Port and Kit Moresby are generally considered to be surrogates for Paul and Jane Bowles not only because they are known to have had a sexually open marriage but also because, like Kit and Port, their reactions to the desert and to travelling in Morocco are known to have differed substantially. In his interview with the Paris Review, Paul Bowles said of the novel's autobiographical elements: "The tale is entirely imaginary. Kit is not Jane, although I use some of Jane's characteristics in determining Kit's reactions to such a voyage. Obviously I thought of Port as a fictional extension of myself. But Port is certainly not Paul Bowles, any more than Kit is Jane."
The Rif is a mountainous region in northern Morocco that stretches from Cape Spartel and Tangier in the west to Ras Kebdana and the Moulouya River in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the river of Ouargha in the south. It is part of the Cordillera Bética that also includes the mountains of Southern Spain. The region's name comes from the Berber word arif. The Rif produces as much as one half of the world's hashish.
The Rif was colonized by the Spanish until the Moroccan guerilla leader, Abd el-Krim, freed the Rif from foreign rule and established the Republic of the Rif in 1921. In 1926, it was dissolved by a joint expedition of the Spanish Army of Africa and French forces during the Rif War. It remained under Spanish control until it was returned to Morocco after independence in 1956.