Follows is a list of content in various media that will provide useful background for our upcoming tour and help contextualize your experiences. If time allows, borrow or purchase a few of these titles before your travels--try to coordinate with fellow travelers so these may be shared during the tour. Many libraries are likely to carry some of these as well. A short-list of highly recommended readings is asterisked (*).
General / Travel Guides
*Lonely Planet Guide to Morocco OR *The Rough Guide to Morocco
History (Arab, North African, Moroccan, and Moorish)
A History of the Arab Peoples, Albert Hourani (Harvard University Press, 2003). Emeritus Fellow at St. Anthony's College in Oxford, Hourani begins with Islam's rise in the 7th century and carries the rich and imposing story of Arab civilization to the late 1980s. In broad, sweeping strokes, Hourani moves easily from mosque to marketplace, from sultan to imam, from nomad to city-dweller, from Mohammed to Anwar Sadat. He focuses on the Ottoman Empire and on the European colonialism that followed, and concludes with a discussion of the modern resurgence of Islam that offers hope to thousands of Muslims and appears so threatening to Westerners.
A Traveller’s History of North Africa, Barbaby Rogerson (Windrush, UK/Interlink, US). Roger successfully takes on the daunting task of covering the history of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya. An authoritative but readable account providing a clear vision of North African history from Carthage to the present.
Lords of the Atlas, Gavin Maxwell, (Cassell, UK). This is the story of the Glaoui family—literally the “Lords” of the High Atlas—where they exercised almost complete control from the turn of the 19th century through Moroccan independence in 1956.
*Morocco since 1830, C.R. Pennell (C. Hurst, UK/New York University Press, US). This recent paperback, published in 2000, is one of the first general histories of modern Morocco. It covers the major strands of power but also the social and cultural life of ordinary Moroccans while focusing on the various contemporary challenges facing the country.
Moorish Spain, Richard Fletcher (University of California Press). Beginning in the year 711 and continuing for nearly a thousand years, the Islamic presence survived in Spain, at times flourishing, and at other times dwindling into warring fiefdoms. But the culture and science thereby brought to Spain, including long-buried knowledge from Greece, largely forgotten during Europe's Dark Ages, was to have an enduring impact on the country as it emerged into the modern era. In this gracefully written history, Richard Fletcher reveals the Moorish culture in all its fascinating disparity and gives us history at its best: here is vivid storytelling by a renowned scholar.
*Morocco: The Islamist Awakening and Other Challenges, Marvine Howe (Oxford University Press, 2005). In Morocco, Marvine Howe, a former correspondent for The New York Times, presents an incisive and comprehensive review of the Moroccan kingdom and its people, past and present. She provides a vivid and frank portrait of late King Hassan, whom she knew personally and credits with laying the foundations of a modern, pro-Western state and analyzes the pressures his successor, King Mohammed VI has come under to transform the autocratic monarchy into a full-fledged democracy. Howe addresses emerging issues and problems--equal rights for women, elimination of corruption and correction of glaring economic and social disparities--and asks the fundamental question: can this ancient Muslim kingdom embrace western democracy in an era of deepening divisions between the Islamic world and the West?
*The Spider’s House, Paul Bowles, 1955 (Harper Perennial). The dilemma of the outsider in an alien society, and the gap in understanding between cultures, recurrent themes of Paul Bowles's writings, are dramatized with brutal honesty in this novel set in Fez, Morocco, during that country's 1954 nationalist uprising. Totally relevant to today's political situation in the Middle East and elsewhere, richly descriptive of its setting, and uncompromising in its characterizations, The Spider's House is perhaps Bowles's most beautifully subtle novel.
The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca, Tahir Shah, 2006 (Bantam). When Shah, his pregnant wife and their small daughter move from England to Morocco, where he'd vacationed as a child, he enters a realm of "invisible spirits and their parallel world." Shah buys the Caliph's House, once a palatial compound, now heavy with algae, cobwebs and termites. Unoccupied for a decade, the place harbors a willful jinni (invisible spirit), who Shah, the rational Westerner, reluctantly grasps must be exorcised by traditional means. As Shah remodels the haunted house, he encounters a cast of entertaining, sometimes bizarre characters. Three retainers, whose lives are governed by the jinni, have attached themselves to the property. Confounding craftsmen plague but eventually beautify the house. Intriguing servants come and go, notably Zohra, whose imaginary friend, a 100-foot tall jinni, lives on her shoulder. A "gangster neighbor and his trophy wife" conspire to acquire the Caliph's House, and a countess remembers Shah's grandfather and his secrets. Passers-through offer eccentricity (Kenny, visiting 15 cities on five continents where Casablanca is playing; Pete, a convert to Islam, seeking "a world without America"). There is a thin, dark post-9/11 thread in Shah's elegantly woven tale. The dominant colors, however, are luminous. "[L]ife not filled with severe learning curves was no life at all," Shah observes. Trailing Shah through his is sheer delight (Publishers Weekly).
*In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams, Tahir Shah, 2007 (Bantam). In this entertaining and penetrating book, Tahir sets out on a bold new journey across Morocco that becomes an adventure worthy of the mythical Arabian Nights. As he wends his way through the labyrinthine medinas of Fez and Marrakesh, traverses the Sahara sands, and tastes the hospitality of ordinary Moroccans, Tahir collects a dazzling treasury of traditional stories, gleaned from the heritage of A Thousand and One Nights. The tales, recounted by a vivid cast of characters, reveal fragments of wisdom and an oriental way of thinking that is both enthralling and fresh. A link in the chain of scholars and teachers who have passed these stories down for centuries like a baton in a relay race, Shah reaches layers of culture that most visitors hardly realize exist, and eventually discovers the story living in his own heart. Along the way he describes the colors, characters, and the passion of Morocco, and comes to understand why it is such an enchanting land. From master masons who labor only at night to Sufi wise men who write for soap operas, and Tuareg guides afflicted by reality TV, “In Arabian Nights” takes us on an unforgettable journey, shining a light on facets of a society that are normally left in darkness (Bantam).
Their Heads are Green and Their Hands are Blue, Paul Bowles, 1963 (Harper Perennial). Bowles, one of the four or five best writers in English in the second half of the twentieth century, embraced the desert as a Christian saint embraces his martyrdom. His self-abnegation and his love of traditional culture made him one of the keenest observers of other civilizations we have ever had in America. Unlike his countrymen he did not brashly set out to improve the rest of the world. For Bowles, Americanization was the problem, not the solution. As these startling, sober travel pieces show, Bowles, because of his powers of negative capability, was able to enter into the inner truth of even the most remote places and peoples (from the Introduction by Edmund White).
The Sheltering Sky, Paul Bowles, 1949 (Harper Perennial). In this classic work of psychological terror—deemed by many to be the finest English novel since WWII—Bowles examines the ways in which Americans apprehend an alien culture and the ways in which their incomprehension destroys them. The story of three worldly young travelers Port Moresby, his wife, Kit, and their friend, Tunner--adrift in the cities and deserts of North Africa after World War II, The Sheltering Sky is merciless in its evocation of the emotional dislocation induced by a foreign setting. As the Americans embark on an ill-fated journey through desolate terrain, they are pushed to the limits of human reason and intelligence by the unfathomable emptiness and impassive cruelty of the desert. Along the way, they encounter a host of enigmatic characters whose inarticulate strangeness seals the travelers off even more completely from the culture in which they are traveling, causing their fierce attachments to one another to unravel.
For Bread Alone, Mohamed Choukri (IB Tauris/UK). Choukri's classic and moving work—which has already been translated into more than 10 languages—speaks for an entire generation of North Africans. Born in the Rif, Choukri moved with his family to Tangier at a time of great famine. His childhood was spent in abject poverty; eight of his brothers and sisters died of malnutrition or neglect. During his adolescence, he worked for a time as servant to a French family. He then returned to Tangier, where he experienced the violence of the 1952 independence riots. Still illiterate at the age of 20, he made the decision to learn to read and write classical Arabic—a decision that transformed his life. After mastering the language, he became a teacher and writer, and finally was awarded the chair of Arabic Literature at Ibn Batuta College in Tangier.
A Year in Marrakesh, Peter Mayne (Eland Publishing, UK, 1953). Having learned to appreciate Muslim life while living in Pakistan, Peter Mayne settled down to live in the back streets of Marrakesh in the 1950s. Rather than watch from the shelter of a hotel terrace, he rented rooms, learned the language, made friends, and became embroiled in conspiratorial picnics, hashish-laced dinners and in the enchantments and misunderstandings of the street, with its festivals, love affairs, potions and gossip. By turns used, abused and cherished by his neighbors, Mayne wrote their letters for them and captured the essence of their lives in this affectionate and hilarious account.
The Voices of Marrakesh, Elias Canetti (Marion Boyars, UK). A small, compelling volume of impressions of Marrakesh in the last years of French rule by the Noble-prize winning author. The atmosphere of many pieces still holds.
Morocco That Was, Walter Harris (Eland Books, UK). Harris, Times correspondent in Tangier from the 1890s until his death in 1933, saw the country at probably one of its most bizarre stages in history—the last years of “Old Morocco” in its feudal isolation and the first of its French occupation. First published in 1921, this is a masterpiece—alternately sharp, melodramatic, and comic.
Hideous Kinky, Esther Freud (The Ecco Press, 1992). A young girl’s story of her childhood in Morocco with her sister and her Sufi-questing mother. Also a film starring Kate Winslet.
Poem of the Deep Song, Federico Garcia Lorca. “Poem of the Deep Song” is a bilingual edition of the epic poem inspired by the music and culture of Andalusian Gypsies, penned by acclaimed Spanish artist and musician Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936) and skillfully translated into English by award-winning poet Ralph Angel. Consisting of a diversity of impressions originally meant to be sung, not with overly mellifluous tone but rather in a deep, primal cry, Poem of the Deep Song evokes passion, vibrancy, and life undimmed by the turn of almost a century. "De Profundis": A hundred lovers / sleep forever / beneath this dry land. / Andalusia, / long, red-colored roads. / Cordoba, green olive trees, / where a hundred crosses / are placed in their memory. / A hundred lovers / sleep forever.
The World’s Religions, Huston Smith (HarperCollins, 1991). With a new preface and fresh package, this completely revised and updated version of The Religions of Man explores the essential elements and teachings of the world’s predominant faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and the native traditions of the Americas, Australia, Africa, and Oceania. Smith emphasizes the inner – rather than institutional – dimensions of these religions and gives special attention to Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, Sufism, and the teachings of Jesus. He convincingly conveys the unique appeal and gifts of each of the traditions and reveals their hold on the human heart and imagination. [*The section on Islam is recommended]
Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West, Daniel James Ladinsky (Penguin Group, 2002). In this transcendent collection, Daniel Ladinsky-best known for his gifted and best-selling translations of the great Sufi poet Hafiz-brings together the timeless work of twelve of the world's finest spiritual writers, six from the East and six from the West. Once again Ladinsky reveals his talent for creating inspiring, profound, and playful versions of classic poems for a modern audience. Rumi's joyous, ecstatic love poems; St. Francis's loving observations of nature through the eyes of Catholicism; Kabir's wild, freeing humor that synthesizes Hindu, Muslim, and Christian beliefs; St. Teresa's sensual verse; and the mystical, healing words of Hafiz-these and other spiritual writers considered to be "conduits of the divine" make up this rich and luminous collection of "love poems from God."
Islam Observed, Clifford Geertz (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984). In this book, Geertz analyzes notions of Islam on a practical and theoretical level, as well as making a cross-cultural comparison.
An Introduction to Islam, Frederick M. Denny (Prentice Hall, 2005). This comprehensive overview provides students with a thorough and unified topical introduction to the global religious community of Islam. It places Islam within a cultural, political, social, and religious context and examines its connections with Judeo-Christian morals. The text's integration of the doctrinal and devotional elements of Islam enables students to see how Muslims think and live--engendering understanding and breaking down stereotypes. It also reviews pre-Islamic history so students can see how Islam developed historically.
*Islam: The Straight Path, John L. Esposito (Oxford University Press, 1998). This exceptionally successful survey text introduces the faith, belief, and practice of Islam from its earliest origins up to its contemporary resurgence. The author, an internationally renowned expert on Islam, traces the development of this dynamic faith and its impact on world history and politics, discussing the formation of Islamic belief and practice (in law, theology, and mysticism) and chronicling the struggle of Muslims to define and adhere to their Islamic way of life. Lucidly written, the third edition of Islam: The Straight Path provides keen insight into one of the world's least understood religions.
Realm of the Saint: Power and Authority in Moroccan Sufism, Vincent J. Cornell, (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1998). In premodern Moroccan Sufism, sainthood involved not only a closeness to the Divine presence (walaya) but also the exercise of worldly authority (wilaya). The Moroccan Jazuliyya Sufi order used the doctrine that the saint was a "substitute of the prophets" and personification of a universal "Muhammadan Reality" to justify nearly one hundred years of Sufi involvement in Moroccan political life, which led to the creation of the sharifian state. This book presents a systematic history of Moroccan Sufism through the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries C.E. and a comprehensive study of Moroccan Sufi doctrine, focusing on the concept of sainthood.
Memory, Music, and Religion: Morocco’s Mystical Chanters, Earle H. Waugh, (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2005). An analysis of the role of music and rememberance in Moroccan Islam and Sufism and its reflection on Moroccan national identity.
The Koran, Oxford University Press translated editions (US/UK). The Word of God as handed down to the Prophet Mohamed is the basis of all Islam.
Beyond the Veil: Male-Female Dynamics in Muslim Society, Fatima Mernissi, (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1987). A controversial book written by an Arab feminist-scholar that examines gender relations from an insider's vantage point. It remains an important source for those studying gender issues in the Muslim world.
Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition, Deborah Kapchan, (University of Pensylvania Press, 1996). A study of Moroccan women's expressive culture and the ways in which it both determines and responds to current transformations in gender roles. She is currently working on two additional books on Morocco: Poetic Justice: Translating Art and Ideology in Morocco and Traveling Spirit Masters: Sound, Image and Word in the Global Marketplace.
Doing Daily Battle: Interviews with Moroccan Women, Fatima Mernissi, (The Women’s Press, UK/Rutgers University Press, US). Eleven women—carpet weavers, rural and factory workers, teachers—talk about all aspects of their lives, from work to housing to marriage. Unique insight into traditionally private quarters.
*A Street in Marrakech, Elizabeth W. Fernea (Waveland Press, 1988). An American woman anthropologist’s view of Marrakech in 1971-72; it will give you an idea of how much Marrakech has changed, or not, in the last 20 years.
Tribe and Society in Rural Morocco, David Hart, (Frank Cass, UK/US). An accessible collection of essays from 1985-2000 around the themes of tribalism and Berberism in Morocco.
The Mellah Society: Jewish Community Life in Sherifan Morocco, Shlomo Deshen, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989). This is a work that tackles the issue of Jewish identity in a predominantly Muslim country. In his account, Shlomo penetrates Moroccan culture and discusses a variety of key concerns that will give perspective to your experience.
The Berbers (Amazigh)
How “Berber” Matters in the Middle of Nowhere by David Crawford
This describes the social life, terrain and challenges experienced by the Berber people
Arab News – This is a concise overview of who are the Berber people
A Peace Corps Volunteer’s experience
This article suggests some of the challenges in the region:
The issue of language is highly political in Morocco – an issue the Berber people have been struggling with for generations and only in recent years has genuine progress been made. This BBC article describes an example of progress: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4502772.stm
*Class of 2006, PBS, Director Gini Reticker. WIDE ANGLE cameras are on location in Morocco as history is made. In May 2006, an imam academy in the city of Rabat holds a graduation ceremony. But the class of 2006 is no ordinary group of students. Side by side with the male graduates are 50 women pioneers, among the first contemporary group of women to be officially trained as religious leaders in the Arab world. Empowered to do everything that male imams do -- except lead Friday prayer in a mosque -- the women will fan out across Morocco to work as spiritual guides in mosques, schools, hospitals, and prisons, even hosting their own television and radio talk shows.
*Sound of the Soul, Stephen Olsson, Director (CEM Productions, 2006). A glorious homage to the remarkable Fez Festival of World Sacred Music in Morocco, which brings together a unique array of musicians from Muslim, Christian and Jewish backgrounds. --All connected through their artistry by profound expressions of love and longing. In a world increasingly polarized by religious conflicts and fundamentalist forces, SOUND OF THE SOUL is a timely and profound experiential journey, reverberating with unity, understanding and most of all, hope.
The Sheltering Sky (1990). Paul Bowles’ novel set to the Big Screen. Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci and starring John Malkovich and Debra Winger.
Morocco: The Past and the Present of Djemma El Fna, 1995. A short documentary by Steven Montgomery profiling the legendary marketplace in Marrakech, with glimpses of its snake charmers, musicians, and storytellers.
The Wind and The Lion, 1975. In the early 1900s, an American businessman was kidnapped by a rebellious Arab chieftain, principally as a means to embarrass the Sultan of Morocco. This abduction sparked the threat of armed intervention by President Theodore Roosevelt, which was never carried out. In The Wind and the Lion, the unattractive male captive is replaced by the gorgeous female Mrs. Pedecaris, an American widow played by Candice Bergen. The ruthless but essentially decent Arab chief Raisuli is portrayed by Sean Connery, while Teddy Roosevelt is depicted as a jingoistic blowhard by Brian Keith. The film's main theme, that of America's emergence as a world power, is largely secondary to the growing mutual-respect relationship between Mrs. Pedecaris and Raisuli. After releasing his hostage, Raisuli is himself captured by German forces, who at the behest of the Kaiser are seeking out methods of laying the groundwork for what would evolve into World War I. With the help of Mrs. Pedecaris -- and, in long-distance fashion, President Roosevelt -- Raisuli escapes. Director John Milius' screenplay bears little relation to the facts of the matter, but this is forgotten in the light of the film's dynamic action sequences, not to mention the marvelous rapport between its two main stars.
Casablanca, 1942. One of the most beloved American films, this captivating wartime adventure of romance and intrigue from director Michael Curtiz defies standard categorization. Simply put, it is the story of Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), a world-weary ex-freedom fighter who runs a nightclub in Casablanca during the early part of WWII. Despite pressure from the local authorities, notably the crafty Capt. Renault (Claude Rains), Rick's café has become a haven for refugees looking to purchase illicit letters of transit which will allow them to escape to America. One day, to Rick's great surprise, he is approached by the famed rebel Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) and his wife, Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick's true love who deserted him when the Nazis invaded Paris. She still wants Victor to escape to America, but now that she's renewed her love for Rick, she wants to stay behind in Casablanca. "You must do the thinking for both of us," she says to Rick. He does, and his plan brings the story to its satisfyingly logical, if not entirely happy, conclusion.
The Rough Guide to the Music of Morocco
Podcasts (iTunes U)
Stanford Professor Emeritus, David Abernathy, offers six approximately 1 hour lectures of interest on Morocco:
*1. “Morocco’s Foreign Policy, From Independence to Today”
2. “The ‘Moors’ in Europe, 711-1492: The Arab-Berber Impact on Iberian History and Culture”
*3. “The Arab Arrival and the Spread of Islam”
4. “Northwest Africa Before Islam: the Influence of Mediterranean Cultures”
*5. “Europeans in Morocco: From Ceuta (1415) to the French Colonial Era (1912-1956)”
6. “Trans-Saharan Trade Routes and Medieval Kingdoms of the Sahel”