Book of the month: The Caliph’s House

Last month our book club members read Dylan Thomas’ masterpiece Under Milk Wood, another book (play, sorry!) which went down well with everyone. This month we are delving into the world of travel writing and our selection for the month is The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah. It pipped Peter Mayle’s “A Year in Provence” to the top position by one vote! If you’d like to join our book club, we’d love to see you (details below).

The blurb

In the tradition of A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, acclaimed English travel writer Tahir Shah shares a highly entertaining account of making an exotic dream come true. By turns hilarious and harrowing, here is the story of his family’s move from the gray skies of London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore converge–and nothing is as easy as it seems….

Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that astonishing country. At age thirty-six he got his chance. Investing what money he and his wife, Rachana, had, Tahir packed up his growing family and bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the city’s caliph, or spiritual leader.

With its lush grounds, cool, secluded courtyards, and relaxed pace, life at Dar Khalifa seems sure to fulfill Tahir’s fantasy–until he discovers that in many ways he is farther from home than he imagined. For in Morocco an empty house is thought to attract jinns, invisible spirits unique to the Islamic world. The ardent belief in their presence greatly hampers sleep and renovation plans, but that is just the beginning. From elaborate exorcism rituals involving sacrificial goats to dealing with gangster neighbors intent on stealing their property, the Shahs must cope with a new culture and all that comes with it.

Endlessly enthralling, The Caliph’s House charts a year in the life of one family who takes a tremendous gamble. As we follow Tahir on his travels throughout the kingdom, from Tangier to Marrakech to the Sahara, we discover a world of fierce contrasts that any true adventurer would be thrilled to call home.

What people are saying

“Tahir Shah’s highly readable account of moving his young family to Casablanca is…. an outrageously black comedy [written] with the straightest of poker faces.”—The Washington Post Book Review

“A wonderfully entertaining book – Tahir Shah’s talent is to make you 
laugh while you are admiring the insights given by his most original 
and lively view of life.”—Doris Lessing

“Reminiscent of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.”—Entertainment Weekly

Our next book club

Please remember that anyone can join our Book Club. The next one will be held on Tuesday 3rd August at 7.30pm. At this event we will discuss The Caliph’s House and select our next book.

Buying the book

  • You can buy this book from Blackwells (often cheaper than Amazon and with FREE postage), Waterstones, WHSmith or other bookshops in Cardiff
  • It can be purchased quite cheaply on Kindle (around £3.99 I believe)
  • If you type the title in to Google and click the Shopping tab, you can find quite a few sellers (New and used)
  • If Amazon is out of stock, check Amazon “New” or “Used” options from other sellers through Amazon. Kindle is another option. Waterstones and Blackwells sell it as do many suppliers on eBay. 

Can anyone join the Book Club?

Of course! To join the St Helen’s Book Club, please click this link. You can then enter your details and you will be sent joining instructions. Alternatively, you can always email Canon John on caerphilly@rcadc.org.

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