Asilah is in northern Morocco, approximately 30 km southwest of Tangier.
The region around Asilah has been inhabited since well before 1500 BC and Phonecian settlements in the area, but the Mulsim city know as Asila dates to the Muslim conquest and the Idrisid dynasty. It 966 the city was reconstructed by the Umayyad Caliph al-Hakim II. In 1471 the Portuguese conquered the city, and it remained European sovereignty until 1691 when it was reconquered by Mulay Isma'il. He built two of the cities mosques, a madrasa and hammam.
In the 19th century the city was bombarded by the Austrians in 1829 and the Spanish in 1860. Asilah was also an important fiefdom of the Rifi leader Mulay Ahmad al-Raisuni, who was named Pasha of the region in 1906. Spain occupied Asilah in 1911, and it reverted to Moroccan control with most of northern Morocco when the Protectorate ended in 1956. Restored in 1978, Asilah is a resort town and a major tourist attraction. It is best known for its annual arts festival that attracts major international talent, including graphic artists who use the city's walls as a canvas.
Sources: Guiguet-Bologne, Philippe. Un guide de Tanger et de sa région. Tangier: Philip Guiguet Bologne, 1996.
Roca, Juan, Ramon. Tangier and its surroundings. Alicante, Spain: Roca Vincente-Franquiera, 2011.
4. El Hait.(2 rhiyata, 2 tbola, 2 taarij)
Performers: Maalem Abdeslam Sarsri el Mahet Arzila and Ensemble
Recorded by Paul Bowles.
At Arcila, Morocco.
August 27, 1959.
Music of the Djebala.
1959 August 27, Video 2016
"We had been promised a six-hour session, but when evening came the Maalem informed me that he would have to leave with his troop earlier than we had agreed, in order to go some 40 miles away to play all night at a wedding, so after some for and a half hours we broke it up. "El Haït” was his attempt to create a feeling of finality.
Number three was a great success with the crowd when I played it back, mainly because any present had heard the Maalem perform the identical piece at the moussem (annual pilgrimage) of Moulay Abdeslam, the most popular local saint. The people travel for days on donkeys and on foot to the top of a high mountain where them moussem is held. There they spread tents (some 50,000 of them) and remain for a week or so, enjoying themselves vastly, and only incidentally observing religious prescriptions as a kind of social obligation. Moulay Abdeslam is the most important moussem in northern Morocco."
Bowles, Paul F. "Arcila." from Folk, Popular, and Art Music of Morocco.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection. Washington,
DC: American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, 1959-1962.
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies