Friday, July 19, 2019

The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca Discussion Questions

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The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca by Tahir Shah

This book elicited quite strong reactions from our Global Reads for Grown-ups Facebook book group readers, particularly on the question of whether Shah relied on cultural stereotypes and caricatures in his portrayal of Morocco.
The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca Discussion Questions

  • ASIN: B015QNQ6R6
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385608071
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385608077

1) What did you think of the book? Would you recommend it?

2) On p. 19 of my edition, Tahir Shah writes "In the West we are driven by an extreme form of guilt - if you are not seen to be working like a dog, you're perceived as being slothful. It was very clear that things in Morocco were quite different...I found people rushed about only when they needed to, and not because they knew others were watching them."
Do you agree that people in the West feel guilty for relaxing? (Or that they don't feel this guilt elsewhere?)

3) Here is a quick overview of Edward Said's concept of Orientalism and how it still shapes Western views of the East today. Do you think The Caliph's House played into these stereotypes? Did he do anything to dispel them?



4) The book begins with Tahir Shah signing the papers on his new house when they are interrupted by suicide attacks in Casablanca. What effect does it have starting the book with this effect? Why did he choose to do this?

5) [Reader question] What did you think about the family relationships in the book?

6) Did you have a favorite character?

7) Overall, would you say The Caliph's House paints a flattering portrait of Morocco? Or of the expats living there? Would you want to move to Morocco based solely on reading this book? Why or why not?

8) Have you ever lived abroad? If so, how did your experience compare with the one portrayed in the book?

9) Thinking on books about where you are from (or where you live now) was there one that really got it wrong? What book really got it right? What book do you recommend about where you are from (or where you live)?

Thank you for reading! This post was written by: 
Leanna is a homeschooler with three sweet, funny, rambunctious children.  She draws inspiration from the Writings of the Bahá’í Faith and tries to raise her Monkeys in a fun, spiritual, loving environment.  She and her husband, who is from Costa Rica, are raising their children to be bilingual and bicultural but more importantly to be “world citizens.”  All Done Monkey is dedicated to sharing this journey with you!
Leanna is the founder of Multicultural Kid Blogs.
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The Caliph's House: A Year in Casablanca Discussion Questions