In Arabian Nights

In Arabian Nights

A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams

Book - 2008
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Tahir Shah's The Caliph's House, describing his first year in Casablanca, was hailed by critics and compared to such travel classics as A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, Now Shah takes us deeper into the heart of this exotic and magical land to uncover mysteries that have been hidden from Western eyes for centuries.... In this entertaining and penetrating book, Tahir sets out on a bold new journey across Morocco that becomes an adventure worthy of the mythical Arabian Nights. As he wends his way through the labyrinthine medinas of Fez and Marrakesh, traverses the Sahara sands, and tastes the hospitality of ordinary Moroccans, Tahir collects a dazzling treasury of traditional stories, gleaned from the heritage of A Thousand and One Nights, The tales, recounted by a vivid cast of characters, reveal fragments of wisdom and an oriental way of thinking that is both enthralling and fresh. A link in the chain of scholars and teachers who have passed these stories down for centuries like a baton in a relay race, Shah reaches layers of culture that most visitors hardly realize exist, and eventually discovers the story living in his own heart. Along the way he describes the colors, characters, and the passion of Morocco, and comes to understand why it is such an enchanting land. From master masons who labor only at night to Sufi wise men who write for soap operas, and Tuareg guides afflicted by reality TV, In Arabian Nights takes us on an unforgettable journey, shining a light on facets of a society that are normally left in darkness.
Publisher: New York, NY : Bantam : 2008
ISBN: 9780553805239
Branch Call Number: 916.4 Sh13i
Characteristics: 388p illus

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DLands Jan 25, 2013

Tahir Shah has weaved together so many entertaining short stories into a larger frame story in this book. The frame story is Tahir's search for the "story in his heart", and although the concept is a bit out there, he humbly presents his search and makes you believe in it.

There are plenty of fun tales of his Moroccan house-workers and there superstition-driven misadventures. Also, there are tales related by characters in the book that comes from the rich history of eastern story-telling.

The book's main drive is to glorify the characteristics of story-telling, and to extol the virtues of the spoken word, the raconteur, the tale-spinner. There is a bit more West-bashing than I prefer for any book, but it is done tastefully and respectfully. Also, there is plenty of constructive criticism of Eastern culture as well.

One of my favorite passages was Tahir's sad description of the female version of "Casa Trash", the materialistic, some and would say Westernized, rich members of Casablancan society:

"If the shantytown is at one end of the equation, then Casa Trash can be found at the other end. Their lives are created from an alphabet of name brands, cosmetic surgery, and sprawling black SUVs. Female Casa Trash is dressed in the latest Gucci or Chanel, is heeled in Prada, and is so thin that you wonder how her organs function at all. Her vision is obscured by oversized sun goggles, and her mouth is masked in lipstick of such thickness and viscosity that it hinders her speech.

She can be found in a handful of chichi haunts, such as Chez Paul, picking at platters of imported salad leaves, smoking designer cigarettes and rearranging her curls. She never looks at the friend she has come to lunch with because she is on her phone and too preoccupied scanning the other tables, making sure she's been seen"

m
MeaghanVanDyk
Oct 28, 2011

Lovely and lyrical, this was a pleasure to read. If you're interested in Morocco, and it's culture, this is a great book to read.

s
sam
May 20, 2008

The Berber people of North Africa believe that each person was born with a story in his/her heart. It is the task of each one to find that story, for once found, the story will protect you. If you feel the urge to seek your story or just to immerse yourself in others', this is a good place to begin.

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DLands Jan 25, 2013

DLands thinks this title is suitable for 10 years and over

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