Unlike Spain’s autonomous regions, Ceuta (like Melilla) is an Autonomous City. The Autonomous City of Ceuta (la Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta, as it is officially called) is geographically located in North Africa, opposite the British colony of Gibraltar. It is separated from mainland Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar (el Estrecho de Gibraltar), the stretch of water where the Atlantic Ocean (el Océano Atlántico) meets the Mediterranean Sea (el Mar Mediterráneo). Ceuta’s nearest regional neighbour on mainland Spain is Andalusia. In the west, Ceuta borders Morocco.
Ceuta has a total surface area of 18km² and a population of around 76,000. It was granted Autonomous City status in 1985.
Ceuta is a fortified city with a history stretching back over 2,500 years. Many civilizations attracted by Ceuta’s strategic location have settled in the area: Carthaginians, Greeks, Phoenicians and Romans to name a few. It was taken by the Portuguese in 1415, whose principal motive was to spread Christianity and repel Islam. When Portugal was subsumed into Spain in 1580, Philip II succeeded to the Portuguese throne and Ceuta and much of Morocco became a part of the Spanish Empire. Spain gave back most of the northern part of Morocco in 1956 but kept the cities of Ceuta and Melilla as well as the following islands:
- the Chafarine Islands (las Islas Chafarinas)
- Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera
- Peñón de Alhucemas
- and the Parsley Island (la Isla Perejil).
Ceuta and Melilla
Today there is a strong feeling in Morocco that Ceuta, Melilla and the islands be reintegrated into Morocco.
Ceuta has a mild climate with an average annual temperature of 16°C and a good deal of sun throughout the year.