For the ancient Greeks, Ceuta was a mystical country at the end of the known world, where the nymph Calypso imprisoned the greatest traveler of all time, Odysseus. For contemporaries, it is a cosmopolitan city, where Jews, Europeans and Arabs live in harmony.
The name Ceuta (or Septa) comes from the Latin septum, which means seven. This is so because the city was founded around the 5th century. BC. AD on seven hills of the same height. In ancient times, these "mountains" were called seven brothers. For the ancient Greeks, it was the border of the world of the time, passing by the legendary Columns of Hercules, including the rock of Gibraltar (426 m) which is on the European side. The title of second column, located on the African bank, is discussed between two hills: Monte Hacho (204 m, about 0.5 km east of the current port of Ceuta) and Jbel Musa (851 m approximately 15 km west of Ceuta). Dante Alighieri described this place as a narrow moat where Hercules laid the columns so that the man knew his limits and dared not go beyond them.
Over the centuries, Ceuta passed from hand to hand. This African port, the closest to Europe, was a strategic military base, from where the Arabs left as early as the seventh century. to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. They populated Andalusia and entered the unknown continent. By taking possession of Gibraltar in the 15th century, Portugal took the first step towards the era of great geographical discoveries. In 1415 King John of Portugal occupied Ceuta. Then, in 1580, when Portugal fell under Spanish domination, Ceuta became a Spanish territory. Moroccan kings tried unsuccessfully several times to retake this part of the coast.
From the port of Ceuta, African goods were transported to Europe. From the Middle Ages, the richest merchants in Europe led their
Business. Today, Ceuta receives mostly passenger ferries and, at night, smugglers. For this reason, items that are exempt from customs and excise duties (eg cigarettes, perfumes and alcohol) are available. However, it is necessary to pay close attention to the purchases, because the customs officers can control the tourists even outside the city, on one of the Moroccan roads. Smuggling is likely to result in large fines and seizure of property.
Ceuta is located on a promontory and the city center is in its highest part. At the Plaza de Africa, we find the most important monuments, such as the sanctuary of Our Lady of Africa, built by the Portuguese in. One can admire the piety of Our Lady of Africa presenting the Black Madonna, a cane in the left hand, which, according to legend, was that of the first Portuguese governor of Ceuta. Another Catholic church in Ceuta, the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption was built in the fifteenth century.
At the site of a mosque. After many modernizations and reconstruction, nowadays it is moved according to a rectangular plan with three naves which owes to the works carried out in 1954 and 1955 under the supervision of the architect José Gaspar Blein. Not to be missed especially, the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament with its Baroque altar, the frescoes of Michael Bernardini and three large paintings of the fifteenth century. with the image of Our Lady.
Taking the main passage of the city of Plaza de Africa in the direction of the promontory, we arrive at the municipal museum (esp.Museum of Ceuta) which is in a neoclassical building of 1900. Five exhibition rooms are used to present objects from archaeological excavations dating back to the Paleolith, the Neolith, and the period when northern Africa was populated by Carthaginians (amphoras, coins, armor) and by the Romans (sarcophagi and coins). Also noteworthy are the collection of Punic and Roman pottery as well as monuments of the sacred art of the Arab period; such as remains of decoration of the Medersa El Jadida built in the 14th century, which unfortunately did not remain until today.
Among the characteristic elements of the architecture of Ceuta, there are its walls of defense (esp Murallas Reales) of the 16th century. Founded along a narrow moat cutting the promontory. Once on the crown, one can admire the beautiful view of the city and the bay of the sea of Alboran (esp Mar de Alborân) linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean. Today, the walls serve as an open-air gallery, where paintings of contemporary painters are exhibited during temporary exhibitions.
Northeast of Plaza de Africa, we arrive at Monte Hacho (204 m) with its fortress Del Hacho now belonging to the Royal Moroccan Army and not accessible to tourists. However, it is possible to visit the park San Amaro (Parque de San Arnaro esp.) Founded in the nineteenth century. at the foot of Monte Hacho. It is home to a small zoo, where trails lead to many observation points. We also take a steep staircase to reach the courtyard of the convent Saint Anthony, built in the fifteenth century, and offering a panorama of the Strait of Gibraltar and the city of Ceuta.