There's an entire subgenre of travel literature about English people who seek out better weather and spicier food than they find at home. In The Caliph's House, travel writer Tahir Shah shares his family's experiences with Dar Khlalifa, a ramshackle old estate in one of Casablanca's least desirable neighborhoods. The story features exotic locales and plenty of culture shock, but is largely one of renovation, as the Shah family live huddled on the floor in one room for nearly a year while walls are moved, a stairway installed, and age-old techniques used to create colorful mosaics and traditional terracotta tiles. They must also contend with Jinns and a house staff whose suggestions for appeasing those angry spirits include avoiding the toilets completely, sacrificing at least one lamb per room and asking the kids to sleep in the oven while the Jinns are fooled by life-sized mannequins in their beds.

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