Assilah or Azila, as it is called by the people of the North, is one of the Moroccan cities that are small in size but big in history and heritage. It is one of the most important poles of cultural tourism in the Arab world. Every year, its festival brings together thousands of intellectuals from all over the world.
The city, which has a population of about 32,000 (2013 statistics), was built according to Andalusian architecture. Amazighs, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans lived here thousands of years ago, before it was destroyed during the conquest of the Vandals, according to many historical references, and before the Almoravids rebuilt it again.
The city was colonized for decades by the Portuguese. And it was Sultan Ahmed Al-Mansour Addahbi who liberated it in 1589. At the beginning of the 20th century, it served as a stronghold for the resistance leader Ahmed Rissouni, who extended his power over many lands in the north before being expelled by the Spaniards who tightened their grip on the city until Morocco gained independence.
Assilah is known for its beautiful sandy beaches such as “Laaouina”, “Paradise”, “Kahf Lahmam” and “Sidi Ahmed Zawaq”. It also stands out for its mild Mediterranean climate and its wonderful tourist areas, first of which is the old town with its ancient narrow blue and white streets, its historical ramparts and ancient gates such as the “Gate of the Kasbah”, the “Gate of the Sea” and the “Gate of the Market”.
The city is home to many historical monuments such as “Al Masjid Al Jamii”, a mosque built in the 3rd century, the “Moon Tower”, built by the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century, the “Tikane” square, the “Krikia” tower and the Rissouni Palace overlooking the ocean and built according to Islamic architecture, and the “Al Khadir Ghailan” palace, in reference to the Prince of Assilah, who built it in the 17th century.
The Jews lived in Assilah, alongside the Muslims. Their number represented 5% of the total population, according to Auguste Mouliéras, in his book “The unknown Morocco: geographical and sociological study. Exploration of the Rif”.
The Jews were gathered in the district of Lalla Rahma in front of Bab al-Homar. This neighborhood did not resemble the Mellahs that existed in many Moroccan cities. It is the district that still today houses a large Jewish cemetery, which has become a pilgrimage destination for many Jews who come from all over the world to visit the graves of their ancestors.
It should be noted that Jews began flocking to Assilah in the mid-15th century to escape the Inquisition.