Asilah, a small town south of Tangiers on the Atlantic coast, proved to be the perfect getaway destination during the month of Ramadan in Morocco. During the summertime, the city attracts tens of thousands of vacationers and its population usually goes from a mere 12,000 to almost 100,000. However, because most Moroccans remain at home during Ramadan, the city was a haven of tranquility, especially compared to the bustling medina of Fez.
The city is a veritable artistic melting pot. With its blue and white walls, repainted every summer, Asilah resembles a Greek city. Yet, the fortified bastillon and the presence of blue azulejos betray iberian influences. American and French artists have also been inspired by the coastal city: Paul Bowles found solace in his vacation house, Jean Genet is buried in a nearby city and Tennessee Williams is said to have written Suddenly, Last Summer within the city walls.
Today, artists from around the world settle in Asilah and paint on the immaculate walls impressive and colorful murals, which are exhibited during the Moussem, the annual art festival. One could easily forget that Asilah is a Moroccan city if it were not for the tall minarets and the daily call to prayer marking the end of fasting and the beginning of the well-deserved iftar feast.
Life in Asilah is also a child’s dream. The narrow streets make for a perfect game of hide and seek, while the occasional large square are perfect for soccer games. But local children’s favorite activity is to jump from the 60-foot high walls into the water. The less daring of us will prefer to remain atop the ramparts and gaze at the horizon as the sun sets into the Atlantic Ocean.
But the true beauty of Asilah can be found in its beaches. The city’s most well-kept secret is the aptly named Paradise Beach. The latter is located a few kilometers south of Asilah and can only be reached by “Grand Taxi”. For a few hundred dirham (about 25 dollars), the driver will take you on a long winding trail off the beaten path until you finally reach the beach. Because of Ramadan and its difficult access, it was almost completely deserted except for a few camels. There was thus (almost) no shame for me to cover myself with a natural exfoliant made from rock powder and which gave my skin a smurfy blue color.
I hope to come back to Asilah some day soon, Inshallah.
Camels on Paradise Beach. Image: Guillaume Biganzoli.