Monday, April 15, 2013

Where Is Agrabah in 'Aladdin'?

Dead Sea Tupperware, anyone? Photo via Wallpaper Backgrounds

Welcome to Agrabah, city of mystery and enchantment, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ears if they don't like your face where it's flat and immense and the heat is intense. It's barbaric, but hey, it's home.

Clues to the real-life location of Agrabah, the setting for Disney's 1992 blockbuster Aladdin, pepper and spice the said movie. The narrator sings upfront that the tale takes place in Arabia, but he also tells us, confoundingly, that Agrabah lies by the Jordan River, which traverses present-day Israel and Jordan.

But Aladdin's layout supervisor Rasoul Azadani did not look to those places for inspiration. He styled Agrabah after his native Iran instead, particularly his hometown of Isfahan. Aladdin, Jasmine, Abu and Genie would fit squarely in here.

The Masjed-e Imam (Imam Mosque) in Isfahan, Iran. Photo via Fulvio Spada

Even the pretend-Agrabah in Tokyo DisneySea seems to rip off Isfahan's landmarks.

'Arabian Coast' at the DisneySea resort. Via Tokyo Travel Blog

Many eagle-eyed viewers, however, have likened the Sultan's Palace in Agrabah to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India. The linguistic sameness of Agra and Agrabah might be more by design than accident too.

via rishida

But we've been grasping at straws all along. The story of Aladdin as it originally appears on Arabian Nights is set in China, albeit a fictionally Islamic one.


Becky July 28, 2014 at 2:30 PM  

I like your post! :-) Also, just wanted to point out that there was (and is) a decent sized Muslim population in China. Think of the Mongols (Genghis Khan's grandkids) and it makes sense. But, I've always understood Aladdin to be Chinese and the location to be one of the -stan countries :-)

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