The city of Tangier, Morocco, scares people. It’s busy, touristy, and intense, especially for Westerners who are trying to get a taste of a culture different from their own. People find themselves here because it is a port. You’re most likely entering or exiting Morocco. While there are plenty of cool sights to see, it isn’t the perfect destination for everyone. It doesn’t paint an accurate picture of what this country has to offer.
One way to escape the craziness of Tangier is to take a taxi 45 minutes down the coast to the quaint city of Asilah. Walking into Asilah, you can feel the quiet. The markets aren’t bustling. You can shop and bargain at your leisure. You can take a stroll to the beach to dip your feet in the water and marvel at the stark white buildings that sit like pearls on the shore. Walk through the neighborhoods exploring the narrow streets. You can sift through leather shoes and bags, rugs and jewelry, and every trinket under the sun.
I traveled here with 3 of my coworkers, all female, and it was a nice part of Morocco to be in without having men in our group. It’s a city that a solo female traveler could enjoy without too much harassment. We had a great time meandering the city walls and spending the evening on the beach.
Street of restaurants & cafes
There is a long stretch of street outside the medina full of open air restaurants and cafes. All serve a typical Moroccan menu, with Tagines, kebab skewers, and couscous dishes. Everything is very cheap, about €6 for a huge, filling meal. Fun fact – lemonade maxi, which you may see on a menu, is Sprite.
Mint tea & pastries
I have a slight addiction to Moroccan mint tea. It’s sweet and refreshing despite being a hot beverage. Paired with different Moroccan baked goods – cookies and pastries, it is the perfect late afternoon pick-me-up. Everywhere we went we ordered a round of tea and one of each pastry. It was the best way to try a variety.
For dinner we ventured away from the busy strip of cafes and went to a French-style expat restaurant, L’Perle d’Asilah. After three days of endless couscous and tagine, a salad from this place was the perfect way to find balance.
One day is not a lot of time, but it is enough to see the city at a leisurely pace, take a walk on the beach, and enjoy a nice meal. It’s a place you feel like you can breathe. It’s a place to enjoy shopping for Moroccan goods, and not feel overwhelmed.
We stayed in Hotel Azayla. It was a decent hotel, nothing fancy, close to the medina. No breakfast included, which is why if I went back I would opt for the hostel that is in Asilah. It was nice that we all had our own, comfortable bed, which is unusual for groups of 4.
Bring your camera to Asilah; perfect pictures lurk around every corner. I was especially captivated by the ornate, colored doors that speckled the white walls. Watching the sunset over the water was beautiful. We heard people cheer, as it was Ramadan and they could finally eat as it dipped below the horizon.
If you find yourself traveling through Morocco and want to spend a day relaxing in a small town, make a stop-off in Asilah. It’s close to the Tangier, so it is convenient if that is your port of entry or exit of the country. It would be a great place to unplug and enjoy the best parts of Moroccan culture without the chaos of the souks and saturation of tourists.