MOROCCO | Asilah in Three Days ~ Morocco’s Art City | Lakad Pilipinas

Asilah Three Days Itinerary

I cannot remember how Asilah got squeezed in into our itinerary—a benefit of traveling for a long period in Morocco. We were supposed to head to Chefchaouen after staying in Rabat for three days but here we were, walking the final two kilometers from the train station to town—the sparkling sea on our right, a field of wildflowers with a couple of camels grazing on our left. It all sounds very beautiful and all, except we’re hauling all our belongings with us in the middle of the warm/cold Moroccan afternoon. This town better be worth it.

 

 

GETTING THERE


From Rabat, where we also did a Morocco Sale day tour, we took a four-hour train ride from Gare Rabat Ville train station via the ONCF to the Gare Assilah station (MAD 88.00 | USD 8.80). By now, we were pretty confident we’d be riding a clean and modern train, and true enough, even with the cheapest ticket on sale, we even had a cabin all to ourselves.

The northern route to Asilah was scenic, with landscapes worthy of a Windows wallpaper speeding past our windows. The only thing we could’ve wished for was a couple of bags of crisps, or even a box of pizza which we fully consumed at Rabat before going (see our Rabat food trip).

The hard part of getting to Asilah was after alighting at the train station. If you don’t have a pre-arranged transfer from your lodging, you’d have to walk the final three kilometers to town. Which most of the passengers who alighted, including us, did. To be fair, it is a scenic walk, but a walk that’s best done without the midday heat of the sun.

Asilah How to Get There from Rabat
THE ONCF TRAIN CABIN FROM RABAT TO ASILAH

Asilah How to Get There from Rabat
FOUR HOUR TRAIN RIDE WITH PICTURESQUE VIEWS

Asilah How to Get There from Rabat
THE ASILAH TRAIN STATION

Asilah How to Get There from Rabat
THREE KILOMETERS WALK TO TOWN

 

 

PENSION SAHARA ~ HOTEL SAHARA

  ADDRESS: RUE TARFAYA N.9, ASSILAH | GPS COORDINATES MAP: 35.467513, -6.031700


Our lodging was a few blocks away from the main gate to Asilah’s medina. It was a blessing in disguise as we got to save about a kilometer of walking with all our baggage on our backs. We rang the bell on Hotel Sahara’s very Moroccan lobby—white walls with blue trims, flowery intricate floor and wall tiles, brass lamps, and hand-painted Moroccan plates for display.

We were then led up to the checkered-tile roof deck, which was surrounded by small rooms—one of these was gonna be ours for two nights. The rooms [CHECK DISCOUNTED RATES] were indeed tiny, but we were able to manage. It has a small window, an in-room wash basin, a bedside table, and a small table which we used to eat take-away meals.

The toilet and bath were shared, and if you wish to have a hot shower, an additional ten dirhams (USD 1.00) is charged. We opted for the cold shower—which is, surprisingly, doable even on a sixteen-degree weather.

Hotel Sahara Asilah Morocco Lobby
HOTEL SAHARA LOBBY

Hotel Sahara Asilah Morocco Lodging
LODGINGS ON THE ROOF DECK

Hotel Sahara Asilah Morocco Room
OUR ROOM FOR TWO NIGHTS IN ASILAH

 

 

VILLE NOUVELLE ~ ASILAH CITY


A mid-sized Catholic church—the Hispano-Moorish Church of San Bartolome, built by Spanish Franciscans in 1925—greeted us a block away from Pension Sahara. It was a surprise to see a Christian church on an otherwise very Muslim country, in fact, it’s one of the few Christian churches allowed to ring its bell during Sundays in the whole of Morocco. This is a testament to Asilah’s past when the Portuguese conquered the city in 1471, building the fortification that is now the medina. Another indication is the language, from French-speaking Moroccan in Casablanca, Rabat, and Sale, we’re now dealing with Spanish-speaking Moroccans.

Walking towards the medina gates, we went past a plaza, then a whole avenue of small cafes and al fresco restaurants before reaching the massive circular Bab Al Homar gate, one of the two entrances to the medina.

Saving our medina visit for later, we went left towards the local market—which is more like makeshift stalls along the sidewalk—for a late lunch.

Our initial impression of Asilah is extremely positive, the people are warm and the streets felt absolutely safe. A very far cry from our four days in Casablanca.

Asilah Church Catholic
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH OF SAN BARTHOLOME IN ASILAH

Asilah Morocco Street
A WIDE ALLEY ALONG ASILAH’S NEW MEDINA

Asilah Morocco Plaza
KIDS PLAYING ON A PLAZA IN ASILAH

Asilah Morocco Avenue
A LIVELY SEASIDE BOULEVARD IN ASILAH

 

 

ASILAH OLD MEDINA ~ THE PORTUGUESE FORTIFICATION

  OPENING HOURS: 24 HOURS, DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS COORDINATES MAP: 35.465251, -6.038202


The center of Asilah is its medina. Built and abandoned by the Portuguese, it became a base for a crusade, was made part of Morocco, then got lost to Spain, became a fort for pirates, and got bombarded by Austria for it, before becoming part of Morocco once again. Quite a history for a very small settlement!

We fully explored the old medina the next day—wending past freshly painted blue and white walls making up the alleys of the city, admiring colorful carpets draped for drying along roof parapets, dodging cats, donkeys, and footballs, and taking selfies along its beautiful doorways and wall murals. I’d have to say that this is the cleanest and safest medina we’ve been to throughout our month-long Moroccan tour.

Asilah Medina Morocco Carriage
BAB AL HOMAR, ONE OF THE TWO MAIN ENTRANCES TO ASILAH’S MEDINA

Asilah Medina Morocco
A TOWER INSIDE ASILAH’S MEDINA

Asilah Medina Morocco Football KidsAsilah Medina Morocco Artworks
KIDS PLAYING FOOTBALL | ARTWORKS BEING SOLD INSIDE THE MEDINA

Asilah Medina Morocco Fort
THE FORT WALLS OVERLOOKING THE ATLANTIC

Asilah Medina Morocco Fort
OLD CANNONS OVER THE FORT WALLS

 

 

ART CITY


Asilah made its name as an art capital. During the late seventies, the medina was restored by its mayor and together with a particular painter, an art festival was organized—the International Cultural Moussem of Asilah. It garnered traction and help drove tourism in the city.

Today, the medina is replete with colorful murals and small wall sketches. It really can’t compare with the extensive street art in Penang, but it is a facet unique to the medina of Asilah—something you won’t find on any other medinas in Morocco.

Asilah Medina Morocco Art Murals
ASILAH STREET MURALS

Asilah Medina Morocco Art Murals
AN UNFINISHED WALL MURAL

Asilah Medina Morocco Art Murals
PAINTED AND REAL HANDS

Asilah Medina Morocco Art Murals
ASILAH MEDINA HAS A VERY VIBRANT FEEL

 

 

SHOPPING


Having one of the smallest medinas we’ve visited, shopping isn’t as grand as on other major sites in Morocco. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in uniqueness. Besides the usual hand-painted plates and tagines, leather bags, Berber fabrics, rugs, and knickknacks, Asilah is a haven for artworks. Granted, you won’t find any Monet-level paintings here, but the ones being sold by locals can be a very unique keepsake from Morocco.

Asilah Medina Morocco Shopping Shoes
LEATHER SHOES IN ASILAH

Asilah Medina Morocco Shopping Berber Jackets
COLORFUL BERBER JACKETS AND BAGS

Asilah Medina Morocco Shopping Souvenirs
HAND-MADE BRACELETS FOR SOUVENIRS

 

 

PLAGE DE ASILAH & PORT D’ ASILAH

  OPENING HOURS: 24 HOURS, DAILY | ENTRANCE FEE: FREE | GPS COORDINATES MAP: 35.467045, -6.039290


On the afternoon of our second day, we visited Asilah Beach. Located right beside the medina, it’s one of the most picturesque and cleanest I’ve seen in Morocco. The one near the medina is not as expansive as the Plage Ain Diab in Casablanca, but the ones on the outskirt of town are.

Going where the locals go, we climbed up the embankment separating the sea from the shore, the boulder-strewn levy is a popular hang-out for locals during the afternoons. But instead of simply sitting by the rocks to wait for the setting sun, we decided to walk ‘til the end of the embankment which circles round a protected bay for boats.

The walled platform is about a foot thick, the sea on our left, and a ten-foot drop on our right. It was easy enough to traverse, if only the wind wasn’t whipping like it was the end of the world. But yes, it was whipping like it was the end of the world. The kilometer-long walk felt like forever. We heaved a sigh of relief as we finally reached its end and decided to walk on the ground on the way back.

Asilah Medina Morocco Beach
THE PICTURESQUE ASILAH BEACH

Asilah Medina Morocco Beach
FORTIFICATIONS ALONG THE BEACH, VERY GAME OF THRONES

Asilah Medina Morocco Port
WE DECIDED TO WALK ALL THE WAY TO THE END OF THE PORT D’ ASILAH

Asilah Medina Morocco Port
LAMPS ALONG THE PORT

Asilah Medina Morocco Port
BOATS DOCKED SAFELY INSIDE THE PORT

 






Posted by Lakad Pilipinas on Sunday, March 3, 2019

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