The Arabian Nights is a vast collection of stories with Greek, Indian and Arabian sources that were compiled in Arabia during the Middle Ages. Most people in the West know the Arabian Nights through the stories of Aladdin, Ali Baba and Sinbad the Sailor, but the whole work is a treasure of stories-within-stories featuring giant birds, evil genies, talking fish and other wonders. “The vastness and complexity of the Nights is mesmerizing,” says Robert Irwin, author of two books on the Arabian Nights. With its exotic flavor and lavish descriptions of foods and feasting, it makes an ideal theme for a party.
Create Magic Invitations
An Arabian Nights party is an opportunity to craft original invitations with an oriental flair. Buy or create scrolled parchment decorated with tassels, and place them in bottles for a magical effect. Or make “magic carpet” invitations with card stock decorated with acrylic paint and calligraphic script, sprinkled with gold around the edges.
Decorate With Enchantment
Living rooms and back yards provide adequate settings for entertainment. An outdoor venue, especially at nightfall, can create a sense of enchantment. Begin in the living room and then move into the yard to evoke the feeling of going on a journey, a feeling at the heart of some of the best-known tales in the Arabian Nights. Decorate your walls with fabric of turquoise or purple chiffon. Fill the room with hanging paper lanterns, votary candles, lamps and decanters. Move the biggest pieces of furniture out of the living room and liberally strew the floor with throw pillows so that your guests can eat in traditional Arabian style. Place an oriental carpet in the center of the room or somewhere off to the side: The flying carpet is one of the best-known magical objects in the world of the Arabian Nights.
Prepare Authentic Food
Lavish descriptions of food are a recurring fixture in the Arabian Nights. Start out with a light coriander or green salad, served with olives, cucumbers and tomatoes -- foods that have long been popular throughout the Middle East. Provide pita bread and hummus for appetizers. For the main course, prepare onions stuffed with meat and rice and boiled in pomegranate syrup in a saucepan for about 45 minutes. Or bake lamb kebabs in the oven for the same length of time, covering the lamb in cumin, coriander, pepper and curry powder. Follow this up with baklava, dried figs, or crepes for dessert, accompanied by tea, coffee or ginger milk.
Movies, Dancers and Body Painting
At this point all, that’s lacking is a centerpiece activity to give the night a focus. A solid party provides its guests with an event that can keep everyone entertained. The Arabian Nights is a popular source for cinematic inspiration. Some of the best-known films based on the stories include: "The Thief of Baghdad," "Il Fiore delle Mille e una Notte" or "Flower of the Arabian Nights," and for the kids,"Aladdin" and "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas." Probably the most famous Arabian nights-inspired movie is "The 7th Voyage of Sinbad," a 1958 movie that features a fight between Sinbad and a dancing skeleton designed by the great Ray Harryhausen. If you’re not in the mood for a movie, alternatives are available. Hire belly dancers to perform and give lessons. Create miniature spas or host henna-painting sessions. Henna is a kind of temporary body paint that's been used in Northern Africa and the Middle East for thousands of years.
- The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights, Volume 1; Malcolm C Lyons, Translator
- Bellenza: Ideas for a Fun Arabian Nights' Bridal Shower Theme
- Deserts: An Activity Guide for Ages 6-9; Nancy Castaldo
- Nyla Crystal: An Arabian Nights' Birthday Party to Remember
- Garage Protection: Arabian Nights Theme Party -- 12 Tremendous Ideas
- The Arabian Nights Cookbook; Habeeb Salloum
- Al-Ahram Weekly: Filming the Arabian Nights
- Photo Credit Patrick Bronson/iStock/Getty Images
- The Gentle Art of Cookery; C. F. Leyel and Olga Hartley
- David Rosengarten Entertains: Fabulous Parties for Food Lovers; David Rosengarten
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