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Preserving Tradition or Modernizing into Sweet Comfort?

A House in Fez describes the story of Suzanna and Sandy Clarke, an Australian couple who restore a riad in the old medina of Fez. They had visited Morocco once before, delighted by the country’s beauty and authentically traditional architecture. During their visit, they acknowledged that their presence in Morocco was symbolic of colonialism of the country in the 20thcentury, where the West (France and Spain) invaded Morocco and called it their own. However, Suzanna and Sandy assume that they’re different and decide to purchase a riad in the heart of the city. This book narrates the construction of the riad and at the same time, the construction of the couple’s new life. The main arguments in this book is the conflict of what’s best: preservation of the past or assimilation into modern comforts.

Suzanna decides that protecting the traditional culture and architecture of Morocco is more important than making decisions for our own comfort. People come from all over the world to visit Morocco because it’s unique; if it continues to be modernized, what character will it have left? My favorite parts of the book were when Suzanna discusses the culture of Morocco, narratives I can relate to during my time there. She describes the beauty of the Moroccan streets, the good-hearted people in the medina, couscous on Fridays, and having pauses in her work during the call for prayer. She describes the culture as being open, hospitable, and welcoming. When she returned to Australia, the one thing she missed the most about Morocco was its people, which can make a place a home. As time progressed, she became much more comfortable in her surroundings – forgoing the help of a translator. Seeing her appreciate the culture coming from an entirely different one gives me hope that more people would be able to respect and even appreciate other cultures if only they could visit other countries and see people for who they really are.

Some parts that were unappealing to me included the random sections of history about either Fez or Morocco that seemed to be randomly put in the book. I found them to be distracting from the storyline, although I do realize that she probably put historical context so readers could be better informed about the country, because not enough people take out the time to learn about it. I also wasn’t particularly interested in her relationship with Ayisha; it seemed to be pretty surface level.

Although I liked that Suzanna respected Moroccan culture and appreciated it for what it was worth, I was a bit irritated that she thought that she knew what was best for the people of Fez. She called the city of Marrakesh “exotic,” which makes me seem as if she was gawking at it rather than looking deep into the city and seeing what it was really about. She seems to have a white savior complex, look backing. She is a white woman who is moving into the most historic part of Fez and saving the riad and making a stance to hold on to the culture. Because obviously she knows what’s best for Fez more than the people who have lived there their whole lives and whose families have been there for generations.

I believe that this book was intellectually stimulating, because it taught me so much about Fez and its history that I didn’t know beforehand. It detailed the cultural terms for the fixtures that were put in the riad and without this book, I probably would not have learned that. It was a pretty accurate and detailed introduction to the region and I’d highly recommend it for people who are visiting Fez and want to have a better idea of what to expect beforehand. Through A House in Fez, I validated my thoughts that the Morocco and the MENA region have a warm culture with a close community of neighbors and simple life, which is highly underrated.

A House in Fezdescribes the story of Suzanna and Sandy Clarke, an Australian couple who restore a riad in the old medina of Fez. They had visited Morocco once before, delighted by the country’s beauty and authentically traditional architecture. During their visit, they acknowledged that their presence in Morocco was symbolic of colonialism of the country in the 20thcentury, where the West (France and Spain) invaded Morocco and called it their own. However, Suzanna and Sandy assume that they’re different and decide to purchase a riad in the heart of the city. This book narrates the construction of the riad and at the same time, the construction of the couple’s new life. The main arguments in this book is the conflict of what’s best: preservation of the past or assimilation into modern comforts.

Suzanna decides that protecting the traditional culture and architecture of Morocco is more important than making decisions for our own comfort. People come from all over the world to visit Morocco because it’s unique; if it continues to be modernized, what character will it have left? My favorite parts of the book were when Suzanna discusses the culture of Morocco, narratives I can relate to during my time there. She describes the beauty of the Moroccan streets, the good-hearted people in the medina, couscous on Fridays, and having pauses in her work during the call for prayer. She describes the culture as being open, hospitable, and welcoming. When she returned to Australia, the one thing she missed the most about Morocco was its people, which can make a place a home. As time progressed, she became much more comfortable in her surroundings – forgoing the help of a translator. Seeing her appreciate the culture coming from an entirely different one gives me hope that more people would be able to respect and even appreciate other cultures if only they could visit other countries and see people for who they really are.

Some parts that were unappealing to me included the random sections of history about either Fez or Morocco that seemed to be randomly put in the book. I found them to be distracting from the storyline, although I do realize that she probably put historical context so readers could be better informed about the country, because not enough people take out the time to learn about it. I also wasn’t particularly interested in her relationship with Ayisha; it seemed to be pretty surface level.

Although I liked that Suzanna respected Moroccan culture and appreciated it for what it was worth, I was a bit irritated that she thought that she knew what was best for the people of Fez. She called the city of Marrakesh “exotic,” which makes me seem as if she was gawking at it rather than looking deep into the city and seeing what it was really about. She seems to have a white savior complex, look backing. She is a white woman who is moving into the most historic part of Fez and saving the riad and making a stance to hold on to the culture. Because obviously she knows what’s best for Fez more than the people who have lived there their whole lives and whose families have been there for generations.

I believe that this book was intellectually stimulating, because it taught me so much about Fez and its history that I didn’t know beforehand. It detailed the cultural terms for the fixtures that were put in the riad and without this book, I probably would not have learned that. It was a pretty accurate and detailed introduction to the region and I’d highly recommend it for people who are visiting Fez and want to have a better idea of what to expect beforehand. Through A House in Fez, I validated my thoughts that the Morocco and the MENA region have a warm culture with a close community of neighbors and simple life, which is highly underrated.

 

One Comment

  1. Sports weeky Sports weeky July 11, 2020

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