In my years of living in and visiting Morocco over the past 15 years, I have read a lot about Morocco. When I was digging through all my books to write Moor, I was stunned at how many books I have read on the subject. All those trees and all those hours spent reading should not go to waste. If you are interested in learning more about Morocco or taking your passion for all things Moroccan a little deeper, I will list, and briefly review, some of my favorite books here.
Culture Shock! Morocco: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette
When I first started doing business with Morocco I read this book and found it enormously helpful in explaining a lot of the customs of Moroccan culture, especially business culture. Despite having lived in Morocco I realized I still had a lot to learn about how to function in the country. If you are travelling to Morocco you don’t have to read this book but it will certainly help. For travellers, I think that the Lonely Planet Guide to Morocco does an excellent job of giving visitors advice on Moroccan customs, traditions and language.
The Spider’s House by Paul Bowles
This novel is one of the best representations of Morocco that I have ever read, touching on faith, politics and culture, as seen from the inside as well as through the eyes of an outsider. Its uncommon authenticity comes from the role of the author and his main character as outsider, but one who loves Morocco; the author/main character aims to see into the heart of a country and its people and and then must realign his beliefs with the reality of what he sees. I would recommend anything Bowles has written about Morocco. No other author has so accurately and movingly represented the intricacies of this country.
Dreams of Trespass: Tales of a Harem Girlhood by Fatima Mernissi
The author, a well known Moroccan feminist, writes of her childhood living the cloistered life of a girl of a certain class. Her book is not so much an autobiography of her youth but rather an important part of the puzzle of feminism in the muslim world.
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail by Malika Oufkir
Like Mernissi, Oufkir led a life of luxury behind closed doors, but in Oufkir’s case those doors were the walls of the King’s palace. Her father—a high ranking general who was close to King Hassan II— is asked by the king to allow his eldest daughter live with the King’s family, specifically his daughter who was about the same age as Oufkir. The inside view of palace life is fascinating especially in contrast with the life the Oufkir family leads after the General Oufkir is implicated in a plot to assasinate the King. The sequel to this book is also quite interesting but not nearly as gripping as this story of girl going from palace to prison, where she spent 20 years of her life.
A Street in Marrakesh by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
This fascinating book was written by an anthropologist but never becomes a dull, academic report on the minutiae of life in Morocco. Her account of a year living in Marrakesh with her family reads like a novel and provides a unique window onto life in my favorite city. The author details her stuggles to understand the society in which she lives and recounts her journey to get her kids to school, travel around the country, getting along with neighbors and even includes some mentions of henna. I also strongly recommend her book, Guests of the Sheikh, about her life in an Iraqi village in the 50s.
These are the books that have been extremely important in my quest to learn about Morocco and better understand the culture of this wonderful country. I’m sure I will come up with more and will post them here. Please feel free to add your favorites in the comments. Enjoy!