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In The Tradition Of A Year In Provence And Under The Tuscan Sun, Acclaimed English Travel Writer Tahir Shah Shares A Highly Entertaining Account Of Making An Exotic Dream Come True By Turns Hilarious And Harrowing, Here Is The Story Of His Family S Move From The Gray Skies Of London To The Sun Drenched City Of Casablanca, Where Islamic Tradition And African Folklore Converge And Nothing Is As Easy As It SeemsInspired By The Moroccan Vacations Of His Childhood, Tahir Shah Dreamed Of Making A Home In That Astonishing Country At Age Thirty Six He Got His Chance Investing What Money He And His Wife, Rachana, Had, Tahir Packed Up His Growing Family And Bought Dar Khalifa, A Crumbling Ruin Of A Mansion By The Sea In Casablanca That Once Belonged To The City S Caliph, Or Spiritual LeaderWith Its Lush Grounds, Cool, Secluded Courtyards, And Relaxed Pace, Life At Dar Khalifa Seems Sure To Fulfill Tahir S Fantasy Until He Discovers That In Many Ways He Is Farther From Home Than He Imagined For In Morocco An Empty House Is Thought To Attract Jinns, Invisible Spirits Unique To The Islamic World The Ardent Belief In Their Presence Greatly Hampers Sleep And Renovation Plans, But That Is Just The Beginning From Elaborate Exorcism Rituals Involving Sacrificial Goats To Dealing With Gangster Neighbors Intent On Stealing Their Property, The Shahs Must Cope With A New Culture And All That Comes With It Endlessly Enthralling, The Caliph S House Charts A Year In The Life Of One Family Who Takes A Tremendous Gamble As We Follow Tahir On His Travels Throughout The Kingdom, From Tangier To Marrakech To The Sahara, We Discover A World Of Fierce Contrasts That Any True Adventurer Would Be Thrilled To Call Home From The Hardcover EditionSee For An Interview


10 thoughts on “The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca

  1. says:

    This is how I reviewed this book in The Washington Post From The Washington Post s Book World It s been 20 years since Peter Mayle wrote his bestseller A Year in Provence, and there s no sign yet of the Year In franchise flagging After all, what two week vacationer could fail to dream of a year in Provence, Marrakesh or Tuscany These are modern Mediterranean fairy tales, and they re put together with the simplest ingredients magical neighbors, hellish builders and much olive oil than you expected The Caliph s House looks like one of those books, but it isn t British travel writer Tahir Shah s highly readable account of moving his young family to Casablanca is constructed with something weirder and sharper vinegar, perhaps, and ectoplasm.It opens ordinarily enough Shah is at a Casablanca lawyer s office, signing the sale contract, taking in the view of the street, ruminating on why he had always wanted to skip the grey skies of England for the warmth and color of Morocco He picks up the heavy old key The caliph s house is his At that very moment, a car bomb explodes outside the lawyer s office, covering them both with broken glass An eerie portent of things to come, perhaps Shah s new home, the vast Caliph s House, has been empty for 10 years and now stands decrepit, if not derelict, on the fringe of a shantytown With it, Shah finds that he has also acquired staff three lugubrious and potentially sinister guardians, who come as if by some medieval right of sale More medieval still, a vengeful she jinn called Qandisha haunts the house, they say.Over the next few months she reveals her presence in various grisly ways stringing cats up in trees and sucking raw meat through the toilet bowl Children are said to be her favorite target It may be no coincidence that the local gangster wants them out so he can steal the land Down in the shantytown an elderly stamp collector, who will take no money for teaching the author Arabic but likes his foreign stamps, gives him some amiable advice You put mannequins in the children s beds, and tell your children to sleep in the oven each night Do that, and you will all be safe An educated young lady Shah hires to get the renovations underway ultimately claims to have a 300 meter tall jinn sitting at her shoulder, cleans out Shah s bank account and reports him as a terrorist to the police Her replacement the crafty, efficient Kamal is a binge drinker on a perpetual high wire, a sort of psychopathic Jeeves whose brutal and bizarre history includes a long interlude in the United States, where he made the acquaintance of Mohamed Atta, the 9 11 hijacker.Yet nothing in Casablanca is quite as odd as Shah s determination to carry on as usual He and his imperturbable wife want servants, a big house in the sun and a bellyful of local color for their two toddlers What they get is the local custom of dropping gobbets of raw chicken into the well to appease the jinns, and a bellyful of streptococcus It s almost fatal, but they don t flush the key down the one working lavatory and get a cab to the airport The thought briefly flits through Shah s mind, but it doesn t take hold Instead, we are led on a darkly comic journey into the North African underworld, with the reckless but thoroughly well connected Kamal as chaperone to Shah s dubious Dante.The joke is that Shah, in spite of his Afghan heritage, in spite of his descent from the Prophet, is a man with a rationalist moral gyroscope He doesn t believe in jinns, which everyone else seems to have like head lice He s bothered by rats, he has servant trouble, he discovers the desperate shifts the poor make to survive the stealing, the sudden flashes of dignity, the mutual aid networks that underpin the black market, the medieval superstitions Nothing works quite the way it works in a mature, liberal, democratic capitalist society Everything has a price, but the routes to that price are devious and surprising Every explanation raises questions than it answers Shah has baffling encounters and warily follows instructions he cannot understand.One night he is taken to a mysterious rendezvous in the desert and expects to be killed, but nothing happens Another day he gives a lift to an old man who steals his car Fifteen minutes later, the elderly thief drives back, apologizing that if he took the car for good, no one would ever give an old man a lift again It s in this sly side step from common reality that the Shah persona comes into its own He doesn t play it too knowingly, but he doesn t play himself for a fool, either.If Kamal is a Jeeves on amphetamines, Shah is no woolly headed Wooster He finds himself a very good fixer He gets the house superbly done, with tiling and the tadelakt, so that he and his family can leave the single room they ve occupied all year And he finds out a lot about his grandfather, a widower who retired to Morocco because it was the one place he d never traveled with his adored wife he lived for years in Tangiers before being struck dead by a Coca Cola delivery truck Shah writes an outrageously black comedy with the straightest of poker faces And in some quiet alchemical way, he finds himself at peace with the guardians and the imam and the gangster down the road and the shanty dwellers on his doorstep and the bank manager at home He s living there still.


  2. says:

    The title sounded good and maybe that is how I ended up with this book in my bookcase Good thing it did, because it was a very fun read, and so I couldn t put it down.Tahir Shah had been to Morocco when he was a kid and never forgot the place I had been to Morocco at the Epcot Center in Florida s Disneyworld and never forgot my meal there Mix dried fruits in meats or any food, and yum I have a meatloaf recipe with groundup dried apricots in the center that I used to make for myself when I was single My husband would never try anything with dried fruit.Tahir grew tired of living in sunless England, so he talked his wife into moving to Casablanca How she lasted I will never know While I would find it wonderful to live in such a place, I could not have put up with the remodeling of their house.When they buy a 22 room house, they learn that three guardians workers come with it, but with these guardians come problems First, Tahir is told that jinns live in the house, and they must get rid of them Jinns are evil spirits that are mentioned in the Quran Next, he is told that it order to get rid of the jinns he must kill a goat in each of the rooms Are you counting Tahir doesn t believe in evil spirits and will not even think of killing 22 goats, so he ignores the guardians who are now constantly after him about these jinns and the trouble they can and will cause Since he won t kill the goats, the jinns tell him that his family must be quiet when they talk, and that they must never use the bathroom in the middle of the night, because jinns are drawn to water, especially that in their commode First time he gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, while in midstream, a guardian grabs him Stop Tahir s remodeling doesn t go very well at all, because the people he hired, well, they created messes, and it looked as if nothing was ever going to get done I believe that I would have fired them all or in my case, I would have my husband do the work, and I would be the clean up crew If I were doing it alone I would have just patched up holes and painted the place Yet, when I look at the photo of Tahir s home that is posted here, the finished product is really beautiful and was worth it all Tahir s writing continued to charm me to the very end, but if this is a true story, then I feel for him and for his wife Still, he learned from the experience and they are still living in Casablanca.


  3. says:

    Another book that I don t know how to rate It was amusing, I ll give it that I think I would have gotten out of it if I hadn t been living in Morocco for so long During a lot of the book, I was thinking that the author was stupid or that he had done things that were really stupid naiive Then the language thing I guess he speaks fluent French and in Casablanca that works fine because everyone there speaks French but things were so easy for him because he always seemed to have either a translator with him or people who spoke his language And he s a man, so Casablanca, while often stressful and strange, wasn t the same for him Maybe part of it is just that I hate Casa so much I wonder why anyone would ever choose to live there Again, maybe I d have liked it better if I had had my own transportation, money, better places to stay, didn t understand the Darija people said behind your back, didn t realize much everyone was inflating prices and could speak French.so many ifs , right It s hard for me to get a feel on his take on the culture He didn t understand a lot of things that were happening around him, and he tried to describe things with humor Sometimes this worked, and his ironic voice was okay But other times it just annoyed me and made me frustrated with him I felt bad for his wife, who was basically a non character in the story and only had occasional paragraphs about her, and would have been interested in learning about her experiences and takes on situations But then that would have been a totally different story.


  4. says:

    Kas man bija Maroka l dz im Valsts Zieme frik , kur sensen pag tn k du laiku mitusi m su eksprezidente Vaira V e Freiberga Varb t v l ar enciklop diski dati no vidusskolas laika, kad rakst ju projekta darbu par frikas valst m Ideja to dar t toreiz dzima, pateicoties Albertam veiceram Es nezinu, kas iedvesmoja citas meitenes vecum , kas vairs sti neskait s b rn ba man bija mazpadsmit gadu , bet man tie i toreiz rok s non ca hum nista un medic nas mision ra Apv r a s rij izdot gr mata V stules no Lambarenes , kur vi apraksta savu pieredzi m sdienu Gabon.Kas man ir Maroka tagad Kr su, smar u un gar u p rbag t ba majest tiski nami, kuri glab aizg ju o gadsimtu grezn bu isl ms bez radik lisma tirgo an s ar kaul anos m tic ba vispla kaj l dz im sastaptaj noz m eksotiski augi un putni tik garas un trad cij s balst tas sarunas, k das Rietumu pasaul , iesp jams, nekad nav tiku as risin tas imene k visliel k v rt ba atg din jums, ka senie latvie i nav biju i vien gie, kuri, darbu darot, dzied ju i m sdienu amatnieki un meistari, kuri piekopj gadsimtiem senas prasmes, izmantojot senos, primit vos darbar kus is bija viens varens piedz vojums, kuru l dz gi zieme brie u vilkto kamanu zvani iem j dom , ka slepena b rnu nov ro ana, lai lemtu par d van m, jau ir s kusies visa ce a garum pavad ja mani dzidrie smiekli.


  5. says:

    A fascinating and often hysterically funny look at life in Morocco, through the eyes of an Afghan who was primarily raised in England, but has traveled widely I loved the sayings which headed every chapter, such as Never give advice in a crowd and Every beetle is a gazelle in the eye of its mother Shah was very lucky to be able to connect with his grandfather s life as well, because his grandfather had spent his last years in Morocco Meeting those people who had known him and been touched by him is irreplaceable I ll admit that sometimes the things that happened in the book were so fantastic that I wondered if they could possibly be true, but I ve found nothing to suggest that they weren t It s worth the price of the book to find out how Shah and his think outside the box assistant gets his money back from the architect he fired An absolutely inspired solution Recommended.


  6. says:

    I have to confess that my opinion of this book may be swayed by my minor obsession with the following topics Morocco picking up and moving your life to a new and exotic locale and refurbishing old houses with traditional techniques Since this book is about the author s experience moving his entire family from England to Morocco, buying a villa and working with local artisans to return it to its former glory, it was right up my alley The author has a wonderful, strong sense of self in his tone, and the humor with which the story is conveyed feels a bit like listening to a good friend s trials and tribulations over a cup of coffee Anyone who has had occasion to try to get something done within the restrictions of a foreign culture will relate to this story, and enjoy laughing along with Shah at every new complication and frustration he encounters.


  7. says:

    I have read a couple of these books were people do mjor life changes and it always amazes me how little preparation they take and how incredibly naive they are He starts the books telling us that all his friends and family were against the move and I now agree with them Not because of the idea of such a drastic move from London to Casablanca but because the guy is a bit of an idiot For a start he makes no start on learning either French or Arabic, he signs a contract in arabic without getting anyone to translate it for him and be pays the builder up front, in full As I said the guy is a bit of an idiot.Yes there are laughs but in my case sighs I understand that he probably deliberately leaves out a lot about his wife and children to keep some privacy but instead I got the feeling that he kind of abandonded them while he revelled in the experience I was also wondering where in all his dramas he managed to get his actual bill paying work done.Thank god it was well written and easy reading too or I might have thrown it out the window but if you like this genre then go for it.


  8. says:

    Tahir Shah came across as ethnocentric and self involved He barreled through his adventure read early mid life crisis thinking only of himself and his money often times mentioning an author s paltry salary, then making an ostentatious building decision for his mansion I was also perturbed by the way in which his wife was merely a sounding board for his frustrations Read this book if you re looking for a way to flip mansion s in Morocco while swindling the local people and dismissing their culture as lazy Or, save yourself the time and don t read it at all I read it because I was traveling and it was the only book I had packed Ha.


  9. says:

    Labai smagu skaityti apie t , kas i dr so i tr kti i ilg kelioni darb bei netikr draug rutinos.


  10. says:

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