Ibn Battuta 1304-1377

The Rihla
Battuta's Travels Illustrated 1325-1349

Google-Earth kmz-File of Battuta's Travels
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Table of Content




In 1325, a year after Marco Polo's death, the Moroccan jurist ibn Battuta set out from his native Tangier on his first Hajj to Mecca. He would not see Tangier again for 24 years. The Rihla, his travelogue is filled with numerous tales and adventures which far exceed the observations of Polo in liveliness, acuity and insight. Yet Battuta is virtually unknown in the “West”. - This essay brings excerpts from the Rihla illustrated with photos from the internet. A companion Google-Earth Post shows Battuta's route on the GE globe.


Book 1.

1325 - 26

Battuta leaves Tangier to perform his first Hajj to Mecca. On his way along the Mediterranean coast of Africa he takes a wife. In Alexandria a pious ascetic predicts that he would travel far and long and meet the ascetic's brothers in India and China. A few days later Battuta dreams of a big bird taking him to Mecca, Yemen, Iraq, Persia, India and and China. - He passes Jerusalem and in Damascus joins the Syrian Hajj to Mecca


Book 2


On the return he attaches himself to the Iraq caravan headed for Baghdad, but leaves it to visit Basra and Isfahan, Shiraz and Tabriz in Persia. Despite being ill with diarrhea he sets out on his second Hajj from Baghdad in October 1327. He spends 3 years in contemplation and prayers in Mecca.


Book 3.

1330 - 31

He begins to travel seriously first to Yemen then by dhow along the Coast of East Africa as far as Tanzania. On his return he visits the Hadramaut, Hormuz and the Persian Gulf. In Al-Hasa he joins the Hajj caravan of the local governor for Mecca


Book 4.1


Somehow the idea to strike it rich takes hold of Battuta: India and China appear on his horizon. He resolves to make his way along the Ottoman/Byzantine frontier in Asia Minor to the land of the Golden Horde (Qipchaq). - He nearly perishes in a snow storm in the mountains and in another storm on the Black Sea. Eventually he reaches the Aul of Uzbeg Khan in Serai on the Volga.


Book 4.2


Uzbeg Khan obliges Battuta as his ambassador to conduct Princess Baylun, his fourth wive to her imperial father in Constantinople. Battuta has an audience with Emperor Andronikus III, tours the city and visits Christian convents and churches. When the Princess refuses to return to Uzbeg Khan, he returns alone well-rewarded to Serai.


Book 5.


In the Winter of 13333-34 Battuta travels across the entire width of Central Asia: effectively following the Northern (Scythian) Silk Road : Khwarizmi-Bukhara -Karshi- Samarkand(?)- Balkh – Kunduz- Parwan – Kabul. Instead of following the direct route across the Khyber Pass to Delhi, he turns south to Sehwan (Karachi). - and only there crosses the Indus, the border of Sultanate India.


Book 6


Battuta spends eight years as advisor to Sultan Muhammad ibn Tughlunq in Delhi. He amassed great riches, fell out of favor and was finally appointed as Tughluq's ambassador to conduct a delegation of Chinese to the court of the Emperor of China.


Book 7.


After a two-month march the heavily armed caravan reached Gandhar on the coast where they embarked on a number of ships. In Calicut a sudden storm beached and destroyed the 3 ships with their precious cargo for the Chinese Emperor. It was a Friday and Battuta escaped, because he was at the mosque! Battuta had lost all his Indian riches and barely saved his skin. Fearing Sultan Tughluq's rage Battuta incognito walks down the Malabar coast as far as Quilon


Book 8–9


In 1343 Battuta escapes to the Maldives and finds himself in a matriarchal society. He loves it, of course, and soon acquires an entire harem of beautiful slave-girls. The queen appoints him qadi, and he tries hard to pass an ordinance that the women have to cover themselves in his courtroom - they walk about topless. He marries the widow of a relative of the king, who spies on him. In the end he meets a Moslem ship captain and elopes from paradise to Ceylon leaving his pregnant wife behind. - The ship is wrecked on the Cormandel Coast. Once again he survives and with great cunning makes his way back to Calicut.


Books 9-11

1345 -46,

In Calicut he learns that his wife in the Maldives has born a son. He visits Male but decides to leave the child with his mother. - He leaves Male quickly on a boat to China. He disembarks in Chittagong, Bengal., to visit the brother of the sheikh in Alexandria. Eventually Battuta reaches Zayton (Xiamen) in China. He travels among Moslem merchants to Hangzhou all the time admiring the exemplary Chinese bureaucracy - but the Chinese he doesn't care for. He is getting tired and when a revolt against the emperor threatens, he returns to Zayton and embarks for India and home.


Book 12


Ibn Battuta's Return Home took three years. In Palestine he arrived at the same time as the Black Death forcing him to find his way by ship. He made a fourth Hadji to Mecca. Arriving in Morocco he found his mother had died from the Plague. - But the Imam of Fez received him with open arms.


Book 13


Battuta had a brother in Ronda, Andalucia. After his long absence he resolved to visit him. An additional incentive was the jihad against the Christian armies advancing on Andalucia. Battuta explored another frontier.


Book 14


Intrepid traveler, Battuta's curiosity took him on a last journey through the West African deserts to the legendary gold-land of the Mansa of Mali Exploring Timbuktu and the upper reaches of what he believed was the Nil (Niger) he spent 3 years in Africa.

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