The white city of Asilah in Morocco seems some island lost in Greece, but the mosques, calls to prayers and Arabic style doors are a reminder that we finally arrive in Morocco.
Asilah (sometimes also Arcila or Assilah), is the first city south of Tangier (and the first stop of the national train network that reaches Marrakech), is one of the best introductions to Morocco, being a compact city, elegant and without many complications.
Winter is an ideal time to get to know the city, because although you will not be able to go to the beach, the temperature is pleasant and the medina is practically empty. In summer the population of Assilah can reach 120,000 people, the beaches are crowded and the touts swarm everywhere.
How to go from Spain to Morocco by ferry
To get to Tanger from Spain, we cross by ferry from Tarifa (south of Andalusia), on the ferry of the Spanish company FRS. The ferry cost us € 62, we buy the round trip ticket which is cheaper, you also have the possibility to leave open the date of the return trip.
We took the ferry at 9 am and it must have taken 1 hour to get to Tangier, i.e. we arrived at 9 am (remember that Morocco has one hour less than Spain).
On the trip Moroccan police stamped our passport, made migrations and gave us a small piece of yellow paper (do not miss it !!).
The ferry ride is the most romantic way to get to Africa. The whole journey takes an hour but the cultural change is abysmal.
How to get from Tangier to Asilah Morocco
Once the ferry arrived in Tangier, a horde of taxi drivers approached us. Near the port, there is an exchange office where you can get Dh (Dirhams € 1 = 11 Dh). Our destination was Assilah, less than an hour from Tangier by train.
The train station of Tangier is located about 4 km from the port. It is not convenient to walk, the taxi to the station is around 40 Dh, which is not expensive. We are sure that it could have come out cheaper, but we wanted to leave the port, anyway we managed to lower 10 Dh from the initial proposal. In Morocco, everything is haggling. Otherwise, you run the risk of paying things much more expensive than they really are.
Most likely, the taxi will take Avenida Mohamed V. In that journey that must have lasted for about twenty minutes, we saw the beach of Tangier and constructions that had nothing to do with the ones we were used to.
Once at the station, we bought all the train sections we needed for our 14-day trip in Morocco. In this website you can see the schedules but you will not be able to buy the tickets if you do not have a Moroccan credit card.
The stretch from Tangier to Arcila cost us 27 Dh. It is worth mentioning that we ask for it in first class, the price is not much more than second class, but comfort is ten times better.
The song that struck me in Asilah Morocco
Because our first day in Morocco was strange, shocking, bizarre, overwhelming and intriguing, MIA’s “Bird Song” was the song that I could not get out of my head while we walked the white passages of Asilah or while we watched the sun setting in the sea from any of the viewpoints.
I’m a parrot
I’m robin this joint
Not a lyre bird, sure is not a vulture
Do not swallow that ’cause I make the culture
I’m not a lyre bird
Staying rich like an ostrich
Accommodations in Asilah
Our train departed at 10.30 am. We arrived Asilah at 11.04 am. At the station there were several taxi drivers waiting. The trip to the hotel was around 20 Dh. It is possible to walk, it will be approximately 3 km, but you have to go by a busy road and the price of the taxi is so cheap that perhaps it is not worth it.
We stayed in Hotel Zelis, the location was great, very close to the medina and several restaurants.
Here is a full list of the best accommodations in Asilah.
What to do in Asilah Morocco
Once we left the backpacks at the hotel, we set out to tour the medina. As we were in the middle of winter, going to the beach was not an option; In that case the medina and the attractions of the city can be done in one day without any problems.
Walk through the medina of Asilah
The medina is small, but it is one of the most beautiful and clean in Morocco. The color that stands out, of course, is white.
The medina of Asilah is surrounded by stone fortifications, built by the Portuguese in the 15th century. The bastion located in the southwestern part is the place to get the best views of the ocean, especially at sunset. From there it is also possible to see from above the Koubba of Sidi Mansour, which is closed to non-Muslims.
The day the medina is busiest is on Thursdays, which is Asilah’s main market day. Another tourist attraction is the Palais Raissouli (Palace of Culture) which is only open during the Asilah Art Festival or for temporary exhibitions.
Church of San Bartolomé in Asilah Morocco
To the northwest of the place Mohammed V (in the center of the Ville Nouvelle of Asilah), is the church of San Bartolomé. Constructed by Franciscan in colonial style. It is one of the few churches in Morocco in which there are still bells ringing.
Walking on the beach of Asilah
The beach of Arcila is vast, beautiful and with a mattress of golden sand that make it gorgeous even in winter. Every day is a great day to play soccer in Asilah.
Asilah Arts Festival
Asilah has more than 60 resident artists, several galleries, art studios and exhibition spaces. Because of all this, Asilah is an artistic city to consider.
It all started in 1978, when several Moroccan artists were invited to hold workshops for children and paint some walls of the medina. Over the years, several of these children and artists became known in the world of contemporary art. Among them: Mohamed Lhaloui, Brahim Jbari, Elina Atencio, and Abdelilah Bououd.
In August of every year, the famous Arts Festival is held in Asilah. This annual festival brings together dozens of artists, musicians and a number of viewers that can reach the hundreds of thousands. With more than 30 years, the festival holds workshops, concerts, events, with participants from all over the world.
What do you think of Asilah Morocco? Next destination, Rabat Morocco.