A House in Fez

Building a Life in the Ancient Heart of Morocco

A House in Fez

The Medina -- the Old City -- of Fez is the best-preserved, medieval walled city in the world. Inside this vibrant Moroccan community, internet cafes and mobile phones coexist with a maze of donkey-trod alleyways, thousand-year-old sewer systems, and Arab-style houses, gorgeous with intricate, if often shabby, mosaic work.

While vacationing in Morocco, Suzanna Clarke and her husband, Sandy, are inspired to buy a dilapidated, centuries-old riad in Fez with the aim of restoring it to its original splendor, using only traditional craftsmen and handmade materials. So begins a remarkable adventure that is bewildering, at times hilarious, and ultimately immensely rewarding.

A House in Fez chronicles their meticulous restoration, but it is also a journey into Moroccan customs and lore and a window into the lives of its people as friendships blossom. When the riad is finally returned to its former glory, Suzanna finds she has not just restored an old house, but also her soul.
  • Gallery Books | 
  • 288 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416578932 | 
  • November 2008
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Reading Group Guide

When Suzanna Clarke and her husband Sandy McCutcheon bought a dilapidated house in the Fez Medina, their friends in Australia thought they were mad. Located in a maze of donkey-trod alleyways, the house -- an Arab-style riad -- was beautiful but in desperate need of repair.
Walls were in danger of collapse, the plumbing non-existent. While neither Suzanna nor Sandy spoke Arabic and had only a smattering of French, they were determined to restore the house to its original splendor, using traditional artisans and handmade materials. So began a remarkable experience that veered between frustration, hilarity, and moments of pure exhilaration.
But restoring the house was only part of their immersion in the rich and colorful life of an ancient city. A House in Fez is a journey into Moroccan culture -- into its day-to-day rhythms, its customs and festivals. Into its history, Islam, and Sufi rituals. Into the lore of djinns and spirits. And above all, into the lives of the people -- warm, friendly, hospitable to a fault.
Discussion Questions
1. How does the Suzanna Clarke's experience purchasing a home in Fez serve as a metaphor of sorts for the kind of obstacles she will face in the process of restoring it? To what extent do the complexities of her purchase seem to relate to her approaching the process as a foreigner who does not speak Darija? What role does the antiquity of the riad play in the drawn-out nature of the real see more

About the Author

Suzanna Clarke
Photo Credit:

Suzanna Clarke

Born in New Zealand, Suzanna Clarke grew up in several parts of Australia. In her twenties she lived in a Welsh commune, an Amsterdam squat and a Buddhist monastery in Nepal. She has worked as a photojournalist for more than two decades and is the arts director of The Daily Mail in Brisbane. Her husband, Sandy, is a radio broadcaster who now spends most of his time in Fez. Their blog is riadzany.blogspot.com.