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

Updated 12 December 2018

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: The Music of Time by John Burnside

Updated 21 January 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Music of Time by John Burnside

Poetry helps us to make sense of our world, transforming what the Russian poet Osip Mandelstam called the “noise of time” into a kind of music. 

The Music of Time is a unique history of 20th-century poetry by one of today’s most acclaimed poets, blending incandescent personal meditations with rare insights about a broad range of poets who distilled the essence of the moment, gave voice to our griefs and joys, and shaped our collective memory.

Bringing together poets from times and places as diverse as Tsarist Russia, 1960s Harlem, and Ireland at the height of the Troubles, John Burnside reveals how poetry responded to the dramatic events of the century while shaping our impressions of them. 

He takes readers from the trenches of World War I to a prison cell in Nazi Germany, and from Rilke’s grave in the Swiss Alps to Dylan Thomas’s Welsh seaside. His luminous narrative is woven through with insights into the poet’s creative process as well as lyrical and thought-provoking digressions on topics ranging from marriage to the Kennedy assassination.

A spellbinding work of literary history, The Music of Time reveals how poets engaged with the most important issues and events of the 20th century, and bears personal witness to the beauty and power of an art form unlike any other.