Author(s): Clarke, Suzanna
When Suzanna Clarke and her husband bought a dilapidated riad, or traditional courtyard house, in the ancient Medina of Fez, their friends thought they were mad. Located in a maze of donkey-trod alleyways, the house was beautiful but in desperate need of repair. Walls were in danger of collapse, the plumbing non-existent. It was a state common to many of Fez's exquisitely crafted houses, which were falling to ruin for want of local funds to restore them. Or worse, they were being bought by foreigners and modernised. With a view to living there semi-permanently, Suzanna was determined to restore the riad to its original splendour. Never mind that neither she nor her husband spoke Arabic and had only a smattering of French, or that doing business in Morocco is a little like being transported back several centuries in time. All the rebuilding was done by hand, by artisans using techniques as old as the Medina itself, in a process that veered between frustration, hilarity and moments of pure exhilaration. But A House in Fez is no do-it-yourself book: it is a rich and insightful account of engaging with Moroccan culture at its most intimate level. With its history and with Islam, with traditional Sufi rituals and the world of women. With djinns and spirits and other folklore. With the pressures of the modern on the ancient; with the vibrant, life-filled marketplaces and the irresistible Moroccan cuisine. And most of all, with the people themselves - warm, friendly, hospitable to a fault. First published 2007.