In Arabian Nights: An Excerpt

Standing there, the ocean breeze cool on my face, I sensed the tingle of something I could not understand, and saw a fine geometric carpet laid over the lawn. I strolled down over the terrace and on to the grass, and stepped aboard it, the silk knots pressing against my bare feet. Before I knew it, we were away, floating up into the air.

We moved over the Atlantic without a sound, icy waters surging, cresting, breaking. Gradually, we gathered speed and height until I could see the curve of the earth below. We crossed deserts and mountains, oceans and endless seas. The carpet folded back its edge, protecting me from the wind.

After hours of flight, I glimpsed the outline of a city ahead. It was ink-black and sleeping, its minarets soaring up to the heavens, its domed roofs hinting at treasures within. The carpet banked to the left and descended until we were hovering over a grand central square. It was teeming with people and life, illuminated by ten thousand blazing torches, their flames licking the night.

A legion of soldiers in gilded armour was standing guard. Across from them were stallions garlanded in fine brocades, caparisoned elephants fitted with howdahs, a pen of prowling tigers and, beside it, a jewel-encrusted carousel. There were oxen roasting on enormous spits, tureens of mutton stewed in milk, platters of braised camel meat, and great silver salvers heaped with rice and with fish.

A sea of people were feasting, entertained by jugglers and acrobats, serenaded by the sound of a thousand flutes. Near by, on a dais crafted from solid gold, overlaid with rare carpets from Samarkand, sat the king. His bulky form was adorned in cream-coloured silk, his head crowned by a voluminous turban, complete with a peacock feather pinned to the front.

At the feet of the monarch sat a delicate girl, her skin the colour of ripe peaches, her eyes emerald green. Her face was partly hidden by a veil. Somehow I sensed her sadness. A platter of pilau had been put before her, but she had not touched it. Her head was low, her eyes reflecting a sorrow beyond all depth.

The magic carpet paused long enough for me to take in the scene. Then it banked up and to the right, flew back across the world over mountains and deserts, oceans and seas, and came to a gentle rest on our own lawn.

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In Arabian Nights, Tahir Shah