Asilah 400
Asilah, Morocco
Photo by: mazintosh, Creative Commons

Asilah is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved old cities in Morocco. The fortified town’s ramparts and gateworks are still fully intact hundreds of years after they were first built. Its beginnings can be traced back to 1500 BC, when a Phoenician port called Zili was established on the site. The town was occupied by the Portuguese in the 15th century, and was lost to the Spanish in 1578. In 1598, the Spanish ceded the town to the Moroccans, who gave it its present Arabic name.

In order to draw tourism, Asilah stages a number of cultural festivals, the most prominent of which is the International Cultural Festival, which is held in August. During this festival, residents paint colorful murals on the walls of their houses. Visitors should enjoy these murals, as they will painted over by the time of the next festival. But even outside of the festivals, there is still much to see and do in Asilah.

Popular attractions for tourists include the ramparts, built by the Portuguese in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, from the top of which you can see the Atlantic Ocean; the El-Kamra tower, another Portuguese structure that is the tallest building in the town as it was once part of the ancient defense structure and the Palais de Raisouli, the home of a prominent Riffian bandit that harks back to the time in the 19th and 20th centuries when Asilah served as a base for pirates. Catholics might want to stop by the San Bartholome, a church built by Franciscan priests from Northwest Spain and located outside the town.

Asilah also boasts of two beaches, the long beach located a kilometer north of the town, and Paradise Beach, some three kilometers south. Both are accessible from many of Asilah’s motels, although Paradise Beach requires a trip by horse-drawn carriage.

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