Melilla, Spain

Melilla, Spain

Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish autonomous cities located on the African continent.

One almost links Spain and Morocco and the other is even within the Moroccan territory, making both real enclaves – that is, as the dictionary says, part of a territory within the geographical boundaries of another territory or country.

Spain says both cities belonged to their territory, before Moroccan Kingdom was created and therefore are legitimately Spanish.

Nevertheless, there are several organizations that consider Ceuta as Moroccan territory – like the Arab League, the African Union and the Islamic Conference.

Map of Ceuta and Mellila

Map of Ceuta and Mellila in North Africa

Map of Ceuta and Mellila in North Africa


Ceuta, Spain

Ceuta, Spain

Ceuta is a territory with area of 18.5 square km, located at the top of Africa, bordered by the Mediterranean Sea, near the Strait of Gibraltar.

It is on the small Almina Peninsula, opposite the Spanish city Algeciras.

It was proclaimed autonomous city in 1995, but it is still connected to education services and court of Granada, for example. It has over 82 thousands of inhabitants, the population consists mainly of Christians and Muslims with Jewish and Hindu minorities.

Its location has always been the reason for big bickering, because it strategically connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic Ocean. In 1415 the Portuguese conquered Ceuta and it was recognized as a Portuguese possession in treaties of Alcáçovas (1479) and Tordesillas (1494). After that, in XVII and XVIII centuries, Moroccans tried to gain some control over the piece of land while being attacked by Anglo-Dutch fleet.

The Sultan Moulay Ismail managed to expel the Spaniards off the Moroccan coast, but did not do the same in Ceuta which, in 1812, was converted into a constitutional city council and a hundred years later, in 1912, the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco was introduced, which lasts until independence of Morocco in 1956.

It was in 1978 that the new Spanish constitution recognized Ceuta as an integral part of Spain. And in 1995 it was given the status of autonomous city. The Spanish king Juan Carlos and Sofia made ​​an official visit to Ceuta in 2007, after the city stays 80 years without receiving any visit by a Spanish monarch.

For its poor soil quality, Ceuta has sustained its economy with port activity. It is a place where many illegal immigrants try to pass from Africa to Europe and is also used on the route of drug trafficking.


Melilla, Spain

Melilla, Spain

Although Ceuta is probably the best known, there is also a Spanish enclave called Melilla, located well within Moroccan territory.

Morocco claimed its piece of land, but Spain never left nor showed interest in giving it back, so Melilla is Spanish territory today.

Melilla is located in the eastern part of the mountains Rif chain and is facing the Mediterranean Sea. It has an important port that serves for export of Moroccan products such as leather, shoes and canned food.

Melilla occupied a surface of 12.3 square km and has about 67 thousand inhabitants. The population is mostly of Spanish origin and has other minorities such as Muslims, Jews and Hindus.

Even being such a small piece of land it was always highly coveted. In the XV century it became dependencie of Spanish Crown, but between 1860 and the first thirty years of the XX century Melilla was place of fightings that triggered the Rif War, also called the Moroccan War. This conflict took place between 1920 and 1926 between Spain and Moroccan forces of Rif tribes and DJebali. Only with the French intervention – the Spanish side – it was Spain that got to win.