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The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  5,544 ratings  ·  648 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 converge–and noth ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published December 26th 2006 by Bantam (first published January 1st 2006)
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Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,544 ratings  ·  648 reviews


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Jason Goodwin
Jun 21, 2012 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
...more
Jessaka
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fun-and-easy
description


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 was single.
...more
Christa
Jul 02, 2011 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
Maggie
Feb 17, 2009 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
Marie
Jul 26, 2011 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
Megan
Jan 14, 2008 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
...more
Jessica
Apr 17, 2012 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
Missy J
description
Moroccan craftsman working on zellij, beautiful mosaic tilework.

description
Everything is made by hand!

description
Teamwork!

description
Zellij, beautiful Moroccan mosaic tilework.

When I came across the title of this book, I thought it would be about the author's tclass="gr-hostedUserImg">
,
...more
Stephanie
Mar 08, 2009 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 with the h
...more
Natasa
Enjoyable enough read, but a little repetitive with the superstitious natives.
Donna
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
...more
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
Tired of what he describes as his “meager existence” under the wet, grey skies of England, Tahir Shah decides to uproot his wife and young children and move to Morocco, chronicling their experience in The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca. Shah purchases the Caliph’s house (Dar Khalifa) in Casablanca, a dilapidated home, empty for ten years and situated on the edge of a shantytown. Upon entering his new home, he discovers his house comes equipped with a staff of three guardians and a she-jinn known as Q ...more
Elizabeth
Jun 15, 2014 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
...more
Elaine
Jun 09, 2015 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.
Raghu
Aug 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I haven’t read any of Tahir Shah’s work before. I chanced upon this book in the library and its content attracted me. It is a book about the author’s relocating from England to Morocco and the family’s experiences in Morocco in the aftermath. I travelled for a little while in Morocco in 2017 and I loved the friendly nature of its people and the stunning architecture of palaces in cities like Fez. Ever since, I had wanted to learn French well so that I can go back and travel extensively there. I ...more
Mindy McAdams
Mar 17, 2016 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
...more
Rebecca
Feb 14, 2009 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.
Synnin
Dec 19, 2010 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
Floramanda
May 24, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-again, bookclub
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
Diane
Jul 27, 2010 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
Apr 26, 2014 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
...more
Debbi
Feb 13, 2013 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
Christopher
Sep 10, 2013 rated it liked it
This book was interesting, but a couple of things ruined it for me.

First, some of the stories just seemed hard to believe. Perhaps the author's style just feels fictional, but I frequently felt like he was embellishing to make the story more interesting. He also lets people walk all over him, which may make for a wilder story, but it also makes him a less sympathetic character.

Second, the author seems to have almost no regard for how much he's putting upon his wife to take on this adventure. I
...more
Glenn Davisson
Jan 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author recounts the story of his move from London, England to Casablanca, Morocco. The story revolves around the restoration of the house he purchases there, Dar Caliph - the Caliph's House. The reader experiences the culture shocks with him as the author lures you in with his easy style of story telling. Stocked full of unexpected laughs, this story is a must read for all and sundry. The insights given during the unfolding of the story are as priceless as they are many.
Laini
Jan 22, 2009 added it
I love exotic travel & home renovation *adventures* and this is my new favorite. I've been kind of obsessed with Morocco lately, and I loved this account of one family's first-year adjustments to the way of life there. I was particularly interested in the rich tapestry of superstition that governs every aspect daily life. From now on, I'm blaming every problem, large or small, on the Jinns :-)
Andrea
Sep 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: africa
Shah, who is Anglo-Afghani, buys an old house in Morocco and moves his family to a new continent and a new life. The book details his cultural adventures as well as his struggles to revive and renovate the beautiful but decrepit house of his dreams.
Lubna
Jan 01, 2011 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.
Jayeeta
I picked this book up to get a better perspective of the Moroccan culture and mindset while I was travelling in the country. It made for a fun read because it helped me understand where people were coming from in my interactions with the locals.

For example: One observation Tahir makes is that in the western world we first look at the price of an product/service, determine if we can afford it and then decide to buy or let go. But Moroccans first decide to buy and then determine if the
...more
Anas Sabbar
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
It's the kind of book that makes you think; such things as: Does a book with so much bushwah in it make for a psychological case of mythomania OR a study case for good entrepreneurship?
One thing is sure, It makes for good reading in a doctor's waiting room: you can redirect your impatience towards it and build up a smile for the doc. He'll definitely be the one with access to your innards in this case.
Jess Rowland
Feb 27, 2018 rated it liked it
good book but extremely poor representation of women. His poor wife!!
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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
“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.” 12 likes
“We may yearn for rustic detail and old-world charm, but those who have it set their minds on vinyl wallpaper, fitted carpets and all mod cons.” 4 likes
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