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Autoridad Portuaria de Ceuta

History

 

“The city of Sibta is located at the end of the Sea of Rome, in other words, in Bahr-al-Zocat (the Straits)*, where it meets the nearby ocean. It is built on a very narrow peninsula that reaches out into the sea, towards the east. The waves lap around its eastern, northern and southern edges. Its inhabitants could join the southern bay and the northern bay, thereby turning their peninsula into an island separated from the continent. In the past, a canal used to flow through the narrow part which was about as wide as two arrow- shots”

 

Abu Ubayd al-Bekra (1068)

 

One hundred years is nothing in the history of a port, especially in the case of the Port of Ceuta, which has been in operation for several centuries.

 

The strategic location of Ceuta and its port have played a key role in the development of Spanish history, North Africa, the Mediterranean and the surrounding area.

 

Ancient trading civilizations like the Phoenicians, the Greeks and the Carthaginians used the port as a base and stopped there when switching trade routes. It was also a hub for networking and discovering new territories. The seven hills on the horizon, which separated the vessels of these peoples marked the “end of the Mediterranean”. It was the Greeks who later named this passage the “Narrow Pass of Azocoque” or the Straits of Gibraltar as we know it today. “Eptadelfos”, meaning “seven hills”, was the name chosen by the Greeks to describe the hills that could be seen from the sea. Greek mythology situates the Pillars of Hercules on each side of the Straits or “Fretrum Herculeum”. “Calpe” was located where the rock and town of Gibraltar now stand, and “Abyla” or “Avila” was on the opposite side, with its pinnacle where Monte Hacho is currently situated.

 

The Romans went on to call it “Septem Frates” in reference to the seven hills. This name later evolved into “Septa” or “Ceuta”, the capital of Mauritania Tingitana during the time of the Roman Empire.

 

Byzantines, Visigoths and Arabs all invaded this strategic enclave, thereby increasing its commercial and cultural significance and turning it into a centre of knowledge responsible for enlightening the entire Maghreb at the beginning of the second millennium. Ceuta’s natural port and location made it an exceptional trading post and it is well known that universities generally looked to commercial areas and places where routes and people converged in order to popularise their knowledge, hence the quote “knowledge starts in the market place”.

 

Many valuable commodities like gold, ivory and African slaves were exported from here, as well as manufactured goods which were practically unknown in Europe, like rag paper, which was a fundamental medium later used in the printing press for producing written texts.

 

Over the next three centuries several very important changes were made to commercial routes and destination ports. Three main routes that followed the different directions of commercial sailing in the 13th century were established; the Western route, the westerly wind route, and the easterly wind route.  However, the western Mediterranean route was the oldest. From Barcelona, the most important stopover and destination ports were Sant Feliu de Guixols, Cotlliure, Montpellier, Narbonne, Aigües, Mortes, Marseilles, Nice and Genoa in the north, as well as Mallorca, Valencia, Seville, Ceuta, Tunis, Béjaïa and the ports of the Kingdom of Tlemcen in the south. Ceuta soon became one of the most well known ports for the Genoese, Portuguese, Castilians and Aragonese due to its location.