Ceuta is a 22 square kilometre Spanish territory or enclave on the northern African coastline. It is one of the European ports into Africa, a place where the Mediterranean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and two continents intertwine to provide the city with its unique character; where Christians, Jews, Muslims and Hindus live together, forming large communities.
According to Greek mythology, Africa and Europe were connected by a mountain range until Hercules, during his fight with Antaeus, struck his mace and made an opening in the land, nowadays called the "Straits of Gibraltar". Two geographic milestones, the Columns of Hercules, are identified as the remains of this event forming the western border of the known world: Calpe (Gibraltar) and Abyla (Mount Hacho), which mark the western borders of the Mediterranean Sea.
Ceuta has a land area of 22 square kilometres, a coastline of 21 kilometres and an eight-kilometre land border with Morocco. The population is approximately 82,000. The official language is Spanish and Arabic is also spoken widely. Being part of Europe the currency is the euro. Along with Melilla, Ceuta is one of two Spanish-populated territories on mainland Africa. It was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995 when its Statutes of Autonomy were passed.
The history of Ceuta is especially interesting to travellers. The first human settlement in Benzu dates back more than 300,000 years. Partly due to the sheltered bay, it became an important port on the old trading routes of the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans. It was one of the last (or first) ports in the Mare Nostrum. Strategically it offered control of the Straits. Justinian I sett up a dromons base in the year 534 BC. Christianity and Islam have always traded in Ceuta; with the presence of Hebrew communities, the Medina became quite large and important within the western context of Islam. Islam arrived in Ceuta later than on the peninsula. The city remained under Muslim rule for seven centuries, being conquered at dusk on 21 August 1415, when Juan Vaz de Almeda flew the Royal Standard and flag of Lisbon from the Vela Tower in Ceuta. This was 77 years before the Catholic Kings concluded the Re-conquest of Granada.For two and a quarter centuries Ceuta would live, speak and feel Portuguese. In 1640 the people of Ceuta asked to belong to the crown of Castille. When Philip V came to power, the army was restructured, which transformed the order of the State and changed the traditional structure of the local economy. When the Bourbons came to power, the image of Ceuta as a fortified square and military garrison was reinforced, but it also gained status as a city. America was now not so important and people looked once again towards Africa.