Asilah - Morocco's sleepy town
The city on the Atlantic coast of northern Morocco also known as Arcila, Arzila, Asilah or Assilah is located about 45 kms south of Tangier. It stands among a plain of ancient land along a hill bordering with the Atlantic Ocean. The old city or medina, sits strong, languished behind its beautiful walls defying the ocean for five centuries. Every Thursday morning, a lively and colourful souk is installed at the foot of the ocher walls: with berbers in their clothes and wide hats, men and women in the field expo their products of their land, which pile up in large baskets and baskets wicker.
Asilah is known today mostly for its long sandy beaches, its white washed medina and international festivals. As a resort town, cultural activities coincides with the summer, mostly in July, celebrating the cultural festival, with conferences, exhibitions and international festivals taking place in the long summer days. This artistic and cultural festival aims to establish dialogue and cultural exchange between different countries, with participants from all walks of life from politicians, diplomats to artists. Each year new guests are invited to portray their culture through lectures, art exhibitions, folk dances and more activities. During the feast, the whitewashed houses of the medina get a revamp and are artistically painted by international artists participating. Look out for the key-shaped doors which serve as fantastic photo subjects, there is one precisely that encourages you to upload on Instagram picture with hashtag #assilahome.
Being in the beautiful old town, it was no wonder many of the houses are owned by foreigners as well as some of the famous restaurants. We had the privilege to try some of the best fresh shrimps and mediterranean dishes at Spanish owned Casa García. It is located on the promenade, just outside the medina. Also Spanish owned, Casa Pepe has some of the tastiest anchovies, steaks and fries in the area. Restaurant Cultural Andalussi offer traditional Moroccan food at a good price and have a quiet terrace in a pedestrian street on Rue El Okhouane nº11. Medina Café is also Moroccan food at its best, in which you can gawk at the ocean from their restaurant. Do have a mint tea or coffee in the morning whilst you can and for lunch try the fish tagine.
The buildings in Asilah are Neo-Arabic, with facades in near perfect conditions, and many of the houses adorned with works of arts. Expect to see some cool indigo blue painted walls, green and blue shutters or colourful doors in some of the buildings in the narrow alley ways in the old town. We believe the medina to be one of the cleanest and calm of all of Morocco. You can hear the sound of the waves and the birds chirping in the distance as you explore the souvenir shops.
The walls surrounding the old city were built by Alfonso V of Portugal in the fifteenth century, with three entrances to the medina. Try spotting them if you are out and about: Bab Homar (Portuguese ensigns), Bab Kasbah (surrounded by gardens) and Bab el Bahar Puerta del Mar. On the way to the Ibn Khaldun square, you can find the Great Mosque of Hassan II Asilah and Cultural Centre. It is here that accommodates the Cultural Museum held every month since August 1978. The rest of the year contains temporary exhibitions of various contemporary artists.
Explore the town on foot, or hire an inexpensive donkey cart to take you around, but be sure to bargain! Asilah is Morocco's sleepy town, only busy in August when holiday makers flock to the beaches.