It was there, in the middle of the medina and drinking an orange juice, that I realized that, although it is relatively easy to walk around, for the same reason there are certain treasures that can go unnoticed, reason enough to write an article about what to see in Asilah!
As on previous occasions, this entry will be considered as a tour, so it will not only serve as a list of must-sees, but also as an itinerary.
So let’s get started!
The Asilah Medina
Asilah is a city that, despite its great interest, is much more comprehensive than other tourist locations in the north of the country. Most of the blame lies with its medina, which besides being the most well cared for in all of Morocco, includes most of the important sites; it is thanks to this small jewel that we can enjoy and get to know the best the city has to offer in just one afternoon.
Like all medinas, its perimeter is protected by a wall, and there are several access gates to cross it. In our case, we will begin the tour by crossing the threshold of Bab El Kasba, located to the north, as it has a large parking lot and is, almost certainly, the place where most of you will put your first foot in the city.
The Grand Mosque
As soon as you enter the door, on the left hand side you will see the first monument: The Grand Mosque, in which its white octagonal minaret will stand out, which helps even more to make the medina look homogeneous. In front of it is the Hassan II Centre, dedicated to exhibitions, congresses and conferences and which acquires special relevance in summer, when the International Cultural Festival takes place.
If you are also one of those who just come back, the first question your family asks is what souvenir you brought with you, you can check the task off your list from early on, taking advantage of the fact that next to the entrance to the mosque there is an arcade with several stalls full of souvenirs.
Borj Al Kamra
One of the main characteristic elements of the wall that surrounds Asilah, built at the end of the 15th century by the Portuguese, are the bastions and towers that flank it, the Borj Al Kamra being one of the most representative.
At the end of the street where the mosque is located we will find it on our right hand side. This tower also has the function of presiding over and dignifying the Ibn Khaldun square, the perfect place to stop on the way and have a cup of tea on its terraces, ask for the natural orange juice offered by the street vendors or get a henna tattoo.
Sidi Ahmed El Mansur Cemetery and Mausoleum
Continuing along the street on our right, and always with the wall and the sea as a backdrop, we will find numerous paintings adorning the walls, which will help us to remember the marked bohemian and cultural character of the city.
We will go through arches and a fountain decorated with tiles on our left, an ideal place to take a photo, until we reach a staircase; once we have drawn the first section, we will climb the staircase on your right, which will lead us to the cemetery of Sidi Ahmed El Mansur.
However, and to be honest, you will most likely come across a green door blocking access, as it has irregular opening hours, to put it mildly (most of the time I have found it open on Sundays, mainly in the morning).
Even so, and even though you cannot come close, from the place I indicate below we can appreciate the colourful catalogue of ceramics that define it, as well as the dome of the mausoleum.
Viewpoint of Caraquia
As we leave the cemetery, we will continue climbing the steps until we reach the Caraquia viewpoint (also known simply as Asilah viewpoint). Once we are there, we will surely be overcome by a certain feeling of déjà vu, as the view that will be presented to us has been photographed in large numbers, and is one of the most representative of the town; this is not surprising, as from here we can see the cliff, the wall and the medina in immaculate white that define the place.
Also, it is usually a place of recreation for its inhabitants, so it is common to find several talking and enjoying the views, in fact I have come to see even school trips with the teacher explaining the history of the city.
On a negative note, the cliff used to be accessible from an access door at the foot of the stairs, but on my recent visits I have noticed that it has been blocked for security reasons. And although I am sorry, it seems logical to me, as it was common to see children offering to jump from the lookout point to tourists in exchange for a tip.
Returning to the starting point
What I have outlined are, in my opinion, the most important places to see in Asilah. However, it would be a mistake to pretend to end the visit because, as I always say, a city in Morocco is not known until you walk down the street and get lost two or three times in its medina.
If it is not the first city in Morocco that you visit, you will be surprised that, compared to other areas where the most offered are spices and various souvenirs, in this case the shops are flooded with watercolours and other works that the numerous artists who have settled in this city will offer us.
In addition, it will be an original way to return to the starting point and avoid going backwards. To do this, and once we leave the viewpoint, we will only have to worry about following to our right, always having the wall as a reference; thus, and after a while, we will return to our place of origin.
Extending the visit: the beaches of Asilah
If our planning allows it, we can always take advantage of it to enjoy a little more of the city and to take a pleasant walk by its beaches. We will have two options: the first, quieter, and the second more fun and daring.
The quiet one can be summed up by walking along the promenade in front of the entrance to the medina; once it is over we will reach the breakwater, where we can have a drink in the bars of the area, or continue towards the beach that follows, where there are usually camels for those who want to have their picture taken.
The fun is to talk to the driver of a taxi and make the journey in this environment. You will have a great time, it will be something to remember and will cost you at most ten dirhams per person (it all depends on the art you have to bargain).
To finish the day, I advise you to watch the sunset on this beach, I’m sure you’ll love it and it will be the perfect cherry to end our visit to Asilah!