On a recent field lab in Morocco, Professor Natalie Bakopoulos‚Äô Travel Writing class traveled to the home of author Tahir Shah¬†in¬†the southern outskirts of Casablanca. Crossing through a rambling shantytown and down a narrow white-walled lane, they arrived at Shah‚Äôs oasis, Dar Khalifa.
Shah, a prolific novelist and travel writer, wrote about how he was lured from England to Casablanca in his book The Caliph‚Äôs House. In the book he describes the attraction¬†of Morocco, ‚ÄúThe kingdom had always been a place of escape, a place of astonishing intensity, but, beyond all else, a place with a soul.‚Äù¬†
Bakopoulos‚Äô class had the great fortune of meeting the author in Dar Khalifa, the home that brought him to Morocco. They wandered through a secret passageway, browsed the library, saw the view from the roof, and glimpsed Shah‚Äôs working spaces. All the while they were able to picture the scenes they had been reading in class from The Caliph’s House.
Amidst the sounds of birds chirping and roosters crowing, they gathered in one of the leafy courtyards to speak with the acclaimed author about his career and the craft of travel writing. Professor Bakopoulos explained, ‚ÄúTahir made it clear that writing was both artistry and rigor, both creative inspiration and simple hard work. That sentences don’t just spring fully formed and perfect from our fingertips as we type but that each line, each word, each moment must be crafted and edited. I loved the way he was so passionate, so adamant, about the fact that language and its arrangement are just as important as content. Not only what is being said but how.‚Äù
As the shadows moved across the courtyard and the afternoon call to prayer rang out from three neighborhood mosques, the class departed for¬†the MV Explorer. The students left exhilarated from the unique opportunity to visit Shah‚Äôs beautiful home and inspired by the insights he shared with them about the craft of writing.