Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Caliph's House by Tahir Shah

The Caliph's House, by Tahir Shah

Tahir shares one year's look at restoring "The Caliph's House" in Casablanca.

Born to an English mother, and Afghan father, Tahir's childhood was spent in many places, Morocco and England being the two most prominent. His grandfather chose to stay, and died, in Morocco. As a writer and journalist, Tahir grew tired of living in England, his desire to return to Morocco finally came to pass when an aquaintance offered to sell him her family's unlived in house in Casablana. Tahir uprooted his wife and child, to take possesion of this house sight unseen. When they arrived, and found the location they were in for just the first of MANY BIG suprises. Unaware of the fact that part of the purchase, were several already live-in caretakers, and one ANGRY djinn. Like most Westerners, Tahir was unaware that followers of the Islamic faith hold a very strong belief in djinns or jinns, he was to learn that these spirit beings are mentioned in the Quran.

Definition of a jinn from the "Oxford Dictionary of Islam" "Creatures known in popular belief in pre-Islamic Arabia and mentioned in numerous times in the Quran, parallel to human beings but made out of fire rather than clay. Believed to be both less virtuous and less physical than humans, but like humans, endowed with the ability to choose between good and evil. In folk religion, jinn are spirits invoked for magical purposes and are often held responsible for miraculous or unusual events and for a wide range of illnesses, which are popularly believed to be caused by an imbalance between internal and external jinn. Healers often speak directly to jinn prior to driving them out of patients." Page 160 of 2003 edition of the aforementioned dictionary, edited by John L. Esposito, University Professor of Religion and International Affairs and Founding Director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, at the Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Not being able to speak the Arabic language, Tahir hires an "assistant" Zohra, who is at times helpful, other times rather belligerent, her attitude drives a wedge between them and she finally just quits, Tahir realizes that he must have someone to assist him in so many ways, that he finally hires Kamal. Little does Tahir realize just how much "power" Kamal holds. One of the issues that sets Kamal apart from Zohra is that he knows that the architect that Tahir hired is unscrupulous, the workers are lazy and inept. Kamal insists that Tahir fire the architect and the workers, Tahir is so unsure of this but goes along with Kamal's scheme - what a humdinger scene that had to have been! Kamal uses a form of "blackmail" to achieve many things so that the renovation will run smoothly and finish in a reasonable time.

Tahir offers many views of the living conditions of this country, the reader becomes almost part of the action - and one learns many things about the people, place, culture, foods, and religion.

Reading this book, brought back sights, sounds, smells, heat, rain and FLIES from my childhood in Tripoli. I really enjoyed this one...... Hope you will consider it.

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