Asilah (Arabic: أصيلة; Berber languages: ⴰⵥⵉⵍⴰ; Portuguese: Arzila; Spanish: Arcila) is a fortified town on the northwest tip of the Atlantic coast of Morocco, about 31 km (19 mi) south of Tangier. Its ramparts and gateworks remain fully intact.

The town's history dates back to 1500 B.C., when Phoenicians occupied a site called Silis, Zili, Zilis, or Zilil (Punic: 𐤀𐤔𐤋𐤉𐤕, ʾŠLYT,[1] or Punic: 𐤔𐤋𐤉, ŠLY)[2] which is being excavated at Dchar Jdid, some 12 km (7.5 mi) NE of present Asilah; that place was once considered to be the Roman stronghold Ad Mercuri, but is now accepted to be Zilil. The town of Asilah itself was originally constructed by the Idrisid dynasty,[3] and Umayyad caliph Al-Hakam II rebuilt the town in 966.[4] The Portuguese conquered the city in 1471 and built its fortifications, but it was abandoned because of an economic debt crisis in 1549.[5] In 1578, Sebastian of Portugal used Asilah as a base for his troops during a planned crusade that resulted in Sebastian's death, which in turn caused the Portuguese succession crisis of 1580. The Portuguese kept hold of the town but in 1589 the Moroccans briefly regained control of Asilah, but then lost it to the Spanish.[6]

In 1692, the town was again taken by the Moroccans under the leadership of Moulay Ismail. Asilah served then as a base for pirates in the 19th and 20th centuries, and in 1829, the Austrians punitively bombarded the city due to Moroccan piracy.[7]

From 1912 to 1956, it was part of Spanish Morocco. A major plan to restore the town was undertaken in 1978 by its mayor, Mohamed Benaissa. Benaissa and painter Mohamed Melehi were instrumental in organizing an art festival, the International Cultural Moussem of Asilah, that starting in 1978 began generating tourism income. It is credited with having promoted urban renewal in Asilah, and is one of the most important art festivals in the country.[8] It played a role in raising the average monthly income from $50 in 1978 to $140 in 2014. The festival features local artwork and music and continues to attract large numbers of tourists.[9]

Asilah is now a popular seaside resort, with modern holiday apartment complexes on the coast road leading to the town from Tangier.[10] The old neighborhoods are restored and painted white, and the wealthy from Casablanca have their weekend getaways here.[4]

^ Head & al. (1911), p. 890. ^ Maldonado López (2013), p. 78. ^ Searight, Susan (1999). Maverick Guide to Morocco. Gretna: Pelican. p. 137. ISBN 9781455608645. Retrieved 14 June 2017. ^ a b Cite error: The named reference footprint was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Jorge Nascimento Rodrigues; Tessaleno C. Devezas (1 December 2007). Pioneers of Globalization: Why the Portuguese Surprised the World. Centro Atlantico. p. 117. ISBN 978-989-615-056-3. ^ Paula Hardy; Mara Vorhees; Heidi Edsall (2005). Morocco. Lonely Planet. pp. 121–122. ISBN 978-1-74059-678-7. ^ "'Abd ar-Rasham". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. I: A-Ak - Bayes (15th ed.). Chicago, Illinois: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 2010. pp. 17. ISBN 978-1-59339-837-8. ^ Pieprzak, Katarzyna (2008). "Art in the Streets: Modern Art, Museum Practice and the Urban Environment in Contemporary Morocco". Middle East Studies Association Bulletin. 42 (1/2): 48–54. doi:10.1017/S0026318400051518. JSTOR 23063542. S2CID 193750448. ^ Emma Katz (2014). "Art and the Economy in Amman". Journal of Georgetown University-Qatar Middle Eastern Studies Student Association. Globalization and the Middle East: Youth, Media & Resources, 7 (2014): 7. doi:10.5339/messa.2014.7. ^ Cite error: The named reference euronews was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
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