The Rihla Book 1

The Maghreb, Egypt, Syria, and his First Hajj, 1325-26

From Tangier to Alexandria 1325

Rihla 1, 1325

Tangier 1325


"I set out alone, finding no companion to cheer the way with friendly intercourse, and no party of travellers with whom to associate myself. Swayed by an overmastering impulse within me, and a long-cherished desire to visit those glorious sanctuaries of the Holy Cities, I resolved to quit all my friends and tear myself away from my home. As my parents were still alive, it weighed grievously upon me to part from them, and both they and I were afflicted with sorrow."

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Tlemcen 1325

"On reaching the city of Tilimsan [Tlemsen], whose sultan at that time was Abu Tashifin, I found there two ambassadors of the Sultan of Tunis, who left the city on the same day that I arrived. One of the brethren having advised me to accompany them, I consulted the will of God in this matter, and after a stay of three days in the city to procure all that I needed, I rode after them with all speed."

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Miliana early in the morning
Photo mouhamed miliana Panoramio

"I overtook the Tunisian ambassadors at the town of Miliana, where we stayed ten days, as both ambassadors fell sick on account of the summer heats. When we set out again, one of them grew worse, and died after we had stopped for three nights by a stream four miles from Miliana. I left their party there and pursued my journey, with a company of merchants from Tunis."

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Algiers, Mosque Ketchaoua, 1096
Photo bachounda, Panoramio

"On reaching al-Jaza'ir [Algiers] we halted outside the town for a few days, until the former party rejoined us, when we went on together through the Mitija [the fertile plain behind Algiers] to the mountain of Oaks [Jurjura] and so reached Bijaya [Bougiel]. "

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Bejaia coastline.
Mouloud Benyahia,

"The commander of Bijaya at this time was the chamberlain Ibn Sayyid an-Nas. Now one of the Tunisian merchants of our party had died leaving three thousand dinars of gold, which he had entrusted to a certain man of Algiers to deliver to his heirs at Tunis. Ibn Sayyid an-Nas came to hear of this and forcibly seized the money. This was the first instance I witnessed of the tyranny of the agents of the Tunisian government.
At Bijaya I fell ill of a fever, and one of my friends advised me to stay there till I recovered. But I refused, saying, "If God decrees my death, it shall be on the road with my face set toward Mecca." "If that is your resolve," he replied, "sell your ass and your heavy baggage, and I shall lend you what you require. In this way you will travel light, for we must make haste on our journey, for fear of meeting roving Arabs on the way." I followed his advice and he did as he had promised--may God reward him!"

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Constantine from an old print

"On reaching Qusantinah [Constantine] we camped outside the town, but a heavy rain forced us to leave our tents during the night and take refuge in some houses there.
Next day the governor of the city came to meet us. Seeing my clothes all soiled by the rain he gave orders that they should be washed at his house, and in place of my old worn headcloth sent me a headcloth of fine Syrian cloth, in one of the ends of which he had tied two gold dinars. This was the first alms I received on my journey."

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Photo from

"From Qusantinah we reached Bona [Bone] where, after staying in the town for several days, we left the merchants of our party on account of the dangers of the road, while we pursued our journey with the utmost speed.
I was again attacked by fever, so I tied myself in the saddle with a turban-cloth in case I should fall by reason of my weakness. So great was my fear that I could not dismount until we arrived at Tunis."

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The City of Tunis
Photo from another contemporary biography of Ibn Khaldun
Caroline Stone, Saudi-Aramco

"At last we came to the town of Tunis.... Townsfolk came forward on all sides with greetings and questions to one another. But not a soul said a word of greeting to me, since there was none of them that I knew. I felt so sad at heart on account of my loneliness that I could not restrain the tears that started to my eyes, and wept bitterly. But one of the pilgrims, realizing the cause of my distress, came up to me with a greeting and friendly welcome, and continued to comfort me with friendly talk until I entered the city, where I lodged in the College of the Booksellers."

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The Fort. Wall enclosure and gate
Photo from

"Some time later the pilgrim caravan for the Hijaz was formed, and they nominated me as their qadi [judge]. We left Tunis early in November [1325], following the coast road through Susa Sfax, and Qabis, where we stayed for ten days on account of incessant rains. Thence we set out for Tripoli, accompanied for several stages by a hundred or more horsemen as well as a detachment of archers, out of respect for whom the Arabs [brigands] kept their distance."

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Entry to the Great Mosque at Sfax
Photo from

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The vanguard of the caravan entering the oasis of Gabes.
Photo: travelinstyle

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The Happy Pilgrim with his Bride.

"I had made a contract of marriage at Sfax with the daughter of one of the syndics at Tunis, and at Tripoli she was conducted to me, but I became involved in a dispute with her father, which necessitated my separation from her. I then married the daughter of a student from Fez, and when she was conducted to me at Tripoli I detained the caravan for a day by entertaining them at a wedding party."

Alexandria to Damascus and on to Mecca

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Alexandria and Burhan al-Din

The Lighthouse of Alexandria.

"On April 5th (1326) we reached Alexandria. It is a beautiful city, well-built and fortified with four gates and a magnificent port. Among all the ports in the world I have seen none to equal it except Kawlam [Quilon] and Calicut in India, the port of the infidels [Genoese] at Sudaq [Sudak, in the Crimea] in the land of the Turks, and the port of Zaytun [Xiamen] in China, all of which will be described later.

I went to see the lighthouse on this occasion and found one of its faces in ruins. It is a very high square building, and its door is above the level of the earth. Opposite the door, and of the same height, is a building from which there is a plank bridge to the door; if this is removed there is no means of entrance.
It is situated on a high mound and lies three miles from the city on a long tongue of land which juts out into the sea from close by the city wall, so that the lighthouse cannot be reached by land except from the city.

On my return to the West in the year 750 [1349] I visited the lighthouse again, and found that it had fallen into so ruinous a condition that it was not possible to enter it or climb up to the door.

I met the pious ascetic Burhan al-Din, whose hospitality I enjoyed for three days. One day he said to me, "I see that you are fond of traveling through foreign lands." I replied, "Yes, I am" (though as yet I had no thoughts of going to such distant lands as India or China). Then he said, "You must certainly visit my brother Farid al-Din in India, and my brother Rukn al-Din in Sind [Pakistan], and my brother Burhan al-Din in China. When you find them, give them greetings from me." I was amazed at his prediction, but the idea of going to these countries once cast into my mind, my journey never ceased until I had met these three and conveyed his greeting to them."

After this fateful revelation Battuta faithfully went to extraordianry troubles and visited all three brothers of Burhan al-Din.

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Fawwa, Ibn Battuta's decisive encounter

The Bird Simurgh fighting with Iskandiyar (Alexander), Firdausi's Shah-name, Shiraz 1330

In a small village near Alexandria Ibn Battuta had an encounter which would change his life:

"During my stay at Alexandria I had heard of the pious Shaykh al-Murshidi, who bestowed gifts miraculously created at his desire. He lived in solitary retreat in a cell at Fawwa in the country where he was visited by princes and ministers.

I set out from Alexandria to seek this shaykh and passing through Damanhur came to Fawwa, a beautiful township close by separated from it by a canal, lies the shaykh's cell.

That night, while I was sleeping on the roof of the cell, I dreamed that I was on the wing of a great bird which was flying me toward Makkah, then to Yemen, then eastward, and thereafter going south, then flying far eastward, and finally landing in a dark, green country, where it left me.... Next morning, the Shaykh interpreted it to me, "You will make the Hajj and visit the Tomb [of the Prophet], and you will travel through Yemen, Iraq, the country of the Turks, and India. You will stay there a long time and meet my brother Dilshad the Indian, who will rescue you from a danger into which you will fall." Never since I departed from him have I received aught but good fortune."

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Cairo 1325

View of Cairo 1901

The spiral minaret of the Ibn-Tulun Mosque (870-879) is, obviously a Cairene copy of Samarra's al-Muttawikil (847-892), Ibn Tulun's home town
Photo Sacred Destinations

Overwhelmed by the Cairene metropolis Battuta writes:

"It is said that in Cairo there are 12,000 water carriers who transport water on camels, 30,000 hirers of mules and donkeys, and on the Nile 36,000 boats belonging to the sultan and his subjects, which sail upstream to Upper Egypt and downstream to Alexandria and Damietta laden with goods and profitable merchandise of all kinds. On the banks of the Nile opposite Cairo is a place known as The Garden, which is a pleasure park and promenade containing many beautiful gardens, for the people of Cairo are given to pleasure and amusements.... The madrasas cannot be counted for multitude.... The Maristan hospital has no description adequate to its beauties...."

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Damietta 1325

The fleet of the Seventh Crusade under unlucky, romantic King Louis IX of France before Damietta (1250).
Photo from Wikimedia

"We rode from here to Damietta through a number of towns, in each of which we visited the principal men of religion. Damietta lies on the bank of the Nile. The present town is of recent construction; the old city was destroyed by the Franks in the time of al Malik as al-Salih (1250).

From here I went to Samannud, whence I journeyed upstream to Cairo.

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In 1250 the Frankish crusaders got as far as Farikskur where the Egyptian forces led by Turanshah defeated them and captured King Louis IX of France who would later become "Saint Louis".
Image Wikipedia

"Fariskur is a town on the bank of the Nile. Here I was overtaken by a horseman who had been sent after me by the governor of Damietta. He handed me a number of coins saying to me "The Governor asked for you, and on being informed about you, he sent you this gift"--may God reward him!"

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"I continued to Samannud, from where I journeyed upstream to Cairo between a continuous succession of towns and villages. The traveller on the Nile need take no provision with him because whenever he desires to descend on the bank he may do so, for ablutions, prayers, provisioning, or any other purpose. There is an uninterrupted chain of bazaars from Alexandria to Cairo, and from Cairo to Assuan [Aswan] in Upper Egypt.."

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Exploring the Upper Nile 1326

Dhows on the Nile
Photo: Wikipedia

"From Cairo I travelled into Upper Egypt, with the intention of crossing to Jedda and the Hijaz (Hajj) to Mecca.

The Egyptian Nile surpasses all rivers of the earth in sweetness of taste, length of course, and utility. No other river in the world can show such a continuous series of towns and villages along its banks, or a basin so intensely cultivated. Its course is from South to North, contrary to all the other great rivers.

One extraordinary thing about it is that it begins to rise in the extreme hot weather at the time when rivers generally diminish and dry up, and begins to subside just when rivers begin to increase and overflow. The river Indus resembles it in this feature."

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Al Minya

Town on the Nile.
Photo: Hannah Scharlau, 2007

My way lead through a number of towns and villages to Munyat Ibn Khasib [Minya], a large town which is built on the bank of the Nile, and most emphatically excels all the other towns of Upper Egypt.

I went on through Manfalut, Asyut, Ikhmin, where there is a berba with sculptures and inscriptions which no one can now read-another of these berbas there was pulled down and its stones used to build a madrasa--Qina, Qus, where the governor of Upper Egypt resides, Luxor, a pretty little town containing the tomb of the pious ascetic Abu'l-Hajjaj, to Esna (Isna).

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Village on the Upper Nile.

"From Esna we traveled a day and a night through desert country to Edfu."

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"In Edfu we crossed the Nile and, hiring camels, journeyed with a party of Arabs through a desert, totally devoid of settlements but quite safe for travelling. One of our halts was at Humaythira, a place infested with hyenas. All night long we kept driving them away, and indeed one got at my baggage, tore open one of the sacks, pulled out a bag of dates, and made off with it. We found the bag next morning, torn to pieces and with most of the contents eaten."

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Aydhab-Marsa Alam

The Red Sea at Aydhab
Old etching from

"After fifteen days' travelling we reached the town of Aydhab, a large town, well supplied with milk and fish; dates and grain are imported from Upper Egypt.

Its inhabitants are Bejas. These people are black-skinned; they wrap themselves in yellow blankets and tie headbands about a fingerbreadth wide round their heads. They do not give their daughters any share in their inheritance. They live on camels milk and they ride on Meharis [dromedaries].

One-third of the city belongs to the Sultan of Egypt and two-thirds to the King of the Bejas, who is called al-Hudrubi.

On reaching Aydhab we found that al-Hudrubi was engaged in warfare with the Turks [i.e. the troops of the Sultan of Egypt], that he had sunk their ships and that the Turks had fled before him. It was impossible for us to attempt to cross the Red Sea, so we sold the provisions that we had made ready for it, and returned to Qus with the Arabs from whom we had hired the camels.

Rihla 1, 1326
On the Road again 1326

"I reached Cairo, where I stayed only one night, and immediately set out for Syria. This was in the middle of July, 1326. My route lay through Bilbays and as-Salihiya, after which we entered the sands and halted at a number of stations. At each of these there was a hostelry which they call a khan, where travellers alight with their beasts. Each khan has a water wheel supplying a fountain and a shop at which the traveller buys what he requires for himself and his beasts"

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The border crossing at Rafah today
Photo MidEastEye, Panoramio

"At the station of Qatya [Rafah] customs-dues are collected from the merchants, and their goods and baggage are thoroughly examined and searched.

There are offices here, with officers, clerks, and notaries, and the daily revenue is a thousand gold dinars. No one is allowed to pass into Syria without a passport from Egypt, nor into Egypt without a passport from Syria, for the protection of the property of the subjects and as a measure of precaution against spies [sic!] from Iraq.
The responsibility of guarding this road has been entrusted to the Badawin [Bedouin]. At nightfall they smooth down the sand so that no track is left on it, then in the morning the governor comes and looks at the sand. If he finds any track on it he commands the Arabs to bring the person who made it, and they set out in pursuit and never fail to catch him. He is then brought to the governor, who punishes him as he sees fit.

The governor at the time of my passage treated me as a guest and showed me great kindness, and allowed all those who were with me to pass. From here we went on to Gaza, which is the first city of Syria on the side next the Egyptian frontier."

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Hebron, where the Patriarchs and their wives are buried.
Etching Atlas Tours

"From Gaza I travelled to the city of Abraham [Hebron], the mosque of which is of elegant, but substantial construction, imposing and lofty, and built of squared stones. It is said that Solomon commanded a jinn to build it. Inside it is the sacred cave containing the graves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, opposite which are three graves, which are those of their wives.

I questioned the imam, a man of great piety and learning, on the authenticity of these graves, and he replied: "All the scholars whom I have met hold these graves to be the very graves of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives. No one questions this except introducers of false doctrines; it is a tradition which has passed from father to son for generations and admits of no doubt."

This mosque contains also the grave of Joseph, and somewhat to the east of it lies the tomb of Lot, which is surmounted by an elegant building. In the neighbourhood is Lot's lake [the Dead Sea], which is brackish and is said to cover the site of the settlements of Lot's people."

Hebron, the Maarat Hamachpelah, the tomb of the Jewish Patriarchs metioned by Battuta and visible in the above veduta

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Bethlehem. on the left is the Church of the Holy Sepulchure.
Etching from

"On the way from Hebron to Jerusalem, I visited Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The site is covered by a large building; the Christians regard it with intense veneration and hospitably entertain all who alight at it."

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The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans under Titus, A.D. 70. painting by David Roberts.
Image preteristarchive and Wikipedia

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a cemetery in the foreground.
Photo from Brit.Government Collection

"The sacred mosque is an open court and unroofed, except for the mosque al-Aqsa, which has a roof of most excellent workmanship.

The Dome of the Rock [al-Aqsa] is a building of extraordinary beauty, solidity, elegance, and singularity of shape. It stands on an elevation in the centre of the mosque and is reached by a flight of marble steps.

Both outside and inside the decoration is so magnificent and the workmanship so surpassing as to defy description. The greater part is covered with gold so that the eyes of one who gazes on its beauties are dazzled by its brilliance, now glowing like a mass of light, now flashing like lightning. In the centre of the Dome is the blessed rock from which the Prophet ascended to heaven, a great rock projecting about a man's height, and underneath it there is a cave the size of a small room, also of a man's height, with steps leading down to it. Encircling the rock are two railings of excellent workmanship, the one nearer the rock being artistically constructed in iron and the other of wood.

Among the grace-bestowing sanctuaries of Jerusalem is a building, situated on the farther side of the valley called the valley of Jahannam [Gehenna] to the east of the town, on a high hill. This building is said to mark the place whence Jesus ascended to heaven. In the bottom of the same valley is a church venerated by the Christians, who say that it contains the grave of Mary.

In the same place there is another church which the Christians venerate and to which they come on pilgrimage. This is the church of which they are falsely persuaded to believe that it contains the grave of Jesus [Church of the Holy Sepulcher]. All who come on pilgrimage to visit it pay a stipulated tax to the Muslims, and suffer very unwillingly various humiliations."

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Damascus 1326

View of Damascus

Market in the Old City

Inside the Umayyad Mosque (colored etching by W. H. Bartlett)
Old etchings from

Battuta writes a long discourse on the history of the Umayyad Mosque, once a Christian church sacred to St John the Baptist, it was gradually transformed into a mosque.

"The Friday Mosque, known as the Umayyad Mosque, is the most magnificent in the world, the finest in construction, and the noblest in beauty, grace, and perfection.... The site of the mosque was a [Greek Orthodox] church. When the Muslims captured Damascus, one of their commanders entered from one side by the sword and reached as far as the middle of the church. The other entered peaceably from the eastern side and reached the middle also. So the Muslims made the half of the church which they had entered by force into a mosque, and the half which they had entered by peaceful agreement remained a church."

In Damascus Ibn Battuta also describes the waqfs, Islamic institutions operated by pious endowments:

"The variety and expenditure of the religious eitdowments of Damascus are beyond computation. There are endowments for the aid of persons who cannot undertake the Hajj [such as the aged and the physically disabled], out of which are paid the expenses of those who go in their stead. There are endowments to dower poor women for marriage. There are others to free prisoners [of war]. There are endowments in aid of travelers, out of the revenues of which they are given food, clothing, and the expenses of conveyance to their countries. There are civic endowments for the improvement and paving of the streets, because all the lanes in Damascus have sidewalks on either side, on which foot passengers walk, while those who ride the roadway use the center.

One day I passed a young servant who had dropped a Chinese porcelain dish, which was broken to bits. A number of people collected around him and suggested, "Gather up the pieces and take them to the custodian of the endowment for utensils." He did so, and when the endowment custodian saw the broken pieces he gave the boy money to buy a new plate. This benefaction is indeed a mender of hearts."

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First Hajj to Mecca 1326

Pilgrims Caravan on their way to Mecca from the Persian “Maqqamat”

"When the new moon of the month Shawwal appeared in the same year [1st September 1326], the Hijaz caravan left Damascus and I set off along with it."

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Camel caravan, 6th cent AD Roman mosaic in Bosra
Photo senna3, Panoramio

The Hadjj Ralroad at Bosra Station
Photo Hartmann,

"At Bosra the caravans usually halt for four days so that any who have been detained at Damascus by business affairs may make up on them. Thence they go to the Pool of Ziza, where they stop for a day, and then through al-Lajjun to the Castle of Karak."

In 1908 the Ottomans built a railroad from Damascus to Medina. The German enineers simply followed a caravan. - Unfortunately Battuta did not always follow that route.
The railroad became famous during WW I when Lawrence of Arabia nearly closed the strategic connection by repeatedly blowing up the tracks.The railroad was never revived but it it still works in Syria. A Mekka for railroad buffs. - Nowadays the Hadjji fly, 200 people to an Airbus.

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Karak-”Krak des Chevaliers”

Karak Crusaders Castle

"Karak, which is also called "The Castle of the Raven," is one of the most marvellous, impregnable, and celebrated of fortresses. It is surrounded on all sides by the river-bed, and has but one gate, the entrance to which is hewn in the living rock, as also is the approach to its vestibule.
This fortress is used by kings as a place of refuge in times of calamity, as the sultan an-Nasir did when his mamluke Salar seized the supreme authority.
The caravan stopped for four days at a place called ath-Thaniya outside Karak, where preparations were made for entering the desert."

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The oasis of Ma'an

"Thence we journeyed to Ma'an, which is the last town in Syria" (now Jordan)

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'Aqabat as-Sawan-Aqaba

Aqaba from the Golf

"At 'Aqabat as-Sawan we entered the desert, of which the saying goes: He who enters it is lost, and he who leaves it is born."

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Caravan passing a water reservoir near Tabuk

"The great caravan halts at Tabuk for four days to rest and to water the camels and lay in water for the terrible desert between Tabuk and al-Ula.
The custom of the watercarriers is to camp beside the spring, and they have tanks made of buffalo hides, like great cisterns, from which they water the camels and fill the waterskins. Each amir or person of rank has a special tank for the needs of his own camels and personnel; the other people make private agreements with the watercarriers to water their camels and fill their waterskins for a fixed sum of money.
From Tabuk the caravan travels with great speed night and day, for fear of this desert. Halfway through is the valley of al-Ukhaydir, which might well be the valley of Hell (may God preserve us from it). One year the pilgrims suffered terribly here from the samoom-wind; the water-supplies dried up and the price of a single drink rose to a thousand dinars, but both seller and buyer perished. Their story is written on a rock in the valley.

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Al Ula

Old Al-Ula
Photo Mike - Traveltrails, Panoramio

"Al-Ula is a large and pleasant village with palm-gardens and water-springs. The pilgrims halt there four days to provision themselves and wash their clothes. They leave behind them here any surplus of provisions they may have, taking with them nothing but what is strictly necessary. The people of the village are very trustworthy.

The Christian merchants of Syria may come as far as this and no further, and they trade in provisions and other goods with the pilgrims here. On the third(300 km?) day after leaving al-Ula the caravan halts in the outskirts of the holy city of Medina.

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Medina at Last

Medina at last
Photo Shaykh Hassan Cisse,

At Dhu al-Hulaifa, just outside Madina, the pilgrims changed from their caravan clothes into the ihram, the two-piece white garment which symbolically consecrated their entry into the Holy City of Makkah. Once in the ihram, the Muslim's behavior was expected to be a model of piety, and the spiritual aura of Mecca reinforced that expectation.

"I entered the pilgrim state under obligation to carry out the rites of the Greater Pilgrimage...and [in my enthusiasm] I did not cease crying, "Labbaik, Allahumma" ["At Thy service, O God!"] through every valley and hill and rise and descent until I came to the Pass of 'Ali (upon him be peace), where I halted for the night."

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Arrival at Medina, Zilhaj al-Haraam 1427
Photo by Shaikh Taha Raja 2007 from

Ibn Battuta's account of Madinah fills 12 pages. Much of it is a detailed history and description of the Prophet's Mosque and other sites; the rest consists of anecdotes he heard from those he met.

"Our stay in Madinah the Illustrious on this journey lasted four days. We spent each night in the Holy Mosque, where everyone engaged in pious exercises. Some formed circles in the court and lit a quantity of candles. Volumes of the Holy Qur'an were placed on book-rests in their midst. Some were reciting from it; some were intoning hymns of praise to God; others were contemplating the Immaculate Tomb [of Muhammad]; while on every side were singers chanting the eulogy of the Apostle {Muhammad], may God bless him and give him peace."

Old Photo of the Prophet's mosque in Medina

The Mosque of the Prophet was built in 622 by the Muslim community after they reached the city of Yathrib, which would later be called al-Madina al-Muanwara. The mosque was situated next to the Prophet's house, and it consisted of a square enclosure of thirty by thirty-five meters, built with palm trunks and mud walls.

The mosque of the humble Prophet today
Photo and text from

After the death of the Prophet, the mosque was enlarged to twice its size. In 707, by Umayyad Caliph al-Walid (705-715). Mamluk Sultans built the dome over the Prophet's house and tomb and built and rebuilt the four minarets. The Ottomans (1517-1917) added and reconstucted the mosque until in the 20th cent the entire complex was remodeled and enlarged.

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Rabigh 1326

Rabigh used to be famous for its camels - it is now a ghastly oil terminal –
barely visible in the background - with a single hotel for the Aramco people.
Photo James Scott Panoramio

"Our way led thence through a frightful desert called the Vale of Bazwa for three days to the valley of Rabigh, where the rainwater forms pools which lie stagnant for a long time. From this point the pilgrims put on the pilgrim garment. I too divested myself of my tailored clothes, bathed, and putting on the pilgrim's garment I prayed and dedicated myself to the pilgrimage."

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Khulays 1326

Desert Oasis near Khulays

"Three days after leaving Rabigh we reached the pool of Khulays, which lies in a plain and has many palm-gardens."

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Usfan 1326

The Ottoman fortress at Usfan
Photo M. Aziz, Panoramio

Thence we travelled through 'Usfan to the Bottom of Marr, a fertile valley with numerous palms and a spring supplying a stream from which the district is irrigated. From this valley fruit and vegetables are transported to Mecca.

We set out at night from this blessed valley, with hearts full of joy at reaching the goal of our hopes, and in the morning arrived at the City of Surety, Mecca (may God ennoble her !), where we immediately entered the holy sanctuary and began the rites of pilgrimage.

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Mecca (1) 1326


The Kaaba
Old etchings from

The Meccans are very elegant and clean in their dress, and most of them wear white garments, which you always see fresh and snowy. They use a great deal of perfume and kohl and make free use of toothpicks of green arak-wood.

The Meccan women are extraordinarily beautiful and very pious and modest. They too make great use of perfumes to such a degree that they will spend the night hungry in order to buy perfumes with the price of their food. They visit the mosque every Thursday night, wearing their finest apparel; and the whole sanctuary is saturated with the smell of their perfume. When one of these women goes away the odor of the perfume clings to the place after she has gone.

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Return from Mecca 1326

On the 17th of November 1326 I left Mecca with the commander of the 'Iraq caravan, who hired for me at his own expense half of a camel-litter as far as Baghdad, and took me under his protection.

After the farewell ceremony of circumambulation [of the Ka'ba] we moved out to the Bottom of Marr with an innumerable host of pilgrims from 'Iraq, Khurasan, Fars and other eastern lands, so many that the earth surged with them like the sea and their march resembled the movement of a high-piled cloud. Any person who left the caravan for a moment and had no mark to guide him to his place could not find it again because of the multitude of people. With this caravan there were many draught-camels for supplying the poorer pilgrims with water, and other camels to carry the provisions issued as alms and the medicines, potions, and sugar required for any who fell ill. Whenever the caravan halted food was cooked in great brass cauldrons, and from these the needs of the poorer pilgrims and those who had no provisions were supplied.

From Mecca Battuta returned to Baghdad with the 'Iraqi caravan. The details are sketchy (at least in my translation of the Rihla). Before reaching Baghdad he elopes to Basra and a circle tour of Persia (Isfahan and Shiraz)

When Battuta left Tangier his only purpose had been to reach the Holy
City.... But when he set off for Baghdad from Mecca with the Iraqi pilgrims, it becomes apparen that he was no longer traveling to fulfill only a religious mission or even to reach a particular destination. He was going back to Iraq simply for the adventure of it.