Talking Location With author Leigh Russell – YORK
Ten Great Books set in MOROCCO
7th February 2021
Morocco is the latest destination for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Ten great books set in Morocco. Ten great books to capture the feel of the landscape and people.
“In Morocco, it’s possible to see the Atlantic and the Mediterranean at the same time” Tahar Ben Jelloun
A teacher will appear when the student is ready (Moroccan Proverb)
David and Jo Henniger, a doctor and children’s book author, in search of an escape from their less than happy lives in London, accept the invitation of their old friends Richard and Dally to attend their annual bacchanal at their home deep in the Moroccan desert – a ksar they have acquired and renovated into a luxurious retreat. On the way, the Hennigers stop for lunch, and the bad-tempered David can’t resist consuming most of a bottle of wine. Back on the road, darkness has descended, David is groggy, and the directions to the ksar are vague. Suddenly, two young men spring from the roadside, apparently attempting to interest passing drivers in the fossils they have for sale. Panicked, David swerves toward the two, leaving one dead on the road and the other running into the hills.
At the ksar, the festivities have begun: Richard and Dally’s international friends sit down to a lavish dinner prepared and served by a large staff of Moroccans. As the night progresses and the debauchery escalates, the Moroccans increasingly view the revelers as the godless “infidels” they are. When David and Jo show up late with the dead body of the young man in their car, word spreads among the locals that David has committed an unforgivable act.
‘I came to the Sahara to be buried.’
After witnessing the collapse of the World Trade Centre, Jeehan Nathaar leaves her New York life with her sense of identity fractured and her American dream destroyed. She returns to Morocco to make her home with a family that’s not her own. Healed by their kindness but caught up in their troubles, Jeehan struggles to move beyond the pain and confusion of September 11th.
On this desiccated landscape, thousands of miles from Ground Zero, the Dune sings of death, love, and forgiveness.
Morocco, 1906. The country is caught between growing European influence and domestic instability. As young women disappear from the alleyways of Marrakesh, Farook Al-Alami, a detective from Tangier, is summoned to solve the case of the apparent abductions. Investigating crimes in a country without a police force, Farook enters Marrakesh on the orders of the Sultan. But, in a city under siege from famine and death, he must rely on his own intuition and skill to uncover the mystery of the women s fate. Will anything halt the spate of disappearances until then? And can a single, criminal pair of hands lie behind events? As the story of the missing women becomes increasingly treacherous, the tension escalates around Jemma el-Fna, where the dead assemble.
In the heady strangeness of Morocco, he is everything she wants him to be – passionate, talented, knowledgeable. She is convinced that it is here she will finally become pregnant.
But when Paul suddenly disappears, and Robin finds herself the prime suspect in the police inquiry, everything changes.
As her understanding of the truth starts to unravel, Robin lurches from the crumbling art deco of Casablanca to the daunting Sahara, caught in an increasingly terrifying spiral from which there is no easy escape.
With his acclaimed ability to write page-turners that also make you think, Douglas Kennedy takes the reader on a roller-coaster journey into a heart of darkness that asks the question: what would you do if your life depended on it?
The perfect read for fans of Daphne du Maurier and Patricia Highsmith, set in 1950s Morocco, Tangerine is a gripping psychological literary thriller.
The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the horrific accident at Bennington, the two friends – once inseparable roommates – haven’t spoken in over a year. But Lucy is standing there, trying to make things right.
Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy, always fearless and independent, helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.
But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice – she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.
Tangerine is an extraordinary debut, so tightly wound, so evocative of 1950s Tangier, and so cleverly plotted that it will leave you absolutely breathless.
A Death in the Medina by James von Leyden
Death stalks the medina of Marrakech . . .
Marrakech, August. It is the start of Ramadan, the hottest in memory. Among the few foreigners left in the sweltering city are a riad owner, her French boyfriend and an English girl whose bag has been stolen after a hen weekend.
At the local commissariat 24-year old detective Karim Belkacem is struggling to fast while holding down two jobs to pay for his sister’s wedding. On the day that the English girl comes to him for help, a Moroccan girl is found dead, her body dumped in a handcart.
Investigating, Karim uncovers a world of shadowy predators and ancient secrets hidden behind the high walls of the medina.
A House in Fez by Suzanna Clarke
When Suzanna Clarke and her husband bought a dilapidated house in the Moroccan town of Fez, their friends thought they were mad. Located in a maze of donkey-trod alleyways, the house – a traditional riad – was beautiful but in desperate need of repair. Walls were in danger of collapse, the plumbing non-existent. While neither Suzanna nor her husband spoke Arabic, and had only a smattering of French, they were determined to restore the building to its original splendour, using only traditional craftsmen and handmade materials. But they soon found that trying to do business in Fez was like being transported back several centuries in time and so began the remarkable experience that veered between frustration, hilarity and moments of pure exhilaration.
But restoring the riad was only part of their immersion in the rich and colourful life of this ancient city. A House in Fez is a journey into Moroccan culture, revealing its day-to-day rhythms, its customs and festivals: its history, Islam, and Sufi rituals: the lore of djinns and spirits: the vibrant life-filled market places and the irresistible Moroccan cuisine. And above all, into the lives of the people – warm, friendly, and hospitable.
Beautifully descriptive and infused with an extraordinary sense of place, this is a compelling account of one couple’s adventures in ancient Morocco.
Lords of the Atlas by Gavin Maxwell
The greatest Moroccan travel book of all time, vital reading for the new upmarket Marrakesh tourism – one of the bibles of British twentieth-century Orientalism – by the author of A Ring of Bright Water – describes the extraordinary medieval nature of Morocco in the twentieth century, focussing on a family who combined the lethal elegance of gangland mobsters with the opulent charm of hereditary Indian princes, fed by a monopoly in drugs and prostitution
The Last Storytellers by Richard Hamilton
Marrakech is the heart and lifeblood of Morocco’s ancient storytelling tradition. For nearly a thousand years, storytellers have gathered in the Jemaa el Fna, the legendary square of the city, to recount ancient folktales and fables to rapt audiences. But this unique chain of oral tradition that has passed seamlessly from generation to generation is teetering on the brink of extinction. The competing distractions of television, movies and the internet have drawn the crowds away from the storytellers and few have the desire to learn the stories and continue their legacy. Richard Hamilton has witnessed at first hand the death throes of this rich and captivating tradition and, in the labyrinth of the Marrakech medina, has tracked down the last few remaining storytellers, recording stories that are replete with the mysteries and beauty of the Maghreb. ‘In collecting these tales of wisdom, wonder, adventure and humour from the small and ageing group of Moroccan story -tellers Richard Hamilton has not only offered entertainment to his readers but he has also carried out a valuable form of rescue archaeology within the vanishing world of professional story-telling.’ – Robert Irwin
Horses of God by Mahi Binebine
On the outskirts of Casablanca, next to the dump, is the shantytown of Sidi Moumen, where Yachine and his ten brothers grew up in the aimless chaos of drugs, violence, unemployment, and despair. The barefoot boys started their own football team – the Stars of Sidi Moumen. They played amongst the rocks, detritus, and buried skeletons of the dump but they dreamed of becoming the best football players of all time. From the grave, Yachine remembers the ugliness but also recalls his fond memories of childhood: “I’m not ashamed to tell you I was sometimes happy in that hideous squalor, on the filth of that accursed cesspit, yes, I was happy in Sidi Moumen, my home…”
Then their dreams changed. Yachine’s older brother Hamid started growing a beard and attending religious meetings with Sheikh Abou Zoubeir. Week after week, the sheikh beguiled the Stars of Sidi Moumen into believing that there was a better world in the afterlife, where their faith in Allah would be rewarded. They needed only to choose between dying gloriously and together, or living disgracefully and alone. For Yachine and his brother, the choice was clear.
Tina and Tony for the TripFiction Team
Do access our database for the full selection of titles set in MOROCCO! There are over 80 of them
Join team TripFiction on Social Media: