Kamar al-Zaman doesn’t want to marry. The same goes for Budur. They are brought together by two Efreets in a contest of beauty. They fall in love but after the contest they get separated again. Kamar is locked-up by his father because he thinks Kamar is mad. Budur follows the same fate, but she knows to send her foster-brother to find Kamar. He does and when the story is explained to Kamar’s father they both leave. They trick Kamar’s father in that they are slain. Kamar reveals himself to Budur and they are married. Kamar and Budur then travel back to Kamar’s father. However, before they reach their destiny Kamar loses a talisman of Budur by a bird. He follows it and gets lost. He comes to an empty city and stays with a gardener. Budur travels on, disguised as Kamar. She comes to the Ebony Islands and is married to Hayat al-Nufus. Kamar finds the talisman with a dead bird at the gardener and a lot of gold behind a trap-door. He misses the ship which would bring him to the Ebony Island, his goods were already on board. Budur to whose lands the ship was sailing finds the talisman and order the shipmen to bring the merchant. When Kamar returns they are rejoined and Kamar is married to Hayat al-Nufus who becomes a sister-wive.
There is king who has four wives but no son and after a lot of praying to Allah he gets one with whom he immediately falls in love and cannot depart from. When his son, Kamar al-Zaman, turns 15 he wants him to marry but his son absolutely doesn’t want to. The Wazir advises the king to ask again in public when all the captains and emirs are present, he wouldn’t say no in front of them, but he does and thereby insults his father. For this he is thrown into prison and curses marriage though admits it was better to marry then being in prison. The Wazir advises the king to wait for fifteen days.
In prison he is visited by an Ifritah known as Maymunah, daughter of King of the Jinn. She falls in love with him because of his beauty. When she kisses Kamar she hears the Ifrit Dahnesh. She asks him what is his business. He says he comes from the realm of King Ghayur in China where he beheld the king’s beautiful daughter, who doesn’t want to marry. He fell in love with her and says she is the most beautiful human being in the world. Maymunah challenges this and they visit both people. Finally they put the two together to compare them.
They let a judge appear, Kashkash, and he says the two are equal in beauty. However, he also proposes to see who is the most amorous. Both Kamar and Budur are woken up while the other sleeps. They both fall in love and take each other’s rings. Kamar knows to control himself and is proclaimed the winner. Kashkash and Dahnash are asked to bring princess Budur back to her home.
When Kamar awakes he thinks the woman was his bride to be sent be his father. He asks the eunuch slave who had slept the whole night. The eunuch claims that his father did not send the slave. Eventually the eunuch knows to escape and goes to the king.
When the king hears the story he send his Wazir to find out what has been going on. The Wazir is treated the same way as the eunuch and to save his own life he agrees with Kamar that there was a lady in his room. The king upon hearing the Wazir claiming his son to be mad, goes to Kamar himself. His son relates the story and shows the ring as evidence it was not a dream.
Kamar keeps weeping and the king stays night and day with him until his Wazir reminds he has to rule as well. So Kamar al-Zaman is moved to a different palace with an ocean view where his father can be with him.
Meanwhile Princess Budur awakes in her palace. She asks her duenna where the handsome prince is. The duenna denies there was one and is killed by Budur. She then goes to her father who thinks she is mad. He chains her for three years. If people can cure her they will be rewarded, if they fail beheaded. Many were beheaded.
Budur’s foster-brother arrives and his mother makes sure he is able to see the princess dressed as a lady. Marzawan hears her story and sets out to search for this man. He gets shipwrecked and floats towards the palace of Kamar. He is taken out of the water by the Wazir. Marzawan sees the prince and tells him about Budur. He brightens up and his father rejoices.
Kamar tells his father he will be away for one night, but actually has made an appointment with Marzawan. They will go to Budur. Marzawan leaves a camel’s and horse’s bones and skin with blood to make Kamar’s father think he is dead and stops following them.
When they arrive at King Ghayur’s Islands Marzawan tells Kamar he has to disguise himself as an astrologer. He is ridiculed by the people but King Ghayur hears of him amd bods him to come to his castle and cure his daughtet. Kamar sends a letter to Princess Budur with her ring. She recognises the ring and frees herself from her chains by force. The king is rejoiced of her ulcur and both marry.
After Kamar and Budur marry Kamar wants to go back to his father. The King consents only if they return once a year. When they set off Kadar’s soul lusts after her and he undresses her while she sleeps. He finds her petty-coat trousers fastened by a jewel. He takes the jewel outside to have a better look, but it is taken by a bird. He follows the bird but gets lost. Eventually he arrives at a city where he can’t find anybody except for a gardener whom tells him the people of the city are magians. Kamar helps the gardener with gardening.
Budur finding out her husband is gone, dresses herself like him to prevent his men to go after her. When she comes to the City of Ebony she meets King Armanus who wants his own daughter to marry her. Budur hold her disguise as Kamar al-Zaman and marries Hayat al-Nufus. But Armanus grows weary when Budur doesn’t sleep with Hayat and he says to his daughter that ‘Kamar’ will be banished if he does not take her maidenhead. Budur tells her story to Hayat and she pities her, calling her sister. They use pigeon blood to make it seem Hayat lost her maidenhead. King Armanus rejoices and Budur continuous dispensing justice.
King Shariman finally finds the hides of the dead animals and thinks his son is dead. He builds a House of Lamentations in honour of his son.
The gardener tells Kamar al-Zaman that he will arrange a ship to bring him to Moslem lands. Kamar meanwhile weeps in the garden and sees two birds fight, one is killed and buried by two other birds. Those two birds bring the murderer, kill it and tear it to pieces on the grave of the former bird. Kamar finds the jewel of Budur with the dead bird just slain by the two other birds. When later cutting a tree he finds a secret trap-door to place full of golden riches. He tells the returned gardener who rejoices.
The gardener tells Kamar that a ship will sail to the Ebony Island shortly. Kamar bring fifty leather bottles with gold and olives on top, and in one he hides the talisman. But when he has brought the bottles to the ship the gardener gets mortally ill and he buries him. When he returns to the ship it has already sailed off without him. He then hears that the next will go in one year time.
The ship arrives at the Ebony Islands where Queen Budur buys the olives, in them she finds the gold and her talisman. She rejoices and orders the shipmen to bring the merchant of these good. So they do. When Kamar is at the Ebony Islands, Budur hides her identity. She bestows Kamar with many riches. Kamar is humble but when he finds out she wants to keep him at her palace he begs ‘him’ not to. Then she reveals him she is Budur, his beloved. The next morning she informs King Armanus and tells the whole story including the fact that his daughter still has her maidenhead. The King marvels at the story and marries his daughter to Kamar with Budur’s consent, making Budur and Hayat sister-wives. They live happily until the Destroyer of delights and the Sunderer of societies overtakes them.