The film is an adaptation of the ancient Arabic anthology The Book of One Thousand and One Nights, better known as The Arabian Nights. It is the last of Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life", which began with The Decameron and continued with The Canterbury Tales. The lead was played by young Franco Merli who was discovered for this film by Pasolini.
The film contains abundant nudity, sex and slapstick humor. It preserves the eroticism and the story within a story structure of Arabian Nights and has been called "perhaps the best and certainly the most intelligent" of Arabian Nights film adaptations.
The main story concerns an innocent young man, Nur-e-Din (Franco Merli), who comes to fall in love with a slave girl, Zumurrud (Ines Pellegrini), who selected him as her master. After a foolish error of his causes her to be abducted, he travels in search of her. Meanwhile, Zumurrud manages to escape and, disguised as a man, comes to a far-away kingdom where she becomes king. Various other travelers recount their own tragic and romantic experiences, including a young man who becomes enraptured by a mysterious woman on his wedding day, and a man who is determined to free a woman from a demon (Franco Citti). Interwoven are Nur-e-Din's continuous search for Zumurrud and his (mostly erotic) adventures. In the end he arrives at the far-away kingdom and is reunited with Zumurrud.