Arabic: سبتة (Sabta)
Ceuta, as seen from Monte Hacho
Location of Ceuta within Spain
|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||Berbers or 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||349 m (1,145 ft)|
|• Density||4,500/km2 (12,000/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Congress||1 deputy (out of 350)|
|Senate||2 senators (out of 264)|
Ceuta (assimilated pronunciation // SEW-tə, also // SAY-uu-tə; Spanish: [ˈθeuta]; Arabic: سبتة) is an 18.5-square-kilometre (7.1 sq mi) Spanish autonomous city 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. Its population consists of Christians, Muslims (chiefly Arabic and Berber speakers), and small minorities of Sephardic Jews and ethnic Sindhi Hindus. Spanish is the official language.
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; initially, this was also its name in Greek and Latin. (It was known variously as Ancient Greek: Ἀβύλη, Ἀβύλα, Ἀβλύξ, Ἀβίλη στήλη – Abyle, Abila, Ablyx or Abile Stele – "Pillar of Abyle") and from Greek, Abyla (...Mons,...Columna, "Mount Abyla" or "Column of Abyla") in Latin. Together with Gibraltar on the European side, it formed one of the famous "Pillars of Hercules". Later, it was renamed for a formation of seven surrounding smaller mountains, collectively referred to as Septem Fratres ('[The] Seven Brothers') by Pomponius Mela, which lent their name to a Roman fortification known as Castellum ad Septem Fratres.
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. Ceuta was an important Christian center since the fourth century (as recent discovered ruins of a Roman basilica show), and consequently is the only place in the Maghreb where the Roman heritage has survived continuously until modern times.
In the 7th century the Umayyads tried to conquer the region but were unsuccessful. Byzantine governor, Julian (described as King of the Ghomara) who was a vassal of the Visigothic kings of Iberia changed his allegiance after the king Roderic raped his daughter, 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. 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. 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 original 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.
A monument was erected to honor 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.
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.
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, as an official public holiday. It is the first time a non-Christian religious festival has been officially celebrated in Spain since the Reconquista.
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. The Diocese of Tanger was suppressed and incorporated to that of Ceuta in 1570.
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. 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 military fort.
Monte Hacho on the Peninsula of 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 Subtropical/Mediterranean climate. The average diurnal temperature variation is relatively low; the average annual temperature is 18.6 °C (65.5 °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. with relatively mild summers for the latitude. Summers are extremely dry, but yearly precipitation is still at 849 millimetres (33.4 in), which could be considered a humid climate if the summers weren't 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||70.3|
|Source: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología, WorldWeatherOnline and Weather.com |
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 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 (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. Since the 2011 election, this post is held by Francisco Márquez de la Rubia of the PP.
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. In both cases, the national governments and local populations of the disputed territories reject these claims by a large majority. The Spanish position states that both Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of Spain, and have been since the 16th century, whereas Gibraltar, being a British Overseas Territory, is not and never has been part of the United Kingdom. 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 does not consider those Spanish territories to be colonies, whereas it does declare Gibraltar as a non-decolonized territory.
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.
The vast majority of the city's population, both Christian and Muslim, are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco.
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 centres. Ceuta Heliport is now used to connect the city to mainland Spain by air.
The city receives high numbers of ferries each day from Algeciras in Andalusia in the south of 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.
Due to its location, Ceuta is home to a mixed ethnic/religious population. The two main religious groups are Christian and Muslim. Approximately 50% of the population is Spanish/Christian and approximately 49% Arab-Berber/Muslims.
Spanish is the primary and official language of the enclave. Moroccan Arabic, Berber and French are also widely spoken.
Primary and secondary education is only possible in Spanish. There are no English speaking or bilingual primary or secondary schools in Ceuta.
Christianity has been present in Ceuta (called in Roman times Septem or Septum) continuously since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The ruins of a basilica in downtown Ceuta confirm this reality.
In 1415, on conquering 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.
Notable people from Ceuta
- Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta (c. 1160–1226) was a Jewish physician and poet, and disciple of Moses Maimonides.
- Ignacio Velázquez Rivera, first Mayor-President of Melilla.
Twin towns and sister cities
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Ceuta is twinned with:
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- * 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.
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- Christian Ceuta
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Diocese of Cadiz". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton.
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