One Thousand and One Nights, or you may know them as The Arabian Nights, is a collection of Arabic folk tales conjured up by various authors, translators and scholars in the period from about 750 C.E. to 1,257 C.E. The framing story goes that a Persian king, Shahryar, whacked his beloved wife due to her infidelities. (Without benefit of a bench trial, this was apparently how these people handled irreconcilable differences in those days.) In his grief from this embarrassment (her infidelities, not the whacking), he came to the conclusion that all women are untrustworthy.
But, ya can’t live with ‘em and ya can’t live without ‘em, I suppose. Therefore, he gets this brilliant idea of marrying a succession of virgins, and then simply executing each one in the morning, following the previous evening’s nuptials and, presumably, a blissful midnight at the oasis, before she can run out the front flap of the tent at the crack of dawn and dishonor him with the first UPS delivery man she comes upon. Problem solved.
Now, in order to implement this seemingly excellent plan, the king enlisted the services of a guy named Vizier to recruit these virgins for him. Well, everything seemed to be going along like clockwork until, lo and behold, it eventually came to pass that Vizier had to inform the king that he could no longer find any virgins. (Assuming the king hadn’t dispatched every last one, one might be curious to know where the rest of them all disappeared to, ay?) In any event, in order not to tick off his client, who had a well-documented history of routinely icing anybody who did not have the good sense to accommodate his demands, Vizier offered up his virgin daughter, Scheherazade, to the king. He then proceeded to book transport with a caravan to Dubai, where he could drown his grief over the impending loss of his daughter, whose name he couldn’t pronounce anyway, with a vodka and tonic or two or three.
Well, young Schey, as she was called by her friends, wasn’t your average dumb virgin. On the night of their wedding, she tells the king a fascinating story, but does not reveal the ending. So, the king, Sharry, (as he was referred to by the only friend he had left after he had greased all his other acquaintances) really, really wanted to know how that story ended. So on the first morning following their wedding he decided to give this new bride a temporary reprieve in order to hear the outcome (no doubt affixing a Master lock on the tent flap zipper tab, just in case). Well, the next night, Schey revealed the ending all right, but began a new tale that once again had the king’s rapt attention. But she was only about half-way through this new one before she slipped off to sleep. “Hmph,” said Sharry.
Okay, so this goes on for 1,001 nights, thus the title.
Now, getting on to magic carpets: I have always wanted to own such a carpet and, for quite some time, have been trying to determine where I might acquire one. Early in my search, after totally giving up on Craigslist, I once browsed the wares of a local Persian rug store. The owner said if any of his carpets were magic, it would be up to me to ferret them out. And absolutely no returns! Well, the cheapest floor covering in there was $1,800. In order for me to be inclined to spend $1,800 on an area rug, I assure you, it would definitely have to levitate on the first test drive—and have GPS, maybe.
Well, anyway, one of the 1,001 stories from The Arabian Nights includes that of a prince named Husain who travels to India to buy just such a carpet. Aha! This is important information!
Following further research, I also learned that those magic carpets of the ancient era seemed to come in two models: The first, which I will refer to as model “A,” functioned like a transporter from Star Trek—that is, a person would sit in the middle, close his eyes, and wish he were somewhere else. And, voilà, there he would be. How cool is that? This is my personal favorite, as I routinely find myself in locations where I would readily pay $1,800 to be instantly somewhere else. Who hasn’t had that happen?
And then there were the traditional flying “B” models, which could carry a single person—or a whole slew of persons—depending on its size. According to a Hebrew legend, for example, King Solomon’s carpet was reportedly of this model. It was also the jumbo-jumbo version, measuring sixty miles wide and sixty miles long, and could carry tens of thousands of riders at a time. And it came with a canopy of birds to shield the riders from the sun, standard equipment, I suppose, since sun block had not yet been invented.
Thus, it would appear that a side benefit of my quest to acquire a magic carpet might be that of having stumbled upon a plausible explanation of how all those virgins in Sharry’s neighborhood suddenly disappeared, en masse. Even if so, I remain genuinely curious as to where they might have gone. Aren’t you? Anyway, as soon as I finish here I am going on-line with Expedia to get some quotes on air-fare for a quick trip to Delhi (one-way).
Incidentally, it was only recently that I learned that my dear friend, Gypsy Dave Poleski, owns a flying carpet—in working order, no less. It appears to be a tiny, single-seater “B” model, probably a hybrid—no room for luggage. Don’t believe me? Click here and check it out:
I think he said he scored it at Home Depot. (I checked—didn’t find any in my neighborhood store.) Yeah, well, I could be wrong on that. He did spend some time India when he was a younger man.