While such scenes have glamorous shine Asilah’s reputation as a stylish entertainment center for the elite of North Africa, not long ago this ancient fortified port suffered from social obscurity and tourism. In the 70s, mentioned only in passing, but now, Asilah’s medina has been transformed into an underground shelter for the rich and famous who hide behind the thick carved doors of their mansions, exotic vacations, to relax on the terrace electric blue with a book in hand and a cocktail in the other.
Much of this radical change goes back to 1978, when two local friends had the idea of inviting several artists to paint murals on the walls of the population deteriorated.
This was developed into an arts festival that continues throughout the summer, with flamenco concerts, design exhibitions and poetry readings that attracts artists and fans for much of the Middle East and the West.
The festival, called the International Cultural Moussem of Asilah, is today one of the largest events of its kind in North Africa, and attracts over 100 thousand attendees as diverse as Berber artists, Saudi Arabian royalty and Japanese collectors. The alley of the medina of Asilah is the best showcases for artists and painters. His art is exhibited throughout the year, not only for the festival. For two months, from July to September, Asilah is transformed into a town full of artists and travelers eager to social life.
So as far away as Tangier are fully booked their hotel months in advance, like the homes of Islamic and Andalusian type, with yards, in the medina. The truth is that before the boom took the festival, the walls of the population were crumbling and the medina was flooded with trash, a victim of indifference.
“Now, Asilah is considered one of the cleanest cities in Morocco”.
The brilliant white medina was even honored with the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1989. Among the real gems restored this vital part of civilization is the Palace of Culture, a fortress with green windows and an impressive hall performances.
In addition, the bright colorful murals painted on almost every corner, renewed and increased for each festival. But Asilah’s charms are not confined in any way the festival. In the mornings, the sound of the waves reaches the walls of the fifteenth century. It’s time to go to the wide beaches of golden sand, full of children and people. For those seeking more solitude, it is best to go by car to Paradise Beach, a half hour away, and then enjoy the sunset. During the festival, however, is filled with visitors and food stalls.
But while Asilah is a place to meditate and read a good book in the days of the offseason, so it’s not a bad place to go shopping. Unlike the souks of Marrakesh and Fez, where one trip by the incredible volume of items offered for sale, Asilah only has a dozen handicraft shops, but each material is well chosen and often unusual.
The visitor could spend hours in Alkamra, for example, a real Ali Baba’s cave with treasures that its owner, Mohammed Aziz Acharoui, meets sites covering almost all of northern Africa. Recent articles in his shop included wooden faces fierce expression, primitive items of local scenes carved on glass, and a necklace with bits of coral the size of golf balls bright orange and large turquoise beads.
The earliest archaeological remains found in the area of Asilah go back to the second century BC, when nothing was to provide ethnic and cultural mixtures that would end in that region of Morocco. The Phoenicians, the earliest inhabitants trace around, then had to live with Greeks and Carthaginians. Thanks to these influences, the city was transformed into a center of high social and economic status. Thanks to the thriving trade also had its own currency. And the Romans, who arrived a century later, had not yet christened. The name came later in the year 712 when, conquered by the Arabs, became an important commercial area for the merchants of southern Spain and neighboring regions.
Thus ends our virtual tour of Morocco…