For sheer distance covered, however, Polo trails far behind the Muslim scholar Ibn Battuta. Though little known outside the Islamic world, Battuta spent half his life tramping across vast swaths of the Eastern Hemisphere. Moving by sea, by camel caravan and on foot, he ventured into over 40 modern day nations, often putting himself in extreme danger just to satisfy his wanderlust. When he finally returned home after 29 years, he recorded his escapades in a hulking travelogue known as the Rihla.
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Writing the Rihla: Writing the Rihla: 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. He wanted to have these stories written down for the amusement of his family and others. Travel writing, especially accounts of the Hajj, were a popular form of writing at the time.
So 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. Ibn Juzayy must have been excited about such a task! He was to put the stories into the proper form of a travel book, called a "rihla.
And so began the retelling of his adventures that had begun twenty-nine years before. Ibn Battuta wove his observations and hearsay, history and odds and ends into his story. His book, like many travel accounts, melded his own experience with that of earlier travelers and his own experiences with hearsay from people he met on the road.
Maybe Ibn Battuta exaggerated his own importance to people he met. After all, he was just a traveler with little formal education. One famous biographer of the time had met Ibn Battuta in Granada and said that he was, "purely and simply a liar. One advisor to the Sultan in al-Andalus said, "Be careful not to reject such information about the condition of dynasties, because you have not seen such things yourself.
However, it was copied by hand and the whole book or shortened versions could be found in some libraries, or carried around by travelers who followed on parts of his trips. It was not until the 19th century that European scholars found some of the Arabic books and translated them into French, German, and then English. Once it was translated the book began to receive the widespread attention it deserves as a record of history. This is an important sidenote: historical research depends on multi-lingual people who can read texts in one language and translate them into others, thus making information from the past available to wider audiences.
Consider all the documents you have ever read from early English history, Greek or Roman history, Chinese or Indian or Aztec history, etc. Every time you encounter an English version of a text in a book or on the internet, it is the result of a diligent multi-lingual scholar who translated it from its original language possibly an ancient, dead language into English. And what happened to Ibn Battuta after he told his story in the palace of the Sultan?
Little is known about this period of his life. Perhaps he married again and fathered more children. Perhaps he entertained scholars and students with his stories, as he had entertained kings, commoners, and holy men on three continents. Ibn Battuta died in or Tour guides in Tangier take tourists to see an unmarked grave that they claim to be his, but no one can confirm it as his final resting place. The photograph comes from the blog of a modern traveller - the current version of the type of rihla that Ibn Battuta produced in the 14th century.
This person decided to make a trip specifically in the footsteps of Ibn Battuta. Click on the image to read about his experiences. Today Ibn Battuta is somewhat famous. A crater on the moon is named after him, as is an Internet online matchmaking service for Arab singles! As you see from the image above on the right, his journey has inspired modern people to travel and see the world.
Why Moroccan Scholar Ibn Battuta May Be the Greatest Explorer of all Time
As travel[ edit ] The Rihla travel practice originated in Middle Ages Morocco and served to connect Muslims of Morocco to the collective consciousness of the ummah across the Islamic world, thereby generating a larger sense of community. Rihla consists of three types:  Rihla - journey within Morocco, typically to meet with other pilgrims before traveling beyond the local area. Rihla hijaziyya - journey to the Hejaz which would be transmitted via an oral or written report. Rihla sifariyya - journey to foreign lands including to embassies and missions in territories in Dar al-Harb. Events on these journeys would be the basis of the extant travel literature. The performance of Rihla was considered in Moorish al-Andalus as a qualifier for teachers and political leaders.
First pilgrimage[ edit ] In June , at the age of twenty-one, Ibn Battuta set off from his hometown on a hajj , or pilgrimage, to Mecca , a journey that would ordinarily take sixteen months. He would not see Morocco again for twenty-four years. So I braced my resolution to quit my dear ones, female and male, and forsook my home as birds forsake their nests. My parents being yet in the bonds of life, it weighed sorely upon me to part from them, and both they and I were afflicted with sorrow at this separation. He took a bride in the town of Sfax ,  the first in a series of marriages that would feature in his travels. He met two ascetic pious men in Alexandria. One was Sheikh Burhanuddin who is supposed to have foretold the destiny of Ibn Battuta as a world traveller saying "It seems to me that you are fond of foreign travel.