Question to all the folks who remember the "golden" days of Vegas. My friend and I were wondering, despite Vegas being a desert, why were lots of the LV themes Middle Eastern? Like Aladdin, Dunes, Desert Inn, Sahara, Sands. Was it a fad that was sexy back then? Just curious.
Short answer to your question is that it probably had a lot to do with the fact that Las Vegas itself was basically in the middle of the desert. A desert fantasy works pretty easily.
The subject of themes in Vegas is a probably whole topic unto itself, and I find it pretty fascinating, especially when the two themes are mixed up seemingly at random. The first resort built around a theme was Last Frontier Hotel, the second resort on the strip (1942). The name, architecture, decor were all built around a fantasy of the old west. Last Frontier opened an area called the "Last Frontier Village" next to the casino, which was supposedly a big influence on Disneyland.
Flamingo in the late 40s, followed by Riviera and Tropicana, seemed to skip the theme in favor of pure luxury – I think the Sands follows this model as well – but most of the 50s was very heavy into themes. These resorts with the middle eastern themes all came along in the 50s-early 60s.
Stardust was all about the space age. Even Last Frontier rebranded itself in the mid 50s in the modernist "New Frontier." This is where it gets funny: Last Frontier and New Frontier existed side by side for a decade. Stardust also went into Tiki culture so you have Easter Island moai status next to images of stars and planets /post/147611025409/ (Tiki popped up again in a half dozen other places around town.)
Caesars Palace in 1966 elevated the fantasy to another level, and most of the resorts in the last 50 years are still following this model.