Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
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|Statute of Autonomy||March 14, 1995|
|President||Juan Jesús Vivas Lara (PP)|
|Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta|
Ceuta is a Spanish exclave in North Africa, located on the northernmost tip of Maghreb, on the Mediterranean coast near the Straits of Gibraltar. It is known in Arabic as سبتة (Sabtah in Standard Arabic, Sebta in Morocco). Its area is approximately 28 km².
Ceuta is dominated by a hill called Monte Hacho, on which there is a fort occupied by the Spanish army. Monte Hacho is one of the candidates for the southern Pillars of Hercules of Greek Legend, the other candidate being Jebel Musa.
Ceuta's strategic location has made it the crucial waypoint of many a culture's trade and military ventures — beginning with the Carthaginians in the 5th century BC (They called the city Abyla). It wasn't until the Romans took control in about AD 42, however, that the port city (named Septem at the time) assumed an almost exclusive military purpose. Approximately 400 years later, the Vandals ousted the Romans for control, and later it fell to the Visigoths of Spain or to the Byzantines. In 710, as Muslim invaders approached the city, its Visigothic governor Julian (also described as "king of the Ghomara") changed sides and urged them to invade Spain (for personal reasons, according to the Arab chroniclers; the Visigothic King Roderic is said to have mistreated his daughter). Under the leadership of Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad, Ceuta was used as a prime staging ground for an assault on Visigoth-ruled Spain soon after.
After Julian's death, the Arabs took direct control of the city; this was resented by the surrounding indigenous Berber tribes, who destroyed it in a Kharijite rebellion led by Maysara al-Haqir in 740. It lay waste until refounded in the 9th century by Majakas , chief of the Majkasa Berber tribe, who started the short-lived dynasty of the Banu Isam. Under his great-grandson, they paid allegiance to the Idrisids (briefly); the dynasty finally ended when he abdicated in favour of the Umayyad Caliph of Cordoba Abd ar-Rahman III an-Nasir in 931. Chaos ensued with the fall of the Umayyad caliphate in 1031, but eventually it was taken over by the Almoravids in 1084, and again used as a base from which to invade Spain. They were succeeded by the Almohads in 1147, who ruled it, apart from Ibn Hud's rebellion of 1232, until the Hafsids took it in 1242. The Hafsids' influence in the west rapidly waned, and the city expelled them in 1249; after this, it went through a period of political instability, ended when the Marinids conquered it in 1309.
In 1415, Ceuta was taken by the Portuguese under the leadership of Prince Henry the Navigator. The primary aim of the conquest was to expel Muslim influence from the area and further promote Christianity.
The city became Spanish when Phillip II succeed to the throne of Portugal in 1580. When Spain again recognized the independence of Portugal, in the Treaty of Lisbon (1 January 1668), Don Afonso VI of Portugal formally ceded the area of Ceuta to Carlos II of Spain.
In the modern era, Ceuta is known for its cosmopolitan nature and unique European influence — all of which have increased tourism to the area.
Ceuta is known officially in Spanish as Ciudad Autónoma de Ceuta, the Autonomous City of Ceuta, having a rank between a standard Spanish city and an autonomous community. Before the Statute of Autonomy, Ceuta was administratively part of the Cádiz province.
Ceuta forms 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-taxes system inside the European Monetary System. As of 1994 its population was 71,926.
The government of Morocco has called for the integration of the Canary Islands, Ceuta and Melilla into its national territory, drawing comparisons with Spain's territorial claim to Gibraltar. The Spanish government and both Ceuta's and Melilla's autonomous governments and inhabitants rejects these comparisons, on the grounds that both Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of the Spanish state, whereas Gibraltar, a British overseas territory, is not and never has been part of the United Kingdom.
- Guide to Ceuta (in English) (still under construction)
- Information on the history of Ceuta (in Spanish)
- Official Ceuta government website (in Spanish)
- Spain's North African enclaves
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