Who was Ibn Battuta?
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Ibn Battuta


The travels of Ibn Battuta

May 2016 - Ibn Battuta was born in Morocco, in North Africa, in 1304 AD. He was from a rich Muslim family, and he went to the best schools in his hometown of Tangier. When Ibn Battuta was twenty years old, in 1325, he went on hajj to Mecca, as many rich young men did because all good Muslims were supposed to visit Mecca (in modern Saudi Arabia). It took him about eight or nine months to get to Mecca, and he had many adventures along the way - he got sick, he was attacked by robbers, and he even got married! Because of the dangers, he had to go part of the way by ship from Cairo north to Damascus, and then come back south to Mecca under the protection of the Mamluk army. This gave Ibn Battuta a chance to see Damascus and Jerusalem on his way.

But after Ibn Battuta got to Mecca, he decided he liked to travel and he wasn't in any hurry to go home. So in November, 1326 he left Mecca for the east. He went first to Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), where he saw the tomb of 'Ali and visited Baghdad, recently destroyed by the Mongols. Then he went on to Iran. After Iran, Ibn Battuta joined another group of people going west on hajj to Mecca, and traveled with them until he got back to Mecca. On the way he was very sick with diarrhea, and so he spent a year resting and studying in Mecca.

But in 1328, Ibn Battuta started traveling again. He left Mecca on a ship headed south, down the coast of Arabia this time. He toured Yemen on a rented camel and then a horse, and then crossed over the Red Sea to see East Africa. He sailed down the coast of East Africa, seeing the cities of Zeila and Mogadishu in Ethiopia, where people spoke mainly Swahili. Then he went even further south to Kilwa (in modern Tanzania).

From Kilwa Ibn Battuta sailed back north and east over to Oman, on the eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula. He saw traders from India, but he decided not to sail to India - yet. Instead, he went back to Mecca again for a rest. He got to Mecca in the winter of 1330.

More about Ibn Battuta

Islamic literature
More about African Literature

Bibliography and further reading:


African languages and literature
Ancient Africa
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Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter.
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