A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco

A House in Fez: Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco

Paperback

By (author) Suzanna Clarke

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  • Publisher: Ebury Press
  • Format: Paperback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 126mm x 197mm x 20mm | 227g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2008
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 0091925223
  • ISBN 13: 9780091925222
  • Illustrations note: 16 pages colour photos
  • Sales rank: 29,513

Product description

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.

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Author information

Suzanna Clarke has worked as a photojournalist for more than two decades, contributing to national and international newspapers, magazines and books. Currently, she is the arts editor of a major Australian newspaper. Born in New Zealand, she grew up in several parts of Australia. In her twenties she lived in a Welsh commune, an Amsterdam squat and a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. With her husband, she divides her time between their homes in Brisbane, Australia and Fez, Morocco.

Editorial reviews

An ambitious Australian couple renovates a crumbling Moroccan house.Tired of what they saw as the soulless homogeneity of their native Brisbane, Australian newspaper editor Clarke and her husband Sandy became entranced by the exotic prospect of securing a spacious home with a garden in Fez. Early in their spiritual search for domestic nirvana, they encountered the ominous Arabic term inshallah, "God willing," the true implications of which manifested themselves only later. Everything in Morocco, the couple discovered, proceeded at a tortoise-like pace, as though everyone was waiting for the hand of God to intervene in even the smallest transaction. In a city barely grazed by Western-style development - many Fez residents lived without running water - Clarke and her husband pursued the uphill task of hiring dependable, efficient local contractors to rebuild the long-neglected ancient abode they purchased. Professional obligations in Australia led them to set a time limit of five months on the process, a deadline that adds a mild "race against time" element to a narrative unsurprisingly short on drama - though the microscopic detailing of the home-rebuilding process will undoubtedly appeal to participants in the current renovation craze. The Australians' demanding Western conception of efficient work standards rubbed against the ingrained deliberateness of Moroccan contractors and laborers, some of them decidedly shifty. The constant haggling over material costs and workers' hourly pay occasionally brought the normally patient author to the brink of scrapping the whole project in frustration. Continent-hopping Clarke had neighborly intentions, but she and her husband remained slightly aloof from a hyper-religious Muslim society still skeptical of encroaching westernization. Nonetheless, she offers some incidental but valuable cultural insights into Morocco's social history and post-millennial life.Offers rueful proof that successfully joining an authentic Middle Eastern culture requires more than writing checks and giving orders. (Kirkus Reviews)