Book Review: Explore Morocco in your mind’s eye with this anthology

Updated 12 December 2018
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Book Review: Explore Morocco in your mind’s eye with this anthology

  • This collection showcases the writings and observations of adventurous travelers, traders and diplomats through the centuries
  • Rose begins the book with a concise but informative introduction and writes that Morocco is not a country of one major city, like Istanbul or Cairo

BEIRUT: “A Morocco Anthology” is the latest volume released in the delightful series “Travel Writing through the Centuries,” published by The American University in Cairo Press and edited by Martin Rose, who was the director of the British Council in Morocco until 2014.

Previous titles in the wanderlust-inducing series include books on the Nile, Jerusalem, Beirut and Istanbul, among other destinations.

This collection showcases the writings and observations of adventurous travelers, traders and diplomats through the centuries.

The Moroccan anthology takes us back to the 17th century with George Philips, secretary to the governor of Tangier, beautifully describing the juniper scented wind blowing from the land as the boat he was on glided into the Bay of Tangier on Saturday June 12, 1675.    

Tangier, a port town, was the gateway to Morocco. A mere 14 miles from Spain, it was easily reached by ferry and the effect it had on European travelers was perfectly summed up by Spanish explorer Domingo Badia Y Leblich who arrived from the Spanish town of Tarifa in 1803 and wrote: “The sensation which we experienced on making this short passage for the first time can be compared only to the effect of a dream.”

Rose begins the book with a concise but informative introduction and writes that Morocco is not a country of one major city, like Istanbul or Cairo. It has four imperial cities: Fes, Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat and each of these cities has a chapter of the book dedicated to its wonders.

While American novelist Paul Bowles described Fes as a “vast, oyster-grey medina… formless honeycomb of cubes, terraces, courtyards, backed by the grooved slopes of (mountain) Djebel Zalagh,” war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett writes about a unique sense of freedom, “exhilarating to the mind and to the body,” which he found in no other country but Morocco.

These are just two examples of the winding prose and gripping descriptions this anthology has to offer readers who are eager to explore Morocco in their mind’s eye.

This superb selection of travel writing, encased in a small and practical hardback format, provides a stunning, layered portrayal of Morocco.


What We Are Reading Today: Outsiders by Lyndall Gordon

Updated 42 min 14 sec ago
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What We Are Reading Today: Outsiders by Lyndall Gordon

  • Gordon’s passion for literature is evident on every page of her book

In Outsiders, Lyndall Gordon tells the stories of five novelists — Mary Shelley, Emily Bronte, George Eliot, Olive Schreiner, Virginia Woolf — and their famous novels.

The five writers are woven together in a narration across time, through their reading and sometimes as role models for one another. 

As a biographer, Gordon has been a visionary herself, mind-reading her way into these figures’ creative processes. 

Gordon’s passion for literature is evident on every page of her book.

The book is split into separate parts, each documenting the lives of the famous female writers.

It is clear throughout that Gordon is in awe of and intrigued by the ‘otherness’ of her subjects. 

“This book really makes one think about just what it takes to be a true ‘reformer’ or for that matter a writer,” said a review published in goodreads.com. 

“Gordon’s biographies have always shown the indelible connection between life and art: An intuitive, exciting and revealing approach that has been highly praised and much read and enjoyed,” it added.

Gordon (born Nov. 4, 1941) is a British-based writer and academic, known for her literary biographies. She is a senior research Fellow at St. Hilda’s College, Oxford.