Page 1. " Rabindranath Tagore "

 Rabindranath Tagore was a Nobel Prize-winning Bengali poet, the first non-European to win the Nobel in 1913. Born in Calcutta in 1867, he grew up in the luxury of Indian high society and began writing poetry at the tender age of eight. His first long poems were published when he was sixteen, and around this time he also began to write novels and dramas.

Traditionally, Bengali literature was based on the rigid structures and forms of classical Sanskrit, but Tagore introduced new verse forms and colloquial language which transformed the genre. He also wrote numerous essays, short stories, novels, dramas and a prolific repertoire of songs and dance dramas. He was a skilled performing musician and artist.

Tagore was a humanist who strongly advocated Indian independence. Although his work was largely unknown outside India, he was instrumental in introducing Indian culture to the West and remains one of India’s most renowned artists.

Tagore died in his childhood home in 1941 – the date of his death is still nationally mourned in India.

Some of Tagore’s works can be viewed online here.

Page 1. " pleaded for a dirham "
A 100 dirham note, featuring a picture of Hassan II, King of Morocco until 1999
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA 100 dirham note, featuring a picture of Hassan II, King of Morocco until 1999 - Credit: Bruno's Paper Money Collection

The dirham derives its name from the Greek ‘drachma’ coin, and has been used as a unit of currency and mass across the Middle East and North Africa since the time of the Ottoman Empire, when it was called a ‘dram’. No longer used as a unit of measurement, despite an Islamic movement which would like to see it reinstated as a silver measurement, the dirham is used as a main unit of currency today in Morocco and UAE, and as subdivisions of the Iraqi, Jordanian and Libyan dinar, the Qatari riyal and Tajikistani somoni.

The Moroccan dirham (plural darahim) was first introduced in 1882, replaced by the franc when Morocco was a French colony and reinstated in 1960. The dirham comes in coin denominations of ½, 1, 2, 5 and 10 and banknotes of 20, 50, 100 and 200.  The santim is a subdivision of the dirham, with 100 santimat worth 1 dirham.

Today, the dirham is worth approximately 0.07 British pounds.

Page 2. " headstrong decision to come to the souk alone "

A Marrakech souk at dawn as traders set out their wares
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA Marrakech souk at dawn as traders set out their wares - Credit: Lionel Leo
A souk (or souq) is an outdoor market or commercial district of an Arabic or Muslim city. At one time, souks were held outside cities in open areas where large groups of vendors would sell their goods from their caravans. This still of souk does still exist, usually in more rural areas – in cities, a souk is more or less always a permanent fixture. It usually consists of a network of narrow, bustling alleyways which are lined by shops or stalls, and may be divided within itself into different quarters, each of which sells a certain type of goods.

Page 2. " Still, this was Marrakech "

Marrakech's Bab Agnou Gate
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMarrakech's Bab Agnou Gate - Credit: Lionel Leo
 Marrakech (population approximately 1 million) is the third largest city in Morocco and one of the country’s most famous and important urban settlements. Set up as an imperial court in the early 11th century, Marrakech was once the capital of Morocco and remains an important cultural and economic centre of the country.

Sometimes called the 'Ochre City', at the centre of Marrakech is the ancient walled city (medina) which includes Djemaa el Fna, one of the world’s busiest squares. The souk in Marrakech is the largest traditional market in Morocco and an important Berber trading centre. The city has a large international population and is much-visited by tourists from across the world.

A panorama of the bustling square Djemaa el Fna
Public DomainA panorama of the bustling square Djemaa el Fna - Credit: Ori

Page 3. " This is my son, Sharif, and I am Ali "

An artist's impression of Ali ibn Ali Talib
Public DomainAn artist's impression of Ali ibn Ali Talib - Credit: Ahmad Reza Haraji
The name Sharif is a common Arabic name, sometimes used as a title given to the protector of a tribe or lands. As a first name, its meanings include ‘noble’,  ‘honoured’ and ‘virtuous’.

Ali, another male Arabic name, also means ‘noble’ or ‘high’. Its Islamic use traces back to Ali ibn Abi Talib, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammed.

Page 4. " my gift keeps you safe from the evil eye "

Talismans to protect against the evil eye
GNU Free Documentation LicenseTalismans to protect against the evil eye - Credit: FocalPoint
The evil eye is a belief commonly held across many cultures, in particular the Middle East, East and West Africa, Central and South Asia and the Mediterranean. It is believed that some people (often said to ‘hold’ the evil eye) are able to inflict a curse, bad luck or pain on others simply by looking at them in envy or dislike. The evil eye can be directed at anyone at any time, usually when they are unaware.

Talismans, also called nazars, are commonly used to ward off the evil eye, and these have become popular souvenirs amongst tourists to these areas. Talismans vary, but an oft-recurring theme is that of a blue pendant with circles of light blue, white and dark blue within it to represent an eye. These, when worn or hung outside a house, are believed to protect the wearer or occupant from the evil eye or even turn the curse back on the evil-wisher.

Page 5. " like a praetorian guard "

The Praetorian Guard was an elite bodyguard used by the Roman Emperors, including Julius Caesar, Augustus and, finally, Constantine I who dissolved them in the 4th century.

Initially a positive peace-keeping force, the Guard latterly became infamous for being a group of assassins and mercenaries, who could be paid to harm emperors or civilians. The Emperor Claudius came to the throne with the support of the Praetorian Guard, members of whom also killed his predecessor, Caligula.

The term ‘praetorian guard’ is commonly used today to suggest an elite, loyal group of personal bodyguards belonging to a powerful person.

Page 7. " one minute I’m in this brass lamp and the next – "

This refers to the Arabic folk tale of Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp – one of the most famous stories from the One Thousand and One Nights collection. The story is about a poor young boy, Aladdin, who comes across a brass lamp which, when rubbed, releases a powerful genie who can grant him his wishes. The genie – also called a jinn – is a common feature of many traditional Arabic and Muslim tales.

The video shows the genie emerging from Aladdin's lamp in the popular 1992 Disney musical cartoon of the story.


Page 7. " one smiling Samaritan "

The Samaritans are an ethnic group from the Levant. This, however, refers to the common use of the term Samaritan to mean a good, charitable person. The Good Samaritan is the famous Biblical parable told by Jesus in the New Testament. A traveller – possibly a Jew – , robbed and left for dead, is ignored by two passers-by. Finally a Samaritan – Samaritans and Jews were known enemies – stops and helps the man, saving his life. Jesus used this to illustrate the commandment ‘love thy neighbour’.

Many hospitals and charitable organisations are named for the Good Samaritan.

Page 8. " the wailing sound of the faithful being called to prayer "

The Muslim call to mandatory prayer is uttered five times a day by a muezzin from the minaret of a mosque. Named the ‘adhan’ or ‘azan’, the call has different texts of repeated phrases depending on the system of belief, but the underlying message is that of all Islam: ‘There is no deity but God, and Muhammad is the Messenger of God.’ The pronouncement is followed by a second call for the faithful to line up in the mosque for prayers.

The call is a melodious wailing chant which is broadcast through loudspeakers and can be heard across all Muslim towns at the five specified times of day.


Page 8. " Ali and the forty thieves "

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ is a traditional Arabic tale found in One Thousand and One Nights. It has been much adapted and is a popular plot for pantomimes.

The story’s hero is Ali, son of a merchant who marries a poor woman. One night whilst collecting firewood he hears forty thieves visiting a cave, which they use to store their stolen treasure. The cave opens and closes to magic words which Ali has the fortune to overhear and he manages to steal from the thieves’ store. The thieves, despite their attempts to do away with Ali, are eventually tricked to their deaths and the treasure becomes Ali’s own.

In some versions of the story Ali is made out to be the leader of the thieves, but in the traditional tale he is simply an honest man who manages to outwit the evil band of thieves and claim his just rewards.

Page 8. " La Mamounia "

La Mamounia is an hotel near the Royal Palace in Marrakech. It is housed in an ancient palace whose gardens once belonged to an 18th century prince, El Mamoun.

Page 12. " the damask pattern of the curtains "
An anemone damask pattern by William Morris, 1876
Public DomainAn anemone damask pattern by William Morris, 1876 - Credit: PKW

 Damask is a fabric which is decorated with an ornate woven pattern – it may be made of silk, wool, cotton, linen or a synthetic fabric. The style originated in the Middle Ages and takes its name from the city of Damascus, at the heart of the Byzantine and Islamic Empires which first produced this particular style of weaving.

Damask fabric is reversible because of the way in which it is woven, and often consists of only one colour, with the pattern picked out in a glossier thread than the background. There are, however, damask patterns in two colours or more – these often have gold or silver threads woven into them for extra embellishment. Common pattern themes include geometric shapes, flowers and animals. Damask is a popular fabric style for curtains, table linen and other home furnishings.


Page 12. " late night messages from Tokyo "

Tokyo is the capital city of Japan, situated on the country’s main island, Honshu. The metropolitan area has a population of 35.7 million, making it the largest metropolis in the world.

Tokyo streets by night
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeTokyo streets by night - Credit: Nalilord
This mega-city grew from a small fishing village called Edo, which was fortified in the 12th century and became the centre of the country’s national government. By the 18th century it was one of the largest cities in the world and the capital of Japan, despite the Emperor’s residence being in Kyoto.

Tokyo is a seismicity, at risk from earthquakes. In 1923 an earthquake killed 142,000 people, one of the biggest disasters to strike the city.

Central Tokyo is a high-density urban area, with many skyscrapers and residential developments. To maximize land space, there is a concentration on access by high-speed rail, as opposed to car which necessitates more area taken up by roads – bullet trains are one of its most famous icons. The city is a major international financial and technological centre of business and, despite its traditions of culture and history, thought of as one of the most modern in the world.

Page 19. " concoction of sangria and punch "

A glass of red wine sangria
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeA glass of red wine sangria - Credit: Evan Swigart
Sangria is a popular alcoholic drink of Spain, Portugal and Argentina. It is a wine-based punch, made with wine (usually red), a sweetener (such as orange juice, honey or sugar), chopped fruit and sometimes a dash of brandy. Sangria is commonly served cooled in pitchers as a refreshing summer drink. Try a recipe here.

Punch is a generic term used to describe a wide range of drinks which may or may not be alcoholic. The one thing that they usually have in common is that they are fruit-based, either through the use of fruit juice, chopped fruits or both. Punch is a popular drink for parties, in which it is often served in wide, deep bowls called, simply, punch bowls. A huge variety of punch recipes are available, for all occasions and tastes.

Page 21. " your holiday in the Seychelles "

Anse Source d'Argent on the island La Digue, Seychelles
GNU Free Documentation LicenseAnse Source d'Argent on the island La Digue, Seychelles - Credit: Tobias Alt

The Seychelles is a country in the Indian Ocean to the northeast of Madagascar with a population of roughly 84,000. It consists of 115 islands which were named for the French Minister of Finance Jean Moreau de Séchelles when they fell under French control in 1756. Britain took control in 1810 and independence was granted in 1976.

The islands of the Seychelles are largely coral with a relatively humid climate; they are famous for their great natural beauty and protected species such as the giant tortoise. Tourism is one of the country’s main industries, the other being exports from the plantations of cinnamon, vanilla, sweet potatoes and coconuts.

Page 21. " his gold-tipped Mont Blanc ballpoint "

Mont Blanc fountain pen nibs
Creative Commons AttributionMont Blanc fountain pen nibs - Credit: Bsodmike
 Montblanc is a German luxury goods company, founded in 1908 by Claus-Johannes Voss, Alfred Nehemias and August Eberstein. The company began as a manufacturer of pens and continued so until 1977, when it was bought by Dunhill. Montblanc then began to specialize in luxury goods – fountain and other pens, watches, leather goods, fragrances and eyewear - which it sells around the world.

The logo is a six-pointed white star, which resembles the snowy peak of Mont Blanc as viewed from above.

Page 22. " the cab pulled into Berkeley Square "

Berkeley Square is a leafy town square in the West of London. Originally laid out by architect William Kent in the mid-18th century as a residential area, it now has only one residential property – number 48. The rest of the square’s buildings are occupied by shops, members’ clubs, offices and other businesses.

The square was named for the Berkeley family of Gloucestershire, whose town house had stood nearby. Since its inception, Berkeley Square has been highly sought after and is home to some of the costliest properties in London. The square has been immortalised in the 1940 song ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, along with several films and television programmes.


Page 22. " Annabel’s might have been designed for infidelity "

Annabel’s is London's first private members’ nightclub, founded in 1963 by Mark Birley. Located at 44 Berkeley Square, the exclusive club was named for his then wife, Lady Annabel Vane-Tempest-Stewart. Clients have included Richard Nixon, Princess Anne and Frank Sinatra.

Page 23. " I saw the pictures in Tatler "

The original Tatler was a British society and literary magazine founded in 1709 by Richard Steele, writing under the name Isaac Bickerstaff. Steele placed a reporter in each of London’s most popular coffee houses so that all the latest gossip could be reported on. The magazine was published three times a week for two years, before publication was discontinued.

Since then several other similar magazines have been published under the name Tatler. The current magazine was founded in 1901 by Clement Shorter and is now owned by Condé Nast. It reports on London high society gossip and features travel and restaurant supplements, as well as an annual ‘Little Black Book’ – a list of the top one hundred eligible under-thirties in London.

Page 24. " a side street off the Bayswater Road "

Bayswater Road is a main road in the West of London, running along the northern edge of Hyde Park. Every Sunday the Bayswater Road Artists, a collective of 250 local artists, showcase their work on the pavements and railings lining the street.