Asilah, also known as Arzila, is one of the most picturesque and historic attractions in Morocco. It is located approximately fifty kilometers outside the city of Tangier and has been dated back to 1500 B.C. The city was constructed by the Phoenicians as a trade post, but was later conquered by the Portuguese in the fifteenth century. By 1549, John III had abandoned Asilah in the midst of an economic crisis and it was taken by Moulay Ismail in the year 1692. Asilah became a part of Spanish Morocco during the years 1912 to 1956. With it having changed hands so many times and later even being used as a haven for pirates, it is hard to believe that the gates and ramparts of the city have remained perfectly preserved.
Tourists and visitors flock to this magnificent seaside resort to marvel at its buildings, homes and outlay – all of which appears completely untouched. The beautiful, quaint harbor of Asilah still bustles with fishermen busy with their trade and the teeming market is an experience on its own. Many of the local residents still live in poverty and often rent out their homes to visitors as a source of income. The tourist industry has definitely boosted the economy of the city and has assisted the locals in creating better living conditions for themselves.
Even though Mohammed Melehi and Mohammed Benaissa initiated restoration work on the city of Asilah, a lot of the work here has been done by the locals. New structures and holiday accommodation have been constructed to the exact specifications of the old structures and at times the ruins of the old buildings have been used in the later construction to retain the authenticity and atmosphere of Asilah. The only modernization to the city cannot be seen, as improvements have been made to water supplies, drainage, sewerage, telephone lines and electricity supplies. Local children also contribute to the city by dividing into two groups and challenging each other to see which group does a better job at cleaning the beach. Whenever work is being done in Asilah, labor is outsourced to the locals to provide them with an income.
For two months of the summer season, Asilah hosts a cultural festival that is well attended by tourists and visitors and a host of African and Arab writers, poets, musicians and artists. Today Asilah is a living and breathing National Monument that is known for its friendly and warm locals and clean and well-kept streets and buildings. It is one of the most spectacular attractions in Morocco and a majestic example of architectural wonder.