- Fizzy Thoughts: The Caliph's House

The Caliph's House

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Note to self: don't go moving to Morocco. They have big-ass rats that eat books.

The Caliph's House, by Tahir Shah

Like many authors, Shah decided to buy a heap somewhere, move, renovate said heap, and then write all about it. Fortunately, he chose Morocco, so it makes for an interesting story.

Shah bought the Caliph's House, a very neglected but beautiful house in Casablanca. With the house come three guardians (aka caretakers) who believe the house is inhabited by jinns. In fact, everyone believes the house is inhabited by jinns, since jinns evidently like empty houses. Shah struggles with this mindset, as well renovation work in a country that moves at it's own pace. After a year, he manages to get the house inhabitable and he caves to the idea that he needs to have an exorcism to rid the house of its evil spirits.

I really liked this story. Shah does a good job of explaining the local culture (and craftsmanship), as well as his struggles with understanding and finding a place in it. He also weaves in some of his own family history, telling about his grandfather who had moved to Morocco late in life. The only part that doesn't ring true is the poor author bit, as he seems to have plenty of money to hire maids and cooks and nannies. But other than that, it was fun to read about his introduction to Morocco.

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In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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