Harun al-Rashid and Ja'far travel the city in disguise and see a beggar. The caliph gives the beggar a coin and asks her to marry him, and for her dowry she requests the annual revenue of Isfahan and Khorasan. Harun al-Rashid agrees. She ends up being a relative of King Kisra Anushirwan of Persia, and is very vain and presumptuous, so Harun decides not to touch her for an entire year.

A year later, he goes on another incognitu trip through the city. He orders a hundred pancakes, each inserted with a golden coin, and has them sent to Kisra's daughter. Meanwhile, the woman visits, also in disguise, to give alms to the poor. She gets a drink of water from the chamberlain's house and, to repay him, sends him all the pancakes. He later accidentally gives them to the local watchman for the ‘Arafat feast, and the watchman’s wife sells them. Someone notices the caliph's name inscribed on the plate and reports it to him, and he becomes angry that his gift was sold and investigates. The chamberlain claims to have seen the woman's face when she got water at his house, and they are threatened with execution. The chamberlain asks for three more days.

The caliph travels around the streets once more and sees an old woman reciting the Koran and not being paid for it. He learns that she has a beautiful daughter, but the man she's supposed to marry cannot afford the bride-price. The caliph, using his name “al-Bunduqanl” (Maker of Crossbows), offers to marry her, and has the woman's house restored. However, rumors spread that the groom is actually a dangerous robber, and the chief of police arrives at the house to catch him. The caliph straightens this out by showing his ring, learns that the woman is the mother of the imprisoned chamberlain, and pardons the chamberlain, who marries Kisra’s daughter.