The World of Ibn Battuta

by Helmy Sa'at

Ibn Battuta traversed continents, which saw him travelling to more than 40 countries in the span of about three decades. Having travelled more than 75,000 miles or 120,000 kilometres in the 14th century, he would have undoubtedly garnered hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers, subscribers and likes if social media platforms had existed to livestream his adventures and capture every moment to be instantaneously shared with the world.

iStock 1180935689 scaled The World of Ibn Battuta

1325 CE

Born in Tangier, Morocco, Ibn Battuta left his birthplace for the Middle East in 1325, at age 21. His primary focus was to complete the hajj. He began his journey riding a donkey, which soon linked up with a pilgrim caravan heading east, across North Africa. Along the journey, he married the daughter of another pilgrim, the first of his many, many wives.

1326 – 1330 CE

He performed the hajj rituals within Mecca where he stayed for about three weeks while visiting the other holy sites. He went on to live and study there for about a year before heading to Persia and Iraq. Subsequently, he made a sea voyage to the Horn of Africa whereby that afforded him the opportunities to visit Mogadishu followed by the coasts of Kenya and Tanzania.

1334 – 1341 CE

Ibn Battuta arrived in India through Afghanistan. He went to Delhi to seek official employment and later worked as a judge under a powerful, but menacing, Muslim sultan. Later, he was presented with the opportunity to represent the Mongol court of China in the official capacity as an envoy.

1345 – 1346 CE

A string of trials and tribulations encompassing kidnapping and being robbed of everything, but his pants, occurred! Ibn Battuta resumed his journey to China, after being stranded and disgraced in the Maldives, by arriving in the bustling sea port of Quanzhou of Fujian province, in 1345!

1346 – 1349 CE

pexels walid ahmad 847400 The World of Ibn Battuta

At about age 45, he journeyed home to Morocco, arriving back in Tangier in 1349 after been gone approximately 24 years! Yet, he was still keen in travelling. Having not seen much of his birthplace, he embarked on more travelling encapsulating Asilah, Salé and then south across the coastal plains to Marrakesh before returning to Morocco for good in 1354.

iStock 616897190 scaled The World of Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta never kept journals during his adventures. Later, an oral history was recorded called A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, better known as the Rihla, or “travels.” The world viewed through his eyes then would be weaved with his unique lens and experiences moulded by his own values, perceived biases and preferences. He died around 1368.

A collective caveat for consideration: Though Ibn Battuta’s travels, in a snapshot, appear wondrous when taking into account from the very macro to minute details, scholars and historians have repeatedly highlighted discrepancies. These could very well stem from being lost in translations over the centuries to Ibn Battuta’s lack of accountability in speaking truths about really visiting these places. Recollections generally set in lived realities are tampered with memories that overlap fictitious imaginings whether intended or otherwise.

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