While reading Damascus Nights, the significance of the numbers intrigued me. Numbers are an obvious theme in the novel because, the fairy tells Salim that he will get his voice back “if you receive seven unique gifts within three months, then a young fairy will take my place and stand by your side” (25). From that moment on, the novel is obsessed with the number 7: his seven friends take him on seven journeys, encourage him to drink seven different types of wine and ultimately tell him seven stories. We see a similar reliance on numbers, particularly seven, in the Nights as well. For example, Sinbad goes on seven journeys. From its original title, One Thousand and One Nights, I know that the numbers in the text are not accidental. For example, in an Arab context, “one thousand and one” means more than the ordinal number, it means infinity. So, I then looked to Damascus Nights, to uncover the hidden meaning behind the numbers. The number 7 has great significance in Islam. For example, in Mecca, pilgrims walk around the Kaaba seven times.
I know the Islamic significance of seven is too great to be accidental but I am struggling to understand what role it plays in a novel originally written in German. Does he just choose seven because it has Arab significance or is the audience suppose to understand something about the story on a greater level because of the number 7? Does it add some divine authority to the novel? Does it provide cultural authenticity? Also, why does the fairy only give Salim 21 words? – seems fairly random. As I continue to think about Damascus Nights, I am still pondering these questions.