The Spanish Enclaves in North Africa

  • Ceuta, Spain

I love maps! I majored in Geography while in college, and I love to sit down and look at borders, rivers, countries, cities, and interesting map nuances. And if I look hard enough I’m likely to find some interesting oddities. For example, enclaves! There are hundreds, maybe even thousands of enclaves that exist on the world map. The enclaves happen due to lands being taken over by countries throughout war, trading, compromising, treaties or long existing claims to land. Ceuta and Melilla are both Spanish enclaves and are not in Europe. Both cities speak Spanish instead of Arabic. And both cities are surrounded by Morocco.

How did these Spanish Enclaves come to be?

Like most North African coastal cities, history goes back thousands and thousands of years. Ceuta have seen Romans, Vandal Tribes, Visigoths, Byzantine Empire, Muslim rulers, Berbers, Moorish rulers, Almohads, Tunisians, the Kingdom of Fez, the Kingdom of Granada, Portuguese, and finally the Spanish. Melilla has seen the Phoenicians, Punics, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Visigoths, the Kingdom of Fez, and finally the Spanish. After all of these conquest it’s not surprising that these Spanish enclaves are unique in comparison to Spain and surrounding Morocco. As of today Morocco has a claim that the Spanish enclaves should be part of Morocc0 but the Spanish overwhelming believe that the Spanish enclaves are undoubtedly Spanish. Both cities have been under Spanish control since the 15th century and on surface they seem to be all Spanish.

Location of Ceuta, Spain

Location of Ceuta, Spain. You can see Gibraltar and Spain to the North and then Morocco to the left of Ceuta

Location of Melilla, Spain

Location of Melilla, Spain. You can see that Morocco completely surrounds Melilla and Spain would be just north of this.

Look on Google Maps and you can get a closer view!

How to get in and around Ceuta and Melilla?

Melilla has multiple flights from mainland Spain, like from Málaga, Madrid, and Barcelona and is accessible 7 days a week. You could also take a ferry from many coastal Spanish cities. By land Melilla is only accessible from Morocco and you will need a passport to cross. They are three trains daily between Taourirt and the Beni-Nsar Port train station that go within a 5 minute walking distance to the border.

Ceuta has no airport and is only accessed by helicopter from Málaga. You could also take a ferry from Algeciras. By land, Ceuta is only accessible from Morocco and you will need a passport.

Both of these Spanish enclaves are quite small and are walk-able by foot or by bike. The waterfronts of both cities are pleasant with trees and Spanish styled buildings. Both cities have special low tax and you could find many duty-free items!

What is there to see and do?

In Melilla surfing is very popular as well as kite surfing. Shopping is important in both Melilla and Ceuta because they both enjoy a special low tax. In Melilla there is Melilla la Vieja, the fortified old town, Plaza de España surrounded by the Casino Militar, and the Bank of Spain. Modernismo architecture, throughout the city or Zoruah Synagogue, calle López Moreno 8, an Arabesque architecture with a well-preserved façade. Like any self-respecting Spanish city, Melilla has a lively nightlife, with plenty of bars and nightclubs.

In Ceuta there is plenty of shopping along the waterfront. Cuenta hosts some churches, and fortifications for those interested as well as a lighthouse, beaches and a desert area. Like any Spanish city there are bars, tapas and nightclubs!

Immigration Problems

Both Spanish enclaves have problems with immigration since they are both part of the EU and are the first European cities being that they are actually in North Africa. Many African migrants try to climb the fences but few rarely succeed. The EU has invested heavily in protecting these borders and both cities are safe.




images by: trevor, johnny

By | 2015-04-22T10:03:34+00:00 September 27th, 2013|