Ceuta: In Morocco, Yet Still in Europe!
Jutting out east across the Mediterranean coast of Morocco is the enclave of Ceuta, or Sebta in Arabic. Just 20 square kilometres in size, this small peninsula presents anomalies in different ways. Although in Africa, you are still in Europe: the enclave, along with Mellila, further to the east is retained by Spain since Moroccan independence in 1956. In fact, Ceuta has been Spanish since 1640, so while in there you have to cross an international border to be in Morocco proper!
If you have spent time in Morocco and are accustomed to its noisy souks and narrow medinas, you will find Ceuta at a sharp contrast. It is rather relaxed, with a spacious European grid, a well kept city centre and plenty of bars and cafés in a distinctly Andalucian atmosphere. That said, Ceuta has a fascinating Iberian – Moroccan mix: a third of the population are of Moroccan origin, the locals are fluent in both Arabic and Spanish and both Euros and Dirhams are accepted in many shops and restaurants around here.
Today, Ceuta operates mainly as a Spanish military base, with its economy bolstered by its duty-free status. It is also a popular entry and exit point to Morocco, with quicker ferries from mainland Spain and duty-free fuel to boot. The town is a worthy stop in its own right on your way to Morocco: just bear in mind that you’re in a more expensive European soil!