Ibn Batuta

Ibn Batuta
Ibn Batuta

Ibn Batuta (also Ibn Battuta), Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd Alah, born in Tangier, Morocco, was one of the greatest Arab travelers in the 14th century. A descendant of a scholarly family that produced many judges, he was educated in Tangier. As other travelers from Morocco, he began his travels by undertaking a pilgrimage to Mecca and to centers of learning in Egypt and Syria. But he soon became restless and wished to explore other parts of the world.

For some 28 years Ibn Batuta traveled to many countries in the Islamic world, to Armenia, Georgia, the Volga region, Central Asia, Constantinople, India, the Maldives, Indonesia, parts of China, and East and West Africa. He performed his pilgrimage to Mecca four different times. It is from Ibn Batuta’s journals that we know so much of these lands in his time.

During his travels he became acquainted with sultans and rulers in many parts of the world. At times he held important positions in foreign lands and became an influential judge in Delhi during the rule of Muhammad Tughluq. He also played an important role in the Maldives. In 1353 he returned to Morocco.

At the request of the sultan he dictated his book Rihla to a writer by the name of Ibn Juzzay, who died in 1355 after having completed and edited the text. At the end of his life Ibn Batuta served as a judge in a Moroccan town and was buried in Tangier.

Since someone else wrote Ibn Batuta’s travel account, it is difficult to ascertain at times his own voice or character. It is likely that Ibn Juzzay was not altogether faithful to what he heard from his interlocutor; furthermore, one must be careful about the traveler’s memory in reconstructing past events, episodes, and dates. Ibn Batuta’s travel account is a major medieval document that sheds light on the historical, cultural, and social life in many parts of the world, particularly India, the Maldives, Asia Minor, and East and West Africa.

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