Saturday, October 16, 2010

Postcard from Sebta

Visiting the Spanish occupied city of Sebta is a weird experience. This piece of Morocco has been the subject of dispute for a long time and Morocco is not alone in calling on the Spanish to relinquish this remnant of colonialism. Former French President Chirac was a great supporter of Morocco's historical claim and even went to the point of applying pressure to the Spanish Foreign Minister to return the territory. Alas, so far it is still a stalemate.

Sebta - everything within walking distance.
Length 9.41 km (6 mi), W-E
Width 5.92 km (4 mi), N-S
Area 18.5 km² (7 sq mi)

Crossing the border does not feel at all like leaving Morocco, but there is a strange atmosphere, intensified by the presence of dozens of young men trying to raise a little cash by selling immigration forms, which are available free at the passport windows. The distance from one side of the frontier to the other is not great and after a long car or bus trip the walk is welcome.

The Spanish border police are friendly and welcoming and taxis are waiting inside for the short drive into the city of Sebta (which the Spanish call Ceuta). The trip into the city cost just over 3 Euro.

The moat beside the "Royal" wall.
(click on any image to enlarge)

Any doubt about the original inhabitants is immediately dispelled by the discovery of an ancient 11th century hammam (sign posted as "Arabic Baths"). This has been beautifully restored and entry to it is free. Although there is a mosque in Sebta, the call to prayer is overpowered by the ringing of church bells. The churches are all interesting, ornate and worth a visit.

Sebta is dominated by Monte Hacho, a hill along its western frontier with Morocco which is guarded by a Spanish fort. Monte Hacho is one of the possible locations for the southern Pillars of Hercules, of Greek legend (the other possibility being Jebel Musa).

Fountains everywhere ! 

The city itself is clean, open and bustling. Tapas bars are everywhere and the general standard of food is superb. If you arrive late in the afternoon, be aware that most bars are not open until around 8.30 in the evening. However, an "Irish", Dublin Pub appears to be open most of the time! Down around the Marina, a fishermen's complex houses restaurants from Chinese to up-market haute cuisine.

Looking upwards has its rewards! 

Being such a small city, walking everywhere is possible. There is also a large pedestrian precinct with plenty of shops. At present Sebta is 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-tax system within the European Monetary System. The population is around 80,000. Despite the so-called low tax system, The View from Fez found prices for cameras and computers higher than mainland Europe.

Nice set of threads! 

What strikes one while wandering the streets is the profusion of street sculpture which features everything from sheep wearing hats to a statue of Ghandi.

Accommodation is plentiful and the small pensions are clean and reasonably priced. For those on a bigger budget the Parador Hotel is perfectly located.

Summing up, a visit to Sebta is interesting but unless you are a tapas addict, returning to Morocco is a welcome experience. Back at the border, The View from Fez team sighed with relief when the first of the Moroccan police welcomed us, smiled and waved us through.

Photographs: Sandy McCutcheon (Click images to enlarge)

See all The View from Fez POSTCARDS HERE.


Nina said...

I just wanted to take the time to express my gratitude towards your wonderful blog. Reading the View from Fez has now become part of my daily morning ritual! Keep up the good work!

Unknown said...

Hi Nina,

Thank you for your kind comments. And sorry for the days when either there is no new story, or we all sleep in !

Rachid said...

I agree, Nina. It is a blessing for Morocco.

ve may bay jetstar said...

Postcard is great! I do not know never been in person to admire the majestic beauty of it interesting! would be very difficult to do! But I still thank you for sharing!

Dan said...

Went to Ceuta a few times when I lived in Rabat, was my favourite quick getaway destination.