The first town south of Tangier – and first stop on the train line – ASILAH is one of the most elegant of the old Portuguese Atlantic ports, small, easy to manage, and exceptionally clean. First impressions are of wonderful square stone ramparts, flanked by palms, and an outstanding beach – an immense sweep of sand stretching to the north halfway to Tangier. The town’s Medina is one of the most attractive in the country, colourwashed in pastel shades, and with a series of murals painted for the town’s International Cultural Festival (3–4 weeks in Aug; w c-assilah.com), which attracts performers from around the world with a programme of art, dance, film, music and poetry.
Before the tourists and the International Festival, Asilah was just a small fishing port, quietly stagnating after the indifference of Spanish colonial administration. Whitewashed and cleaned up, it now has a prosperous feeling to it: the Grand Mosque, for example, has been rebuilt and doubled in size, there’s a wide paved seaside promenade and property developments, including a marina and golf course estate, are popping up either side of the town. As with Tangier, the beach is the main focus of life in summer. The most popular stretches are to the north of the town, out towards the train station. For more isolated strands, walk south, past the Medina ramparts.