At the age of 21, Ibn Battuta began haji. One of the five pillars of the Muslim faith. With his savings, the young man of Moroccan origin went to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia . Battuta enjoyed traveling so much that for almost three decades that was exactly what he did.
He traveled about 120,000 kilometers. Which would be the same as going around the planet three times. He would have visited at least 44 countries in the current settings. Including holy places of Islam and the infamous Silk Road. In his adventures, he met the Mongols, became a judge in India, survived shipwrecks. In addition to pirate attacks. All of this has turned you into one of the most famous travelers of the middle ages.
Other than what he himself reported, we know little about Battuta’s story. The excerpts he went through on his travels were narrated by him to a professional scribe so that he could write a Rihla, Arabic literary genre of travel descriptions . However, in addition to what has been said, it is suspected that the scribe has added some other stories from other travelers.
“The writer himself also weaves his comments, warning the reader, however, about his identity. Some scholars doubt that the order of the narrative corresponds to the displacement space of Ibn Battuta and that he went to all the places he says he visited “stated the historian, José Rivair Macedo, from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul .
However, despite some exaggerations, Battuta’s reports give us a very accurate testimony about some societies located in Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia . As well as Al Andalus, a territory on the Iberian peninsula that had been dominated by Muslims.
“The report is extraordinary because Battuta not only talks about diversity in Islam, but considers groups like Hindus, who are not ahl al-kitab (who do not follow a written revelation, such as Jews and Christians). When he describes a Hindu widow being burned (on her husband’s cremation pyre), for example, he emphasizes that he passed out and nearly fell off his horse, “said Nina Berman of Ohio State University.
Before traveling, the Moroccan studied some laws. Which made it much easier for him to find work and be well received wherever he went. And speaking Arabic, communication was not a big problem for him. “Legal issues were negotiated in Arabic and he offered his services in faraway places, such as the Maldives,” Berman said.
Their testimonies often constitute the only written record of the historical existence of certain governments, kings, and courts. One of his most valuable accounts is that of Mansa Sulaiman’s reign in Mali.
“From the description one can assess the nature of the ruler’s power, the political hierarchies of the court members, the different groups leading the military forces and the rituals practiced in ancient Mali. The richness and power of the most important African state are emphasized. developed in the savannah region before the 16th century, “said Macedo.
In another moment, Battuta describes how impressed he was by the destruction caused by the advance of the Mongols across the Silk Road. Mostly about what you saw in a rich Persian city called Bukhara (where Uzbekistan is currently located). “At present his mosques, his schools and his bazaars are all in ruins but a few,” said the Moroccan of Genghis Khân’s passage through the city.
Traveling at the time was not a very easy thing. Moreover, most of the travelers were pilgrims, merchants, and soldiers. These people used to travel long distances, whether by sea or land. And, there were no tourist trips as currently. “The journey overland was slow. The poor traveled on foot and the rich on horseback or sometimes by wagon. On foot, the average traveler traveled 20 to 40 kilometers a day,” said Berman.
In addition, the roads were unpaved and bandits used to control routes, which put travelers at risk. Natural disasters also affected the routes significantly. Trips by sea or rivers were faster, but offered other risks, such as shipwrecks and pirate attacks.
Battuta also suffered from things that were quite common to other travelers. “He became ill several times, got lost in a sandstorm in Anatolia (present-day Turkey), was captured by bandits in India and was almost executed by the Sultan of Delhi,” said Ross E. Dunn, a professor at San Diego State University.
“He was also in a boat invaded by pirates, who abandoned him with only his clothes, was hit by an arrow in the shoulder by bandits and sank in the Indian Ocean. But he escaped from contracting the Black Death, an infectious disease that swept the Middle East and the North. of Africa during the middle of the 14th century. ”
Due to the short time spent in the places he visited, it is assumed that Battuta was not motivated by financial matters. Thus, it is believed that his travels were motivated by a taste for adventure and curiosity. Which came to an end when he died, approximately 1368, at 64, in his homeland.
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