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Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta Photo

Ibn Battuta was born on 25th February 1304 to a Berber family in Tangier, Morocco. The education he received from childhood had a rather strong legal element. In 1325, when he was 21 he left for Mecca to perform the pilgrimage. It was this very journey that ignited in him the passion to travel. The route he took to reach Mecca was through Syria and Egypt and once he was done with his religious obligations, he set out towards the western regions of Persia and Iraq. However, he did return to Mecca and stayed there for almost three years to study.

The next journey he embarked on was by sea, traveling along the Red Sea coastline to reach Yemen. En route he also stopped over at Aden and Mogadishu and the various trading posts along the Horn of Africa. On his way back to Mecca in 1332, he explored Oman and the Persian Gulf. This time his stay in Mecca was short and soon his wanderlust took him to Anatolia, Turkey where he explored the various religious orders and paid homage to the local rulers.

By this time, Ibn Battuta could be considered a seasoned traveler and explorer and what he embarked on next, proved to be the longest journey of his life. He set sail over the Black Sea to travel to the Golden Horde’s lands in Crimea. Once there he visited the Caucasus to meet the mighty Khan himself. From there on he journeyed to Horde’s capital Sarai, before sailing across the Volga River. During this journey, he got the privilege to visit Afghanistan and Transoxiana, which eventually led him to the Indus valley. Once in Delhi, Ibn Battuta decided to rest his wandering soul for a while and stayed here for almost a decade, earning his living as a judge. But in 1342 he once again set out to explore the central cities of India. During this time he visited the Malabar Coast till he reached the Maldive islands. Later on, he traveled to the island of Ceylon and Sumatra and finally ended up in China and spent some time exploring the environs. From the 1340s and early 1350s, he stayed on the road continuously and eventually passed through the Sahara Desert to reach Niger. Ibn Battuta kept traveling for almost 29 years and during his travels covered more than 75,000 miles, visiting more or less 44 modern countries which at that time were ruled by Muslim conquerors and collectively known as “Dar al-Islam”.

During his wandering years, Ibn Battuta encountered a number of adventures (some good and some bad). He escaped an attack by bandits, nearly lost his life in a shipwreck, was almost beheaded by a tyrant king, enjoyed the company of multiple lovers and wives and is said to have fathered several children around the world.

By 1354, Ibn Battuta finally made it home. Near the end of his life, the great Sultan of Morocco insisted that Ibn Battuta pen down his great journeys and the adventures it entailed. A scholar was appointed to write down all the stories of Ibn Battuta and they were compiled into what is known today as; Tuhfat al-Aznar fi gharaaib al-amsar wa ajaaib al-as far; translation: A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling. Since the title was so long it was then changed to Ibn Battuta’s Rihla.

Ibn Battuta died in 1369, and after him, his book of adventures got lost into obscurity for some time. But it was once again revived by the French during their occupation of Algeria in 1830, and a joint Arabic-French edition of the lost book was published in 1853.

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