Books & Films


Much Loved by Nabil Ayouch (2015)

Set in Marrakech, this poignant drama tells the story of four women who prostitute themselves to earn a living. Whilst they are independent and free, they struggle daily to overcome the violence of people who openly condemn them yet privately use them. Documentary-maker Nabil Ayouch spoke to over 200 Moroccan prostitutes to anchor this moving story in reality.

Le Sac de Farine (Sack of Flour) by Kadija Leclere (2012)

Sarah, an 8-year-old girl, is living with a Catholic foster family in Belgium. One day, her biological father, whom she has never met, comes to take her for a weekend in Paris. But she wakes up in a little town in Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, where her father abandons her with his family without any explanation. She is thrust into the life of a Moroccan peasant girl, and the only schooling she is offered is to learn knitting. As the years pass and her father fails to send them money, the family fall into poverty and hunger. Sarah chooses to fight for her life and no longer undergo the one chosen for her. This haunting film was inspired by the life of the Director, and highlights the problems associated with the clash of Western and Eastern cultures, and the place of women in Maghreb society.

L’armée du Salut (Salvation Army) by Abdellah Taïa (2013)

An adaptation of Abdellah Taia’s autobiographical first novel, which explores the daily life and homosexual awakening of a teenager in Casablanca. A tender and touching coming-of-age film.

Casablanca by Michael Curtis (1942)

One of the best-loved films of all time. In the middle of World War II, Rick Blaine, an expat American, is the owner of the most-popular nightclub in Casablanca, which is primarily a refuge for fugitives wanting to leave Morocco. One day, political dissident Victor Laszlo arrives with his wife Ilsa, who was once Rick’s only great love… should he help them escape the Vichy-controlled city?

Un Thé au Sahara (Tea in the Sahara) by Bernardo Bertolucci (1990)

Based upon the novel ‘The Sheltering Sky’ by Paul Bowles. An American artist couple, Port and Kit Moresby, travel to Tangier to explore the exoticism of North African, accompanied by their friend, Tunner. Though married for 10 years, there are clear strains in their relationship, which are played upon by Tunner, and the three become gradually intoxicated by the sensual freedoms that surround them. They decide to journey into the Sahara desert, seduced by its harsh beauty, but the travel conditions quickly deteriorate, and they are left vulnerable to the immensity of the wilderness that surrounds them…

Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch (2013)

A stylised and atmospheric love story about vampires, partially set in Tangier. Director Jim Jarmusch says: ‘Tangier’s a place where, unlike Marrakech, the old world and new world are not separated by a gulf as though looking at each other. It’s all mixed up. So cool.’


Rue des Voleurs (Street of Thieves) by Mathias Enard

Lakhdar is a young Moroccan boy who lives in Tangier, a ‘fair Muslim’ who dreams of freedom and financial independence. After his parents discover his illicit liaison with his cousin Meryem, he is showered with questions about honour and morality, and beaten. He decides to flee and live on the streets, and later crosses the Mediterranean Sea to live in Barcelona. Set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the economic crisis, he represents the hopes and fears of many young people in today’s Mahgreb.

Ô Nuit ô Mes Yeux (O Night, O My Eyes) by Lamia Ziade

An incredible graphic novel chronicling the “Golden Age” of the Arab world in Cairo, Beirut and Damascus. Over 400 sketches, short texts and historical facts remember the scenes – cabarets, docks, casinos, palaces – and illustrate everyone from sheikhs to the small peasants of the Delta. Most drawn upon are the great personalities of the artistic life, including poets, composers, idolized singers, actresses and belly dancers from the end of the Ottoman domination to 1970.

La Civilisation, Ma Mère! (Civilisation, My Mother!) by Driss Chraïbi

Simple, funny and engaging, this is the story of a housewife and mother in Morocco, undergoing a journey of self-realisation. The first part of the book is written from the point of view of her first son. Trapped between the ancient and modern worlds, his mother is a cloistered Arab woman, mired in ancestral gestures; radios, cinemas, irons and telephones are almost magical objects to her. Then Nagib, the elder brother, takes over and tells of her becoming interested in politics, modernisation and the liberation of women.

Cette Aveuglante Absence de Lumière (This Blinding Absence of Light) by Tahar Ben Jelloun

This important novel is a literary interpretation of the inhumane incarceration of 58 soldiers at Tazmamart, a Moroccan secret prison for political prisoners. Locked up following the failed coup d’état against King Hassan II, the soldiers were literally buried in silence and darkness, in dungeon sand tombs in a remote desert. Here, they spent 18 years, facing daily humiliation and a fight for survival against hunger, physical decay, madness and unspeakable suffering. An uncompromising indictment against the atrocities of the regime of Hassan II.

Le Pain Nu (For Bread Alone) by Mohammed Choukri

Tennessee Williams described this internationally acclaimed autobiography as ‘a true story of human desperation, shattering in its impact’. Driven by famine from their home in the Rif, Mohammed’s family walk to Tangier in search of a better life. But his father is unable to find work and soon becomes violent, causing the young boy to run away and live on the streets, surrounded by misery, prostitution, violence and drug abuse. He quickly learns to charm – and then steal. During a short spell in a filthy Moroccan jail, a fellow inmate ignites his life-changing love of poetry, and he later became a schoolteacher.  

Les Voix de Marrakech (The Voices of Marrakech) by Elias Canetti

A clever look at daily life in Marrakech, through its bewildering array of voices, gestures and faces. In a series of sharply etched scenes, Canetti portrays the languages and cultures of the people who fill its bazaars, cafes, and streets. The storytellers in the Djema el Fna, the armies of beggars ready to set upon the unwary, and the rituals of Moroccan family life.

Confidences à Allah (Confidences to Allah) by Saphia Azzedine

Who can you talk to when you’re poor, alone and rejected from your family? Jbara, little Shepherdess of the Maghreb mountains, speaks to Allah. He is, in a world that did not want her, her only confidant. She tells him of her daily life filled with misery and contempt; about her ignorant and brutal father who treats her as a servant; later she tells him about the men who objectify her, about her discovery of the power of beauty, and about prostitution, prison and desire. This feverish monologue – carried by an irrepressible rage, that truth and humour make even more sharp – is a brilliant commentary upon the oppression of women, but also the portrait of a young girl determined to exist by herself, who will not submit to the patriarchy.

Onze Lunes au Maroc: Chez les Berbères du Haut-Atlas (Eleven Moons in Morocco at the Berber High Atlas) by Titouan Lamazou et Karin Huet

In 1982, young artist Titouan Lamazou and his writer companion Karin Huet rode mules across the Moroccan High Atlas mountains, to explore and record the realities of indigenous life in the Berber villages. The high valleys of Aït Bou Gmez and Aït Bou Oulli are barely accessible at the best of times, blocked by snow for several months of the year; it was a daunting task. Before they left, the travellers learnt the Berber language and studied traditional Islamic ornamentation. To integrate into local life in each village, they offered their services as interior decorators. Karin’s resulting narrative highlights the daily lives and deep courage of the women who live in these mountains. Titouan’s sketches, paintings, architectural drawings and photographs illustrate over 60 villages. Together, they provide a rare, touching and priceless ethnological narrative.  

‘Lettres à un Jeune Marocain’ (Letters to a Young Moroccan) by Abdellah Taïa

Morocco is changing. Morocco is waiting. Its youth are ignored, dismissed. Who speaks to them directly? Who understands them? Who inspires them? Who helps them to assert themselves, to be themselves and free? Not to feel abandoned, isolated? To take charge of their lives? In this book, 18 Moroccan writers and artists send these young people letters from the heart… Letters to encourage, criticise, and to wake the young people up and galvanise them.