By Nicola Slawson
A few years ago, I was lucky enough to spend a month travelling and working in Morocco. I fell head over heels with the north African country and often find myself daydreaming about my time there. So when I spotted Tangerine by Christine Mangan on a bookshop table, with its striking orange cover featuring a woman with a bouffant 1950s haircut, and the phrases “dazzling Tangier setting” and “under the Moroccan sun”, I knew it was the book for me.
The psychological literary thriller follows the story of Alice Shipley and her husband John, who are new to the city, and Alice’s former roommate, Lucy, who unexpectedly turns up on their doorstep. There are a lot of twists but I enjoyed reading it as much for the description of my favourite country as the plot.
Although set in 1956, I was immediately familiar with the descriptions of the city coming alive on market day. As Mangan writes, “Crowds emerged, the streets flooding with men and women, foreigners and locals alike, pointing and ordering, arguing and bartering, exchanging coin for a bit of this, a bit of that.”
In the depths of the last lockdown in England, which began in winter in January this year, I returned to Tangerine, craving the warm sunshine, impossibly sugary mint tea, experience of being scrubbed raw at a hammam and haggling in the medina. I dreamt of spending my days writing amid all the colour, business and noise that Morocco has to offer.
Alice and John’s house, while admittedly described as quite shabby, would have made a welcome escape. Like John, I like to imagine myself living like a bohemian artist, which is why Alice thinks he secretly likes both the location of their home in the Marshan quarter and the fact it is a bit ramshackle. I am also not one for minimalism.
When Lucy arrives to surprise Alice, she notes that “almost every inch of the apartment was filled, so that it was nearly impossible to walk without tripping over the leg of a chair or the pouf of a cushion”. Row upon row of silver, copper, china plates — some of them painted, some of them bare — are affixed to the brightly coloured walls. Meanwhile a “few dozen books lay scattered” throughout the sitting room.
Perhaps the three-bedroom Villa Ekat, listed at €1m, would suit me well. While in the city centre and offering views of the ocean, it is in a quieter spot where I could concentrate on my as yet unwritten novels. I can imagine myself enjoying some alfresco dining on the patio or perhaps visiting the nearby Grand Socco, which Alice describes as “a pleasant sort of plaza” where green spaces are filled with flowers and people enjoying a leisurely stroll.
But because this is a fantasy, perhaps I can allow myself to dream of what Lucy hopes to find when she first goes in search of Alice’s house after arriving in Morocco: “a glittering door, magnificent palace, something that said dramatically and definitively: here is your reward — you have found your way at last.”
In which case, only the 51-room Riad Richa will do. Formerly a Spanish Consulate, this 12-bedroom palace, listed at €3.5m, has become a “cabinet de curiosité” under its current owner, a fashion designer. The home is certainly dramatic, definitely magnificent and really does scream, “Here is your reward”.
Photography: Gepapix/Dreamstime.com; Christie's International Real Estate