Travel writer Shah (Sorcerer’s Apprentice; Trail of Feathers) paid 600 shekels in a Jerusalem souk for a dubious map of the route to King Solomon’s mines; he admits, “I have an insatiable appetite for questionable souvenirs.” The London-based writer is also fond of danger: “As soon as there’s a bomb, an earthquake, a tidal wave or a riot, I call the travel agent and book cut-price seats.” But the ultimate thrill is a challenging mission, and this time, it’s finding the biblical land of Ophir, legendary source of the gold for King Solomon’s Temple and perhaps of the Queen of Sheba’s riches as well. History and geography point to Ethiopia. In Addis Ababa, Shah hires a vocally Christian taxi driver who becomes his guide, and the two set out on the quest. They wander rural Ethiopia, sleeping in brothels, slipping into illegal mines, walking through deserts in camel-led caravans and finally, riding mules to the alleged source of Solomon’s gold. Along the way, Shah learns loads of useful things: prostitutes require customers to wash themselves with Coca Cola to avoid AIDS; the hyena-man of Harar feeds the hyenas nightly to keep them from carrying off the village children; gold miners fear disembowelment by thieves trying to extract the nuggets they’ve swallowed on the job. Does Shah get the gold in the end? Well… he’s more Don Quixote than Indiana Jones. Shah is so entertaining, most readers won’t realize that while walking on the wild side, they’ve also just done a quick course in Ethiopian history. 16 pages of b&w photos, one map.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Adult/High School-Studying an old map he purchased in the Jerusalem bazaar that supposedly showed the location of King Solomon’s mines ignited in Shah a dormant interest in actually finding them. Arriving in Ethiopia, he hired a taxi driver who rapidly became interpreter, guide, historian, companion, Christian missionary, and more. They visited legal and illegal gold mines, explored ancient sites, and identified and visited areas important to their goal. They experienced total immersion in the cultures of Ethiopia. Transportation became the biggest challenge whether in the form of buses, vans, on foot, or by mule, for roads were often little more than beaten-earth pathways filled with rocks, holes, and other hazards. Tired of various modes of travel, they hired a car, whose driver chewed qat, a mildly addictive and narcotic leaf that manifested itself in the form of erratic driving, and resulted in an impressive amount of roadkill. Snatches of humor helped to alleviate the constant scenario of poverty just as the generosity of the Ethiopians soothed some of the rigors of the trip. Students interested in adventure, history, African culture, or biblical history will find themselves caught up in the book’s excitement and drama.
Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

King Solomon, the Bible’s wisest king, also possessed extraordinary wealth. He built a temple at Jerusalem that was said to be more fabulous than any other landmark in the ancient world, heavily adorned with gold from Ophir. The precise location of this legendary land has been one of history’s great unsolved mysteries. Long before Rider Haggard’s classic adventure novel King Solomon’s Mines produced a fresh outbreak of gold fever, explorers, scientists and theologians had scoured the world for the source of the king’s astonishing wealth. Tahir Shah takes up the quest, using as his leads a mixture of texts including the Septuagint, the earliest form of the Bible, as well as geological, geographical and folkloric sources. Time and again the evidence points towards Ethiopia, the ancient kingdom in the horn of Africa whose imperial family claims descent from Menelik, the son born to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Tahir Shah’s trail takes him to a remote cliff-face monastery where the monks pull visitors up on a leather rope, to the ruined castles of Gondar, and to the churches of Lalibela, hewn from solid rock.In the south, he discovers an enormous illegal gold mine where thousands of men, women and children dig with their hands. But the hardest leg of the journey is to the accursed mountain of Tullu Wallel, where legend says there lies an ancient shaft, once the entrance of King Solomon’s mines.

In Search of King Solomon’s Mines

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca

Starred Review. When Shah, his pregnant wife and their small daughter move from England to Morocco, where he’d vacationed as a child, he enters a realm of “invisible spirits and their parallel world.” Shah buys the Caliph’s House, once a palatial compound, now heavy with algae, cobwebs and termites. Unoccupied for a decade, the place harbors a willful jinni (invisible spirit), who Shah, the rational Westerner, reluctantly grasps must be exorcised by traditional means. As Shah remodels the haunted house, he encounters a cast of entertaining, sometimes bizarre characters. Three retainers, whose lives are governed by the jinni, have attached themselves to the property. Confounding craftsmen plague but eventually beautify the house. Intriguing servants come and go, notably Zohra, whose imaginary friend, a 100-foot tall jinni, lives on her shoulder. A “gangster neighbor and his trophy wife” conspire to acquire the Caliph’s House, and a countess remembers Shah’s grandfather and his secrets. Passers-through offer eccentricity (Kenny, visiting 15 cities on five continents where Casablanca is playing; Pete, a convert to Islam, seeking “a world without America”). There is a thin, dark post-9/11 thread in Shah’s elegantly woven tale. The dominant colors, however, are luminous. “[L]ife not filled with severe learning curves was no life at all,” Shah observes. Trailing Shah through his is sheer delight. Illus. (Jan.)
Copyright Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

In the tradition of A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, acclaimed English travel writer Tahir Shah shares a highly entertaining account of making an exotic dream come true. By turns hilarious and harrowing, here is the story of his familys move from the gray skies of London to the sun-drenched city of Casablanca, where Islamic tradition and African folklore convergeand nothing is as easy as it seems.

Inspired by the Moroccan vacations of his childhood, Tahir Shah dreamed of making a home in that astonishing country. At age thirty-six he got his chance. Investing what money he and his wife, Rachana, had, Tahir packed up his growing family and bought Dar Khalifa, a crumbling ruin of a mansion by the sea in Casablanca that once belonged to the citys caliph, or spiritual leader.

With its lush grounds, cool, secluded courtyards, and relaxed pace, life at Dar Khalifa seems sure to fulfill Tahirs fantasyuntil he discovers that in many ways he is farther from home than he imagined. For in Morocco an empty house is thought to attract jinns, invisible spirits unique to the Islamic world. The ardent belief in their presence greatly hampers sleep and renovation plans, but that is just the beginning. From elaborate exorcism rituals involving sacrificial goats to dealing with gangster neighbors intent on stealing their property, the Shahs must cope with a new culture and all that comes with it.

Endlessly enthralling, The Caliphs House charts a year in the life of one family who takes a tremendous gamble. As we follow Tahir on his travels throughout the kingdom, from Tangier to Marrakech to the Sahara, we discover a world of fierce contrasts that any true adventurer would be thrilled to call home.

From the Hardcover edition.

The Caliph’s House: A Year in Casablanca