The Caliph's house: a year in Casablanca
Look into the eyes of a jinn and you stare into the depths of your own soul (Moroccan proverb) Writer and film-maker Tahir Shah - in his 30s, married, with two small children - was beginning to wilt under brash, cramped, ennervating British city life. Flying in the face of friends' advice, he longed to fulfil his dream of finding somewhere far removed from London - a place bursting with life, colour, history and romance - in which to raise a family. Childhood memories of holidaying with his parents, and of a grandfather he barely knew, led him to Morocco and to Dar Khalifa, a sprawling, long-abandoned (but for its jinns) mansion on the edge of Casablanca's shanty town that, rumour had it, once belonged to the city's Caliph. And so begins Tahir Shah's gloriously vivid, affectionate and compelling account of how he and his family - aided, abetted and so often hindered by a wonderful cast of larger-than-life local characters: guardians, gardeners, builders, artisans, bureacrats and police (not to mention the original neighbours from hell and the jinns, those spirits that haunt the house) - returned the Caliph's House to its former glory and learned to make this most exotic and alluring of countries their home. The Caliph's House is a story of home-ownership abroad - full of the attendant dramas, anxieties and frustrations - but it is also much more. Woven into the narrative is the author's own journey of self-discovery, of learning something of his grandfather, and of coming to love this magical, multi-faceted, contradictory country.