Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Abdullah is a carpet merchant. One day, a man sells him a magic carpet, one that not only flies but has an uncanny knack for making Abdullah's daydreams come true. He is whisked away to a beautiful garden where he meets Flower-in-the-Night, the Sultan's daughter (though he doesn't learn that bit until later). The two fall in love. The trouble begins when she is kidnapped by a djinn and Abdullah is compelled to run after her.
As it turns out, the djinn and his brother have nabbed a whole slew of princesses, though clearly without fully considering the implications of trying to control 30 willful women together in one room. The Howl characters do turn up over time but it takes a while. The energy of the story certainly picks up once they do, perhaps even drowning out the Abdullah adventure. Even so, I did enjoy the book and am curious about the third volume of the Howl series, House of Many Ways.