As a little girl, Fatima Mernissi was often puzzled by the idea of the harem. Even if you accepted that men and women needed to be kept apart, she asked, why couldn't it be the woman who walked freely in the streets, while men stayed locked behind the harem gates? In this story, she tells of her childhood in a Fez harem in the 1940s, a period of social transition in Morocco. Yasmina, Fatima's grandmother, was one of nine co-wives. She had the freedom to go out and about on her husband's farm and the surrounding countryside, but she carried around within her the "hudud", or sacred frontier that seperates women from men. Fatima's mother was an only wife, but she lived with the other women of her extended family inside an enclosed courtyard in the city, guarded by a gatekeeper whose sole duty it was to keep women from going out into the street. Fatima herself grew up in this enchanted prison, where contact with the outside world was often limited to the imaginary journey's in the tales of Aunt Habiba. But then the French colonists introduced schools for girls in Morocco, and in due course Fatima was able to leave the Harem to forge an independent life. In this memoir Fatima Mernissi shows clearly the roles assigned to women and men by traditional Muslim society. She also shows the intimacy and sense of fun that can unite women in and enclosed community.