Asilah On a BudgetSpend your summers like the rich and famous with a trip to Asilah, Morocco. With pristine, white buildings and wrought-iron windows, this gorgeous city still holds the traditions from a time when it was under Spanish rule. The town remains rather quiet for most of the year, with a population surge in the summer months. Beaches are packed and there are tourists as far as the eye can see. If you're not a fan of crowds, consider visiting in the spring or fall when the weather is nice, but the tourists are gone.
SightsMost Moroccan cities will have an old town, known as the medina, and a more modern side of town, known as the ville nouvelle. The medina in Asilah is small, clean and known for its iconic stone fortifications flanked by palms. These structures were built by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and today, are the town's landmark.
Another shining example of the Moorish style can be seen in the center of Asilah's small new town. The Church of San Bartolome was built by Spanish Franciscans in the colonial Moorish style,and is one of the few churches in the country allowed to ring the bells for Sunday Mass.
If you happen to be visiting during the Asilah Festival, visit the seaside of the medina to view the Palais de Culture (Palace of Culture). Built in 1909 by the powerful Er-Raissouli, this palace is only open during the festival or for temporary exhibits. This gorgeous building has a main reception room, and a glass-fronted terrace with an ocean view and a grisly past. From this spot, Er-Raissouli forced convicted murderers to jump to the deaths on the rocks below.
If the haunting history of Asilah isn't on your itinerary, perhaps you'd be more interested in lounging some of the beautiful beaches. The main beach in Asilah is a long stretch of golden sand, but be prepared that if you're there in the summer, it can get quite crowded and noisy. If you need a bit more peace and quiet, go a little south to Paradise Beach. This spot offers a pleasant walk along the coast, and even has horse-drawn carriages in the summertime.
ActivitiesFor a truly unique experience, try to plan your trip to coincide with the Asilah Festival. Focused on the Centre de Hassan II Recontres Internationales, this festival brings artists, musicians, performers and over 200,000 spectators in for three days of workshops, public art demonstrations, concerts, exhibitions and events. This event, drawing in visitors from around the world, is also known to include a Moroccan fantasia a musket firing cavalry charge toward the end of the festival.
The city of Alisah has become a haven for local, African artists. You'll want to take advantage and go to as many galleries as you can find including the Aplanos Gallery. Created by Belgian painter Anne-Judith Van Loock and her Moroccan husband, Ahmed Benraadiya, this gallery hosts many works from local and foreign visitors. Another gallery hosting young local artists would be the Galerie Hakim started by artist Hakim Ghailan.
Food and DiningAlisah was under Spanish rules for years. That, coupled with its proximity to its former ruling country and the number of Spanish tourists visiting every year, Asilah's restaurants are very heavily influenced by the Spanish tradition. Many of their menus will offer dishes like paella, tortilla, tagine and couscous. Given this city's proximity to the coast, you'll also want to take advantage of any fresh seafood dishes you'll find. Walk along the Avenue Mohamed el Hassani near the southeast wall of the medina to choose from any of the restaurants with covered terraces. Have a seat and enjoy a mint tea. If you'd rather serve yourself, visit the fruit and vegetable market just south of Bab Al-Homar.
TransportationThere are two main entry points to the medina of Asilah. Keep in mind, cars are not allowed in the medina. This means walking is the easiest, and one of the only forms of transportation. It's a small enough area that this should not be a problem. Small taxis are available if you need to travel a further distance like to the train station, for example.
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