Sting wrote this after a trek through a pilgrim route in India led him to the medieval fortress of the maharaja, a friend of his traveling companion. The men who were supposed to be guarding the structure were asleep in front of the fire, inspiring the song's opening lyrics, "The palace guards are all sleeping, their fires burn into the night."
In Lyrics By Sting, he remembers reaching the maharaja's opulent quarters and being greeted. "'My security service,' he began, with an almost imperceptible shake of the head, 'is somewhat less than it should be, yes?'"
Sting likens this song to a fairy tale. He said in an interview for Interscope Records: "It sounds like something from 'A Thousand and One Nights' about a thief and a princess and how he takes her out of her set life, which is to be promised to someone she didn't know. I think you can be robbed of everything in this life - your home, your money, your self-respect - yet if you only have love, if you have a relationship, then it doesn't matter because that is really the one thing that sustains you through your whole life, and ought to. So I think love conquers all is the message I'm trying to give there. I actually believe it. I'm not just being a romantic."
"Abracadabra" was inspired by Diana Ross and The Supremes. Steve Miller first met the girl group when they performed together on NBC's Hullabaloo in 1966, and he wrote the lyrics after spotting Diana Ross skiing in the mountains years later.