The Caliph’s House : A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah
Genre: Adult Non-fiction
Publisher: Batam Books
When Shah, his pregnant wife and their small daughter move from England to Morocco, where he'd vacationed as a child, he enters a realm of "invisible spirits and their parallel world." Shah buys the Caliph's House, once a palatial compound, now heavy with algae, cobwebs and termites. Unoccupied for a decade, the place harbors a willful jinni (invisible spirit), who Shah, the rational Westerner, reluctantly grasps must be exorcised by traditional means. As Shah remodels the haunted house, he encounters a cast of entertaining, sometimes bizarre characters. Three retainers, whose lives are governed by the jinni, have attached themselves to the property. Confounding craftsmen plague but eventually beautify the house. Intriguing servants come and go, notably Zohra, whose imaginary friend, a 100-foot tall jinni, lives on her shoulder. A "gangster neighbor and his trophy wife" conspire to acquire the Caliph's House, and a countess remembers Shah's grandfather and his secrets. Passers-through offer eccentricity (Kenny, visiting 15 cities on five continents where Casablanca is playing; Pete, a convert to Islam, seeking "a world without America"). There is a thin, dark post-9/11 thread in Shah's elegantly woven tale. The dominant colors, however, are luminous.
I want to thank Alyce of At Home With Books for introducing me to this wonderful book. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to live in a foreign country then you’ll enjoy this story of Tahir Shah and his family moving to Casablanca after living in England and the culture shock he has.
He sets out to renovate the Caliph’s House and discovers how things are in Morooco. The guardians of the house tell him it has jinns living in it. For those Moroccans Jinns are the backbone of their culture. They are part of the Islamic faith. The Jinns make life interesting and frustrating until Shah’s wife tells him to think like a Moroccan and hires some exorcists to rid the house of their unwelcomed guests.
Most people see Casablanca as an enormous thriving city with the latest fashions and fast cars, but the real Casablanca is a die-hard city with traditions that have endured from ancient Morocco.
If you like reading of life in other cultures, then you’ll love this book. In this economy armchair travel is the best deal around.