Asilah Festival: Guide to the Festival of Asilah

The Asilah Arts Festival, or the International Cultural Moussem of Asilah, is an annual cultural extravaganza that takes place in the Moroccan port town of Asilah. During the month of August, the town is imparted with colour, exuberance and dynamism with a sophisticated mix of artists and world travellers looking to mingle and celebrate.

The summer-long Asilah festival features journalists, writers, painters, musicians and dancers from all over the world. Numerous workshops, public arts demonstrations, concerts and exhibitions are held throughout the month. The most outstanding activities in the filed of visual arts are the mural paintings in the Medina. An entire wall is used as a canvass for the imagination of painters, often an intriguing mix of fantasy representational art and geometric designs that offset the whitewashed walls of the houses.

The Asilah festival can be traced back to 1978, when two local friends – Mohammed Melehi, an artist and curator, and Mohammed Benaissa, a photographer and diplomat – came up with the idea of inviting artist friends from all over the world to perform wall paintings. After the success of this first initiative, Benaissa and Melehi decided to hold an artist festival every summer and so was born the Cultural Moussem of Asilah. The festival, today North Africa’s biggest cultural gathering, has brought Asilah from relative obscurity to the forefront of Moroccan tourism and arts.

Asilah Festival: Main Activities and Events

Wall Paintings

The peeling whitewalls of the Medina are used as a canvas for the imagination of Moroccan and International painters during the festival. At least half dozen murals are painted in a mix of representational arts and geometric designs on any topic. The colourful murals are replenished each year by a new wave of festival artists with the active participation of children and the youth of Asilah.

Engraving Workshops

Every year, about fifteen internationally-known engraving artists exchange their experience and techniques on two printing frames owned by the Asilah Cultural Association. At the end of the festival, every artist donates part of his work to the Association – which has now an impressive collection.

Poetry and Shows

Local and international concerts, dance shows and poetry readings are held at the Hassan II Centre and the Raissouni Palace. The shows were initially free, but there is now a cover charge.

Conference and Lectures

Seminars are held at the Hassan II Centre with international thinkers, researchers and academics in attendance. Architecture, urbanism, artistic creation and many other disciplines are discussed. Each year’s session employs several themes, including “Europe, America and Islam” and “Cooperation between Arabs and regional Arab organizations.” Colloquia include “Women and the Cinema of the Arab World,” and at the end of each festival the renowned Buland Al Haodari prize for Arab youth is presented.