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Arabian Nights Days
aka: ANCIENTARABIA

Oh I come from a land, from a faraway place
Where the caravan camels roam.
Where it's flat and immense
And the heat is intense
It's barbaric, but hey, it's home.

When the wind's from the east
And the sun's from the west
And the sand in the glass is right,
Come on down
Stop on by
Hop a carpet and fly
To another Arabian night!
"Arabian Nights", Aladdin

Arabia: land of Ali-Baba, genies, sheiks, Sultans, evil Grand Viziers (as well as some good ones), dashing thieves and harem girls. When Western 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. Malaysia and Indonesia are usually not represented because of their tropical climate, as opposed to mystical deserts.

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 16th-19th centuries' Ottoman Empire. This type of Arabian Nights Days tends to put 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

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 Baghdad, which Caliph Harun al-Raschid finds so wonderful that he is haunted by the knowledge that it will someday 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: The Baghdad in which the series is set owes more to an Affectionate Parody of Arabian Nights than to historical accuracy.
  • Astérix and the Magic Carpet

Film

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 myth.
    • 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 Return the Thief! has ancient Arabia once again in need of the Thief, as it is on the brink of war.
    • 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.
  • Washington Irving's Tales of the Alambra is set during the Spanish Reconquista: Arabian Nights Days with badass spaniards.
  • Yashim Series: An Ottoman Eunech in the Nineteenth Century and his boon companion, a Polish Noble Fugitive. They Fight Crime!
  • The Desert of Souls and The Bones of the Old Ones by Howard Andrew Jones are set in the 8th Century Caliphate, with generous heapings of fantasy added to the historical fiction.
  • The Father of Locks by Andrew Killeen has a meticulously researched 8th century Baghdad setting.
  • The Horse and His Boy takes place largely in Calormen, a fantasy culture with a clear debt to the Arabian Nights; it also appears in several other installments of The Chronicles of Narnia. The Arabian Nights even provided C. S. Lewis with the name "Aslan" (he found it in a footnote to an English translation; it's the Turkish word for "Lion".)

Live Action TV
  • The Charmed episode "I Dream of Phoebe" - genie in a bottle? Check. Flying carpets? Check. Men with scimitars? Check. Magical desert city? Check.

Manga

MMORPGs

Pinball

Tabletop Games
  • The Arabian Nights expansion of Magic: The Gathering (actually inspired by the above Sandman example). It was later retconned into the plane of Rabiah. Another Arabian-inspired plane called Alkabah is briefly seen IDW's comic series.
  • The Al-Qadim campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Araby in Warhammer fits most of the portrayal.
  • GURPS Arabian Nights is about roleplaying within this trope, while some lands within the world of GURPS Banestorm reflect it. GURPS Castle Falkenstein: The Ottoman Empire is about a version of the Ottoman Empire, in a steampunk world, that's very heavy on the Arabian Nights elements.
  • Ars Magica, while typically set in Mythic Europe, frequently includes elements of this trope either due to the influence of Islamic culture upon European scholastics and the Fourth Crusade (and Reconquista). In particular, the 4th Edition supplement "Blood and Sand" covers the Levant while the 5th Edition book "The Cradle and the Crescent" details the Arabian Peninsula, Mesopotamia, Persia, and Transoxiana.

Theatre

Video Games
  • Prince of Persia
  • Sonic and the Secret Rings (very loosely)
  • The Treasures of Aht Urhgan expansion of Final Fantasy XI, complete with an evil Grand Vizier who heads the mysterious, veiled Immortals.
  • Quest for Glory II
  • In Monster World IV, the whole world is a fantasy version of this.
  • Doki Doki Panic was largely based around this trope. As a result some elements, such as the flying carpets, are also in Super Mario Bros. 2.
  • Sequin Land, the setting of the Shantae games.
  • Arabian Night from Wario Land 4.
  • The Gerudo from the Legend of Zelda series seem to be very loosely based off of this trope, where the harem girls are thieves. Also, their king, Ganondorf happens to be the main antagonist in the series, and he happens to be skilled with sorcery.
  • The Alin from Rise of Legends are based on this trope. Their floating cities are located in a vast desert, and their lands are full of magical creatures made up of fire and glass. There are, of course, genies. Interestingly, the Alin are on the verge of being overrun by the so-called Dark Alin, creatures born of magic fueled by an alien artifact. The intro film shows Alin forces besieging a Vinci city in a clear case of Magic Versus Technology. This never happens in the game, however. The other Fantasy Counterpart Cultures in the game are the Vinci (Renaissance-era Italy fueled by Leonardo's Steam Punk and Clock Punk inventions) and the Cuotl (a Mayincatec culture using technology given by their Sufficiently Advanced Alien masters).
    • While the Alin-Vinci battle never happens in the game, the ending heavily implies that, with the Alin no longer under threat, they are looking West towards the Vinci city-states to expand their territory.
  • Team Fortress 2 had arab-themed sets for the Demoman, Sniper and Spy (One Thousand And One Demoknights, Lawrence Of Australia and Saharan Spy respectively). Out of the three, the Saharan Spy was considered overpowered.
  • Both Diablo II and Diablo III have desert cities with this motif.
  • The city of Guera in Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light has this aesthetic.
  • Al-Mamoon in Ni No Kuni. Its name even means something like "a safe place" in Arabic (and doubles as a pun on the fact that its ruler is a cow woman).

Western Animation


Antlion MonsterDesert TropesBuild Like an Egyptian
Arabian NightsImageSource/LiteratureArsène Lupin
AladdinImageSource/Animated FilmsBare Your Midriff
The House Of TudorHollywood HistoryThe Renaissance
Ancient GromeCultural BlendingBulungi
Yodel LandHollywood AtlasEast Indies

alternative title(s): Ancient Arabia
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