The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca

Tahir Shah, Author . Bantam $22 (349p) ISBN 978-0-553-80399-0

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. Illus. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/28/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Paperback - 368 pages - 978-0-553-81680-8
Hardcover - 356 pages - 978-0-385-60807-7
Paperback - 349 pages - 978-0-553-38310-2
Open Ebook - 277 pages - 978-0-553-90231-0
Open Ebook - 368 pages - 978-1-4090-4479-6
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