Behind the Courtyard Door: The Daily Life of Tribeswomen in Northern Morocco

Ursula K. Hart, Author
Ursula K. Hart, Author Ipswich Press $11.95 (196p) ISBN 978-0-938864-18-9
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This detailed memoir of a 1959 trip into the Rif, the northern mountain chain of Morocco, grew out of extensive field trips taken by Hart's husband, David Hart, an American anthropologist. For the author, who was born in India to British parents and grew up in Morocco, accompanying her husband on these trips was the realization of her teenage fantasies. Although daily life in an isolated village was far different from her youthful dreams of romance and adventure, Hart's fascination with this exotic land was in no way dimmed by the physical discomforts of primitive conditions. The central fact of her stay in this Muslim society was the seclusion of women, whose sheltered domain was the central courtyard located in every Rifian household. Since David Hart had no access to this feminine world for his fieldwork, he hoped Ursula would be accepted by the tribeswomen and be able to learn about their guarded rituals. She was, and in this reminiscence she carefully describes that circumscribed life of housework, cooking and bearing children, one complicated by the inevitable jealousies of polygamy. However interesting the subject matter, this book suffers from the author's condescending attitude toward Third World life, as well as awkward passages that mar the narrative flow: ""`Ooh!' `Eeh!' were the cries of exclamation tinged with surprise as well as shock over my panties.'' Photos. (Oct.)
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