“The sight of books removes sorrow from the heart.”
– Moroccan proverb
Morocco is a lot of things – The exotic, bustling cities with mazes of alleyways and souks waiting to be lost in. Vast golden dunes of sand spreading beyond it’s boarders and out in to the continent. High snow capped peaks and beautiful beaches. Morocco has it all. Sometimes all of these sights, sounds and smells can be evoked by quality writing and you can find yourself transported there just by flicking through the pages of a book. In this post I have tried to collect together books that will give you an overview of the country’s history, travelogues to inspire your trip or accounts of life in modern day Morocco. Whether you are planning to wander the Sahara or just spend a weekend in the madness of Marrakech, hopefully you can find something here to inspire you.
Lords of the Atlas: The Rise and Fall of the House of Glaoua, 1893-1956
by Gavin Maxwell
This book relates the rise and fall of the Glaoui family. Two brothers, Madani and T’hami, ruled Marrakesh and southern Morocco as warlords from the early 1900’s until 1956. Eventually, T’hami El Glaoui became a tool of the reactionary French colonial powers, until they abandoned him in the face of the inevitable movement toward independence. As I knew we were heading to Telouet on our Moroccan adventure, the seat of the Glaoui family’s power, I picked this up from a charity shop before our trip and wasn’t disappointed.
Morocco That Was
by Walter Harris
The book that Lords of Atlas is said to have taken a lot from is Morocco That Was by Harris whom lived in the country for more than thirty-five years, and as The Times correspondent he observed every aspect of its life. Written in the early 20th Century, this book is a memoir of the last sultans before the French established their protectorate relating many amusing stories of intrigue in the court of Sultan Abdelaziz in the 1890’s and early 1900’s.
A House in Fez
by Suzanna Clarke
This book details the authors journey as she and her husband purchase a dilapidated property in Fez’s bustling Medina and embark on a mission to return it to its former glory.
The Caliph’s House
by Tahir Shah
In a similar vein to A House In Fez, Tahir Shah documents his and his family’s move to Casablanca in order to renovate a derelict palace infested with Jinns (Moroccan evil spirits) with whom he has frequent encounters. Some of the facts and stories may seem a little embellished but this is a fun and humerous read about an Afghan/Englishman’s interactions with locals and spirits as he tries to build his dream.
In Arabian Nights
by Tahit Shah
Shortly after the 2005 London bombings, Tahir Shah was thrown into a Pakistani prison on suspicion of spying for Al-Qaeda. What sustained him during his terrifying, weeks-long ordeal were the stories his father told him as a child in Morocco.
Inspired by this, on his return to his adopted homeland he embarked on an adventure worthy of the mythical Arabian Nights, going in search of the stories and storytellers that have nourished this most alluring of countries for centuries.
by Edith Wharton
Considered a travel writing classic, In Morocco is Edith Wharton’s remarkable account of her journey to the eponymous country during World War I. Although the prejudices of her social class do show through though, particularly in her gushing praise for the colonial administration, Wharton is a fantastic writer and her class gives her great access.
The Spider’s House
by Paul Bowles
The American novelist Paul Bowles spent 52 years in Tangiers and he writes about the city he loved in his collection of travel writing Travels published by Sort Of Books. The novel is set in Fez, Morocco, in 1954 and deals with the political upheaval against the French colonialists. Although not as famous as The Sheltering Sky, this book has the eye of an outsider but the knowledge of a local – showing off Bowle’s exceptional narrative skill.
by Laila Lalami
Laila Lahlimi is a Moroccan novelist who published her novel Secret Son in English in America, being the first Moroccan to do so. The novel tells the story of nineteen-year-old Youssef El-Mekki, raised in the slums of Casablanca, who is whisked of by his father – once though of as dead – to join the the luxurious life of Casablanca’s elite. It is also worth reading her Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits.
A Palace in the Old Village
by Tahar Ben Jelloun
Considered one of Morocco’as greatest living authors, this novel tells the story of a Moroccan immigrant to France who having worked there all his life, raising a family that are now fully assimilated in to French life, was now retiring and making plans to move back to Morocco. The book documents his struggles as they not only reject the Moroccan values that he holds dear but they are also dismissive of him as a father.
What do you think? If you have any further reading suggestions or want to give your opinions on the books listed above, feel free to write a comment below. In the meantime, check out my Goodreads profile.