In Arabian Nights, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (1 rating)


Shortly after the 2005 London bombings, Tahir Shah was thrown into a Pakistani prison on suspicion of spying for Al-Qaeda.

What sustained him during his terrifying, weeks-long ordeal were the stories his father told him as a child in Morocco.

Inspired by this, on his return to his adopted homeland he embarked on an adventure worthy of the mythical Arabian Nights, going in search of the stories and storytellers that have nourished this most alluring of countries for centuries.Wandering through the medinas of Fez and Marrakech, criss-crossing the Saharan sands and tasting the hospitality of ordinary Moroccans, he collected a treasury of traditional stories recounted by a vivid and eccentric cast of characters: from master masons who work only at night to Sufi wise men who write for soap operas and Tuareg guides addicted to reality TV.

Himself a link in the chain of scholars and teachers who have passed such tales down from father to son, mother to daughter, Shah reveals a world and a way of thinking that most visitors to Morocco barely know exist.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Travel writing
  • ISBN: 9780553818765

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Bought 30 July 2009 - Waterstones 3-for-2This was a lovely, magical book. Shah, already acclaimed author of The Caliph's House, about restoring an old house in Morocco, is a wanderer - originally his family is from Pakistan but his father brought them out to the UK and then to North Africa, which he felt reflected his homeland's atmosphere and culture. Shah is a writer, thinker and film-maker, and it's this last that gets him into trouble, when he is arrested in the paranoia post-7/7 and thrown into a torture jail somewhere in Pakistan. As he languishes in jail, more and more prepared to die, he falls back on the stories his father used to tell him, ancient traditional folk tales such as the Arabian Nights, with shifting and deepening layers of meaning.After managing to be set free, Shah sets about looking for these stories and their story-tellers around Morocco, searching for the story in his heart, trying to pass on the stories and their layers and importance to his small children, and, not least, trying to appease his wife as the Guardians of their house speak of jinns, ghosts and the need for all kinds of peculiar rituals. The narrative is almost dreamy but also realistic and human. Shah presents his own fears and misses in comprehension, and paints a powerful and lively portrait of a beautiful country. Wonderful stuff and a highlight of the year already.