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Asilah

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The Asilah Mural and Art Festival 2018

Since 1978, the medina walls of Asilah turn into an art gallery with colorful murals painted on the walls during July and August. It was the idea of two artist friends who wanted to transform the decaying and deteriorating alleyways. Now it has turned into a month-long arts festival.

The Centre de Hassan II Recontres is where lectures are held for artists, writers, and musicians during the festival. Throughout the medina, you will find artists working or evidence of their finished products. There are street musicians as well playing throughout and wanting to get you involved with playing an instrument or dancing.


The usually peaceful medina is alive with activity. There are always many stores here with unusual gift items of handmade shoes, jewelry, candles, baskets, and more.



This year Asilah will celebrate its 40th year of the festival, which turns its wall into the backdrop for an art gallery. Events take place throughout July and August. We visited recently and found some lovely new murals. In June, we saw them painting the walls white to provide a nice new canvas for the artists.

This sleepy little town becomes fully awake in these summer months. As you approach the Portuguese walled medina, the beaches are full. Restaurant on the beach serve fresh seafood and horse and buggies carry visitors through the streets.


Vendors sell peanuts harvested from around the local area and the sea breezes give relief to the hot Moroccan sun.

There are restaurants available at any price point. On the lower end we like Yali, and on the pricier side (and you can buy alcohol) Casa Pepe.

To hear the music and see the wonderful new contemporary frescoes on the walls of the medina visit Asilah during July and August. Shopping is great here with goods and prices that you won’t find in many other places in Morocco.

Mzoura-The Stonehenge of North Africa

On our recent trip to Larache, I discovered a side note in my DK Eyewitness Guide for Mzoura. If you haven’t tried the DK Eyewitness Guides, you should. They are my favorite guidebook by far, particularly when you go to larger cities and can get the Top 10 guides.

Mzoura is an archeological site containing 167 monolithic stones in a circle. It’s the North African Stonehenge! I was excited to see it but finding it was quite the adventure. The drive was lovely down back roads and through fields and over hills. After stopping several times to ask for directions, we finally found the site.


Unfortunately, it was in a poor state with weeds and wildflowers overgrowing the stones. There was a locked gate, but as we approached, a man came out to let us in. There were goats grazing on the site.


Still, you could make out and walk around the distinct circle of stones. One of the stones was about 6 feet tall and stood pointing directly to the sky. The circle of 167 stones is about 55 meters in diameter and is, according to legend, the site of the tomb of the giant of Antaeus.


There is much controversy around the age of the site, but it is believed, based on some items found nearby to have been created in the 3rd or 4th century B.C. This would align with the rise of Mauretania and the first kings there.

The middle part, which is the tomb, was excavated in 1936 and no report was published, nor was the site left in good condition. I found one good aerial photo of the site from that time, which you can see here.

The site is located between Asilah and Larache towards the tiny town of Sidi el-Yamani. Be prepared to ask for directions!

Yali Restaurant, Asilah, Morocco

Fresh fish is abundant in Asilah.  It has become a place that we visit relatively frequently.  We always take visitors there and often we go just to spend a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  Asilah is quiet and calm, pretty and relaxing.

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When we visit there, we enjoy eating at Yali, which is full of fresh fish.   Yali is located on the East side of the medina, just outside the wall.  The entire street is lined with outdoor cafes that all look the same, so it might be hard to choose one.  Our taxi driver steered us to Yali.  He told us they had the best food and the lowest prices.

They have all types of Moroccan dishes there, but we usually choose the fish.  We sit outdoors just about any time of year, although they do have a small dining room above the actual kitchen.

Moroccan Salad
Moroccan Salad
Harira Soup
Harira Soup
Grilled Calamari
Grilled Calamari
Grilled Mixed Fish
Grilled Mixed Fish

Yali is a simple place, but perfect for lunch.  These photos are representative of just one meal we had there and it cost about $12.  It’s a veritable feast for just a little money.  Try Yali when you visit Asilah.  When you visit us, we will definitely take you there.

The Medina of Asilah, Morocco

Asilah is a fortified town about thirty-one kilometers from Tangier.  The city walls and gates are all intact. The medina is perched at the edge of the sea.

Ramparts of Asilah
Ramparts of Asilah

We visited there by Grand Taxi, but you can take a train or bus from Tangier.  We went on a Sunday morning and it was peaceful and quiet.  Locals, families and a few tourists strolled the alleyways.

There are some lovely shops there selling handmade carpets and textiles, handmade clothing, pottery, art, jewelry and more.  Asilah is famous for its art and artisans.  The history of Asilah dates back to 1500 B.C. when the Phoenicians founded it.  The current walls were built in 1471.

Handmade carpets and textiles-Asilah
Handmade carpets and textiles-Asilah
Fresh Chickens from the market-Asilah
Fresh Chickens from the market-Asilah
Street of Asilah
Street of Asilah

There is an annual music, arts festivals, and a mural painting festival.  You can see these murals all over the walls around town.  They are lovely, colorful, and a nice surprise as you turn a corner or go down one of the small streets.

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The antique mosque is currently under renovation, but the town itself is in good condition and very clean.  Cats roam everywhere as they do in much of Morocco.  The windows and doors of the houses are captivating and whimsical.

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We spent about four leisurely hours in the town including lunch.  There is a street just outside of the walls with many restaurants offering seafood and Moroccan cuisine.  Our taxi driver recommended one to us.  This restaurant, Yali, offers a wide range of menu items and a nice outdoor patio.  We feasted on olives, lentils, Moroccan salads, grilled fish such as sole, merlan, and calamari and some french fries.  The cost was less than $20.

Yali Restaurant-Asilah
Yali Restaurant-Asilah
Patio of Yali Restaurant-Asilah
Patio of Yali Restaurant-Asilah
Moroccan olives
Moroccan olives
Lentils
Lentils
Moroccan Salad
Moroccan Salad
Grilled Calamari
Grilled Calamari
Grilled Sole and Merlan
Grilled Sole and Merlan

Afterwards, we bought a box of cookies from a street vendor.  The cookies were a variety of Moroccan specialties including figs, dates, nuts, and sugar.  Delicious.

Moroccan cooklies
Moroccan cooklies

I can see myself visiting Asilah often.  It is a nice, calm place to pass a morning or afternoon away from the crowds of the city.

Gate into Asilah
Gate into Asilah
Street of Asilah
Street of Asilah
Street of Asilah
Street of Asilah
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