There is a lot you can read about Morocco, though not a lot is written by Moroccan writers. Unfortunately, what books that are available are not immediately available in English. Few Moroccan authors write in English. Most prefer either Arabic or French. Because of this, we monolingual readers have to wait until their words find a translator. Fortunately, some really great works by Moroccan writers have found translators and are readily available!
Whatever your interest in Morocco, these wonderful books will provide you with not only hours of entertainment, but a real insider’s look to a culture that, for many of us, still remains somewhat of a mystery.
In the contemporary tradition of the French novel, this quick, slim read plunges the reader into Salé, near Rabat, in the 1980s. A coming-of-age tale of a poor teenager who dreams of the movies, the Egyptian movie star Souad Hosni, and struggles to define his sexuality against a homophobic culture. An autobiographical novel by the first openly gay writer published in Morocco and a seering look at a part of Morocco that even Moroccans seldom talk about. A must-read for LGBT travelers!
Required reading for those interested in male-female dynamics in an often gender confusing country. Morocco’s leading feminist studies the status of women. She argues that fundamental Islam is, in part, a defense of the rise of women in the workplace and shifting roles of genders in a largely conservative society. This is a staple read throughout university classrooms in North America, Europe and North Africa.
This fast-paced, heartrending novelization of the author’s life is a snapshot into the underbelly of Morocco. Set in the early 50s, against the backdrop of Tangier’s “Interzone,” Mohamed charms and steals his way through the world. He experiments with drugs, sex and alcohol along the way, all taboo. After a short spell in prison, his life changes in unimaginable ways. Translated by the Beat-generation writer, Paul Bowles, himself a resident of Tangier for 50 years. This is a classic of modern Moroccan literature.
Stories of Tangier by Mohamed Mrabet
When he’s not fishing, Mohamed Mrabet is spinning tales, draws and paints. This collection of stories not only blends the dreamy witticisms that Mrabet is so known for, but also his artwork, which has until now been only part of a prestigious art collection and never shown publicly. The stories inhabit creatures leading deceivingly simple lives. A fisherman who know how Truman Capote lost his voice. A man on the eve of his 70th birthday who lives with a maimed matador and former ballet dancer in a cursed house. A fugitive who seeks refuges in Tangier after a life of debauchery, undone by his love for Coca Cola.
A Pulitzer Prize finalist, this moving piece of historical fiction follows a figure history has nearly forgotten: Estebanico, a Moorish slave from Azemmour, Morocco. Estebanico was one of the few survivors of the Narváez Expedition of 1527. He sold himself into slavery to save his family from debt. His journey took him over the Atlantic and to a disastrous landfall on modern-day Florida. A powerful story that reminds us of the ability of language to shape our reality and our history. Lalami is one of the few Moroccan writers who chooses to write in English, which perhaps tells another story about how language shapes our world.
In 1325, Ibn Battuta set out for the Hadj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca that able muslims are required to do at least once in their life. The pilgrimage saw him set out from his home in Tangier and across North Africa. He wouldn’t return for another 29 years. Instead, Battuta follows employment prospects across the Middle East and Asia, his travels surpassing those of Marco Polo. His collected journals are a fascinating insight to the medieval world and medieval Islam.
This critically acclaimed bestseller follows the ghastly accounts of the desert concentration camps. These camps are where the king, Hassan II, kept his political enemies. With no food, no light and no hope, this is the story of men on the edge of death. Recounted with close help from one of the prison survivors, this is a story that sheds light into the darker places of the world. Somehow, in the midst of this darkness, hope is kindled.