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Morocco with Laila Lalami

Imagine you’re in Morocco with the author of The Other Americans

Travel to Morocco with Laila Lalami

April Rocha

April Rocha

Since we can’t exactly travel everywhere we hope to right now, we’re living vicariously through stories set around the world! So far, we’ve traveled to France with Sanaë Lemoine, Indonesia with Jesse Q. Sutanto, South Korea with Michelle Zauner, Malaysia with Zen Cho, Jamaica with Nicola Yoon, and Antarctica with Maggie Shipstead and Julian Sancton.

This week we’re in Morocco, and we asked Laila Lalami to share her thoughts and experiences about living here. She was born in Rabat and educated in Morocco, Great Britain, and the United States. Her novel, The Other Americans, is a family saga, a murder mystery, and a love story informed by the treacherous fault lines of American culture. In Conditional Citizens, she recounts her unlikely journey from Moroccan immigrant to U.S. citizen and explores the place of nonwhites in the broader American culture. In the interview below, Laila shares with us her favorite places, foods, and memories in Morocco.

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The Other Americans
By Laila Lalami
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Conditional Citizens
By Laila Lalami
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What is one of your favorite memories of being in Morocco?

Spending time with my grandmother. My parents moved to a new house when I was six years old, but they were reluctant to pull me out of my school because I loved it so much. My school was near my grandmother’s house, so every morning my dad would drop me off there. I’d walk to school, return to eat lunch with my grandmother, play in her yard, then go back for afternoon classes until it was time for pickup.

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What is your favorite place in Morocco to visit?

Morocco is so ecologically, culturally, and linguistically diverse that it’s difficult to pick just one place! But I’ve really enjoyed visiting the town of Chaouen, which is about 70 miles from Tangier. Nestled in the Rif mountains, it’s known for its blue walls, its well-preserved qasbah, its historic mosques, all of which I’ve enjoyed, though I’m partial to the hikes on nearby trails.

What is one meal you recommend for visitors?

Typically, visitors are served what I would call party food: tagine, pastilla, couscous, roasted lamb, and so on. But I prefer simpler pleasures, like sfenj (a type of donut) dipped in honey, and purchased from street vendors. Served with a little glass (not cup!) of strong mint tea, it’s heaven.

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After living in multiple places, are there any cultural aspects that seem uniquely Moroccan that you’re proud of?

The fact that we view meals as communal experiences. This is reflected in every aspect of the culture, including in language. For example, to signal surprise at a friend’s betrayal, we use an expression that loosely translates to: how could they do this after we shared a meal?

What books do you recommend for someone planning a trip?

In fiction, I would recommend Driss Chraibi’s The Simple Past and Mohamed Choukri’s For Bread Alone. In nonfiction, I suggest Fatima Mernissi’s Dreams of Trespass and Abdellah Hammoudi’s A Season in Mecca. For cookbooks, I would recommend Hassan M’Souli’s Moroccan Modern and Fettouma Benkirane’s Moroccan Cooking.

Thank you Laila! Discover her books, The Other Americans and Conditional Citizens, as well as more of our book recommendations set in Morocco, from novels to cookbooks.

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A Palace in the Old Village
By Tahar Ben Jelloun
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The Caliph's House
By Tahir Shah
Paperback $18.00
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In the Country of Others
By Leila Slimani
Paperback $17.00
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An Arab Melancholia
By Abdellah Taïa
Paperback $15.95
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The Simple Past
By Driss Chraibi
Paperback $15.95
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Another Morocco
By Abdellah Taïa
Paperback $14.95
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Travels with a Tangerine
By Tim Mackintosh-Smith
Paperback $19.00
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Arabesque
By Claudia Roden
Hardcover $45.00
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