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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Asilah is a tranquil and calm town by the sea in Morocco

Updated: Jan 23

Asilah in northern Africa is the ideal introduction to Morocco. Unlike busier towns, this city of just over 30,000 people is tranquil. There is a slow pace of life here, perfect to shop the souk without the hassle of being bombarded to buy goods. Most locals here have a laid-back attitude. Maybe it is the proximity to the ocean as the town meets the Atlantic Ocean on its shores. The cooling ocean breezes, and sound of waves, often have that calming effect.

the view of the town of Asilah from the ocean. The sandy beach meets the rocks near the old medina wall. White square houses are crowned next to each other, windows and rooftops facing the ocean for the view and the breeze

Asilah in northern Morocco dates back at least until 966 and has been under the control of Portuguese, Spanish and Moroccans over the centuries. The well-preserved outer walls date from the 15th and 16th century, during the Portuguese occupation. Today travelers get to enjoy a more peaceful stroll on the perimeter walls.

Cars are banned from the medina streets, which makes wandering these narrow streets perfectly safe. Only an occasional scooter or motorbike will toot at you to move aside and let them pass by.

a narrow street in a medina. paved stones below, double story white and blue painted buildings on either side. cast iron decorations on balconies.

Being so close to Spain, the language used in Asilah is more likely to be Spanish that the French used in most of Morocco. Most of the residents live here all year round, but a portion of the houses are summer homes for wealthier Moroccans.

A 25 minute taxi ride can be taken from Tangier for between 200-300 dirham, but a much more interesting journey is to take the train from that city. Views of the countryside can be seen as you travel half an hour, for around 30 dirham. There is a first and second class of carriage. The first is just a few dirham more, but with more comfortable seats and greater leg room, it was definitely worth the extra spend. Once at the train station, a local taxi can get you to the outside of the medina. Be careful however, as alternative transportation is on offer! It cost us four times the amount a taxi would have and we felt a bit pressured to get it. Yet, the experience was worth the few dirham extra it cost.

a rickety metal box on the back of a motorbike holds three chairs. The whole thing is covered in blue tarp. this is a local taxi in Asilah

Once in town, there is also another form of transport that can be hired. There were eight of these waiting for passengers when I arrived at the medina.

a single horse is pulling a carriage that looks like it came from a fairy tale. pink fabric with white tassles decorates the roof and the sides of the open doors. the whole top is painted pink with blue trim. the wheels are wooden and  painted white with blue in the centre.

Monday is market day in the large square inside the medina. Other days there are stalls and shops to entice you.

the large market square is surrounded on four sides by three storey high buildings, white washed with blue trim, they have shops on the bottom and houses on the top two levels. the square only has two children playing soccer. On Mondays, this is a bustling marketplace

Unlike other souk’s in the country, Asilah does not have the loud noises and high-pressured salespeople. A no here from a customer is taken as a no. They will still have the variety of goods to buy, including handmade jewelry, carpets, shoes and leather goods.

like a cascading curtain hang many pairs of leather open toes sandles for sale outside a shop. the tops are all different colours.

Stallholders pack an incredible amount and variety of goods into some of their small stores.

a small shop is crowded with drinks and snacks to buy. water bottles, chips, chocolates. there is not a spare bit of space, everything is crowed into this small container like space

There are plenty of food venues around town, from sit down restaurants overlooking the ocean, rooftop bars and of course, street food in the medina. The smell of baking bread will entice you into any of these stores just minutes before your stomach starts to rumble and remind you that it needs to be fed.

Asilah hosts an annual International Cultural Moussem of Asilah in August and is renowned for the murals that are painted on its whitewashed city walls.

My favourite thing to do in Asilah is to wander around the maze-like medina, not knowing what was around the next corner. It is not as large as the other cities in Morocco, and someone will help you if you get misdirected. I enjoyed looking at the architecture and shops.

looking down a narrow laneway of two storey tall builings. two blue doors are seen at the end. the walls are white with blue trip. trees in pots line the avenue.

The ocean views definitely warrant some gazing time as well. People come to Asilah for the beaches. The best advice is to head away from the town centre to soak up the sun, sand and waves. The beaches will be cleaner and less crowded.

looking through the white washed square rampants towards the Ocean, the sand and see can be seen. The blue sky above has a scattering of light white clouds. The waves are capped with white foam

Whether you visit Asilah as your first city in this African country, or the last, it is one of my true favorite places to spend some time in. Each year they host a cultural festival in August. The town walls are whitewashed, and artists paint murals on them. Their amazing creations are left up throughout the year, until the next festival. Click here to read more.

author helen wearing a top that has a map of the world printed on it and black pants. she is sitting in front of a green wooden door with a curved top, within a white wall

map of location of Asilah in Morocco

Happy Travels!

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