MELILLA, a Spanish fortified station and penal settlement on the north coast of Morocco, south of Cape Tres Forcas and 135 m. E.S.E. of Ceuta. Pop. about 9000. The town is built on a huge rock connected with the mainland by a rocky isthmus. There is a harbour, only accessible to small vessels; the roadstead outside is safe and has deep water a mile to the east of the fortress. From the landing-place, where a mole is cut out of the rock, there is a steep asqent to the upper town, characteristically Spanish in appearance. The town is walled, and the isthmus protected by a chain of small forts. A Moorish custom-house is placed on the Spanish border beyond the fort of Santa Isabel, and is the only authorized centre of trade on the Riff coast between Tetuan and the Algerian frontier. It thus forms the entrep&t for the commerce of the Riff district and its hinterland. Goat skins, eggs and beeswax are the principal exports, cotton goods, tea, sugar and candles being the chief imports. For the period 1900-1905 the annual value of the trade was about 200,000. Melilla, the first place captured by Spain on the African mainland, was seized from the Moors in 1490. The Spaniards have had much trouble with the neighbouring tribes turbulent Riffians, hardly subject to the sultan of Morocco. The limits of the Spanish territory round the fortress were fixed by treaties with Morocco in 1859, 1860, 1 86 1 and 1894. In 1893 the Riffians besieged Melilla and 25,000 men had to be despatched against them. In 1908 two companies, under the protection of El Roghi, a chieftain then ruling the Riff region, started mining lead and iron some 15 m. from Melilla and a railway to the mines was begun. In October of that year the Riffians revolted from the Roghi and raided the mines, which remained closed until June 1909. On the 9th of July the workmen were again attacked and several of them killed. Severe fighting between the Spaniards and the tribesmen followed. The Riffians having submitted, the Spaniards, in 1910, restarted the mines and undertook harbour works at Mar Chica.
See Budgett Meakin, The Land of the Moors (London, 1901), ch. xix., and the authorities there cited; P. Barre, " Melilla et les presides espagnols," Rev. francaise (1908).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)