Gibraltar Straits

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Gibraltar Straits


The Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar (Arabic: مضيق جبل طارق, Spanish: Estrecho de Gibraltar) is the strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain from Morocco. The name comes from Gibraltar, which in turn originates from the Arabic Jebel Tariq (جبل طارق) meaning mountain of Tariq. It refers to the Ummayad Berber general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the Islamic conquest of Hispania in 711. It is also known as the Straits of Gibraltar or STROG (Strait Of Gibraltar), the latter being in naval use. There are 13 km (8 miles) of ocean separating Europe from Africa at the strait's narrowest point. The strait depth ranges between 300 and 900 meters. A ferry commutes between the two continents.


On the northern side of the Strait is Spain and Gibraltar, while on the southern side is Morocco and Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in North Africa. Its boundaries were known in antiquity as the Pillars of Hercules. There are several small islands, such as the disputed Isla Perejil, that are claimed by both Spain and Morocco.


new port being built in Morocco

About 6 million years ago, the Strait closed, effectively turning the Mediterranean into a huge salty lake that eventually dried up, in what is known as the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The Mediterranean then turned into a lake, known as the Mediterranean Sea. At the Miocene/Pliocene boundary, approximately 5.33 million years ago, the Strait opened up for the last time, and has remained open since.


The Straits are an important shipping route from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. There are ferries that operate between Spain and Morocco across the strait, as well as between Spain and Ceuta and Gibraltar to Tangier.


stock tender dressed in the style of Northern Morocco

In December 2003, Spain and Morocco agreed to explore the construction of an undersea rail tunnel to connect their rail systems. The gauge of the tunnel would be 1435mm to match the proposed construction and conversion of significant parts of the existing broad gauge system to standard gauge.


On a net basis, water continually flows eastward into and through the Strait of Gibraltar, due to an evaporation rate within the Mediterranean basin higher than the combined inflow of all the rivers that empty into it. The sill of the Strait of Gibraltar acts to limit mixing between the cold, less saline Atlantic water and the warm Mediterranean waters. The latter are so much saltier that they sink below the constantly incoming Atlantic water and form a highly saline (thermohaline, both warm and salty) bottom water, called the Mediterranean outflow. A density boundary separates the layers at about 100 m depth. It flows out and down the continental slope, losing salinity, until it equilibrates after mixing at a depth of about 1000 meters. The Mediterranean outflow water can be traced for thousands of kilometers before losing its identity.


wearing the characteristic hat

Internal waves (waves at the density boundary layer) are common in the strait. Like traffic merging on a highway, the water flow is constricted in both directions because it must pass over a shallow submarine barrier, the Camarinal Sill. When large tidal flows enter the Strait, internal waves are set off at the Camarinal Sill as the high tide relaxes. The waves—sometimes with heights up to 100 m—travel eastward. Even though the waves occur at great depth and the height of the waves at the surface is almost nothing, they can be traced in the sunglint because they concentrate the biological films on the water surface, creating slight differences in roughness. The waves flow eastward, refract around coastal features; can be traced for as much as 150 km, and sometimes create interference patterns with refracted waves.





Ceuta, Spain as seen from a hill in Morocco

Ceuta is an autonomous city of Spain located on the Mediterranean, on the North African side of the Strait of Gibraltar, which separates it from the Spanish mainland. Ceuta, together with the other African autonomous city of Melilla and a number of Mediterranean islands, is claimed by Morocco. The area of Ceuta is approximately 28 km².

Ceuta is dominated by a hill called Monte Hacho, on which there is a fort occupied by the Spanish army. Monte Hacho is one of the possible locations for the southern Pillars of Hercules of Greek Legend, the other possibility being Jebel Musa.

Ceuta's strategic location has made it the crucial waypoint of many cultures' trade and military ventures — beginning with the Carthaginians in the 5th century BC, who called the city Abyla. It was not until the Romans took control in about A.D. 42 that the port city (then named Septem) assumed an almost exclusive military purpose. Approximately 400 years later, the Vandals ousted the Romans for control, and later it fell to the Visigoths of Hispania and the Byzantines.


Ceuta on the peninsular

In 710, as Muslim armies approached the city, its Byzantine governor Julian (also described as "king of the Ghomara") changed sides and urged them to invade the Iberian Peninsula. Under the leadership of Berber general Tariq ibn Ziyad, Ceuta was used as a prime staging ground for an assault on Visigothic Hispania soon after.

After Julian's death the Arabs took direct control of the city; this was resented by the surrounding indigenous Berber tribes, who destroyed it in a Kharijite rebellion led by Maysara al-Haqir in 740. It lay in waste until refounded in the 9th century by Majakas, chief of the Majkasa Berber tribe, who started the short-lived dynasty of the Banu Isam. Under his great-grandson they paid allegiance to the Idrisids (briefly); the dynasty finally ended when he abdicated in favour of the Umayyad Caliph of Cordoba Abd ar-Rahman III an-Nasir in 931. Chaos ensued with the fall of the Umayyad caliphate in 1031, but eventually Ceuta, together with the rest of Muslim Spain were taken over by the Moroccan dynasty of Almoravids in 1084. The Almoravids were succeded by the Almohads who conquered Ceuta in 1147 ruling it, apart from Ibn Hud's rebellion of 1232, until the Hafsids of Tunisia took it in 1242. The Hafsids' influence in the west rapidly waned, and the city expelled them in 1249; after this, it went through a period of political instability during which the city was disputed between the Moroccan Kingdom of Fez and the Kingdom of Granada.



In 1387, Ceuta was conquered for the last time by the Moroccan Kingdom of Fez, with Aragonese help.

In 1415, Ceuta was occupied by the Portuguese during the reign of John I of Portugal.

After Portugal lost its independence to Spain in 1580, the majority of the population of Ceuta became of Spanish origin. The change of origin is so obvious that when Portugal regained its independence in 1640 and war broke out between the two countries, Ceuta became the only colony of the Portuguese Empire that sided with Spain.


the city

The allegiance of Ceuta to Spain was recognized by the Treaty of Lisbon by which, on January 1, 1668, King Afonso VI of Portugal formally ceded Ceuta to Carlos II of Spain. However, the flag and coat of arms of Ceuta remained unchanged and to this day still feature the colonial configuration of the Portuguese shield. The flag's background is also the same as that of the flag of Lisbon, the Portuguese capital.

When Spain recognized the independence of Spanish Morocco in 1956, Ceuta and the other plazas de soberanía remained under Spanish rule as they were considered integral parts of the Spanish state.

old fort

Culturally, modern Ceuta is considered part of the Spanish region of Andalusia. Indeed, it was until recently attached to the province of Cádiz - the Spanish coast being only 20 km away. It is a very cosmopolitan city, with a large ethnic Berber Muslim minority as well as a Sephardic Jewish minority.

On November 5, 2007, King Juan Carlos I visited the city, sparking great enthusiasm from the local population and protests from the Moroccan government. It was the first time a Spanish head of state had visited Ceuta in 80 years

Text from Wikipedia


Ceuta, Spain as seen from Morocco

Medina of Tétouan


entrance to the Medina

Tétouan was of particular importance in the Islamic period, from the 8th century onwards, since it served as the main point of contact between Morocco and Andalusia. After the Reconquest, the town was rebuilt by Andalusian refugees who had been expelled by the Spanish. This is well illustrated by its art and architecture, which reveal clear Andalusian influence. Although one of the smallest of the Moroccan medinas, Tétouan is unquestionably the most complete and it has been largely untouched by subsequent outside influences.


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