In the 1500s in Morocco, Mustafa ibn Muhammad is a kind older brother to his twin brothers and a successful merchant. But when he loses his position due to difficult times, he is forced to sell himself into slavery so that his mother and brothers will not starve. After several years he becomes part of an expedition to New Spain (today’s Southern U.S.A.) led by de Narvaez who plans to capture the land for the Spanish crown and become as famous as Cortes. But once they land in New Florida starvation and disease force the contingent to steal and plunder whatever they can from Indian tribes. Within a year only four have survived: Mustafa (who was reassigned a new name — Estebanico), his master, Dorantes, Cabeza de Vaco and Castillo. Will they ever be able to return to their native countries or will they too, die from disease or at the hands of Indians? This is a fascinating account seen through the eyes of Mustafa/Estebanico a desperate survivor who only hopes for his freedom from bondage.
Forced to retire for her out dated French lessons, Miss Webster is a cantankerous old woman living alone in her English cottage. After she recovers from a serious illness, she holidays in Morocco. Within weeks of her return, she is confronted with a handsome young Arab on her doorstep, the son of a woman she befriended at her North African hotel. When she allows Cherif to stay overnight before he finds accommodation on campus, it is the beginning of her transformation. Cherif is introducted to a different world from his desert upbringing, while he hides a lie until he can no longer conceal the truth.
This book is set after 9/11 and during the Iraqi war. I loved Duncker’s tongue in cheek humour and her take on the small mindedness of the villagers when they meet Cherif.