Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Asilah: Morocco's Artsy Seaside Resort Town


How many days are you staying here in Morocco? 
Around thirty days. 
What? Why? 

I remember how surprised a certain backpacker was upon knowing that we're going around Morocco for a month. He then told us that a friend and him will try to cover as much for seven days. Upon knowing this, me and my buddy were stunned on that tight schedule. Well, as they say, some people do have lotsa money but no time and some do have the luxury of time but do not have loads of moolah—that was us on the latter. 

Morocco is that one country that I always dreamt of going to. It was a far-fetched idea as I know that traveling from the Philippines to this North African country would require a number of flights which means more money to spare. Nonetheless, my ultimate dream destination was fulfilled last year when me and my buddy spent a month going around the country during our annual two-month summer backpacking trip. 


SEA 2 Africa 2018 was our fifth consecutive backpacking trip which became our annual thing during my two-month school break (April to May). We went to Bali, East Timor and Singapore during the first part while the second leg was more focused around certain key destinations in Morocco. 

▶️ Where to stay in Morocco - Click below to see room rates and discounts.

As usual, we had no concrete plans on going around Morocco and just relied heavily on the very reliable and efficient local public transport system of buses and trains (ONCF) that are interconnected. We got the chance to explore Casablanca, Rabat (with a side trip to Sale), Asilah, Tetouan, Chefchaouene, Fes, Merzouga (Sahara Desert), Tinghir, Ouarzazate, Marrakech, Agadir and Essaouira. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Comfy four-hour train ride from Rabat to Asilah
Asilah was an impulse trip. We noticed that there was a train route from Rabat to this not-so-frequently-visited city so we did a quick research on things to do there and decided to push through with it. That decision was one of the best we had during the trip. 

As compared to Casablanca and Rabat which are French-speaking cities, Asilah, on the other hand, is a Spanish-speaking city mainly because the city was conquered by the Portuguese in 1471.

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Away from the tourist crowd
Located on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast, Asilah is a popular seaside resort town and is home for numerous music and arts festival in the country. 

The four-hour train ride (MAD88/USD8.80 per person) from Gare Rabat Ville was comfy and scenic as we got the first chance to see Morocco’s countryside with its verdant trees and hillsides—as our constant attraction from the window. Arriving at late in the afternoon, we hopped off on what seemed like a train station in the middle of nowhere (Gare Assilah). 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Pension Sahara - Hotel Sahara
We could’ve taken a cab going to our hostel but we chose to walk around two kilometers with our backpacks in tow—the things you do to save a few moolah

Pension Sahara - Hotel Sahara was our accommodation of choice in Asilah. We had a number of options but good online reviews made us choose it right away. At MAD148/night (USD15.20) it was definitely a steal (check here for discounted room rates in Asilah). 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Moroccan tiles!
Checking in was a breeze and we were given keys to our room as well as the password for the complimentary wifi. 

Our room was located on the second level of the hostel. The rooms surround an open area which seemed to be a patio of some sort. The shared toilet and bathroom were on separate stalls although the only available hot shower was at the ground level for a fee (MAD10/use). 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Just the basics
During our stay, we had all our showers on the second level on which we endured the cold water. We usually did it in the afternoon when the sun was at its brightest so as to mask the cool spring weather—again, the things you do to save cash. 

What I love the most about our room was the functionality of the amenities even though how simple they were. We had a bed, coat hanger, side table, and a washbasin. The small windows provided an ample amount of air to get through and the thick blankets provided warmth at night. It’s a basic type of accommodation but these were all we needed at that time. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
San Bartholome Catholic Church
First order of business that late afternoon was dinner so we went around Ville Nouvelle (new medina) and checked our options after settling in. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Asilah's Ville Nouvelle
Asilah is a relatively quiet town as compared to Casablanca and Rabat. It was a Sunday and the streets leading to a park were filled with families who were having their chill out time. We noticed a number of tourists on cafés and restaurants but it wasn’t as overwhelming as in other Moroccan cities. 

After a few days in the country, I never expected anything special for dinner. It was always bread and tagine (traditional Moroccan dish which is named after the pot in which it is cooked) for lunch or dinner. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

After strolling for some time, we found a restaurant that serves grilled chicken and rice, I couldn’t contain my happiness when I saw it. 

We hit the sack right after dinner. 

We started the day early with a quick tour around the medina (a walled city within a city that was considered as an old district for Arab/non-Europeans in Northern Africa and Maltese cities). 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
One of the babs (gates) in Asilah's medina
The medina of Asilah was rather small as compared to those of Casablanca and Rabat. The first thing I noticed was how clean and orderly the whole place was. It was too early to tell the difference though between shops and houses at that time. We then decided to go back there in the afternoon.

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Well, hello there!
Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

We scouted the area for a cheap breakfast place, to no avail. We ended up on an overpriced café where we both shared a traditional Moroccan breakfast meal which had a number of breads and jams. We stayed there longer than usual as we enjoyed people-watching from that spot. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Our overpriced brekkie
The medina was totally different when we went back later that day. Shops and cafés were found between houses. Trivial stuff inside some local artisan shops were frequented by tourists. There were rugs, leather stuff, ceramics, and so much more Moroccan thingamajigs. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Asilah's medina sans the crowd
Going around this quiet medina, we chanced upon some kids who were playing soccer on a narrow alley as well as some school kids who were running around as they go back home for lunch. We also noticed a donkey with an old school wagon used by a local.

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Kids and soccer
Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

We spent the rest of the afternoon outside the medina. We started our stroll at Plage de Asilah (Asilah Beach) and went straight on its boardwalk where we were almost swept away by the cool strong winds. We ended up on a fisherman’s wharf where an assortment of fresh seafood was being sold. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

We then went on a seaside park where locals, usually mothers and kids, were chilling out. We then saw some street food and decided to try the famous Moroccan escargot which we already saw in Rabat. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Moroccan escargot
We ended the day with a nice dinner meal on a roadside restaurant. We were so absorbed with watching the goings-on of the locals that we didn’t realize that it was getting dark. We passed by a local grocery and were mistaken for Spanish tourists as we spoke of familiar words for them. We then told them that we were Filipinos and that we use words that are similar to Spanish language. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
Asilah is Morocco's Artsy Town
The next morning, we looked for a cheap place to have breakfast, to no avail. Our only consolation was a bread shop that had fresh local breads that morning. We then prepped our stuff and went on to our next adventure. 

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog

Asilah Morocco Travel Guide Blog
People are nicer here compared to other main cities
As we were on our way to the train station to catch the bus going to Tetouan, a friendly gesture was made by a local. Knowing that we’re on the move because of our huge backpacks, a guy was offering for us to hitch in his car wherever our destination was. Unfortunately, he was going on the opposite direction which saddened us all. 

What I love most about Asilah is its chill vibe and the friendliness of the people—a far cry from the hungry eyes of scammers around famous touristy cities in Morocco. We would’ve wanted to stay longer but we only had little time (thirty days is quite short for us). Nonetheless, we had a nice time on a not-so-popular tourist route. 






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