Magic Flying Carpets: The Historic Version, Not The Disney Version

By | January 21, 2019

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Riding a Flying Carpet', 1880. Artist: Viktor Mihajlovic Vasnecov. Found in the collection of the State Art Museum, Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Source: (Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

One of the most enchanting aspects to come out of ancient Arabian tales is mentions of magic flying carpets. Thanks to Disney’s hit animated movie, Aladdin, we are all familiar with magic carpets and their ability to fly silently all over the city while the two main characters sing a song and fall in love. Flying carpets are not, however, a Disney invention. The magic carpet in that movie was based on actual stories of levitating rugs from ancient Arabian texts. Let’s look at the real history behind these wondrous magic carpets. 

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One Thousand and One Nights

Legends of the flying textile were an important part of the collection of Middle Eastern folktales that have come to be known as the One Thousand and One Arabian Nights. This collection was amassed over centuries and includes stories from ancient Arabia, North Africa, Turkey, Greece, Persia, India, and even Jewish tales. The various folk tales were woven together using a framing device to merge them. In One Thousand and One Nights, the framing device is that the stories are all told to a powerful ruler named Shahryar by his clever bride, Scheherazade.