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: Parisian Lives by Deirdre Bair

Updated 08 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: Parisian Lives by Deirdre Bair

  • Parisian Lives “pulls you in slowly but deeply

Award-winning biographer Deirdre Bair explores her 15 remarkable years in Paris with Samuel Beckett and Simone de Beauvoir, painting intimate new portraits of two literary giants and revealing secrets of the biographical art.

Parisian Lives “pulls you in slowly but deeply. It isn’t just about writing about two famous authors but the memoir (of the) writer’s life as well and what it takes to be a biographer,” said a review published in goodreads.com. 

It said the stories relating to both Beckett and de Beauvoir “are different but equally compelling. These stories are page turners.”

The review added: “Drawing on Bair’s extensive notes from the period, including never-before-told anecdotes and details that were considered impossible to publish at the time, Parisian Lives is full of personality and warmth and give us an entirely new window on the all-too-human side of these legendary thinkers.”

It said that Bair’s memoir “is the interrelated stories of writing biographies of Beckett and de Beauvoir and Bair’s own journey of discovery while launching her academic career.”