The Journey

Background image: Map of Ibn Battuta's Journeys

Across North Africa to Cairo: 1325

"My departure from Tangier, my birthplace, took place ... with the object of making the Pilgrimage to the Holy House [at Mecca] and of visiting the tomb of the Prophet [in Medina], God's richest blessing and peace be on him..." [Gibb, p. 8]

In Cairo: 1326

"I arrived ... at the city of Cairo, mother of cities ... mistress of broad provinces and fruitful lands, boundless in multitude of buildings, peerless in beauty and splendor, the meeting-place of comer and goer, the stopping-place of feeble and strong. ...She [Cairo] surges as the waves of the sea with her throngs of folk and can scarce contain them..." [Gibb, vol. I, p. 41].

Cairo to Jerusalem, Damascus, Medina, and Mecca: 1326

 Cairo to Damascus "From Gaza I travelled to the city of Abraham [Hebron], the mosque of which is of elegant, but substantial, construction, imposing and loft, and built of squared stones. . . It is said that Solomon commanded the 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."(Gibb, p. 55.)

Iraq and Persia: 1326 - 1327

Ibn Battuta's journey to Iraq and Persia"When the afternoon prayers had been said, drums ... were beaten and the [Sufi] brethren began to dance. After this they prayed the sunset prayer and brought in the repast, consisting of rice-bread, fish, milk, and dates. When all had eaten and prayed the first night prayer, they began to recite the [prayer-songs]... They had prepared loads of firewood which they kindled into flame, and went into the midst of it dancing; some of them rolled in the fire, and others ate it in their mouths, until finally they extinguished it entirely... Some of them will take a large snake and bite its head with their teeth until they bite it clean through." [Dunn, p. 91]

The Red Sea to East Africa and the Arabian Sea: 1328 - 1330

Ibn Battuta route

The Sultan of Kilwa was called 'the generous' "on account of the multitude of his gifts and acts of generosity. He used to engage frequently in expeditions to the land of the Zinj people [villagers of the interior], raiding them and taking booty [slaves and other wealth]... He is a man of great humility; he sits with poor brethren, eats with them, and greatly respects men of religion and noble descent." [Gibb, vol. II, pp. 380 - 381]

Anatolia: 1330 - 1331

"[We] set out for the country of the Turks. ... It was conquered by the Muslims, but there are still large numbers of Christians there under the protection of the Turkmen Muslims. We traveled on the sea for ten nights, and the Christians treated us honorably and took no passage money from us. On the tenth day we arrived at Alanya [where the province begins]. This country ... is one of the finest in the world; in it God has brought together the good things dispersed throughout other lands...[Gibb, p. 415 - 416]

Lands of the Golden Horde & the Chagatai: 1332 - 1333

Ibn Battuta in the Steppe Khanates"At every halt the Turks loose their horses, oxen and camels and drive them out to pasture at liberty, night or day, without shepherds or guardians. This is due to the severity of their laws against theft. Any person found in possession of a stolen horse is obliged to restore it with nine others; if he cannot do this, his sons are taken instead, and if he has no sons he is slaughtered like a sheep." [Gibb, p. 473 - 474]

Delhi, the Capital of Muslim India: 1334 - 1341

Ibn Battuta's path through India

"The Sultan was far too free in shedding blood... [He] used to punish small faults and great, without respect of persons, whether men of learning or piety or noble descent. Every day there are brought to the audience-hall hundreds of people, chained, pinioned, and fettered, and [they] are ... executed, ...tortured, or ...beaten." [Dunn, p. 201]

Escape from Delhi to the Maldive Islands and Sri Lanka: 1341 - 1344

Ibn Battuta route from India to Sri Lanka and Maldives

"It is easy to marry in these islands because of the smallness of the dowries and the pleasures of society which the women offer... When the ships put in, the crew marry; when they intend to leave they divorce their wives. This is a kind of temporary marriage. The women of these islands never leave their country."

Through the Strait of Malacca to China: 1345 - 1346

Inb Battuta's route through Straights of Malacca to China

"China was beautiful, but it did not please me. On the contrary, I was greatly troubled thinking about the way paganism dominated this country. Whenever I went out of my lodging, I saw many blameworthy things. That disturbed me so much that I stayed indoors most of the time and only went out when necessary. During my stay in China, whenever I saw any Muslims I always felt as though I were meeting my own family and close kinsmen." [Dunn, p. 258]

Return Home: 1346 - 1349

Ibn Battuta return journey"The people fasted for three successive days... [Then all the people] assembled in the Great mosque until it was filled to overflowing... and spent the night there in prayers... Then, after performing the dawn prayer..., they all went out [barefoot] together... carrying Korans in their hands. The entire population of the city joined... The Jews went out with their book of the law and the Christians with the Gospel... [all] of them in tears . . . imploring the favor of God through His Books and His Prophets." [Gibb, p. 143-144]

On to al-Andalus and Morocco: 1349 - 1350

Ibn Battuta's route in Spain and Mali

Thence [from Malaga] I went to on the city of Gharnata [Granada], the metropolis of Andalusia and the bride of its cities. Its environs have not their equal in any country in the world. They extend for the space of forty miles, and are traversed by the celebrated river of Shannil [Xenil] and many other streams. Around it on every side are orchards, gardens, flowery meads, noble buildings, and vineyards. One of the most beautiful places there is "Ayn ad-dama" [the Fountain of Tears], which is a hill covered with gardens and orchards and has no parallel in any other country. [from Gibb]

Journey to Mali: 1350 - 1351

Ibn Battuta's Journey in West Africa

"[The sultan] has a lofty pavilion ... where he sits most of the time... There came forth from the gate of the palace about 300 slaves, some carrying in their hands bows and others having in their hands short lances and shields... Then two saddled and bridled horses are brought, with two rams which, they say, are effective against the evil eye... The interpreter stands at the gate of the council-place wearing fine garments of silk... and on his head a turban with fringes which they have a novel way of winding..." [Dunn, p. 302]

Writing the Rihla: 1355

Ibn Battuta's Journey in West Africa

Ibn Battuta was commanded to "dictate an account of the cities which he had seen in his travel, and of the interesting events which had clung to his memory, and that he should speak of those whom he had met of the rulers of countries, of their distinguished men of learning, and of their pious saints." [From the introduction to The Rihla, transcribed by Ibn Juzayy, 1354.]