I just got back last night from a fantastic trip to Morocco. Two wonderful weeks of hiking in the Atlas mountains, riding camels into the Sahara, haggling in the Marrakeshi souks and relaxing in the fishing town of Essaouria.
All the time I was there, I couldn't help thinking what a brilliant place it would be set a children's novel. I had hoped to pick up a children's book set in Morocco before I left. But apart from Esther Freud's Hideous Kinky (which is told from a child's perspective but is not a children's book per se) and a couple of Tintin comics, I really couldn't find much that appealed to me (though no doubt there are others). So I've decided that my next writing project is going to be set in Morocco. I haven't worked out all the details yet, but I reckon I'll have to include a couple of the following elements:
Magical places to lose people and get lost in, the souks assault the senses with a myriad of distracting noises, sights and smells. Peopled with secretive apothecaries, snake charmers, streetwise children, aggressive hawkers, wide-eyed tourists and practiced con-artists, the souks are an impenetrable maze for the uninitiated. They promise a great place for adventure.
Mysterious strangers in Hooded Djellabas
The hooded stranger is a constant source of mystery in fiction. Given that much traditional clothing in Morocco involves the covering of head and sometimes even the face, this offers the perfect opportunity to conceal your identity.
Very few locations can grab the imagination as effectively the desert. More amenable to camels than people, the endless shifting dunes perplex the senses. Beneath a scorching sun or starry sky, the searing or freezing sands are beautiful and merciless in equal measure.