Far to the south of the land of Ingary, in the Sultanates of Rashpuht, a young carpet merchant called Abdullah lived in the city of Zanzib. As merchants go, he was not rich. His father had been disappointed in him and, when he died, he had only left Abdullah just enough money to buy and stock a modest booth in the north-west corner of the Bazaar. The rest of his father’s money, and the large carpet emporium in the centre of the Bazaar, had all gone to the relatives of his father’s first wife.
Abdullah had never been told why his father was disappointed in him. A prophecy made at Abdullah’s birth had something to do with it. But Abdullah had never bothered to find out more. Instead, from a very early age, he had simply made up daydreams about it. In his daydreams, he was really the long-lost son of a great prince, which meant, of course, that his father was not really his father. It was a complete castle in the air and Abdullah knew it was. Everyone told him he had inherited his father’s looks. When he looked in a mirror, he saw a decidedly handsome young man, in a thin, hawk-faced way, and knew he looked very like the portrait of his father as a young man – always allowing for the fact that his father wore a flourishing moustache, whereas Abdullah was still scraping together the six hairs on his upper lip and hoping they would multiply soon.
Unfortunately, as everyone also agreed, Abdullah had inherited his character from his mother – his father’s second wife. She had been a dreamy and timorous woman, and a great disappointment to everyone. This did not bother Abdullah particularly. The life of a carpet merchant holds few opportunities for bravery and he was, on the whole, content with it. The booth he had bought, though small, turned out to be rather well placed. It was not far from the West Quarter where the rich people lived in their big houses surrounded by beautiful gardens. Better still, it was the first part of the Bazaar the carpet-makers came to when they came into Zanzib from the desert to the north. Both the rich people and the carpet-makers were usually seeking the bigger shops in the centre of the Bazaar, but a surprisingly large number of