Updated Spring 2023
If you’re looking for the best books about Morocco, then you’ve come to the right place. As avid fans of this welcoming North African country, we’re always keen to devour any novels set in Morocco that we can get our hands on. It’s a good idea to dive into a bit of literature or soak up a few fictional stories before heading out for your very first visit, to help prepare you for the experience ahead. Or if you want to indulge in the memories and learn more about the country, reading Morocco books when you’ve returned home is a great way to relive the dream and explore even deeper to better understand the cultures and stories that make this land so precious.
There are heaps of books set in Morocco, ranging from starry-eyed fictional tales of romance and adventure, to historical travel literature and light-hearted stories about expats navigating the realities of re-settlement.
We’ve put together a list of the best stories and top authors championing Morocco for you to try.
The best books about Morocco
Table of Contents
The Caliph’s house – by Tahir Shah
I’ll start with my favourite book set in Morocco, written by a fabulous author who tells it like it is, with more than just a splash of self-effacing humour. This entertaining novel deserves a place at the top of our Moroccan reading list thanks to the amusing and sometimes terrifying descriptions that draw you into the everyday realities of building a life in a new country.
What is it about? The Caliph’s House charts the experiences of Tahir Shah and his family as they move from London to Casablanca and renovate a ruined mansion. Encounters with mischievous djinns that lead to bizarre exorcism rituals are just part of the adventure as the Shahs navigate the turbulent waters of fitting into a new culture and society. Full of drama and hilarious anecdotes, this book on Morocco is a real page turner.
Best for: those of you who have visited Morocco and come away dreaming of buying your own riad and living a life of 1001 nights. You might want to read this before you do anything!
The Salt Road – by Jane Johnson
This was the first Morocco fiction book that I ever read, and it helped lure me into what is now a rather healthy obsession with this sparkling country. I loved The Salt Road because it introduces the reader to Tafraout and the Anti-Atlas Mountains, rather than sticking with the usual locations of Marrakech or Fes. Jane has an easy way with words, which makes reading the entire book in one go entirely do-able!
What is it about? This is a true fairytale – Moroccan-style. Packed with sweeping desert dunes, silver amulets, and handsome Tuaregs, The Salt Road has all the elements of a good old tale. There’s plenty of romance under the twinkling stars, plus a princess and secret riddles to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Best for: readers looking for a bit of escapism and romance as well as an insight into some of the less visited parts of Morocco.
A Year in Marrakech – by Peter Mayne
I picked up Peter Mayne’s book after our very first trip, and despite being written over 60 years ago, it spoke to me as if it were penned yesterday. The vivid descriptions of life deep inside the Marrakech medina give a fascinating glimpse into society that has changed little over the years. Of all the Morocco books I’ve read, this is one of the most charmingly honest, with the author writing for himself as much as the reader.
What is it about? Peter Mayne lived in the heart of the old city in Marrakech during the 1950s, and recounts his daily life in this timeless book about Morocco. Go on a journey through hidden alleyways and bustling markets as Mayne explores his local neighbourhood, meets new friends, and learns how to live in the famous red city.
Best for: first time visitors to Marrakech wanting to get a feel for the place, and old-hands who want to reminisce about times gone by.
The Saffron Trail – by Rosanna Ley
This is one of the best escapist novels set in Morocco that I’ve had the pleasure of reading, and indeed Rosanna Ley has a whole library of exciting fictional stories set in exotic locations that you might want to try too. This Moroccan novel is full of magic, mystery, and the sort of self-discovery that we all secretly hope for. If want to be transported to another time and place without leaving your sofa, you won’t be disappointed with this!
What is it about? This enchanting tale takes you on a journey from the sandy coves of rural Cornwall to the purple saffron fields of southern Morocco. The protagonist, Nell, escapes to Marrakech and embraces the magic of Moroccan cuisine to heal wounds of the past and explore her new-found heritage.
Best for: anyone planning on spending an afternoon reading on the beach, or those interested in Moroccan food (and who wouldn’t be, it’s delish!).
Assembly of the Dead – by Saeida Rouass
It took me a while to pick up this book, because I’m not usually a fan of who-done-its. Yet following the trials and tribulations of a detective from Tangier through the murky underworld of 20th-century Morocco had me intrigued. On the surface, this is a fictional crime story like any other, yet it gives an intriguing insight into the goings on in Marrakech’s dark alleyways in a way no other travel literature could. It’s actually become one of my favourite Morocco books, because it’s just a bit different!
What is it about? Detective Farook is a fish out of water when he swaps coastal Tangier for the dangerous streets of Marrakech. Young women are being abducted and it’s his job to find out who, and why. Hampered at every turn, and battling the ravages of famine, he follows a trail of death and suspicion to a finale at Djemma el Fna – the place of the dead.
Best for: crime fiction fans with an interest in Moroccan history, and those who are intrigued about the gruesome past of Marrakech’s main square.
The Last Storytellers: Tales from the Heart of Morocco – by Richard Hamilton
If you’ve ever been to the Djemma el-Fna at night and seen the crowds of locals listening in silent captivation to a storyteller recounting unbelievable stories bound up in lore and mystery, then you’ll love this book about Morocco. The folktales have been passed down through the generations through oral tradition, and until now many have never graced the pages of a humble book.
What is it about? Richard Hamilton has made it his mission to preserve the dying tradition of Moroccan storytelling by collecting some of the best tales and collating them in this highly-readable book. These ancient fables add a dash of colour and intrigue to a country that lives and breathes mystery, and gives readers a glimpse into a part of society that visitors rarely get to experience.
Best for: anyone who likes books about Morocco that they can dip in and out of, with a touch of magic and tales you’re unlikely to hear anywhere else.
A Death in the Medina – by James von Leyden
This is another book set in Morocco with a thrilling fictional crime story at its heart. The setting is captivating, the characters quirky, and the tale is timed to coincide with Ramadan which adds another fascinating layer to the drama. This is Marrakech as you’ve never seen it before, but don’t worry, the shady individuals and devious plots won’t put you off going to visit!
What is it about? A young detective is set the task of tracking down the culprit after an English tourist is robbed during a sweltering summer in the red city. Follow him into a shadowy realm where murky secrets, dangerous foes and even death lurk around every corner.
Best for: budding super sleuths who love solving mysteries against an exotic backdrop.
Adventures in Morocco – by Alice Morrison
Writer and adventurer Alice Morrison shares her own personal tales of life in Morocco, from running the famous Marathon des Sables to hiking in the Atlas Mountains. Well known on the geographical presenting scene, Alice’s experiences have served to inspire many an amateur explorer, particularly women who love hearing about her solo travels in this North African country.
What is it about? Alice first travelled to Morocco to run in the Marathon des Sables, but ended up making her home in Marrakech and visiting all corners of the country in search of adventure. Read about her exploits living with nomads in the Sahara, and experience Morocco through her eyes as she takes you on an inquisitive journey to far away places.
Best for: self-confessed adventurers and armchair explorers will love these tales of cultural discovery and epic landscapes.
The Lioness of Morocco – by Julia Drosten
This enchanting Morocco fiction book is a real winner when it comes to unashamed indulgent holiday reading. Set in the 19th century, The Lioness of Morocco elegantly transplants an unmarried young woman from pre-Victorian England into the strange new world of Mogador on the North African coast. A story of survival and eventual triumph against the odds, this book complements any Morocco reading list.
What is it about? Sibylla sees marriage as a way to escape the oppressions of London life, and sets off for a new start in Morocco. Things soon go wrong of course, with a deceitful husband, a handsome French soldier, and a wily sultan complicating matters.
Best for: anyone wanting to learn more about the Berber culture while reading a jolly good tale.
A House in Fez – by Suzanna Clarke
This is an intelligent book with real heart, charting the life of a couple who upped sticks from New Zealand and bought a crumbling house to renovate in the centre of Fez. Hidden down a maze of narrow alleys in this ancient city, the house was a labour of love and learning. The intrepid duo purchased another house a few years later – Dar Malika – which is a delightfully traditional riad with homely touches that you can stay in during your visit!
What is it about? Susanna and her husband Sandy purchase a house in danger of collapse in the heart Fez, and spend the next few years bringing it back to life. Negotiating the curiosities of local life that bring with them both frustration and elation, the couple eventually finish the job and settle permanently in their newfound home.
Best for: anyone who has dreams of running a riad in Fez and wants to know the pitfalls before taking the plunge.
The Sultan’s Wife – by Jane Johnson
I make no apologies for including two fiction novels set in Morocco by Jane Johnson (in fact there’s another one to read too – The Tenth Gift). As well as whisking you along for a rollercoaster ride packed with unlikely alliances, skulduggery, and murder, The Sultan’s Wife gives a rare glimpse into court life under tyrannical rulers. It’s also set in Meknes which is a welcome change from the usual haunts.
What is it about? Englishwomen Alys is captured by corsairs during a sea voyage, and sold into the sultan’s harem. Battling to survive in this unknown and seemingly hostile land, she must choose between renouncing her faith, or certain death. Cue inquisitive slaves, impetuous royals, and a sorceress queen to perpetuate the mysteries of the Moroccan court in this captivating story.
Best for: readers who as youngsters secretly dreamed about being captured by dashing pirates and transported off to a world of adventure and discovery.
For Bread Alone – by Mohamed Choukri
This autobiographical novel by Moroccan author Mohamed Choukri doesn’t fail to leave a lasting impact on anyone who turns these pages. For Bread Alone follows his story of desperation and the struggle for survival against a backdrop of famine and neglect in 20th-century Morocco.
What is it about? Mohamed arrives in Tangiers as a young boy, when his family are forced from their Rif Mountain home in the search for food, and a higher quality of life. Yet instead he is faced with the death of his siblings, as well as neglect, which sets him on a path of discovery in a world where alcohol and drugs reign supreme. Mohamed later gets caught up in the independence riots of 1952, which leads to jail time and ultimately a life-long passion for literature.
Best for: those who want to read a book by a Moroccan author and get a taste of what life was like during the 1950s.
In Arabian Nights – by Tahir Shah
This is another compilation of folklore tales painstakingly researched and collected from all corners of Morocco. Tahir Shah is a supremely readable author, telling his stories with humour and insight. In Arabian Nights is one of the best books set in Morocco as it doesn’t just focus on the usual suspects. Instead it delves deeply into societal oral heritage, taking you on a whirlwind tour of a side to the country few outsiders ever get to know.
What is it about? Tales that originated in the medinas of Marrakech and Fez are presented side by side with stories from the depths of the Saharan wilderness and the rocky Atlas Mountains. The characters in this Morocco book are eccentric and the narratives vivid, with plenty of unexpected twists and turns along the way.
Best for: those who want to be whisked away to a world unknown in bite-sized snippets, where djinns and warriors roam the land.
What Lies Within – by Annabelle Thorpe
This psychological thriller is an intense read, showing the less savoury side of expat life in Marrakech and how being a fish out of water can really take its toll. The book centres around friendships which turn out to be based on lies, set against the colourful backdrop of the red city’s souks and riads.
What is it about? Three friends living very different lives come together and move to start a new life in Morocco. Things soon start to unravel, with revelations about their pasts sending shockwaves through the group. Add in an unthinkable crime and the confusion that comes from trying to fit into a new society, and you’re in for a wild ride.
Best for: anyone who loves an edge-of-your-seat whodunit story and is interested to find out about the less shiny side of Marrakech.
The Sand Child – by Tahar ben Jelloun
This book set in Morocco draws on the rich oral history of the country to tell a tale that is at times as uncomfortable as it is revealing. It is a powerful relay of colonialism and gender politics in North Africa, with a very human story at its heart to convey the daring threads that challenge ideals and provoke discussion.
What is it about? The eighth daughter of a man with no sons is raised as a boy to circumvent social rules and Islamic laws surrounding female inheritance. As she grows older, the girl begins to experience the sexual desires of a woman, and this novel follows the extraordinary chapters in her life as it unfolds.
Best for: readers who want to scratch below the surface and immerse themselves in a world where few outsiders have even trodden.
Lords of the Atlas – by Gavin Maxwell
This one’s for the true Morocco enthusiasts who want a deeper understanding of the places they’ve visited and the sights they’ve seen in the country. Of all the historical books about Morocco, this is my favourite, because having visited so many of the kasbahs and strongholds mentioned, I can now appreciate the backstories of these special places. This is in no way fiction, but the characters and escapades revealed could truly have come out of 1001 nights!
What is it about? Lords of the Atlas charts the history of the Glaoui tribe, and follows their early 20th-century journeys from medieval Marrakech to their regal kasbahs perched high in the Atlas Mountains. This true story follows the lives of two warlord brothers and their feudal kingdom in southern Morocco, and the struggle to retain power against rival forces.
Best for: anyone wanting to learn about how Morocco has been shaped over the centuries, to give context to the tourist sights of today.
The Sheltering Sky – by Paul Bowles
Written in 1949 by American expat Paul Bowles, who settled in Tangier for much of his life, The Sheltering Sky targets the feeling of alienation often experienced by newcomers. The underlying theme of the tale that could be transposed to any part of the world, but draws on Bowles’ own experiences if living life in a new land.
What is it about? Married couple Port and Kit travel from New York to explore North Africa, with open minds and no ultimate destination. Their mission is to rekindle their marriage, but the differences between their known modern world of America, and the unfamiliar cultures they are faced with soon take their toll.
Best for: readers keen to expand their knowledge of historical Morocco or those who have seen the 1990 film and want to find out more.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of books about Morocco, and have found a few things to add to your reading list. If there are any other novels set in Morocco that you think should be added, let us know in the comments! We’re always on the lookout for new Morocco books to sink our teeth into, and know that these just scrape the surface.