Approaching Asilah from far, we see a jumble of square buildings topped with blue domes, enclosed within the sand-colored Medina walls. Reflecting the colors of the balmy sea, the town of Asilah is bathed in a blanket of white and blue, dotted by the occasional brown brick houses and honey-colored mosques.Men with burly beards, adorning the traditional cheelabah, stroll along the empty streets. The last ebbs of the sun are fading in the distance; there is silence except for the sounds of seagulls and the crashing waves.
Despite it being my third visit, this is a side to Morocco I’ve never seen. The chaos, blinding bazaars and hectic mayhem are missing; in their place, a strange kind of tranquility and languid vibe reign. Although the rumbling energy of Morocco has always the country’s biggest draw for me, I am beginning to enjoy this slow, subtle atmosphere surrounding its seaside towns.
My partner and I are here on a weekend break from our base in Spain, and it looks like we had chosen the right spot to unwind – the concept of time seem to be absent here. Earlier that day, we had sailed across the Straits of Gibraltar on a fast-speed ferry, making the 14km journey from Southern Spain to Morocco in just 1 hour. The voyage itself is worth the journey – crossing from one continent to another is quite the experience, not to mention the stark contrast in cultures and colors between the two countries. Taking the ferry is fairly easy, book the tickets online (return fares start from 80euros) and you’re on your way to the exotic continent.
Asilah, poised along the treacherous coastline of the Atlantic Ocean, is a historical fishing town rich with remnants of yesteryears. Amidst its labyrinth-like Medina (old town), we stumble upon a mélange of old-warm antique shops, artisan craft stores, teahouses and mosques. Over the next few days, we soak in every bit of the town, wandering around narrow alleyways, discovering something new with each turn we take. The architecture within the Medina is simple yet enthralling. Against the white-washed backdrop, every shade of blue is on display here: cyan, turquoise, aqua, ocean blue…
The arch-shaped gates are a feature of the Moroccan Medinas. Here, gates are all painted in blue, green or cyan – so are are the windows, roofs and panels. Even mosques are also given their own shade of turquoise. I find the matching color palette a feast for the eyes.
Unlike most Moroccan cities, Asilah does not have a souk – chaotic, raucous bazaar packed to the brim with local products and handicraft. Along the narrow alleyways of its medina, we find several charming family-owned shops boasting hand-crafted artwork. “Come and see my shop!” They would say.
In the neighboring town of Larache, the same colors reign. Mixed with the sandy color of the local mosque, the townscape is one stunning jigsaw puzzle. We chance upon a bustling fish market in the centre of Larache – with colors so intoxicating it set off my shutter bug.
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