|Pulling into Melilla on the ferry|
|Modernista buildings in Melilla|
How did it become Spanish? In 1497, the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand & Isabella) requested that this strategic location be conquered. After that was carried out, a fortress was established that would form the historic core of Melilla. It was later attacked every so often in the centuries to follow, and sieges never finally ceased until Spanish troops gained control of the region as part of the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco in the early 20th century. Until the ’90s, it was actually administered as part of Málaga province.
Is it worth visiting? Apart from a museum here, a church there, and a fort you can walk around, Melilla didn’t stand out as the “next hot destination” for me. It did, however, make the transition between Spain and Morocco much more comfortable: I had a few hours to wake up slowly, take my time, and finally catch the bus to the border crossing, which to me (despite the craziness) felt much more relaxed than a direct Spain to Morocco ferry would have.
How do you get there? Leaving from Spain, hop on the next Iberia flight to the Melilla Airport (MLN) or take an (overnight) 8-hour ferry from Almería or Málaga. From Morocco, take the train (or a grand taxi) to the border town of Beni Ansar, which is right outside of Nador, both about 6 hours from Fez.
|Town hall, Melilla|
I quickly realized I didn’t have nearly as much time there as I thought I would because Spain is one hour ahead of Morocco (and two in the summer), so there was just enough time for a late lunch and some quick snapshots. I was really surprised how many Spanish flags were hanging from apartments all across town. Perhaps this is in protest to the Moroccan government’s claims of sovereignty over Ceuta and Melilla? Rarely do you see such nationalistic flag-hanging anywhere in Spain, and if there’s any flags to be hung from apartment balconies it will be the Catalan or Basque independence ones, not the national flag.
|Casa de los Dragones, Ceuta|
|Flags in Ceuta|
Is it worth visiting? Like with Melilla above, I would only visit here in transit between Spain and Morocco. For me personally, I appreciated having the border crossing and the ferry ride experiences separate, since it’s confusing enough as it is to figure out where to go and where to check-in for the ferry in Spanish! Plus, the Lonely Planet said Ceuta is a much more chill city to enter Africa at than Tangier—a popular ferry port with links with Tarifa and Algeciras. And like Melilla, Ceuta has its fair share of churches and museums that are probably interesting (and a fort, too!) but I just didn’t have enough time to devote to sightseeing.
How do you get there? From Spain, you can take the 55-minute ferry from Algeciras…or you can ride a helicopter from either Algeciras or Málaga to the local helipad! Coming from Morocco, you’ll have to take the bus or hitch a ride in some sort of grand or petit taxi combination leaving from Tangier or Tetouan to the border town of Fnideq. Tell your driver you want to go to “Sebtah,” the Arabic name for Ceuta.
Have you ever been to Ceuta or Melilla? What other geographic oddities can you think of? Comment below!
For more pictures, check out my sets on Flickr here and here.