This is the first English translation of the famous risala, letters by the tenth-century traveler Ibn Fadlan, one of the great Medieval travelers in world history, akin to Ibn Batutta. Ibn Fadlan was an Arab missionary sent by the Caliph in Baghdad to the king of the Bulghars. He journeyed from Baghdad to Bukhara in Central Asia and then continued across the desert to the town of Bulghar, near present Kazan. He describes the tribes he meets on his way and gives an account of their customs. His is the earliest account of a meeting with the Vikings, called Rus, who had reached the Volga River from Sweden. His description of the Rus, or Rusiya as he calls them, has produced much discussion about their origins, shockingly free sexual moral standards, customs, treatment of slaves and women, burial traditions, and trading habits, all explained in detail by Ibn Fadlan. The story of his travels has fascinated scholars and even prompted Michael Crichton to write the popular novel Eaters of the Dead, which was made into a film entitled The 13th Warrior. RICHARD FRYE, Harvard University, translated Fadlan’s text and provided commentary and additional documents.
Especially significant are the descriptions of burial customs, which help specialists to draw reliable ethnological parallels. The reconstruction of historical trading connections is another attraction of this edition. Highly recommended.
Middle East Studies Association Bulletin
The importance of this volume also speaks to our present geopolitical concerns. . Ibn Fadlan's journey through Central Asia during this formative period counters this fallacy by foregrounding the ongoing and necessary negotiation of culture, ethnicity, language, and religion in an economic and political context.
— Bernadette Andrea