- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Opa-locka City Hall
America's only city hall with minarets took architectural cues from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.
Opa-locka was built during the Florida Land Boom of the 1920s, when films like Rudolf Valentino’s orientalist fantasy The Sheik and Douglas Fairbanks’ The Thief of Baghdad had harnessed the sultry and romantic appeal of the Middle East into a full-blown cultural fad.
Florida was hot and tropical enough to feel exotic, so when developer Glenn Curtiss built Opa-locka, he did so around an overt One Thousand and One Nights theme. In addition to the aforementioned orientalist architecture, the streets were given names such as Ali Baba Avenue and Sabur Lane.
Though the Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 destroyed a number of Opa-locka buildings, several of the Moorish buildings survived and have since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The crowning jewel is Opa-locka’s City Hall building, an onion-domed and minaret-sporting marvel inspired by the description of the palace of Emperor Kosroushah in One Thousand and One Nights.
Opa-locka is currently in a state of advanced decay as the cash-strapped city faces financial collapse. Many of the Arabian-inspired buildings are falling apart, but a walk through the little town still offers a look at the 1920s’ idea of exotic luxury.