For the second book in the Three’s a crowd: Spanish history and culture – Jason Webster read, I picked Andalus. I like Andalus better than Duende. While in Duende Jason recalled his younger self getting into more trouble than he can handled, presented in a haphazard way; in Andalus he is married, settled and in search of the Moorish legacy of Modern Spain. He lifted the lid on a country once forged by both Muslims and Christians. He meets Zine, a young illegal immigrant from Morocco, a 21st century Moor, lured over with the promise of a job but exploited as a slave labourer on a fruit farm. Jason’s life is threatened as he investigates the agricultural gulag, Zine rescues him, and the unlikely pair of writer and desperado took off on a roller coaster ride through Andalusia. Along the way they met Jason’s friend, Pedro who is a professor of history and a fan of his country’s Moorish past. Pedro’s colleague, however, Camilo Alvarez de Morales, an Arabic history professor in the Escuela de Estudios Arabes in Capiz, ironically, regarded the end of Arab conquest in Spain as positive turn of events rather than national tragedy.
Zine proved to be invaluable link between ancient and modern Moorish Spain. Zine character was authentic and presented with a lot of truth. An incorrigible womaniser with violent mood swings, set his mind to go europe, not because of money, but because he wanted to. Zine is also resentful of the Spainish unhospitality and his own insecurity of being an illegal migrant. What moved me the most was to read about the dead African girl that got washed up by the sea in Tarifa shore. In September 2007, I was holidaying with my in-laws in the beach with the same name at the other side of Morocco. I could see Spain from the Morocco shores, and sadden by the creation of geographical border that separates people between possible affluence and local suffocation, between hope and despair, between cultures and traditions, perceived different but essentially the same. I read with trepidation and disappointment when Zine’s wife and unborn daughter dithered between life and death; and Zine had to stay back in Morocco because he had been deported weeks ago. At his first visit to the church, he was chastened and chased out from the church for being a Morisco… Jason told the story with a heart, interjecting in between fascinating facts about the Moors and the history of Andalusia. He had not only brought me into the world of Moorish Spain, he also reaffirms the many anecdotes that my husband told me about his ancestry influence in Spain (which I thought might be an exaggeration then, now it is proven true!).
I have always been intrigued about Spanish past. A country I know little about but have strong ties with my in-laws, the Moroccans. This book gave a very good first introduction of the history of Spanish Moors, in a form of a travel adventure, interesting and not a-history-textbook sort of way. It would have been awesome if Jason would have took a further South approach and goes to North Morocco and find remnants of Spanish culture infused in the traditions of North Moroccan. Contrary to what Jason describe as darker skinned, olive complexion of Moroccans, here you will find many men and women as fair as European, bearing the sharp features of Northern Spanish, less expressive than their Moroccan counterpart, the women distinguish only by their headscarves. These are the descendents of the expelled Moors, which live in Northern Morocco and one of the many fair-skin, auburn, blonde-haired cousins of my husband, whom I had paid visit in Chefchaoun, Morocco,the mountain top city the Moors seek refuge when they fled from Andalucia five centuries ago.
Under the recent King Muhammed VI, economical and social reforms are underway in Morocco. I have seen Spainish coming over to Tangier, Morocco to buy properties while we were shopping for one. Relatives had told us that the property price in Morocco are more expensive than south Spain. Inflation had risen and Moroccan are more affluent now. Perhaps in a few years time, the tide would turn again. It happened before in the 1970’s and it could easily happen soon, the Spanish would be coming in truck load to the land of Moriscos to find investment and job opportunities. Mark my word.
What I like most about the book:
The way Jason intertwined his present concern of looking for a job for Zine with travel experience in Andalusia, at the same time presenting fascinating facts and hypothesis about Moorish Spain.
What I like least about the book:
As in the first book, the story is so dramatic, I was not sure which bit was real and which bit was made up. If it were all real, I mean, wow, Jason Webster must have lived a dramatic and exciting life in Spain!
For more, see:
Telegraph book reveiw of the same book : Spanish Moorish\’s Present