Spain in Morocco? You got it! Just like there are traces of Arab culture in southern Spain, there are the Spanish exclaves in Morocco: Melilla and Ceuta.
Background and Political Status
Both Spanish exclaves in Morocco, Melilla and Ceuta, were parts of several empires throughout the centuries. Combined, they have been under Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Hispano-Visigothic, Amazigh, Phoenician, Punic, Ummayyad, Idrisid, Almoravid, Almohad, Marinid, Wattasid, and Portuguese rule, just to name a few (Wikipedia)! In fact, it wasn’t until the late 15th century that Melilla, and late 17th century for Ceuta, that these territories became part of Spain.
As their rocky history, the current political status of these Spanish exclaves in Morocco is quite controversial. Since its independence, Morocco has claimed the sovereignty of both Melilla and Ceuta on several occasions. Naturally, Spain has refused to give them away to this day. As such, these Spanish exclaves are part of the European Union, and you get a passport stamp every time you enter and exit!
What to see in Melilla, Spain
Named Rusadir under Phoenician rule, one of the best attractions in Melilla is the Old City (Ciudad Vieja) itself. In passing, make sure you checkout the only true evidence of Gothic architecture in Africa, Capilla de Santiago, by the city walls.
Almacenes de las Peñuelas and other museums
While in town, head to one of Melilla’s museums to learn more about its place in history. They include exhibitions about a variety of cultures, including Jewish, Berber, and Christian. Particularly, the museum complex Almacenes de las Peñuelas is a fascinating one, with great explanations of the artifacts and other exhibitions.
A stroll around this park is like a visit to a little botanical garden in the middle of town. Its palm trees, views and design may keep you occupied for hours at a time, if you wish. Great for people watching or just wind down and read a book.
Las Cuevas del Conventico
Seeking a little adventure? Then visit Melilla’s caves (Las Cuevas del Conventico) for some beautiful ocean views and underground history.
What to see in Ceuta, Spain
Plaza de Africa
Like Melilla, the best spots to see at this Spanish exclave in Morocco is the plazas. The best is the one right in the town center, Plaza de Africa. from here, you’ll be able to get snap great photos of the architecture. Make sure you walk by the catedral and ayuntamiento.
Parque Maritimo del Mediterraneo
For a sightseeing break, take a dip at the Maritime Park. The tree “lakes” are lovely, but the grounds and views are even better. Walk around the castle and sculptures after reading a book (or two), or even be greeted by views of Gibraltar on a clear day. Several facilities available on site and alcoholic drinks are served. If you can, pay a visit during the weekday, as travelers say rates are even cheaper then.
Casa de los Dragones
Ready for more sightseeing? Casa de los Dragones is q unique, must-see building. Located on Calle de Millan Astray ( 1, 51001), its a perfect mix of Moorish and Spanish influences. The arches and dragon sculptures will keep the design and architecture junkie busy for some time. An interesting fact? Apparently, this building has some Masonic symbolism. Take lots of photos from various angles!
Conjunto de las Murallas Reales
As with many exclaves and colonial territories, the fortresses are omnipresent. While in Ceuta, a unique experience is to catch a concert right at the Murallas Reales. You may even catch a great Spanish dinner pre or post-concert. ¡Buenisimo!
Take a short ferry ride from the southern coast of Spain or go inland from Morocco and experience these unique gems in Africa. Melilla and Ceuta, the Spanish exclaves in Morocco!