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Arabia: land of Ali-Baba, genies, sheiks, Sultans, evil Grand Viziers (as well as some good ones), dashing thieves and harem girls. When Europe was having its Dark Age, the Islamic world was having its Golden Age, both preserving and enhancing the knowledge of civilization. Here, Baghdad is still a wondrous, glittering city full of magic and mystery, instead of a grungy, sprawling Third World metropolis with soldiers in Humvees battling guys in dynamite vests through the cobblestone streets.

Mostly based on the Muslim world (which stretched from Spain to India and Central Asia) during the Middle Ages. Historically, as noted above, this time period is analogous to the Dark Age Europe of the 7th to the 11th century but this is rarely referenced - and sometimes outright contradicted.

Sometimes this trope is rather based on the 16-19 centuries Ottoman Empire. This type of Arabian Nights Days tends to make less emphasis on magic and more on harem girls.

This trope can be a form of Cultural Blending, as the "Islamic world" was home to various different cultures and languages, such as Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and many others.

A popular trope for this setting is Genie in a Bottle, traditionally a Literal Genie. Flying Carpets are popular too. The look and feel of a Bazaar of the Bizarre often draws heavily on this period as well. Expect at least one reference to the "sands of time."

In fiction set in modern times, the same region inevitably becomes Qurac.

Examples of Arabian Nights Days include:


Art

  • All these harem pictures of Ingres.
    • Any of the French Orientalist artists, in fact. Jean-Léon Gérôme, Eugène Delacroix... it was quite a popular subject amongst Neoclassical painters apparently.

Comic Books

  • Fables portrays the free European fables as being stuck in the modern world after the adversary took over. When they ally with the Arabian Fables they expect them to be living in hiding in the middle east. Instead it turns out they are still living in their own traditional lands, complete with flying carpets, since the Adversary has only recently started targeting them and they are actually a cohesive force that can fight him unlike the Europeans (when they were conquered they had a very medieval mindset with each own fief and principality on its own).
  • One story in Sandman features this version of Bagdad, whose emperor finds it so wonderful that he becomes utterly obsessed with the worry that it might end. He calls on Morpheus to preserve it forever, and he obliges by changing it into a more mundane version of the city, but causing the Arabian Nights Days version to live on in stories and dreams.
  • Iznogoud
  • Asterix and the Magic Carpet

Film

  • The Thief of Bagdad
  • The Sultan's court in Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchhausen.
    • The last three examples are actually set in the 18-19 century Ottoman Empire. Though it was usually depicted in Western media using this trope, anyway.
  • Pretty much any film about Sinbad the Sailor will at least start out here, even though it'll wind up on some uncharted island full of Harryhausen critters.

Literature

  • One Thousand and One Nights a.k.a. The Arabian Nights. The single most important Trope Maker.
  • The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio
  • Klatch on the Discworld is Arabian Nights Days in Sourcery, the first book Klatchians play a major part in, but by the time Jingo rolls around it's more of a late-19th/early-20th-century Lawrence of Arabia style Middle East, with a few Arabian Nights elements left in.
  • Edward Said devoted his Orientalism to debunking this sort of myths.
    • Or, more precisely, pointing out how the pervasiveness of this sort of myth prevented Europeans from having any sort of perspective on what the Middle East was, and is, actually like.
  • Castle in the Air, which bears the same relationship to the Arabian Nights as its predecessor Howl's Moving Castle does to Western fairy tales.
  • William Beckford's Vathek mixes this with Gothic Horror.
  • Andrei Belyanin's The Thief of Baghdad novel has a modern-day Russian man end up in this trope thanks to a genie and Omar Khayyam. Suffering from magic-related amnesia, the protagonist learns the trade of thievery from Omar and embarks on the task of ending the rule of the evil Emir of Baghdad. On the way, he encounters Nasreddin, the Emir's guards, the Emir's entire harem (who are quite happy to see him), and... aliens (because, why not?). The framing device is the protagonist telling this story to the author of the book, making his safe return a foregone conclusion. The sequel, The Shamer of Shaitan has the protagonist being sent back to Arabia (with his memories intact, this time) to take on Shaitan himself.
    • The third novel in Belyanin's Jack the Mad King trilogy is called Jack in the East and has the titular protagonist travel to this world's equivalent of Arabia to rescue the sultan's daughter.

Manga

MMORPGs

Tabletop Games

Theatre

  • Kismet.
  • Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio).

Video Games

Western Animation

Real Life

  • As a matter of fact, whenever in any Western story the word "sultan" comes up and the word "oil" doesn't, you are bound to meet with this trope[1].
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