Region : Tanger-Tétouan
Population(2004): 28 217
Asilah or Arzila (Arabic: أصيلة، أرزيلة) is a fortified town on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, about 50 km from Tangier. Its ramparts and gateworks remain fully intact. Its history dates back to 1500 B.C., when the Phoenicians used it as a base for trade. The Portuguese conquered the city during the 15th century, but John III later decided to abandon it because of an economic crisis in 1549. In 1692, the town was taken by the Moroccans under the leadership of Moulay Ismail. From 1912-1956 it was part of Spanish Morocco. Asilah served as a base for pirates in the 19th and 20th centuries. A major plan to restore the town was undertaken in 1978. It is now a popular seaside resort, with modern holiday apartment complexes on the coast road leading to the town from Tangier. It hosts annual music and arts festivals.
With the bustling cities of Tangier and Tetouan as close neighbours, you might wonder why Asilah has turned out to be so easy-going as it is. There are plenty of tourists around, some hustlers, but all in all Asilah is a relaxed place to be.
Beautiful Asilah is well worth a stop on your Morocco journey, but you should only think of visiting the city in summer time: Winters can be unpleasant so far north in Moroco, and even more so close to the sea.
Asilah resembles many a place in Greece, with whitewashed houses, broken by some blue wall painting or door. In many areas the standard is higher than in Morocco in general. Asilah is much of a hangout for artists, and walking around the place you will spot many traces of their activity, like paintings on house walls.
Asilah is also working on getting visitors to the place through festivals of different kinds, the one in August every year being the best, where artwork and music are the main ingredients. Once again, summer is the time to visit Asilah.
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