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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A privileged spectator, 21 May 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Morocco That Was (Paperback)
Walter Harris settled in Morocco after dropping out of Cambridge and drifting around the war. He made many contacts with locals from all walks of life, from bandits to the Sultan and used this network to wto establish himself as one of the foremost journalists in the region.
This book is a memoir of the last sultans before the French established their protectorate. It deals primarily with the foibles of a royal line deliberately seperated from the plight of their people, the corruption of shiny trinkets and Western inventions. But this is not a sermon: Harris revels in the gossipy, slightly fantastical nature of his anecdotes and presents an afectionate portrait of Moroccan royalty, men who were also his friends.
Of greatest interest for those already interested in the country and a perfect counterpoint to dry colonial histories, this might be rather a struggle for the North African novice but rewards perseverance
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A different side of Morocco, 28 July 2007
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jacr100 "jacr100" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Morocco That Was (Paperback)
The Morocco that Walter Harris encountered over a century ago was one that saw few travellers and only a handful of diplomatic respresentatives; insular, thoroughly corrupt and fragmented by tribal divisions, it was hostile territory and deeply conservative. Yet Harris, an itinerant wanderer with a fondness for the Moroccan people and a great sense of curiosity, became - thanks to his tolerance and understanding - privy to the workings of the Court and confidante to Sultans, which makes this a unique travelogue. The viziers and overlords Harris describes are exuberant, scheming characters, such as Mulai Aziz, the boy-Sultan with no sense of the value of money, and Raisuli, a high-born renegade who rises to despotic ruler of the northern territories. The writer had shared intimate conversations with these and other influential personalities of that time, and he exposes their more human characteristics - their frailty, their love of practical jokes, or their sense of loyalty.

Essentially a historical account of one of Morocco's most turbulent eras, as it faced up to its long decline and inevitable subjugation by the European powers, the writing is powerful enough to give a sense of Morocco's idiosyncrasies today: the playful people with a strong sense of faith and self-preservation, the ornate but faded architecture, the oriental luxuriousness. Some of Harris's anecdotes are chilling, others funny, and others lyrical or poignant, such as this observation of the lost splendour of Fes:

"There is scarcely a view of Fes that is not beautiful, scarcely a glimpse that is not sad. Its very colouring, or perhaps lack of colouring; its amazing alleys into which the sun never shines; its ruined mosques, rich in fast-falling mosaics and woodcarving, in rotten arabesques and grass-grown roofs..."

Despite some doubts over the entire veracity of Harris's narrative, it's an entertaining one and a perfect introduction for those interested in Morocco's colourful history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating descriptions, 11 Jun 2013
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A. J. Scrope (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Morocco That Was (Kindle Edition)
Wonderful descriptions of court life in Morocco at the end of the 19th century. It may not be wholly accurate but it is powerfully atmospheric.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very different Morocco, 28 Jun 2014
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Valerie David (Asilah, Morocco) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Morocco That Was (Paperback)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, probably because I have been living in Morocco for the last fifteen years, of which eight spent in the Tangier area. I therefore know so many of the places he mentions. Surpisingly enough, although of course much has changed over the last seventy-odd years, I can still detect things which seem to be almost eternal in the Morocco of today! Recommended for people who know Morocco beyond the mass tourist view.
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Morocco That Was
Morocco That Was by James Chandler
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