Assilah, this small village on the Atlantic, has been host to a major month-long cultural festival since 1978, when Mohammed Benaissa, now Morocco’s Foreign Minister and president of the festival, first founded the cultural season with the painter Mohammed Melehi in their home town.
This important event in the Arab calendar, with its wide-ranging activities, takes its identity from the character of Benaissa, who simultaneously has a passion for literature, arts and politics. Every August Assilah is crowded with thousands of Moroccan and other tourists, many intellectuals and artists from the Arab world, the Mediterranean and other African countries. There is no surprise to see on the streets the Foreign Minister of France or Spain or Egypt.
This year, there were three major themes for discussion, the first being a two-day panel on “Africa Tomorrow: What Tomorrow? What Africa?”. This was followed by a major conference on “Islam seen by us and by the others” attended by over fifty Arab, African, Asian and European intellectuals.
The final theme comprised three days of discussion and papers on the Moroccan novel in North Africa and in the diaspora, and the nature of the novel in the Arab world, inaugurated by the awarding of the Mohamed Zefzaf Prize for the Arab Novel to the Libyan novelist Ibrahim al-Koni by Mohammed Benaissa.