Friday, 31 May 2013

The ocean-side city of Asilah

Asilah is a fishing port and seaside resort about 50 kilometres from Tangier. It boasts an historic medina within fortified walls. 
For a small city, Asilah has quite a past:
The Phoenicians used it as a base for trade in 1500 BC. The romans came along for a while and the Portuguese conquered it in 1471, then abandoned it for economical reasons. It was taken by the Moroccans a hundred years later and was used as a base for pirates in the 19th century. From 1912 to 1956 when Morocco became independent, it was under Spanish "protectorate". 
The old city, known as a medina, underwent major renovations in 1978 and it is now in pristine condition.

The medina is surrounded by ramparts and is a car-free zone. In winter the town is almost empty, yet far from feeling abandoned, it looks serene and reclusive in a lovely way.

These photos taken in early Spring demonstrate the peaceful atmosphere of the town in the off-season. All you hear are the sound of the waves crashing on the shore and the occasional call to prayer.

A young man walks gingerly down one of the alleys of the medina with a tray of bread dough balanced on his head. Few people have ovens of their own and the women knead bread daily at home, then take it to small commercial ovens to be baked and retrieve it when it's done.

A mother walks her small child home. I imagine them chatting about this and that, mother adapting her gait to her tot's tiny steps the way a mother and child do anywhere in the world.

Neighbours exchange opinions at the foot of the ancient Portuguese-era tower on the main square. The tower and the ramparts were built at the beginning of the 15th century and are still in excellent condition six centuries later.

The city is on the Atlantic Ocean seen here from the Mirage Hotel half way to Asilah from Tangier. The beach is almost deserted but there are big plans for the construction of major resorts and hotels all along the coast as was done on the mediterranean coast of Morocco. What a transformation that will be.

When the mural-painting festival rolls around in the spring, artists arrive from every part of Morocco to paint the walls and the city fills up with tourists eager to see what marvels the walls of Asilah will bear. (see a previous post: The painted walls of Morocco)

The layout...

The result: stunning!

The murals stay there until they are painted over by other artists the following year.

Images: Joelle Desparmet, Upgulf, pinterest

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