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The Caliph's House


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Wonderfully written, funny, entertaining, magical account of the author's struggle to restore a house and set up home in Morocco.

About the Author

Tahir Shah was born into an Anglo-Afghan family, with roots in the mountain stronghold of the Hindu Kush. Shah's ten books have chronicled a series of fabulous journeys. He lives with his wife and two children in Casablanca. Visit his website- www.tahirshah.com


After exotic journeys to India, Africa, and South America, English travel writer Shah decided to settle down with his family in Casablanca in a century-old mansion known as "Dar Khalifa." But Shah's adventurous life was far from over: he soon began receiving threats from his gangster neighbor, became involved in black-market dealings, and founds himself caught up in a demonic ritual. This is nothing, though, compared with the trouble he found himself in when he began major renovations to his house. Welcome to the Moroccan world of chaos! Unsure whether to laugh or cry, Shah discovered that Moroccan workers are haunted by a deep-seated fear of the underworld and have what could best be described as an eccentric work ethic. Admirably, Shah displays considerable tolerance and respect for Moroccan traditions, even as they come in conflict with his English upbringing. Following in the footsteps of Bill Bryson and Peter Mayle, Shah recollects his real-life experiences with candor and humor. While at times his adventures seem almost too bizarre to be true, the colorful people Shah encounters will certainly entertain armchair travelers. Recommended for public libraries.-Victor Or, Vancouver & Surrey P.L., B.C. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

When Shah, his pregnant wife and their small daughter move from England to Morocco, where he'd vacationed as a child, he enters a realm of "invisible spirits and their parallel world." Shah buys the Caliph's House, once a palatial compound, now heavy with algae, cobwebs and termites. Unoccupied for a decade, the place harbors a willful jinni (invisible spirit), who Shah, the rational Westerner, reluctantly grasps must be exorcised by traditional means. As Shah remodels the haunted house, he encounters a cast of entertaining, sometimes bizarre characters. Three retainers, whose lives are governed by the jinni, have attached themselves to the property. Confounding craftsmen plague but eventually beautify the house. Intriguing servants come and go, notably Zohra, whose imaginary friend, a 100-foot tall jinni, lives on her shoulder. A "gangster neighbor and his trophy wife" conspire to acquire the Caliph's House, and a countess remembers Shah's grandfather and his secrets. Passers-through offer eccentricity (Kenny, visiting 15 cities on five continents where Casablanca is playing; Pete, a convert to Islam, seeking "a world without America"). There is a thin, dark post-9/11 thread in Shah's elegantly woven tale. The dominant colors, however, are luminous. "[L]ife not filled with severe learning curves was no life at all," Shah observes. Trailing Shah through his is sheer delight. Illus. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

A wonderfully entertaining book - Tahir Shah's talent is to make you laugh while you are admiring the insights given by his most original and lively view of life. -- DORIS LESSING

Funny, moving, fast-paced and thoughtful, it confirms Shah as one of the best travel writers of his generation...a rich mosaic of a book as intricate, complex and beautiful as the Arabian Nights world it

Reading about restoring houses overseas can be as tedious as watching paint dry...yet I can't fault this joyful and resplendent addition to the genre. Shah writes without artifice or condescension, his language is fluent and direct. His characters leap off the page...I couldn't put the book down. -- RORY MACLEAN * SUNDAY TIMES *
A book full of charm and humour, elevated by a consistent sense of the beauty and mystery of everyday life. What also shines through the narrative is the author's decency and respect for the people and the cultures he encounters, the sort of qualities we like to think of as fundamentally British ...a tribute to our potential for understanding and learning to live with irreconcilable differences * GUARDIAN *
Shah...with good humour and wit...gives a vivid evocation of the spirit of the place...The Caliph's House is charmingly escapist, and combines the pleasures of good property porn with those of the best travel writing -- DAILY TELEGRAPH

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