A House in Fez Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of

A House in Fez Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco 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 exhilarationBut 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 hospitableBeautifully descriptive and infused with an extraordinary sense of place this is a compelling account of one couple's adventures in ancient Morocco

  • Paperback
  • 320 pages
  • A House in Fez Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco
  • Suzanna Clarke
  • English
  • 10 September 2015
  • 9780091925222

10 thoughts on “A House in Fez Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco

  1. Sally906 Sally906 says:

    Suzanna Clarke is a reporter for the Brisbane Courier and in A HOUSE IN FEZ she relates how she and her husband fell in love with a country and purchased then renovated a centuries old house in Fez Morocco Only able to spend a few months at a time in Morocco a lot of the work had to be done remotely from Australia with a few good friends back in Morocco helping out where they can In between the story of the renovations locating tradesmen and dealing with red tape Suzanna also relates the rich history of the country the religious beliefs and the customs of the people she comes across Morocco came alive on the pages her descriptions are vivid and you could just close your eyes and see the scene that Susanna had described how the ancient land is slowly being westernised with the two cultures living side by side Internet cafes rub shoulders with artisans’ workshops peasants on donkeys trot beneath billboards advertising the latest mobile phones” Suzanna started off saying that she didn’t want to be a foreigner who only hung out with other foreigners – but at first she did The way she described her early social interactions came over that while she socialised with locals she didn’t totally trust them certainly didn’t sympathise with many of them and suspected them of trying to get one over her all the time – which she was mostly right about to be perfectly honest but not in every case Eventually she became close friends with a few local ladies who helped her understand that life in Morocco is not as modern as society would like you to think By the end of the book Suzanna was dancing at their parties and whenever they had to return to Australia both Suzanna and her husband missed the laid back and unpredictable life in Fez when compared to their meticulously organized lives in AustraliaI chose this book as I need a book set in Morocco as part of my read around the world challenge – the fact it was an Aussie author was a bonus If you are thinking of travelling to Morocco as my 85 year old mother is I certainly recommend this book for background reading

  2. tea_for_two tea_for_two says:

    An pleasant enough read travel lit lite and as a fellow expat living in Morocco I'm a Peace Corps Volunteer serving here I can empathize with some of Clarke's frustrations but like many of the other commenters I was struck by how little interaction Clarke really had with MoroccoHer primary social group was almost entirely made up of foreigners and the only Moroccans she regularly interacted with were her employees or the two women she formed fraught and uneual relationships with While Clarke was enad with Morocco and was generally positive about Moroccan culture she made no effort to learn the language meaning she could only interact with Moroccans who spoke English or French meaning she only could speak with Moroccans who were educated enough to speak three or languages She does mentions a few Arabic words but some of them are translated incorrectly and almost all of them are spelled that makes me think she's mispronouncing them badly She talks about her worries about being part of a colonizing force but also chose to study French the language of the colonistsI was surprised by some of the topics she didn't mention or glossed over especially Islam which is such a fundamental and integral part of Moroccan life that it's impossible to really understand Morocco or Moroccans without taking it into accountThe one bright spot of the book was when she took a trip to Sefrou the town I'm currently living in and visited the su that's right next to my house I don't think I've ever had a book intersect with my real life uite that dramatically A House in Fez is ultimately a pleasant enough read about a restoration project and expat life in Morocco but not a real look at Moroccan culture

  3. Heidi Heidi says:

    I wish there were stars 5 does not seem enough for this book History culture through an outsider's eyes home restoration and the human connection that makes the world go 'round This book will fuel my day dreams for years to come

  4. Fay Fay says:

    I liked this book and part of me wants to give it another star because it is about Morocco a country I love deeply but I at this point I just have to keep it at three starts It was a good enough read but not as great as other books out there that are similar not that you shouldn't read this to get of a glimpse of moving to Morocco I was deeply disappointed with the fact that Clarke who was moving from Australia to Morocco part time had very little contact with Moroccans Unfortunately this is something uite a lot of expatriates seem to to or get stuck in I've heard some people say it's because western and eastern cultures are so different but I don't think it's so much that as I saw the same thing happen when I studied in France many many other students only stuck with other AmericansI'm not so taken aback by her choice to study French It probably is much easier of a start for a lot of westerners and it does open up a lot of doors though not always the same ones that would be opened if somebody learned Darija the Moroccan Arabic dialect There did seem to be no mention of wishing to pick up Darija in the future no mention of taking classes for it To each their own but I feel this is terribly sad and affects her experience in Morocco a great deal and that in turn affects this book her story Still a good read and should be placed on any I'm moving to Morocco book list

  5. Maria Maria says:

    I decided to read this book because we were thinking about traveling to Morocco in the fall and I wanted to get excited about the trip This book had the exact opposite effect I'm certain it was unintentional but the author made Morocco sound really unappealing She obviously enjoys living there but completely failed at conveying why she does I also found the author to be very whiny The book was mostly comprised of complaints about how difficult it was to renovate this house I know that living in a construction zone can be challenging but she wasn't doing it herself She had a team of 18 workers doing the actual work Do not read this book if you are considering a trip to Morocco

  6. Chris Chris says:

    Unusually for me I actually had to force myself to finish this book Other reviewers have cited the author's tone as something of a turn off As a freuent visitor to the Middle East I'm familiar with the frustrations that Ms Clarke expresses Why is everything so needlessly complex?? but there was a cross between self congratulation for dealing with Moroccan bureaucracy and the informal economy read tips and bribes coupled with a constant need to remind us that she basically didn't trust anyone she met in Morocco that really started to grate on me Her constant friends throughout the book are all western or westernized MoroccansWhile I can't say that I would have written a different book in her shoes the overall approach was a little too light and fluffy for my tastes By the end of if I still just didn't feel like we'd gotten anywhere What did she learn from this experience? I'm still not sureAnyone looking for a similar story with some meat on its bones would do well to track down a copy of Elizabeth Warnock Fernea's A Street in Marrakech instead

  7. Rachel Rachel says:

    Not impressive as travel writing goes Clarke is neither patient nor humorous enough to pull it off and is rather ungraceful in dealing with unforeseen issues with buying a house and living in a foreign country Understandable but makes for a boringannoying book

  8. Rosemarie Donzanti Rosemarie Donzanti says:

    I started reading this book to get a cultural glimpse of Fez prior to my trip to Morocco I stopped reading a little past midway through as I wanted to savor and experience the culture before finishing I loved the real life adventures Suzanna and her husband Sandy encountered while shopping for and renovating their riad in Fez They encounter a lively cast of characters who have you laughing out loud and shaking your head She describes a warm welcoming people who are so wonderful to be around yet can be so frustrating Kinda like family 😉 You gain a respect for the spirit and historical aspect of the Medina My visit there will certainly be one of my greatest memories“Im the Fez Medina there are fourteen thousand buildings whereas Marrakesh has only four thousand which may mean Fez has a greater degree of resilience Here we have a chance uniue in the world to live as they did in the fourteenth century” A House in Fez Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco by Suzanna Clarke Scribd

  9. Mindy McAdams Mindy McAdams says:

    I was very disappointed in this book I recently read The Caliph's House about restoring a traditional house in Casablanca The problem is not that this book about restoring a traditional house in Fez or Fès is too similar to the other but rather that it is so inferior in style and flavor The most annoying thing for me was that that author continually talks about how much each thing costs Prices amounts of dirhams and how every Moroccan is always cheating the Australian author and her husband if you deleted all these from the book it would lose half its pages In contrast the author of the other book was also cheated and also overpaid for things and sometimes mentioned prices but his story never seemed like an accounts ledger This one very nearly didThe worse thing stylistically is too much telling and not enough showing the fatal downfall of storytelling We are constantly being told that someone is kind or gentle or this or that but we rarely get to see anyone being themselves This too is a great contrast to the other book I couldn't help feeling like these two Australians really were the new colonizers of Morocco with most of their contacts and dinner party companions being other foreigners who have come to live part time in Fez buying up houses in the car free Medina and restoring them Most of their interactions with Moroccan people are as employers hiring cleaners and plumbers and plasterers to work on their houses or dealing with clerks and officials in the frustrating uest to get the reuired building permits I did learn some interesting things about the history of Morocco and its architecture although the author inserts these interludes clumsily among the tedious accounts about how much money she had to pay this person and that person again and again

  10. Robert Clancy Robert Clancy says:

    I purchased this book to read before our trip to Fez Morocco last month However I only got through the first 3 chapters before we arrived in Fez There was so much to see and do in Morocco I didn't have one minute to pick up this account of an Australian couple who bought a riad in the heart of Fez in the ancient Medina We also stayed at a first class great old riad called Ryad Mabrouka in the Medina We also met a British couple from London the same area where my daughter lives Chiswick who also own a riad in Fez and are rehab ing it For the past 4 years After spending a week in Fez I pick up Clarke's book and it was tremendously enjoyable I felt like I was right back in the alleys and souks of the Medina Like our trip to Morocco this book tells you not only a lot about what it's like to live in an exotic foreign country but it also put's into perspective your own home life in America What we take for granted how we live and the things that are better and not so good of our own American lifestyle Who would have thought that free toilet paper in rest rooms was such a luxury? In Morocco it's non existent We also have read the author's husband's blog A View from Fez and find it educational if you're planning a trip to this ancient city

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