In the 1920s, aviation maverick Glen Curtiss decided to transform a small town in Florida into an homage to the Middle Eastern folk tale collection One Thousand and One Nights. During the early days of the 20th century, Middle Eastern-themed fashion and architecture were all the rage in the Western world. Glen Curtiss helped develop a town called Opa-Locka populated exclusively by buildings which featured minarets, rounded domes, and arched doorways reminiscent of some of the most celebrated mosques and palaces in the Middle East.
Despite fanciful streets with names such as Sultan Avenue and Sharazad Boulevard, Opa-Locka was designed to be a functional city where people from all walks of life could live and work. Opa-Locka thrived for a short period before it was seriously damaged by a powerful hurricane in 1926. A handful of Middle Eastern-style buildings survived the storm, but unfortunately many of the town’s most prominent buildings suffered from neglect in later decades.
In recent years, there has been an effort to preserve the unique buildings of Opa-Locka and revive the town. Opa-Locka hosts a popular flea market which is open 7 days a week. The flea market sells furniture, clothes, and delicious food from local vendors. Visitors can view the whimsical exteriors of some of Opa-Locka’s most eye-catching buildings while shopping at the city’s flea market.
If boring architecture is the bane of your existence, a day trip to Opa-Locka will inspire you and remind you that fantastical buildings still stand in certain corners of the world. It is not hard to imagine yourself walking alongside film star Rudolph Valentino dressed as a sheik, listening to one of Sharazad’s legendary stories, or boarding a train bound for Istanbul at Opa-Locka’s resplendent former train station while walking the sultry streets of one of Florida’s most memorable towns.