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Visiting Spanish cities in northern Morocco

For non-Spaniards, it may be surprising (and therefore interesting) that there are two Spanish cities in northern Morocco, that is, on African soil and bathed by the Mediterranean Sea. In these lines we tell you what they are and why this situation occurs. And if you are a curious traveler, we explain why it is worth visiting them and what you should take into account to be able to do so.

Ceuta and Melilla, the Spanish cities north of Morocco

The two Spanish cities north of Morocco are Ceuta and Melilla. The first has about 85,000 inhabitants and is located relatively close to Tetuan and Alcazarquivir. The second has a similar population and is located a few kilometers from Nador. Between one and the other there is a distance of almost 400 km.

Both have the status of “autonomous city” of Spain, i.e., a status similar to that of the autonomous communities (regions) into which this country is administratively divided. Spanish law is applicable to all effects and purposes, with the only exception of the ambiguous situation of its military protection under NATO protectionThe scope of this defensive alliance, in its Treaty of Washington, mentions the territories of Europe, North America or insular zones covering the Atlantic to the north of the Tropic of Cancer as its sphere of action. And that, theoretically, excludes Ceuta and Melilla, although certain experts and recent positions within NATO do point to the military coverage of this territory.

On a social level, the most outstanding and interesting aspect for the traveler is its multicultural atmosphere, since Spaniards and foreigners of different faiths, both Christians and Muslims and even Jews and Hindus, live together.

Ceuta, an enclave in a privileged position

Ceuta extends mainly over the Tingitana peninsula, as well as another portion of inland, totaling just over 18 km2. It has been Spanish since the end of the 16th century, when the territories of Portugal (including Ceuta) came under Spanish sovereignty, remaining so decades later by their own decision, when the rest of the formerly Portuguese territories separated from the Spanish.

Morocco’s claims to sovereignty and the strategic position of the enclave, in the Strait of Gibraltar, have led to the main historical constructions having a defensive-military character, such as the imposing Royal Walls. It also has an interesting modernist heritagereligious temples such as the Parish of Santa María de Áfricaleisure facilities such as the Mediterranean Maritime Park and an iconic green space: the Mount HachoAccording to tradition, it is one of the famous Pillars of Hercules, which the Greco-Roman hero placed here to delimit the known world.

Melilla, an ‘old’ but modern city

Melilla, like Ceuta, has a surprising historical and artistic heritage. But in this case, its link with Spain dates back to 1497, when the troops of the Duke of Medina Sidonia took this enclave and incorporated it into the Crown of Castile, in a context of Castilian maritime expansion.

In its old town, called Melilla la Vieja, are concentrated its main military and monumental buildings, such as its fortified enclosures and the hospitals of the King and San Francisco. In addition, in its widening it is possible to admire interesting modernist buildings from the 20th century, such as the Antiguo Economato Militar (Old Military Commissary).

How to visit Ceuta and Melilla

If you want to visit these two Spanish cities in North Africa, you should be aware that you will need to complete additional bureaucratic formalities, as you are traveling to a third country. Therefore, you should check what requirements Spain requires from citizens of your country of origin and whether there are additional requirements at the border posts, as this border is subject to bilateral (or unilateral) decisions that may change over time. For example, for cross-border workers.

Therefore, if you want to visit Ceuta and/or Melilla, we recommend that you consult a specialized agency about this possibility. Chic Morocco, which is part of the Mandala Tours group of agencies with extensive experience on both sides of the border, will provide you with an agent who will advise you on the matter.

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