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The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  4,120 Ratings  ·  508 Reviews
In the tradition of A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, acclaimed English travel writer Tahir Shah shares a highly entertaining account of making an exotic dream come true. By turns hilarious and harrowing, here is the story of his family’s move from the gray skies of London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore conve ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jason Goodwin
Jun 21, 2012 Jason Goodwin rated it it was amazing
Shelves: travel
This is how I reviewed this book in The Washington Post:
From The Washington Post’s Book World

It’s been 20 years since Peter Mayle wrote his bestseller A Year in Provence, and there’s no sign yet of the “Year In…” franchise flagging. After all, what two-week vacationer could fail to dream of a year in Provence, Marrakesh or Tuscany? These are modern Mediterranean fairy tales, and they’re put together with the simplest ingredients: magical neighbors, hellish builders and much more olive oil than y
Mar 02, 2009 Maggie rated it really liked it
A fascinating and often hysterically funny look at life in Morocco, through the eyes of an Afghan who was primarily raised in England, but has traveled widely. I loved the sayings which headed every chapter, such as: "Never give advice in a crowd" and "Every beetle is a gazelle in the eye of its mother." Shah was very lucky to be able to connect with his grandfather's life as well, because his grandfather had spent his last years in Morocco. Meeting those people who had known him and been touche ...more
Jan 14, 2008 Megan rated it it was amazing
I have to confess that my opinion of this book may be swayed by my minor obsession with the following topics: Morocco; picking up and moving your life to a new and exotic locale; and refurbishing old houses with traditional techniques. Since this book is about the author's experience moving his entire family from England to Morocco, buying a villa and working with local artisans to return it to its former glory, it was right up my alley!
The author has a wonderful, strong sense of self in his to
Jul 19, 2011 Christa rated it it was ok
Another book that I don't know how to rate. It was amusing, I'll give it that. I think I would have gotten more out of it if I hadn't been living in Morocco for so long. During a lot of the book, I was thinking that the author was stupid or that he had done things that were really stupid/ naiive. Then the language thing - I guess he speaks fluent French and in Casablanca that works fine because everyone there speaks French but things were so easy for him because he always seemed to have either a ...more
Nov 08, 2016 Jessaka rated it liked it
Shelves: fun-and-easy

The title sounded good and maybe that is how I ended up with this book in my bookcase. Good thing it did, because it was a very fun read, and so I couldn't put it down.

Tahir Shah had been to Morocco when he was a kid and never forgot the place. I had been to Morocco at the Epcot Center in Florida's Disneyworld and never forgot my meal there. Mix dried fruits in meats or any food, and yum. I have a meatloaf recipe with groundup dried apricots in the center that I used to make for myself when I wa
May 18, 2012 Jessica rated it did not like it
Tahir Shah came across as ethnocentric and self-involved. He barreled through his adventure (read: early mid-life crisis) thinking only of himself and his money; often times mentioning an author's paltry salary, then making an ostentatious building decision for his mansion. I was also perturbed by the way in which his wife was merely a sounding board for his frustrations. Read this book if you're looking for a way to flip mansion's in Morocco while swindling the local people and dismissing their ...more
As someone with a personal connection with Morocco, who has lived there, who has gone through various trials and tribulations there, but who is still very much in love with the country, this book is definitely a 5 star read.

Not only does Tahir Shah capture the funny side of the tough times faced in Morocco, but his feelings for the country, very much like my own, only grow on the completion of these difficult moments.

This truly is a wonderful read. It definitely captures similar feelings to what
Missy J
Moroccan craftsman working on zellij, beautiful mosaic tilework.

Everything is made by hand!


Zellij, beautiful Moroccan mosaic tilework.

When I came across the title of this book, I thought it would be about the author's travel experience living in Casablanca for a year. But no... This book is about the author buying(!) a house in Morocco, moving his family to Casablanca and their first year living in Dar Khalifa (the name of the house).

When I started reading this book, I was a bit appreh
Apr 15, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Stephanie by: Rebecca
Tahir Shah has a lot of good reasons for moving to Morocco. He wants to escape England and the rat race. He wants to recapture the magic of his own childhood vacations in Morocco. He wants to learn more about the grandfather that had died there years ago. He wants a house to renovate, one that will allow his delusions of grandeur to run wild.

Shah gets all of that and more when he buys a crumbling palace, Dar Khalifa (The Caliph’s House) in Casablanca. He also gets three guardians (they come wit
Mindy McAdams
Mar 27, 2016 Mindy McAdams rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people interested in Morocco or travel
I had a good time reading this -- my first book by this author. It won't be my last. He has several others.

I love the idea of what author Tahir Shah did: He somehow convinced his wife to leave everything in their home in London and go with him, taking their two small children, to move into a sprawling, long-neglected grand house in Casablanca. Shah speaks no Arabic and (he says) poor French, but he manages to get along with the help of a number of diverse Moroccans whom he employs. I love both e
Sep 08, 2011 Marie rated it it was ok
Shelves: fact
I have read a couple of these books were people do mjor life changes and it always amazes me how little preparation they take and how incredibly naive they are. He starts the books telling us that all his friends and family were against the move and I now agree with them. Not because of the idea of such a drastic move (from London to Casablanca) but because the guy is a bit of an idiot. For a start he makes no start on learning either French or Arabic, he signs a contract in arabic without getti ...more
Jun 15, 2014 Elizabeth rated it did not like it
Take the movie "The Money Pit", move it to Casablanca, give the Shelley Long character two children but her only role is to get really angry a couple of times, give all the characters a language barrier with the locals, make the Tom Hanks character an idiot, give them a gardener, a nanny, a maid, three guardians and a personal assistant who cause more problems than they solve and you've got this mess of a book.

The flow was weird - the author would describe something, say a search for new engine
Feb 14, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
i really enjoyed this book!!! the different culture and its customary responses were hilarious to see as an outsider. I really like Tahir Shah's books and will be buying this for many people on my Christmas list.

it is an easy read to pick up at any time and i am able to put it down. this is valuable for me who reads whenever i get a second and often cannot put down a book.

It is made up of short stories.
Sep 07, 2011 Synnin rated it it was amazing
The book is scenty. It scents of curcuma, ripe oranges, fresh ocean breeze, strong coffee, thick cigarette smoke, dead rats, broken drainage and donkeys. The book is loud. Loud with harsh and so unique arabic speech, crazy squeal of wheels here and there, people yelling at each other, imam calling for a prayer in the middle of the night, children playing outside.. The book is beautiful. Beautiful with dark-skinned men, women wrapped in veils, snow-white carved arabic palaces, blue mosques, dusty ...more
Sep 05, 2008 Floramanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub, read-again
Tahir Shah writes a fascinating, non-fiction account of the year when he takes his family from the hustle and bustle of London to Moracco where they buy a dilapidated old mansion to renovate. It is an amusing look at the clash of cultures as Shah navigates through Moraccan society, a fusion of Islamic, European and African cultures, to restore the Caliph's House to its original grandeur. Along the way, he learns how to do things the Casablancan way, from buying building materials on the black ma ...more
Nov 21, 2011 Diane rated it liked it
The author moves to Casablanca with his wife and two young children. They move into an old villa that is in disrepair. The book is the story of their first year, trying to adapt to Moroccan culture and to renovate the old villa. It is written in the style that is supposed to be humorous but that I can generally not stand - ha ha ha, I am totally unprepared and isn't that funny. I would have stopped reading but Shah also writes just enough about his insights into Moroccan culture and just enough ...more
Ashley V
Nov 08, 2015 Ashley V rated it it was ok
I did not particularly enjoy this book. I had expected to get a bit more insight as to the culture of Morocco, but the scope is so very narrow throughout the book, that the most educational part for me was the glossary at the end. I would have liked it to have included a little bit of background history and politics with regards to Morocco. The foundations of a country are very important to me when reading a "travelogue" sort of book.

The format of the book was bizarre to me. It read a lot more l
May 24, 2016 Norelle rated it liked it

Šī bija...pieredze :D
Es nekad neesmu gribējusi pārcelties uz Austrumu zemēm un arī pēc šīs grāmatas - joprojām negribu :D
Nē, nu autoram ir krāsaina pieredze un no malas jau liekas smieklīgi, bet nu...reāli padomājot, diez vai es spētu būt ar tādu pacietību kā autors. Gan jau būtu pasūtījusi sargus ar Kvandišu un co piecas mājas tālāk jau ļoti fiksi. Un mājas remonta epopeja...tā taču var bankrotēt...
Lai nu kādi mīnusi bija Kamalam, man liekas, ka bez viņa autors būtu tomēr nogrimis.
Jun 12, 2015 Elaine rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
A delightful and funny account of living - and renovating - in Morocco. I have never read any of the My Year Under The Sun with Quaint but Wise and Eccentric Locals genre, but suspect the book follows the conventions of those books rather closely. Nonetheless, Shah is an engaging and observant storyteller and the glimpses of his family history add depth. A very enjoyable companion to a Moroccan vacation.
Jan 25, 2011 Lubna rated it it was amazing
It is delightful tale of life in Casablanca with its neighbours and cohabitants including the jinns, not to forget the cafes (inhabited by henpecked husbands) and the merchants.
Oct 21, 2016 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Teiksim tā, nekas tik izcils, lai klanītos, bet ārkārtīgi saistoši uzrakstīts ceļojuma romāns par islāma kultūru Marokā, kur jau izsenis tic džiniem un viņu pārdabiskajai ietekmei uz cilvēka dzīvi un labklājību, kā arī spilgti raksturoti marokāņi kā tauta, kurai nav nekā svarīgāka par savu pozīciju nostiprināšanu pār saimnieku/pasūtītāju/priekšnieku, darot visu pilnīgi pretēji plānotajam un prasītajam. Dzīvošana sabiedrībā, kur tēvs lūgšanas laikā liek sist plaukstas bērnam, kurš paliek sargāt v ...more
Alin G.
Jan 26, 2016 Alin G. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: england
Am zis să încep noul an cu ceva diferit în materie de cărți, pentru că de ce nu, așa că am împrumutat la nimereală două jurnale de călătorie scrise de un anume Tahir Shah. Cel puțin așa am avut impresia, căci deși autorul vorbește despre tărâmuri mai puțin cunoscute europenilor în viața de zi cu zi, și anume Marocul, cartea nu prea este una de călătorii, cel puțin nu în sensul la care m-aș fi așteptat.

Să luăm lucrurile pe rând, totuși. Tahir Shah este un autor de origini afgane născut în Londra
Mar 29, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: elizabeth, dana
Recommended to Amy by: hazrabai
When hazrabai saw this on my bookshelf, she became very excited. She'd been about to order a copy for me, because she loved the book so much. What was so striking is that she said to me that this was the first book of this sort that really captured for her what it felt like to live in a foreign country. And why that was so striking is that she's lived in India since 1972. Shah takes us along as he picks his wife and two tiny children up from a life in London and, inspired by his memories of Moro ...more
Nov 03, 2015 Marcy rated it it was amazing
A husband moves his family to Casablanca, tiring of the dampness and rigidness of English life, and longing for the life his father gave to him when he was a child. He buys the Caliph's house, a mansion in disrepair. The house comes with male housekeepers who try to convince the husband that his home has a female Jinn who controls the happiness or unhappiness of the occupants. The husband hires a woman assistant, who helps him hire the right people to "makeover" his home. Day by day, the husband ...more
Lina Chaoui
Jan 23, 2015 Lina Chaoui rated it really liked it
The book The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah talks about a couple moving to Casablanca. The story is already getting interesting. The main character has moved a lot through his life. ``Since moving from India eight years before, Rachana had hardly ever glimpsed the sun in the drab London sky’’ (Shah 2). This quote supports the idea that the charachters used to live in India then London and now going to Casablanca. Rachana is the protagonist’s wife. All in all the characters had traveled a
Marjorie Meyerle
Oct 16, 2012 Marjorie Meyerle rated it really liked it
This was an intelligent, engaging book about an English writer who was of Afghan descent and bought an old, derelict house in the shanty-town area of Casablanca. Shah hilariously describes the process of upgrading and restoring the old house for the purpose of living in it with his wife and two children. The reader learns much about Casablanca and its culture through Shah's account and comes to recognize his unusual patience and forbearance dealing with a culture based on cunning and superstitio ...more
Oct 07, 2009 Jacquie is currently reading it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 07, 2013 Debbi rated it liked it
Around this time every year I gravitate to travel literature. The locale doesn't have to be exotic to capture my interest, sometimes a writer explores the ordinary in an extraordinary way. This book is a memoir of Shah's move to Morocco with his young family and his experience of renovating an old house. The book is in the tradition of Peter Mayle, entertaining, with colorful local characters (everyone in Morocco seems to believe in djinns) but not much insight. Shah is neither a poet or philoso ...more
Moving to a new country is never easy – but when it’s moving from Britain to Morocco – that’s quite a bit of an adjustment. The book captures a year’s worth of experiences shared by British travel writer Tahir Shah and his family as they wrestle with life in Casablanca – starkly different and exotic from the staid and predictable one they’ve just left. From the Jinns to the endless parade of workers pressed into service to remodel the caliph’s house, to the way business is conducted over mint te ...more
Apr 05, 2012 Oana rated it really liked it
Easy to read, the story of Tahir Shah's year of renovating a jinn-haunted house in Casablanca (genies are more appropriately called jinns) is full of maddening setbacks, superstition and humour. The book is a great way to learn about living in Morocco - it sounded so easy when my father told me about the real estate there. Now I understand why the author of the My Marrakesh blog hired Americans to do her renovations. Make sure to watch < a href=" ten-mi ...more
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Tahir Shah is the author of fifteen books, many of which chronicle a wide range of outlandish journeys through Africa, Asia and the Americas. For him, there’s nothing so important as deciphering the hidden underbelly of the lands through which he travels. Shunning well-trodden tourist paths, he avoids celebrated landmarks, preferring instead to position himself on a busy street corner or in a dust ...more
More about Tahir Shah...

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“The backstreet cafe in Casablanca was for me a place of mystery, a place with a soul, a place with danger. There was a sense that the safety nets had been cut away, that each citizen walked upon the high wire of this, the real world. I longed not merely to travel through it, but to live in such a city.” 11 likes
“In the West we are driven by an extreme form of guilt -- if you are not seen to be working like a dog, you're perceived as being slothful.” 3 likes
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