inaugurated on 13 July 1940, still stands. The tall obelisk has been abandoned, but the shield symbols of the Falange and Imperial Eagle remain visible.[9]

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 Berber Muslim minority as well as Sephardic Jewish and Hindu minorities.[10]

On 5 November 2007, King Juan Carlos I visited the city, sparking great enthusiasm from the local population and protests from the Moroccan government.[11] 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, as an official public holiday. It is the first time a non-Christian religious festival has been officially celebrated in Spain since the Reconquista.[12][13]

Ecclesiastical history

The Catholic Diocese of Ceuta existed from 1417 to 1879. It was a suffragan of the Patriarchate of Lisbon until 1675 and the end of the Iberian Union, when Ceuta chose to remain linked to the king of Spain. Since then it has been a suffragan of the archbishopric of Seville.[14] The Diocese of Tanger was suppressed and incorporated to that of Ceuta in 1570.[15]

Perspective view of the Strait of Gibraltar facing eastwards; Spain and Gibraltar on the left; Morocco and Ceuta on the right

In 1851, upon the signature of the concordat between the Holy See and Spain, the diocese of Ceuta was agreed to be suppressed, being combined into the diocese of Cádiz y Ceuta.[16] Until then in the diocese of Cádiz y Algeciras, the bishop was usually the apostolic administrator of Ceuta. The agreement was not implemented until 1879.


Ceuta is dominated by Monte Anyera, a hill along its western frontier with Morocco. The mountain is guarded by a Spanish fort.

Monte Hacho on the Peninsula de Almina overlooking the port is one of the possible locations for the southern Pillars of Hercules, of Greek legend (the other possibility being Jebel Musa).


Ceuta has a maritime-influenced mediterranean climate.[17] The average diurnal temperature variation is relatively low with average yearly highs of 20 °C (68 °F) and lows of 12 °C (54 °F)[18] with relatively cool summers for the latitude. Summers are extremely dry but yearly precipation is still at 586 millimetres (23.1 in)[19] on average.

Climate data for Ceuta (Monte Hacho, altitud: 200 m)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 22.6
Average high °C (°F) 14.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 11.5
Average low °C (°F) 8.4
Record low °C (°F) −0.4
Precipitation mm (inches) 87
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1 mm) 10.3 10.8 8.6 8.3 4.9 2.9 0.7 0.5 3.2 7.9 9.4 11.0 78.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 156 149 195 213 260 290 305 293 237 190 163 161 2,611
Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[20]


Juan Jesús Vivas of the People's Party, Mayor-President of Ceuta since 2001.

Since 1995, Ceuta is, along with Melilla, one of the two autonomous cities of Spain.[21]

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 European Monetary System. As of 2006, its population was 75,861.

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. In the most recent election in 2011, the People's Party 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).[22]

Ceuta is subdivided into 63 barriadas (English: neighbourhoods), such as Barriada de Berizu, Barriada de P. Alfonso, Barriada del Sarchal, and El Hacho.[23][24][25]

Due to its small population, Ceuta elects only one member of the Congress of Deputies, the lower house of the Spanish legislature. Since the 2011 election, this post is held by Francisco Márquez de la Rubia of the PP.[26]

Dispute with Morocco

The government of Morocco has repeatedly called for Spain to transfer the sovereignty of Ceuta and Melilla, along with uninhabited islets such as the islands of Alhucemas, Velez and the Perejil island, drawing comparisons with Spain's territorial claim to Gibraltar.[3] In both cases, the national governments and local populations of the disputed territories reject these claims by a large majority.[27] The Spanish position states that both Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of Spain, and have been since the 16th century, centuries prior to Morocco's independence from France in 1956, whereas Gibraltar, being a British Overseas Territory, is not and never has been part of the United Kingdom.[28] Some argue that Ceuta has been under Christian rule (Spanish or Portuguese) for a longer period than major cities in peninsular Spain such as Málaga, Granada or Almería, and has been so since before the creation of the Spanish state in 1475. Morocco denies these claims and maintains that the Spanish presence in Ceuta and the other presidios on its coast is a remnant of the colonial past which should be ended. However, the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories do not consider those Spanish territories to be colonies, whereas it does declare Gibraltar as a non-decolonized territory.[29]

The Moroccan claim on the Spanish territories is part of the larger nationalist movement Greater Morocco, which would include Mauritania, Western Sahara, the northern part of Mali and several Algerian provinces in Morocco.[30][31]

A sign welcoming visitors to Ceuta, showing the flags of Ceuta, Spain and the European Union.


The official currency of Ceuta is the euro. It is part of a special low tax zone in Spain.[32] 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 and smuggling centers.[33] Today the economy of the city depends heavily on its port (now in expansion) and its industrial and retail centres.[32] Ceuta Heliport is now used to connect the city to mainland Spain by air.


The University of Granada offers undergraduate programs at their campus in Ceuta. Like all areas of Spain, Ceuta is also served by the National University of Distance Education (UNED).


Hindu Mandir in Ceuta.

Due to its location, Ceuta is home to a mixed ethnic/religious population. The four main religious groups are Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Hindu. Approximately 50% of the population is Spanish/Christian, approximately 49% Arab-Berber/Muslim, 0.25% Jewish, 0.25% Hindu, and 0.10% Roma.[34]

Spanish is the primary and official language of the enclave. Modern Standard Arabic and Moroccan Arabic are also widely spoken, as well as French and Berber. A significant minority speaks English because of the proximity to Gibraltar.


The city receives high numbers of ferries each day from Algeciras in Andalucia in the south of Spain. Ceuta also has a regular helicopter service from Ceuta Heliport to mainland Spain. The closest airport is Sania Ramel Airport in Morocco. There is a bus service throughout the city which does not pass into neighbouring Morocco.

A single road border checkpoint allows for cars to travel between Morocco and Ceuta. The rest of the border is closed and inaccessible.


Christianity has been present in Ceuta (called in Roman times Septum) continuously since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The ruins of a basilica in downtown Ceuta confirm this reality.[35]

In 1415, on reconquering the city from the Muslims, the Portuguese started the construction of the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Ceuta was established two years later, and was amalgamated with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Cadiz y Ceuta, in 1851. The present cathedral, from the late 17th century, combines baroque and neoclassical elements.

Twin towns – sister cities

Ceuta is twinned with:

See also



  1. ^ Monte Anyera
  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ a b "Spain's North African enclaves: Gibraltar in reverse?". The Economist. 21 February 2002. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  4. ^ "Spaniards Review Ceuta and Melilla Situation — Angus Reid Public Opinion". 6 November 2007. Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  5. ^ Roman basilica article, with related Video
  6. ^ Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb; Johannes Hendrik Kramers; Bernard Lewis; Charles Pellat, Joseph Schacht (1994). The Encyclopaedia of Islam. Brill. p. 690. Retrieved 8 July 2013. 
  7. ^ Griffin, H (2010). Ceuta Mini Guide. Mirage.  
  8. ^ "History of Ceuta". Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  9. ^ "Franco monument now part of a rubbish dump in Ceuta". 
  10. ^ "Resistir en el monte del Renegado · ELPAÍ". 22 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  11. ^ "Ceuta y Melilla son España, dice Juan Carlos I; Sebta y Melilia son nuestras, responde Mohamed VI". 22 February 1999. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  12. ^ "Muslim Holiday in Ceuta and Melilla". Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  13. ^ "Public Holidays and Bank Holidays for Spain". Retrieved 2011-09-03. 
  14. ^ David M. Cheney. 'Catholic Hierarchy'' page"'". Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  15. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Tingis". 1 July 1912. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  16. ^ "Catholic Encyclopedia: Cadiz". 1 November 1908. Retrieved 2010-08-08. 
  17. ^ "Ceuta, Spain Climate Summary". Weatherbase. Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "Standard climate values for Ceuta". Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "Standard climate values for Ceuta". Retrieved 8 December 2014. 
  20. ^ "Valores climatológicos normales. Ceuta, Monte Hacho". 
  21. ^ "Ley Orgánica 1/1995, de 13 de marzo, Estatuto de Autonomía de Ceuta". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  22. ^
  23. ^ "". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Códigos postales de Ceuta en Ceuta". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  26. ^
  27. ^ * François Papet-Périn, "La mer d'Alboran ou Le contentieux territorial hispano-marocain sur les deux bornes européennes de Ceuta et Melilla". Tome 1, 794 p., tome 2, 308 p., thèse de doctorat d'histoire contemporaine soutenue en 2012 à Paris 1-Sorbonne sous la direction de Pierre Vermeren.
  28. ^ Tremlett, Giles (12 June 2003). "A rocky relationship | World news |". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  29. ^ "The United Nations and the decolonization". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  30. ^ Torres García (Spring 2013). "La frontera terrestre argelino-marroquí: de herencia colonial a instrumento de presión". Hao (in Spanish). p. 9. Retrieved 30 August 2013. 
  31. ^ "Cable sobre el mensaje de Mohamed VI tras la visita a Ceuta y Melilla de los Reyes de España". El País. 13 December 2010. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  32. ^ a b "Economic Data of Ceuta, de ceutna digital". Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  33. ^ pp. 6–7, IBRU, Boundary and Territory Briefing. Ceuta and the Spanish Sovereign Territories: Spanish and Moroccan. Retrieved 2009-06-17. 
  34. ^ Roa, J. M. (2006). "Scholastic achievement and the diglossic situation in a sample of primary-school students in Ceuta". Revista Electrónica de Investigación Educativa 8 (1). 
  35. ^ Christian Ceuta


External links

  • (Spanish) Official Ceuta government website
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