When Suzanna Clarke and her husband bought a dilapidated house in the Moroccan town of Fez, their friends thought they were mad. Located in a maze of donkey-trod alleyways, the house - a traditional riad - was beautiful but in desperate need of repair. Walls were in danger of collapse, the plumbing non-existent. While neither Suzanna nor her husband spoke Arabic, and had only a smattering of French, they were determined to restore the building to its original splendour, using only traditional craftsmen and handmade materials. But they soon found that trying to do business in Fez was like being transported back several centuries in time and so began the remarkable experience that veered between frustration, hilarity and moments of pure exhilaration. But restoring the riad was only part of their immersion in the rich and colourful life of this ancient city. A House in Fez is a journey into Moroccan culture, revealing its day-to-day rhythms, its customs and festivals; its history, Islam, and Sufi rituals; the lore of djinns and spirits; the vibrant life-filled market places and the irresistible Moroccan cuisine. And above all, into the lives of the people - warm, friendly, and hospitable.
Beautifully descriptive and infused with an extraordinary sense of place, this is a compelling account of one couple's adventures in ancient Morocco.
I have to take may hat off to Suzanna Clarke, she is undaunted and enthusiastic despite everything that Fez its bureaucrats, her neighbours, and employees throw at her. I found this a thoroughly enjoyable read, and having been to Fez, I found every word entirely believable. The city is one of such contrasts, and you are never quite sure what peoples motives are, so it is interesting to hear how she negotiates her way through this minefield with unerring good humour.
I downloaded this title as I was going to Morocco and stopping off at Fez. Quite simply it tells the story of a couple who visit Fez, fall in love with the place, and decide to buy and do up a riad.
The book relates the experiences of Suzanna and Sandy who are thrown in at the deep end, learning from scratch about Moroccan culture and architecture. It's a lovely book to read as they learn to navigate their way around Moroccan bureacracy and build up relationships with both the expat community and the locals. By the end of the book you really feel like you have shared all their experiences.