The Travels of Ibn Battuta: in the Near East, Asia and Africa, 1325-1354

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In 1326, Ibn Battuta began a pilgrimage to Mecca that ended 27 years and 75,000 miles later. His engrossing account of that journey provides vivid scenes from Morocco, southern Russia, India, China, and elsewhere. "Essential reading . . . the ultimate in real life adventure stories." — History in Review.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486437651
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 12/17/2004
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 701,708
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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The Travels of IBN Battuta in the Near East, Asia and Africa 1325â?"1354

By Samuel Lee

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-43765-1


Tanjiers—Tilimsan—Milyana—Algiers—Bijaya—Kosantina—Buna—Tunis— Susa—Sajakus—Kabis—Tripoli—Meslata, &c.

In the name of the compassionate and merciful God.

Praise be ascribed to God the lord of worlds; and the blessing of God be upon our Lord Mohammed, and upon all his posterity and companions. But to proceed: The poor, and needy of the forgiveness of his bountiful lord, Mohammed Ibn Fat,h Allah El Bailuni states, that the following is what he extracted from the epitome of the Katib Mohammed Ibn Jazzi El Kelbi (upon whom be the mercy of God), from the travels of the theologian Abu Abd Allah Mohammed Ibn Abd Allah El Lawati of Tanjiers known by the surname of Ibn Batuta: and, that he did not extract any thing except what was strange and unknown, or, known by report, but not believed on account of its rarity, and the frequent carelessness of historians in delivering down what has been reported, but what he himself considered as true, in consequence of the fidelity of the Traveller, and because he had written what he believed to be credible from histories of various nations and countries; and, because that which has been reported by faithful witnesses, generally receives credit and excites inquiry. Some of his statements, indeed, are opposed to the statements of others; as, for instance, his accounts of what he saw of the aromatic roots of Hindustan, which differ from those given by the physicians: and yet his accounts are probably the true ones.

The Sheikh Ibn Batuta, the author of these travels, left his native city, Tanjiers, for the purpose of performing the pilgrimage in the 725th year of the Hejira (A.D. 1324-5). I shall mention here only the names of some of the districts through which he passed, although this may contribute but little towards impressing the reader with the greatness of his courage, his religious confidence, or his indefatigable perseverance, in overcoming the difficulties of passing deserts and of crossing mountains.

The first city, therefore, at which he arrived, was Tilimsan; the next Milyana; the next El Jazaer (Algiers): the next Bijaya; the next Kosantina the next Buna; the next Tunis; the next Sawsa; the next Safakus.

Ibn Jazzi El Kelbi states, that on this place the following verses were written by Ibn Habib El Tenukhi.

May showers enrich thy happy soil,
Fair land, where fanes and towers arise:
On thee let sainted pilgrims pour
The richest blessings of the skies.
The wave that round thy bosom plays,
Conscious of its endeared retreat,
When the rude tempest rocks thy domes,
In sighs resigns its happy seat.
Yet urged another glance to steal
Of thy loved form so good so fair,
Flies to avoid the painful view
Of rival lovers basking thence.

And, on the other hand, Abu Abd Allah Mohammed Ibn Abi Temim has said:

See the swelling angry tide,
Rage and beat against her side:
But, only ask a moment's stay,—
It hisses, foams, and rolls away.

The next city was that of Kabis; the next Tarabulus (Tripoli). Ibn Batuta has stated, that he then passed on to Meslata and Mesurata, and Kasura Suit (or Palaces of Surt). We then passed, says he, the low grounds (which may also mean the Forest), and proceeded to the palace of Barsis the devotee, to the Kubbat El Islam, and to the city of Alexandria, where we saw one of its most learned men, the judge Fakhr Oddin El Riki, whose grandfather is said to have been an inhabitant of Rika. This man was exceedingly assiduous in acquiring learning: he travelled to Hejaz, and thence to Alexandria, where he arrived in the evening of the day. He was rather poor, and would not enter the city until he had witnessed some favourable omen. He sat, accordingly, near the gate, until all the persons had gone in, and it was nearly time for closing the gate. The keeper of the gate was irritated at his delay, and said to him ironically, enter Mr. Judge. He replied, yes, judge! if that be God's will. After this he entered one of the colleges, and attended to reading, following the example of others who had attained to eminence, until his name and reputation for modesty and religion reached the ears of the king of Egypt. About this time the judge of Alexandria died. The number of learned men in Alexandria who expected this appointment was large: but of these, the sheikh was one who entertained no expectations of it. The Sultan, however, sent it to him; and he was admitted to the office, which he filled with great integrity and moderation; and hence obtained great fame.


Alexandria—Taruja—Damanhur—Fawwah—Fariskur—Ashmun El Romman— Samanud—Caïro.

One of the greatest saints in Alexandria, at this time, was the learned and pious Imam, Borhan Oddin El Aaraj, a man who had the power of working miracles. I one day went in to him, when he said, I perceive that you are fond of travelling into various countries. I said yes; although I had at that time no intention of travelling into very distant parts. He replied, you must visit my brother Farid Oddin in India, and my brother Rokn Oddin Ibn Zakarya in Sindia, and also my brother Borhan Oddin in China: and, when you see them, present my compliments to them. I was astonished at what he said, and determined with myself to visit those countries: nor did I give up my purpose till I had met all the three mentioned by him, and presented his compliments to them.

Another singular man was the Sheikh Yakut, the Abyssinian, disciple of the Sheikh Abu Abbas El Mursi. This Abu Abbas was the disciple of the servant of God, Abu El Hasan El Shadali, &c. author of the Hizb El Bahr, famous for his piety and miracles. I was told by the Sheikh Yakut, from his preceptor Abu El Abbas El Mursi, that the Sheikh Abu El Hasan El Shadhali performed the pilgrimage annually, making his way through Upper Egypt, and passing over to Mecca, in the month of Rejeb, and so remaining there till the conclusion of the pilgrimage: that he visited the holy tomb, and returned by the great passage to his city. On one of these occasions, and which happened to be the last, he said to his servant, Get together an axe, a casket, and some spice, and whatever is necessary for the interment of a dead body. The servant replied: and why, Sir, should I do this? He rejoined, you shall see Homaitara. Now Homaitara is situated in Upper Egypt; it is a stage in the great desert of Aidhab, in which there is a well of very pernicious and poisonous water. When he had got to Homaitara the Sheikh bathed himself, and had performed two of the prostrations of his prayers, when he died: he was then buried there. Ibn Batuta states that he visited the tomb, and saw upon it an inscription tracing his pedigree up to Hosain the son of Ali.

I heard, continues the Traveller, in Alexandria, by the Sheikh El Salih El Aabid El Munfik, of the character of Abu Abd Allah El Murshidi, and that he was one of the great interpreting saints secluded in the Minyat of Ibn Murshed: and that he had there a cell, but was without either servant or companion. Here he was daily visited by emirs, viziers, and crowds of other people, whose principal object it was to eat with him. He accordingly gave them food, such as they severally wished to have, of victuals, fruit, or sweetmeats: a circumstance which has seldom taken place in any days but his. To him also do the learned come for patents of office, or dismissal. These were his constant and well-known practices. The Sultan of Egypt too, El Malik El Nasir, often visited him in his cell.

I then left Alexandria (says the Traveller) with the intention of visiting this Sheikh (may God bless him), and got to the village of Taruja, then to the city of Damanhur the metropolis of the Delta; then to Fawwah not far from which is the cell of the Sheikh Abu Abd Allah El Murshidi. I went to it and entered, when the Sheikh arose and embraced me. He then brought out victuals and ate with me. After this I slept upon the roof of his cell, and saw in a dream the same night, myself placed on the wings of a great bird, which fled away with me towards the temple at Mecca. He then verged towards Yemen; then towards the east: he then took his course to the south. After this he went far away into the east, and alighted with me safely in the regions of darkness (or arctic regions), where he left me.

I was astonished at this vision, and said to myself, no doubt the Sheikh will interpret it for me, for he is said to do things of this sort. When the morning had arrived, and I was about to perform my devotions, the Sheikh made me officiate; after this, his usual visitors, consisting of emirs, viziers, and others, made their calls upon him, and took their leave, after each had received a small cake from him.

When the prayer at noon was over he called me, I then told him my dream, and he interpreted it for me. He said, you will perform the pilgrimage, and visit the tomb of the Prophet; you will then traverse the countries of Yemen, Irak, Turkey, and India, and will remain in these some time. In India you will meet with my brother sDilshad, who will save you from a calamity, into which you will happen to fall. He then provided me with some dried cakes and some dirhems, and I bade him farewell. Since I left him, I experienced nothing but good fortune in my travels; but never met with a person like him, except my Lord El Wali Mohammed El Mowwalla, in India.

I next came to the city of E1 Nahrariat, then to E1 Mohalla El Kobra (or the great station), from this I went to El Barlas, then to Damietta, in which is the cell of the Sheikh Jamal Oddin El Sawi, leader of the sect called Karenders. These are they who shave their chins and eyebrows.

It is said, that the reason which induced the Sheikh to shave off his beard and eyebrows was the following. He was a well made and handsome man; one of the women of Sawah consequently fell in love with him; after this she was constantly sending to the Sheikh, presenting herself to him in the street, and otherwise soliciting his society: this he completely resisted. When she was tired of this, she suborned an old woman to stop him on his way to the mosque, with a sealed letter in her hand. When the Sheikh passed by her she said, Good Sir, can you read? Yes, he replied. She said, this letter has been sent to me by my son; I wish you would read it for me. He answered, I will. But when she had opened the letter she said, Good Sir, my son has a wife who is in yonder house; could I beg the favour of your reading the letter at the door, so that she may hear? To this he also assented; but, when he had got through the first door, the old woman closed it, and out came the woman with her slaves, and hung about him. They then took him into an inner apartment, and the mistress began to take liberties with him. When the Sheikh saw that there was no escaping, he said, I will do what you like: shew me a sleeping room. This she did: he then took in with him some water and a razor which he had, and shaved off his beard and both his eyebrows. He then presented himself to the woman, who, detesting both his person and his deed, ordered him to be driven out of the house. Thus, by divine providence, was his chastity preserved. This appearance he retained ever after; and every one who embraced his opinions also submitted to the shaving off of his beard and both his eyebrows.

It is also said of the Sheikh Jamal Oddin, that after he had gone to Damietta, he constantly attended the burial-grounds of that place. There was at that time in Damietta a judge, known by the surname of Ibn Omaid, who, attending one day at the funeral of one of the nobles, saw the Sheikh in the burial-ground, and said to him, you are a beastly old fellow. He replied, And you are a foolish judge, who can pass with your beast among the tombs, and know at the same time, that the respect due to a dead man, is just as great as that due to a living one. The judge replied, worse than this is your shaving off your beard. The Sheikh said, mark me: he then rubbed a little alkohol on his eye-brows, and lifting up his head, presented a great black beard, which very much astonished the judge and those with him, so that the judge descended from his mule. The Sheikh applied the alkohol the second time, and, lifting up his head, exhibited a beautiful white beard. He then applied the alkohol the third time; and, when he lifted up his head, his face was beardless as before. The judge then kissed his hand, became his disciple, and building a handsome cell for him, became his companion for the rest of his life. After a while the Sheikh died, and was buried in the cell; and when the judge died, he was buried, as it had been expressed in his will, in the door-way of the cell, so that every one who should visit the tomb of the Sheikh, would have to pass over his grave.

I then proceeded from this place to the city of Fariskur, then to Ashmun El Romman, then to the city of Samanud, then to Misr (Caïro), the principal city of its district. The Nile, which runs through this country, excels all other rivers in the sweetness of its taste, the extent of its progress, and the greatness of the benefits it confers. It is one of the five great rivers of the world, which are, itself, the Euphrates, the Tigris, the Sihun, the Jaihun (or Gihon). Five other rivers too may be compared with them, namely, the river of Sindia, which is called the Panj ab (or five waters); the river of India, which is called the Gung (or Ganges), to which the Indians perform their pilgrimages, and into which they throw the ashes of their dead when burnt: they say it descends from Paradise; also the river Jun (or Jumna): the river Athil (Volga) in the desert of Kifjak, and the river Sarv in Tartary, upon the bank of which is the city of Khan Balik, and which flows from that place to E1 Khansa, and thence to the city of Zaitun in China, of which we shall give accounts in their proper places. The course of the Nile, moreover, is in a direction from the south to the north, contrary to that of all other rivers.

When I entered Egypt the reigning prince was E1 Malik El Nasir Mohammed Ibn El Malik El Mansur Kalawun. The learned men then in Egypt were, Shams Oddin El Isphahani,§ the first man in the world in metaphysics; Rokn Oddin Ibn El Karia, one of the leaders in the same science: and the Sheikh sAthir Oddin Abu Haian of Granada, the greatest grammarian.


Excerpted from The Travels of IBN Battuta in the Near East, Asia and Africa 1325â?"1354 by Samuel Lee. Copyright © 2004 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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