This section is from the book "Stories From The Thousand And One Nights", by Edward William Lane and Stanley Lanepoole. Also available from Amazon: Stories From Thousand And One Nights: The Arabian Nights' Entertainments.
O Prince of the Faithful, my story is wonderful; for these two bitches are my sisters, born to my father, but of another mother; and I am the youngest of the three. After the death of our father, who left us five thousand pieces of gold, these my two sisters married, and when they had resided some time with their husbands, each of the latter prepared a stock of merchandise, and received from his wife a thousand pieces of gold, and they all set forth on a journey together, leaving me here; but after they had been absent four years, my sisters' husbands lost all their property, and abandoned them in a strange land, and they returned to me in the garb of beggars. When I first saw them in this state, I knew them not; and, as soon as I recognised them, I exclaimed, How is it that ye are in this condition?-O our sister, they answered, thy inquiry now is of no use: the Pen hath written what God hath decreed.-I sent them, therefore, to the bath, and, having clad them in new apparel, said to them, O my sisters, ye are my elders, and I am young; so ye shall be to me in the places of my father and mother. The inheritance which I shared with you God hath blessed; partake then of its increase, for my affairs are prosperous; and I and ye shall fare alike.-I treated them with the utmost kindness, and during a whole year they remained with me, and enriched themselves by the money that I had given them; but after this period they said to me, It will be more agreeable to us to marry again, for we can no longer abstain from doing so.-O my sisters, I replied, ye have seen no happiness in marriage: a good husband in this age is rarely found, and ye have already had experience of the marriage-state. They, however, heeded not my words; but married against my consent: yet I gave them dowries from my own property, and continued to them my protection. They went to their husbands, and the latter, after they had resided with them a short time, defrauded them of all that they possessed, and, setting forth on a journey, left them destitute: so again they returned to me, and, in a state of nudity, implored my forgiveness, saying, Be not angry with us; for though thou art younger than we, thou hast more mature sense; and we promise thee that we will never again mention the subject of marriage. I replied, Ye are welcome, O my sisters; for I have no one dearer to me than yourselves:-and I received them, and treated them with every kindness, and we remained happily together for the space of a year. After this I resolved to fit out a vessel for a mercantile voyage: accordingly, I stocked a large ship with various goods and necessary provisions, and said to my sisters, Will yc rather stay at home during my voyage, or will ye go with me?-to which they answered, We will accompany thee during the voyage, for we cannot endure to be separated from thee. I therefore took them with me, and we set sail; but first I divided my property into two equal portions; one of which I took with me, and the other I concealed, saying within myself, Perhaps some evil accident may happen to the ship, and our lives may be prolonged; in which case, when we return we shall find that which will be of service to us.-We continued our voyage by day and night, till at length the vessel pursued a wrong course, and the captain knew not whither to steer. The ship had entered a different sea from that which we wished to cross, and for some time we knew it not; but for ten days we had a pleasant wind, and after this, a city loomed before us in the distance. We asked the captain what was the name of this city; and he answered, I know it not; I have never seen it till this day, nor have I ever before in the course of my life navigated this sea: but as we have come hither in safety, ye have nothing to do but to enter this city and land your goods, and, if ye find opportunity, sell or exchange there: if not, we will rest there two days, and take in fresh provisions, So we entered the port of the city, and the captain landed, and after a while returned to us, saying, Arise, and go up into the city, and wonder at that which God hath done unto his creatures, and pray to be preserved from his anger. And when we had entered the city, we found all its inhabitants converted into black stones. We were amazed at the sight, and as we walked through the market-streets, finding the merchandise and the gold and silver remaining in their original state, we rejoiced, and said, This must have been occasioned by some wonderful circumstance. We then separated in the streets, each of us attracted from his companions by the wealth and stuffs in the shops.
As for myself, I ascended to the citadel, which I found to be a building of admirable construction; and, entering the King's palace, I found all the vessels of gold and silver remaining in their places, and the King himself seated in the midst of his Chamberlains and Viceroys and Wezirs, and clad in apparel of astonishing richness. Drawing nearer to him, I perceived that he was sitting upon a throne adorned with pearls and jewels, every one of the pearls shining like a star: his dress was embroidered with gold, and around him stood fifty memluks, attired in silks of various descriptions, and having in their hands drawn swords. Stupefied at this spectacle, I proceeded, and entered the saloon of the Harim, upon the walls of which were hung silken curtains; and here I beheld the Queen, attired in a dress embroidered with fresh pearls, and having upon her head a diadem adorned with various jewels, and necklaces of different kinds on her neck. All her clothing and ornaments remained as they were at first, though she herself was converted into black stone. Here also I found an open door, and, entering it, I saw a flight of seven steps, by which I ascended to an apartment paved with marble, furnished with gold-embroidered carpets, and containing a couch of alabaster, ornamented with pearls and jewels; but my eyes were first attracted by a gleam of light, and when I approached the spot whence it proceeded, I found a brilliant jewel, of the size of an ostrich's egg, placed upon a small stool, diffusing a light like that of a candle. The coverings of the couch above mentioned were of various kinds of silk, the richness of which would surprise every beholder; and I looked at them with wonder. In this apartment I likewise observed some lighted candles, and reflected that there must then have been some person there to light them. I passed thence to another part of the palace, and continued to explore the different apartments, forgetting myself in the amazement of my mind at all these strange circumstances, and immersed in thoughts respecting what I beheld, until the commencement of night, when I would have departed; but could not find the door; so I returned to the place in which were the lighted candles, and there I laid myself upon the couch, and, covering myself with a quilt, repeated some words of the Kur'an and endeavoured to compose myself to sleep; but I could not. I continued restless: and at midnight I heard a recitation of the Kur'an, performed by a mekxiious and soft voice; upon which I arose, and, looking about, saw a closet with an open door, and I entered it, and found that it was an oratory: lighted lamps were suspended in it, and upon a prayer carpet spread on the floor sat a young man of handsome aspect. Wondering that he had escaped the fate of the other inhabitants of the city, I saluted him; and he raised his eyes, and returned my salutation: and I then said to him, I conjure thee by the truth of that which thou art reading in the Book of God, that thou answer the question which I am about to ask thee:-whereupon he smiled, and replied, Do thou first acquaint me with the cause of thine entrance into this place, and then I will answer thy question: so I told him my story, and inquired of him the history of this city. Wait a little, said he;-and he closed the Kur'an, and, having put it in a bag of satin, seated me by his side. As I now beheld him, his countenance appeared like the full moon, and his whole person exhibited such perfect elegance and loveliness, that a single glance at him drew from me a thousand sighs, and kindled a fire in my heart. I repeated my request that he would give me an account of the city; and, replying, I hear and obey, he thus addressed me: