"Sabtah" redirects here. For the Biblical figure, see List of minor Biblical figures. For other uses, see Ceuta (disambiguation).
Arabic: سبتة (Sabta)
Autonomous city

Ceuta, as seen from Monte Hacho


Coat of arms

Location of Ceuta within Spain
Coordinates: 35°53′18″N 5°18′56″W / 35.88833°N 5.31556°W / 35.88833; -5.31556Coordinates: 35°53′18″N 5°18′56″W / 35.88833°N 5.31556°W / 35.88833; -5.31556
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 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)
Population (2011)[1]
  Total 82,376
  Density 4,500/km2 (12,000/sq mi)
Demonym(s) Ceutan
ceutí (es)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
  Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
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 www.ceuta.es

Ceuta (assimilated pronunciation /ˈsjtə/ SEW-tə, also /ˈsʊtə/ SAY-uu-tə;[2] 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 nine populated Spanish territories in Africa and one of two populated territories on mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995 when the city's Statute of Autonomy was passed.

Ceuta, like Melilla and the Canary Islands, was a free port before Spain joined the European Union. As of 2011, it has a population of 82,376.[1] 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.


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; 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")[3] 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".[3][4] 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.[3]

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[5]).

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.[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.

1572 depiction of Ceuta
Coast of Ceuta
Desnarigado Castle.

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.[8]

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.[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]

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 military fort.

Map of Ceuta (Perejil islet is just off the coast, in the upper left of this map)
Perspective view of the Strait of Gibraltar facing eastwards; Spain and Gibraltar on the left; Morocco and Ceuta on the right

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, similar to nearby Spanish and Moroccan cities such as Tarifa, Algeciras or Tangiers.[17] The average diurnal temperature variation is relatively low; the average annual temperature is 18.8 °C (65.8 °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.[18] Ceuta has relatively mild winters for the latitude, while summers are warm yet milder than in the interior of Southern Spain, due to the moderating effect of the Straights of Gibraltar. Summers are very dry, but yearly precipitation is still at 849 millimetres (33.4 in),[18] which could be considered a humid climate if the summers weren't so arid.

Climate data for Ceuta city (1m altitude)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
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 [19][20][21][22]


Juan Jesús Vivas, Mayor-President of Ceuta since 2001

Since 1995, Ceuta is, along with Melilla, one of the two autonomous cities of Spain.[23]

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).[24]

Ceuta is subdivided into 63 barriadas (neighbourhoods), such as Barriada de Berizu, Barriada de P. Alfonso, Barriada del Sarchal, and El Hacho.[25][26][27]

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.[28]

Dispute with Morocco

The Moroccan mountain of Jebel Musa, as viewed from Benzú

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.[29] In both cases, the national governments and local populations of the disputed territories reject these claims by a large majority.[30] The Spanish position states that both Ceuta and Melilla are formative parts of Spain, and have their history does not significantly diverge from that of other cities of Spanish Spain, whereas Gibraltar, being a British Overseas Territory, is not and never has been part of the United Kingdom.[31] 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.[32]

The Moroccan claim on the Spanish territories is considered by Torres García as 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.[33][34]

The vast majority of the city's population, both Christian and Muslim, are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco.[29]

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


The official currency of Ceuta is the euro. It is part of a special low tax zone in Spain.[35] 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.[36] Today the economy of the city depends heavily on its port (now in expansion) and its industrial and retail centres.[35] 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/Muslims.[37]

Spanish is the primary and official language of the enclave. Moroccan Arabic, Berber and French are also widely spoken.


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).

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[38] or Septum[39]) continuously since the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The ruins of a basilica in downtown Ceuta confirm this reality.[40]

Muley El Mehdi mosque

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

Twin towns and sister cities

Ceuta is twinned with:

See also


  1. 1 2 "Decision Spain >> Resources >> Municipalities without testimony >> Ceuta + Melilla". Old.e-decision.org. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  2. Ceuta. Oxford Dictionaries.
  3. 1 2 3 Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, illustrated by numerous engravings on wood. William Smith, LLD (London:Walton and Maberly, Upper Gower Street and Ivy Lane, Paternoster Row; John Murray, Albemarle Street, 1854), Abyla )
  4. A Latin Dictionary. Founded on Andrews' edition of Freund's Latin dictionary. revised, enlarged, and in great part rewritten by. Charlton T. Lewis, Ph.D. and. Charles Short, LL.D. (Oxford:Clarendon Press, 1879), "Abyla"
  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. ISBN 978-0-9543335-3-9.
  8. "History of Ceuta". Retrieved 2012-03-01.
  9. "Franco monument now part of a rubbish dump in Ceuta". Archived from the original on 7 December 2012.
  10. "Resistir en el monte del Renegado · ELPAÍS.com". Elpais.com. 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". Blogs.periodistadigital.com. 22 February 1999. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  12. "Muslim Holiday in Ceuta and Melilla". Spainforvisitors.com. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  13. "Public Holidays and Bank Holidays for Spain". Qppstudio.net. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
  14. "Diocese of Ceuta". Catholic-Hierarchy.org. David M. Cheney. Retrieved 21 January 2015.
  15. "Catholic Encyclopedia: Tingis". Newadvent.org. 1 July 1912. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
  16. "Catholic Encyclopedia: Cadiz". Newadvent.org. 1 November 1908. Retrieved 2010-08-08.
  17. "Ceuta, Spain Climate Summary". Weatherbase. Retrieved 8 December 2014.
  18. 1 2 "Standard climate values for Ceuta". Aemet.es. Retrieved 11 August 2015.
  19. "This Trend Might Actually Hurt You". Weather.com. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  20. "Ceuta, Spain Weather Averages | Monthly Average High and Low Temperature | Average Precipitation and Rainfall days". World Weather Online. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  21. "Valores climatológicos normales: Ceuta - Agencia Estatal de Meteorología - AEMET. Gobierno de España" (in Spanish). Aemet.es. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  22. "Ceuta: Ceuta - Valores extremos absolutos - Selector - Agencia Estatal de Meteorología - AEMET. Gobierno de España" (in Spanish). Aemet.es. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  23. "Ley Orgánica 1/1995, de 13 de marzo, Estatuto de Autonomía de Ceuta". Noticias.juridicas.com. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  24. "Resultados Electorales en Ceuta: Elecciones Municipales 2011 en EL PAÍS". Resultados.elpais.com. Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  25. "elpueblodeceuta.es". elpueblodeceuta.es. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  26. http://www.planetware.com/i/map/MAR/ceuta-map.jpg
  27. "Códigos postales de Ceuta en Ceuta". Codigo-postal.info. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  28. http://www.congreso.es/portal/page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Diputados/DipCircuns/ComAutCeu?_piref73_1333447_73_1333444_1333444.next_page=/wc/fichaDiputado&idDiputado=196
  29. 1 2 "Spain's North African enclaves: Gibraltar in reverse?". The Economist. 21 February 2002. Retrieved 2011-09-03.
    • 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.
  30. Tremlett, Giles (12 June 2003). "A rocky relationship | World news | guardian.co.uk". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  31. "The United Nations and the decolonization". Retrieved 7 August 2012.
  32. 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.
  33. "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.
  34. 1 2 "Economic Data of Ceuta, de ceutna digital". Ceuta.es. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  35. pp. 6–7, IBRU, Boundary and Territory Briefing. Ceuta and the Spanish Sovereign Territories: Spanish and Moroccan. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
  36. 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).
  37. Walter E. Kaegi (4 November 2010). Muslim Expansion and Byzantine Collapse in North Africa. Cambridge University Press. p. 256. ISBN 978-0-521-19677-2.
  38. A Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature. 2. John Kitto, William Lindsay Alexander. 1864. p. 350.
  39. Christian Ceuta



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