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Considering Visit to Melilla (Spanish Outpost in North Africa)

I have fallen in love with modernista architecture (blame Barcelona!), and I've just become aware that there's rather a lot of it (and also Art Deco) in Melilla, a small Spanish territory in what would otherwise be Morocco. I love Morocco but don't know that I'll ever find time to return there, so the easiest way to see Melilla is by ferry (I don't like tiny planes) from Malaga, where I will be this May as part of an extended trip to southern and eastern Spain and points north.

I know this is a long shot, but has anyone been to Melilla? There's a bit of info in an old Lonely Planet Morocco guidebook on my shelf, and I've also checked the LP website. I haven't looked at other online resources yet but will do so. There do not seem to be many significant sights in Melilla besides the architecture I'm interested in and will focus on, but there's apparently an attractive historic center, an "excellently preserved" medieval fortress, a small museum and at least one historic church. I figure a full day plus some extra hours should be sufficient.

I'm especially curious about the ferry crossing. Are those ferries prone to cancellation? (I have had very bad luck with English Channel ferries.) I have booked an inexpensive hotel room for a couple of nights; there aren't many options in Melilla. I'd hate to eat that cost, but it would be better than having a non-cancellable room at an expensive place if the ferry lets me down.

The ferries don't run every day and I don't have many useful choices. One of the two companies offering Malaga-Melilla sailings, Balearia, only charges about 10.50 euros extra for a berth in a 4-berth cabin (women only), which opens up the possibility of taking an overnight ferry. Anyone experienced with those shared cabins? I've used train couchettes in the past, but somehow that shared ferry cabin seems a bit insecure. I'll be traveling with a smartphone and a tablet, and I can hardly strap them to my body. I've twice taken overnight ferries in Europe and found them quite comfortable and slept soundly, but I had no strangers sharing my cabins on those earlier trips.


Posted by
4150 posts

Interesting. I haven't been, but have thought about it many times. I'm intrigued by all enclaves, exclaves, and geographic oddities, so Melilla (along with the other remaining Spanish enclave in Morocco, Ceuta) has always looked interesting.

It's worth noting that both enclaves have long been a source of strain between Spain and Morocco, and a destination for undocumented/economic refugees seeking a way into Europe. In recent years the enclaves have become very much part of the tension between Africa and Europe vis a vis immigration and refugees, with both struggling to keep the undocumented from slipping across the EU's only land-borders with Africa. A complicated place, I'm sure.

Posted by
12943 posts

Thanks, David. I haven't read anything published extremely recently, but I figured there could be some tensions. I'll try to keep on top of the situation during the earlier part of my time in Spain.

Posted by
2741 posts

I haven't been to Melilla but I suspect that the ferries encounter the same problems with wind that those that sail to Tangier do. The strong winds in the Gibraltar Straits often cause cancellations, sometimes for days at a time.

I have also seen recent news reports from Melilla concerning clashes with illegal immigrants breaking down the border fences and it appears that this route has become more popular than the more risky route of crossing Libya and sailing the Med so expect more trouble there.