I know the question seems pretty unclear, so let me try to explain it.
So I'm writing my first book and already have big plans. I don't aim to publish. It's just for me.
I want the book to be philosophical. I want it to contain all the ideas and experiences I made in life. For that matter, I chose to have a young man coming from an oasis in a desert going out on different adventures. Every adventure is like a short-story, but it's all linked together and at the end of each experience he made there will be something like a moral. At the book's end, he will be a wise person (maybe an old man by that time).
So to the central question: I want so set the story in the Arab world like it was about 1500 years ago. I already did much research on that. But on the other hand, I want it to have a surreal/fantasy feel, which allows me to let him meet a jinn for example, but still everything should feel realistic. I don't want it to be a fantasy book.
The Bible or the Qur'an could be good examples. (No I don't wish to be the next big prophet.) For someone who believes in it, everything seems real and indeed many of its Information contains real historic events, but for other people who don't believe in the respective religion, it's just a nice story with some real facts. Also Paulo Coelho's "The Alchemist" is a excellent example of the feeling I'm talking about. I'm sure most of you read it.
So I want to draw a close line between reality and fantasy. I thought to let the story take place in form of a dream, but in the end I thought that's too simple. That takes the complexity and the sense of all the experiences of the protagonist away.
I think I explained enough since I don't want to bother you with unnecessary details. Maybe one of you creative writers out there has made experiences with that or can suggest some stylistic devices on how to handle that "problem".
I'm sure there isn't a definite answer and the question still seems very vague, but I'm grateful for every advice from you!