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.
Shah continues the story he began in his acclaimed memoir The Caliph's House, the tale of his family's move to Morocco, this time focusing on the traditional wisdom stories of Arabia, best known in the West through A Thousand and One Nights. Inspired by his family's long tradition of storytelling ("We have this gift," says his father, "Protect it and it will protect you"), Shah frames his search for identity with traditional Arabian tales, but also with the stories of the men who tell them. As such, he creates a bright patchwork quilt of stories old and new, including his own childhood memories, held together by an engaging cross-country travelogue. Shah's habit of frequently and abruptly switching between plotlines, though it keeps the story moving, can be aggravating, and his picaresque style makes it hard to tell where the real adventures end and the tall tales begin. In addition, women are conspicuously underrepresented, especially for audiences recalling Scheherazade. Still, his characters often prove charming, and his stories are steeped in feeling and a palpable sense of tradition. Illustrations.