Today, our Moroccan destination is Asilah, a place that you won’t believe exists outside of a postcard! So beautiful, tranquil and calm, it’s truly an African paradise. It’s hard to know where to begin to describe it, and it’s hard to find enough complimentary things to give this whitewashed resort town the description it deserves.
Asilah has always been an important strategic port. The Phoenicians used it as a base for trade as far back as 1500 B.C., and in the 19th and 20th centuries, it served as a base for pirates! From 1912-1956 it was part of Spanish Morocco, and in 1978, a major restoration plan was undertaken.
Today, Asilah is a gorgeous and popular seaside resort that feels like a Greek island until you recognize all the Spanish influence at work. Tapas and paella grace the restaurant menus, and wrought iron windows decorate the white houses. Wherever the walls are not white, they’re brightly colored, painted in murals by local artists. In fact, the town hosts an annual mural painting festival, along with other music and art festivals, and the best work gets to stay on the walls for years to come. The murals are so abundant that the white walls almost feel like empty canvases, waiting for the next masterpiece. White paint is to the walls of Asilah as gesso is to a canvas.
It’s an easy place to assimilate into Moroccan culture, with a nice selection of budget hotels, good restaurants and a burgeoning art scene. The coastal road leads to Tangier, and Asilah is a favorite stop for travelers making their way along the North Atlantic coast. It’s a clean city, too, with the mayor of the town living in the beautiful medina and vowing to make it as clean as Switzerland. Many of the houses in the old medina have been purchased by wealthy Moroccans and Europeans, primarily Spanish.
It’s a sleepy town for most of the year, but bustles in the summer as the population grows almost ten times its normal size! That’s because it’s such a lovely beach town; it’s completely overrun all summer by Moroccan families, packing the beaches. The best time to visit Asilah is in the spring or fall, when the weather is nice but the crowds have vacated the town. If you’re traveling through Morocco and looking for a picturesque and delightful location to spend some down time, Asilah is the place to be.