[by Luis Ruiz in Ceuta, Spain]
This is a very special place. Here lies one of the limits of the ancient world: the Pillars of Hercules, as the greeks called the two mountains that flank the Strait of Gibraltar: the Jebel Musa on the African side and Jebel Tarik –Gibraltar- on the European side. In between, the waters of the Atlantic blend with those of the Mediterranean.
I drew the first sketch from the port of Ceuta, a Spanish city on the African shore. It is incredible how close the coast of the South of Europe looks; it seems you could even touch the cliffs of the opposite side. In fact, the Strait is just 15 km wide at its narrowest point. The wind is usually high in this area, but the sea showed a deep blue colour, the sky was clear and the panorama was a glorious one. I liked the counterpoint that the cement silos on the foreground offered to the distant rock of Gibraltar and I really wanted to capture that moment on my sketchbook while the gentle breeze tried to turn the pages.
The next day was time to travel back to the Iberian Peninsula, after a short stay at Ceuta. The ferry only takes 90 minutes to sail from there to Algeciras, whose ports are only 7,7 nautical miles apart. The morning remained nearly as beautiful as the afternoon before, and the ship’s departure was greeted by the seagulls and dolphins that are very common at this ravel of waters. But soon the Strait showed his ugliest face and reminded me how treacherous it can be. In very few minutes the sea was covered by a dark mist. I was drawing on the upper deck when I suddenly noticed I was alone, everybody had looked for shelter inside because of the sea spray and coldness… drawing soon become impossible as it started to rain, and I had to put the color below deck. It was a shocking but nice experience as I was traveling on a big and comfortable vessel.
Some other thoughts came to my mind. This Strait is also a paradise for birdwatchers as it is a major route for migrant birds to cross from one continent to the other. But it is not easy at all for people to follow the same path at sea level, due to the borders man set between countries, and many immigrants risk –and many of them lose- their lives on small boats trying to reach European soil avoiding customs controls. I tried to imagine the fore mentioned experience while sailing on an overloaded one.