Ceuta - A Spanish Enclave in Morocco
Jax/Bright and breezy
13 February 2012 | Ceuta
On Sunday morning we readied ourselves to leave Smir to make the 12 mile journey to Ceuta which is a Spanish enclave on the North coast of Morocco. We had intended to fill up with diesel in Smir in order to take advantage of the cheap fuel price in Morocco - only 7.5 Dh (57p) per litre. However, unfortunately, there was no fuel available in Smir (we're told it's only available in the spring and summer).
Cap'n Robbie went to pay the bill in the marina office before we left our mooring but the marina Police Officer insisted that we had to leave our mooring and tie up again on the waiting pontoon, which was a bit of a faff but we complied with his request. We were expecting an inspection of the boat but when Cap'n Robbie went back into the office, the Policeman merely waved his hand dismissively - obviously flexing his jobsworth's muscles?! We'd read in our pilot books that the Moroccan authorities aren't adverse to a little 'baksheesh' here and there, so I had a spare packet of ciggies and bottle of wine at the ready just in case!
The wind was fresh but on the nose all of the way so we motored between Smir and Ceuta with both Diana and Simon taking turns on the helm - they both looked quite at home. The moorings in Ceuta are all Mediterannean style so there was a bit of excitement on board as we'd never tried this before on Spring Dawn. As it was, it was very simply executed but I think it was due to us having four pairs of hands available - I think we'll have to hone our skills for when we're mooring like this with just the two of us.
Ceuta is a great little town. It's very small, only 7.1 square miles and is clean and tidy, boasts a few pretty squares, a prominent moated castle and a lovely beach where I went and dipped my toes in the Med (it's still a bit cold) and Diana drew a labyrinth in the sand with her feet (she says she does this at every beach she visits).
Myth has it that Monte Hacho in Ceuta is the site of one of the legendary Pillars of Hercules, the second one being the Rock of Gibraltar. During his twelve labours, Hercules used his superhuman strength to smash through the mountains. By doing so he connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterannean and formed the Strait of Gibraltar. Another version of the myth holds that instead of smashing through an isthmus to create the Strait of Gibralter Hercules narrowed an already existing Strait to prevent monsters from the Atlantic entering the Mediterannean.
In 1415, during the Battle of Ceuta the city was captured by the Portuguese during the reign of John I of Portugal. The King of Spain, Phillip II, seized the Portuguese throne in 1580 and held it for 60 years. During this time Ceuta gained many residents of Spanish origin, thus 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.
The formal allegiance of Ceuta to Spain was recognized by the Treaty of Lisbon by which, on January 1, 1668, King Afonso VI of Portugal formally ceded Ceuta to 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 sheild. The flag's background is also the same as that of the flag of Lisbon. When Spain recognised the independence of Spanish Morocco in 1956, Ceuta and the other sovereign territories remained under Spanish rule as they were considered integral parts of the Spanish state - which Morocco strongly disputed. Hmmmm, shades of the argument between the UK and Spain regarding Gibraltar here??
On the Monday we took a walk to one of the old watch towers in the hills. Once we'd found our way out of the western end of the town and onto the promenade along the coast, we had a lovely walk. We turned up into the hills and walked up through forests of eucalyptus and cork trees, winding our way up tracks and roads until we reached one of the old watch towers. As we started to walk downhill to the village of Benzu, we could clearly see part of the 8 km long border with Morocco - lots of high fencing and lookout posts along a stretch of no-man's land. Apparently, 621 Guardia Civil officers and 548 Police Officers control the shore - that's a serious amount of manpower for a 21km coastline!