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BE ER a 






A MuslimTraveler of the 4tbCentury 


© 1986 Ross E. Dunn 

Croom Helm Ltd, Provident House, Burrell Row, 
Beckenham, Kent BR3 1AT 

Croom Helm Australia Pty Ltd, Suite 4, 6th Floor, 
64-76 Kippax Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010 Australia 

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data 

Dunn, Ross E. 
The adventures of Ibn Battuta: a Muslim 
traveler of the fourteenth century. 
1. Ibn Battuta, Abu ‘Abdallah Muhammad 
2. Asia —— Description and travel 
3. Africa Description and travel —— 
To 1900 
I. Title 
915'.042’0924 DS6 

ISBN 0-7099-081 1-3 

Printed and bound in Great Britain by Mackays of Chatham Ltd, Kent 

For Jordan and Jocelyn 

I met in [Brusa] the pious shaykh ’ Abdallah al-Misri, the traveler, 
and a man of saintly life. He journeyed through the earth, but he 
never went into China nor the island of Ceylon, nor the Maghrib, 
nor al-Andalus, nor the Negrolands, so that I have outdone him by 
visiting these regions. 

Ibn Battuta 


List of Maps 


The Muslim Calendar 
A Note on Money 
List of Abbreviations Used in Footnotes 
1. Tangier 
2. The Maghrib 
3. The Mamluks 
4. Mecca 
5. Persia and Iraq 
6. The Arabian Sea 
7. Anatolia 
8. The Steppe 
9. Delhi 
10. Malabar and the Maldives 
11. China 
12. Home 
13. Mali 
14. The Rihla 









1. Cities of Eurasia and Africa in the Fourteenth Century 2 
2. Region of the Strait of Gibraltar 14 
3. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Northern Africa, 1325-26 28 
4. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Egypt, Syria and Arabia, 
1325-26 4) 
5. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Persia and Iraq, 1326-27 82 
6. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Arabia and East Africa, 
1328-30 (1330-32) 107 
7. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Anatolia and the Black Sea 
Region, 1330-32 (1332-34) 138 
8. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Central Asia and Afghanistan, 
1332-33 (1334-35) 175 
9. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in India, Ceylon and the Maldive 
Islands, 1333-45 184 
10. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Southeast Asia and China, 
134546 256 
11. Ibn Battuta’s Return Itinerary from China to North 
Africa, 1346-49 267 
12. Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in North Africa, Spain and West 
Africa, 1349-54 277 



Staring at the wall of my windowless office one day in 1976, | 
suddenly got the idea to write this book. I was teaching world 
history to undergraduates and trying to give them an idea of Islam 
in the medieval age as a civilization whose cultural dominance 
extended far beyond the Middle East or the lands inhabited by 
Arabs. It. occurred to me that the life of Abu ‘Abdallah ibn 
Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveler of the fourteenth century, 
wonderfully illustrated the internationalist scope of Islamic civiliz- 
ation. He toured not only the central regions of Islam but also its 
far frontiers in India, Indonesia, Central Asia, East Africa, and 
the West African Sudan. The travel book he produced at the end 
of his career is both a tale of high adventure and an expansive 
portrait of the eminently cosmopolitan world of Muslim princes, 
merchants, scholars, and holy men within which he moved during 
29 years on the road. 

Since the mid nineteenth century, when translations of his 
Arabic narrative began to appear in Western languages, Ibn 
Battuta has been well known among specialists in Islamic and 
medieval history. But no scholar had attempted to retell his re- 
markable story to a general audience. For the non-specialist inter- 
ested in medieval Islam and the attitudes and preoccupations of its 
intellectual class the narrative can be absorbing. But the modern 
reader is also likely to find it puzzlingly organized, archaic, and to 
some degree unintelligible. My idea, therefore, has been to bring 
Ibn Battuta’s adventure to general readers and to interpret it 
within the rich, trans-hemispheric cultural setting of medieval 
Islam. My hope is not only that the Moroccan journeyer will 
become as well known in the Western world as Marco Polo is but 
that readers will also gain a sharper and more panoramic view of 
the forces that made the history of Eurasia and Africa in the 
fourteenth century an interconnected whole. Ibn Battuta, we shall 
see, was a kind of citizen of the Eastern Hemisphere. The global 
interdependence of the late twentieth century would be less 
startling to him than we might suppose. 

Almost everything we know about Ibn Battuta the man is to be 


x Preface 

found in his own work, called the Rihla, which ts readily available 
in printed Arabic editions, as well as translations in English and 
several other languages. I have not rummaged about ancient 
manuscript collections in Fez, Damascus, or Delhi to piece his life 
together since, in so far as anyone knows, no such manuscripts 
exist. Indeed, this book, part biography and part cultural history 
of the second quarter of the fourteenth century, is a work of 
synthesis. In tracing Ibn Battuta’s footsteps through the equivalent 
of some 44 modern countries, I have relied on a wide range of 
published literature. 

I first became interested in Ibn Battuta when I spent the better 
part of a year translating portions of the narrative in a graduate 
school Arabic class. I have come to this project, however, with a 
modest training in that beautiful and intractable language. I have 
used printed Arabic editions of the Rihla to clarify various prob- 
lems of nomenclature and textual meaning, but I have largely 
depended on the major English or French translations in relating 
and interpreting Ibn Battuta’s career. 

The Rihla is not a daily diary or a collection of notes that Ibn 
Battuta jotted in the course of his travels. Rather it is a work of 
literature, part autobiography and part descriptive compendium, 
that was written at the end of his career. In composing the book, 
Ibn Battuta (and Ibn Juzayy, the literary scholar who collaborated 
with him) took far less care with details of itinerary, dates, and the 
sequence of events than the modern “scientific” mind would con- 
sider acceptable practice for a travel writer. Consequently, the 
historian attempting to reconstruct the chronology of Ibn Battuta’s 
journeys must confront numerous gaps, inconsistencies, and 
puzzles, some of them baffling. Fortunately, the textual problems 
of the Rihla have sustained the attention of historians, linguists, 
philologists, and geographers for more than a century. In trying to 
untangle Ibn Battuta’s movements from one end of the Eastern 
Hemisphere to the other, I have therefore relied heavily on the 
existing corpus of textual commentary. Given the scope and pur- 
pose of this book, I could not do otherwise, since any further 
progress in solving remaining problems of chronology, itinerary, 
authenticity, and place name identification would require 
laborious research in fourteenth-century documentary sources. I 
have, however, tried to address the major difficulties in using the 
Rihla as a biographical record of events. Most of this discussion 
has been confined to footnotes in order to avoid digressions into 

Preface xi 

technicalities that would break annoyingly into the story or tax the 
interest of some general readers. 

In this age of the “docu-drama” and the “non-fiction novel,” | 
should also state explicitly that I have in no deliberate way 
fictionalized Ibn Battuta’s life story. The words that he speaks, the 
attitudes that he holds, the actions that he takes are either drawn 
directly from the Rihla or can be readily inferred from it or other 
historical sources. 

This book is my interpretation of Ibn Battuta’s life and times 
and not a picture of the fourteenth century “through his eyes.” It is 
not a commentary on his encyclopedic observations, not, in other 
words, a book about his book. Its subject matter does, however, 
largely reflect his social experience and cultural perceptions. He 
was a literate, urbane gentleman interested for the most part in the 
affairs of other literate, urbane gentlemen. Though as a pious 
Muslim he by no means despised the poor, he did not often 
associate with peasants, herdsmen, or city working folk. Nor does 
he have much to say about them in the Rihla. Moreover, he 
traveled in the circles of world-minded men for whom the univer- 
salist values and cosmopolitan institutions of Islam — the 
mosques, the colleges, the palaces — were more important than 
the parochial customs and loyalties that constricted the cultural 
vision of the great majority. Some readers, therefore, will not fail 
to notice two conceptual biases. One is that political and cultural 
elites dominate the story at the expense of “the little man,” even 
though the social history of ordinary Muslim folk is no less worthy 
of the historian’s attention. The other is that the cosmopolitan 
tendencies within Islamic civilization are our primary theme rather 
than the admittedly great cultural diversity among Muslim 
peoples, even though one of the strengths of an expanding Islam 
was its successful adaptability to local patterns of culture. 

A few technical matters need to be mentioned. In order to 
simplify the footnote apparatus, I have not for the most part given 
page citations for direct quotes from English translations of the 
Rihla. Unless otherwise noted, quotations are taken from the 
published translations as follows: Chapters 1-8 and 14, H.A.R. 
Gibb, The Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D. 1325-1354, 3 vols.; 
Chapters 9-11, Agha Mahdi Husain, The Rehla of Ibn Battuta, and 
Chapter 13, N. Levtzion and J.F.P. Hopkins (eds.), Corpus of 
Early Arabic Sources for West African History. For the sake of 
uniformity I have made a few orthographic changes in quotations 

xii Preface 

from the RiAla translations. I have “americanized” the spelling of a 
number of English words (e.g., “favor” rather than “favour”), and 
I have changed the spelling of a few Arabic terms (e.g., “Koran” 
rather than “Qur’an” and “vizier” rather than “vizir” or “wazir”). 
In transliterating Arabic terms, I have eliminated all diacritical 
marks, excepting “’” to indicate the two Arabic letters “hamza” 
and “ayn.” 


Ibn Battuta has led me so far and wide in the Eastern Hemisphere 
that in the course of writing this book I have asked for advice and 
criticism from an unusually large number of scholars and col- 
leagues. I cannot mention them all, but I would like to thank the 
following individuals for reading and criticizing, sometimes in 
great detail, all or part of the manuscript: Jere Bacharach, 
Edmund Burke, P.C. Chu, Julia Clancy-Smith, Michael Dols. 
Jeanne Dunn, Richard Eaton, G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, 
Kathryn Green, David Hart, James Kirkman, Howard Kushner, 
Ira Lapidus, Michael Meeker, David Morgan, William Phillips, 
Charles Smith, Ray Smith, Peter von Sivers, and Robert Wilson. | 
am especially grateful for the enduring support of Professor C. F. 
Beckingham, a man of learning and urbanity with whom Ibn 
Battuta would have found much in common. If I failed to under- 
stand or heed good advice these individuals gave me, I alone bear 
the responsibility. 

I am grateful to the National Endowment for the Humanities for 
awarding me a fellowship that funded research and writing in 
1980-81. During that year I enjoyed the privilege of affiliation 
with the Middle East Centre at Cambridge University, thanks to 
Professor R.B. Serjeant and Dr Robin Bidwell. I am also inde- 
bted to the Fellows of Clare Hall for extending me membership in 
the college as a Visiting Associate. San Diego State University 
generously supported this project with a sabbatical leave and 
several small grants. For research assistance or typing services | 
would like to express my appreciation to Lorin Birch, Veronica 
King, Richard Knight, Helen Lavey, and Jill Swalling Harrington. 
Finally, I want to thank Barbara Aguado for making the maps. 


The Muslim Calendar 

Ibn Battuta reports the dates of his travels according to the Muslim 
calendar, which is based on the cycles of the moon. The Muslim 
year is divided into twelve lunar months of 29 or 30 days each. The 
year is approximately 354 days long, that is, ten or eleven days 
shorter than a solar year. Consequently, dates of the Muslim 
calendar have no fixed relationship either to dates of the 
Gregorian (Western) calendar or to seasons of the year. For 
example, Christmas is always celebrated in winter in Europe and 
the United States. By contrast, a Muslim religious holiday will, 
over time, occur in all four seasons of the year. The base-year of 
the Muslim calendar is 622 A.D., when the Prophet Muhammad 
and his followers made the Aijra, or “migration,” from Mecca to 
Medina. The abbreviation A.H., for anno Hejirae, denotes years 
of the Muslim calendar. In this book I have given key dates 
according to both calendars. Converting precise dates from one 
system to the other requires the use of a formula and a series of 
tables. These may be found in G.S.P. Freeman-Grenville, The 
Muslim and Christian Calendars (London, 1963). 
The Muslim lunar months are as follows: 

Muharram Rajab 

Safar Sha’ban 
Rabi’ al-awwal (Rabi? I) Ramadan 
Rabi’ al-thani (Rabi? II) Shawwal 
Jumada |-ula (Jumada I) Dhu 1|-Qa’da 
Jumada |-akhira (Jumada II) Dhu 1-Hijja 


A Note on Money 

In the course of his career Ibn Battuta received numerous gifts and 
salary payments in gold or silver coins. He usually refers to these 
coins as dinars, though sometimes distinguishing between “gold 
dinars” and “silver dinars.” In the early Islamic centuries the 
weight of a gold dinar was set at 4.25 grams. In [bn Battuta’s time, 
however, the weight and fineness of both gold and silver coins, as 
well as the exchange rate between them, varied greatly from one 
period or country to the next. It would be futile, therefore, to 
express the value of money he received in terms of modern dollars 
or pounds sterling. In fourteenth-century India, where he was paid 
large sums from the public treasury, a “silver dinar” (or silver 
tanka) was valued at about one-tenth of a gold dinar. 

Abbreviations Used in Footnotes 

D&S C. Défrémery and B.R. Sanguinetti (trans. and eds.), 
Voyages d’Ibn Battuta, 4 vols. (Paris 1853-58; reprint 

edn., Vincent Monteil (ed.), Paris, 1979) 

EI, Encyclopaedia of Islam, ist edn., 4 vols. (Leiden, 


EI, Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd edn., 5 vols. (Leiden, 1954; 

~ London, 1956-) 

Gb H.A.R. Gibb (trans. and ed.), The Travels of Ibn Battuta 
A.D, 1325-1354. Translated with Revisions and Notes 
from the Arabic Text Edited by C. Défrémery and B. R. 
Sanguinetti, 3 vols. (Cambridge for the Hakluyt Society, 

1958, 1961, 1971) 

H&K Said Hamdun and Noel King (trans. and eds.), /bn Battuta 

in Black Africa (London, 1975) 

Hr Ivan Hrbek, “The Chronology of Ibn Battuta’s Travels,” 

Archiv Orientalni 30 (1962): 409-86 
IB Ibn Battuta 

L&H N. Levtzion and J.F.P. Hopkins (trans. and eds.), 
Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History 

(New York, 1981) 

MH ~~ Agha Mahdi Husain (trans. and ed.), The Rehla of Ibn 

Battuta (Baroda, India, 1976) 



Westerners have singularly narrowed the history of the 
world in grouping the little that they knew about the 
expansion of the human race around the peoples of Israel, 
Greece and Rome. Thus have they ignored all those 
travellers and explorers who in their ships ploughed the 
China Sea and the Indian Ocean, or rode across the 
immensities of Central Asia to the Persian Gulf. In truth 
the larger part of the globe, containing cultures different 
from those of the ancient Greeks and Romans but no less 
civilized, has remained unknown to those who wrote the 
history of their little world under the impression that they 
were writing world history. ' 

Henri Cordier 

Abu ‘Abdallah ibn Battuta has been rightly celebrated as the 
greatest traveler of premodern times. He was born into a family of 
Muslim legal scholars in Tangier, Morocco, in 1304 during the era 
of the Marinid dynasty. He studied law as a young man and in 1325 
left his native town to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to the sacred 
city of Mecca in Arabia. He took a year and a half to reach his 
destination, visiting North Africa, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria 
along the way. After completing his first hajj in 1326, he toured 
Iraq and Persia, then returned to Mecca. In 1328 (or 1330) he 
embarked upon a sea voyage that took him down the eastern coast 
of Africa as far south as the region of modern Tanzania. On his 
return voyage he visited Oman and the Persian Gulf and returned 
to Mecca again by the overland route across central Arabia. 

In 1330 (or 1332) he ventured to go to India to seek employment 
in the government of the Sultanate of Delhi. Rather than taking 
the normal ocean route across the Arabian Sea to the western 
coast of India, he traveled north through Egypt and Syria to Asia 
Minor. After touring that region, he crossed the Black Sea to the 
plains of West Central Asia. He then, owing to fortuitous circum- 
stances, made a westward detour to visit Constantinople, capital of 


Map |: Cities of Eurasia and Africa in the Fourteenth Century 

New Saray , 7 Karakorum 


“Constantinople : ¢ oamarkand 

. Isfahan Hangchou 


‘ Medina 

; Mecca 

¢ Fimbuktu 



Introduction 3 

the Byzantine Empire, in the company of a Turkish princess. 
Returning to the Asian steppes, he traveled eastward through 
Transoxiana, Khurasan, and Afghanistan, arriving at the banks of 
the Indus River in September 1333 (or 1335). 

He spent eight years in India, most of that time occupying a post 
as a qadi, or judge, in the government of Muhammad Tughlug, 
Sultan of Delhi. In 1341 the king appointed him to lead a diploma- 
tic mission to the court of the Mongol emperor of China. The 
expedition ended disastrously in shipwreck off the southwestern 
coast of India, leaving Ibn Battuta without employment or res- 
ources. For a little more than two years he traveled about southern 
India, Ceylon, and the Maldive Islands, where he served for about 
eight months as a qgadi under the local Muslim dynasty. Then, 
despite the failure of his ambassadorial mission, he resolved in 
1345 to go to China on his own. Traveling by sea, he visited 
Bengal, the coast of Burma, and the island of Sumatra, then con- 
tinued on to Canton. The extent of his visit to China is uncertain 
but was probably limited to the southern coastal region. 

In 1346-47 he returned to Mecca by way of South India, the 
Persian Gulf, Syria, and Egypt. After performing the ceremonies 
of the hajj one last time, he set a course for home. Traveling by 
both land and sea, he arrived in Fez, the capital of Morocco, late 
in 1349. The following year he made a brief trip across the Strait of 
Gibraltar to the Muslim kingdom of Granada. Then, in 1353, he 
undertook his final adventure, a journey by camel caravan across 
the Sahara Desert to the Kingdom of Mali in the West African 
Sudan. In 1355 he returned to Morocco to stay. In the course of a 
career on the road spanning almost thirty years, he crossed the 
breadth of the Eastern Hemisphere, visited territories equivalent 
to about 44 modern countries, and put behind him a total distance 
of approximately 73,000 miles.” 

Early in 1356 Sultan Abu ’Inan, the Marinid ruler of Morocco, 
commissioned Ibn Juzayy, a young literary scholar of Andalusian 
origin, to record Ibn Battuta’s experiences, as well as his ob- 
servations about the Islamic world of his day, in the form of a 
rihla, or book of travels. As a type of Arabic literature, the rihla 
attained something of a flowering in North Africa between the 
twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The best known examples of the 
genre recounted a journey from the Maghrib to Mecca, informing 
and entertaining readers with rich descriptions of the pious in- 
stitutions, public monuments, and religious personalities of the 

4 Introduction 

great cities of Islam.° Ibn Battuta and Ibn Juzayy collaborated for 
about two years to compose their work, the longest and in terms of its 
subject matter the most complex rihla to come out of North Africa in 
the medieval age. His royal charge completed, Ibn Battuta retired toa 
judicial post in a Moroccan provincial town. He died in 1368. 

Written in the conventional literary style of the time, Ibn Battuta’s 
Rihla is a comprehensive survey of the personalities, places, gov- 
ernments, customs, and curiosities of the Muslim world in the second 
quarter of the fourteenth century. It is also the record of a dramatic 
personal adventure. In the four centuries after Ibn Battuta’s death, the 
Rihla circulated, mostly in copied manuscript abridgments of Ibn 
Juzayy’s original text, among people of learning in North Africa, West 
Africa, Egypt, and perhaps other Muslim lands where Arabic was 

The book was unknown outside Islamic countries until the early 
nineteenth century, when two German scholars published separately 
translations of portions of the Rihla from manuscripts obtained in the 
Middle East. In 1829 Samuel Lee, a British orientalist, published an 
English translation based on abridgments of the narrative that John 
Burckhardt, the famous Swiss explorer, had acquired in Egypt.’ 
Around the middle of the century five manuscripts of the Rihla were 
found in Algeria following the French occupation of that country. 
These documents were subsequently transferred to the Bibliotheque 
Nationale in Paris. Two of them represent the most complete versions 
of the narrative that have ever come to light. The others are partial 
translations, one of which carries the autograph of Ibn Juzayy, Ibn 
Battuta’s editor. Working with these five documents, two French 
scholars, C. Défrémery and B.R. Sanguinetti, published between 
1853 and 1858 a printed edition of the Arabic text, together with a 
translation in French and an apparatus of notes and variant textual 

Since then, translations of the work, prepared in every case from 
Défrémery and Sanguinetti’s printed text, have been published in 
many languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Polish, 
Hungarian, Persian, and Japanese. In 1929 Sir Hamilton Gibb pro- 
duced an abridged English translation and began work on a complete 
edition of the work under the auspices of the Hakluyt Society.” The 
last of the four volumes in this series is still in preparation.’ However, 
English translations of various portions of the Rihla have appeared in 
the past century as books or as articles in anthologies and scholarly 

Introduction § 

The numerous translations of the Rihla, together with the ex- 
tensive corpus of encyclopedia articles, popular summaries, and 
critical commentaries on Ibn Battuta and his career that have 
accumulated since the eighteenth century, are a tribute to the 
extraordinary value of the narrative as a historical source on much 
of the inhabited Eastern Hemisphere in the second quarter of the 
fourteenth century. The book has been cited and quoted in 
hundreds of historical works, not only those relating to Islamic 
countries but to China and the Byzantine empire as well. For the 
history of certain regions, Sudanic West Africa, Asia Minor, or the 
Malabar coast of India, for example, the Rihla stands as the only 
eye-witness report on political events, human geography, and 
social or economic conditions for a period of a century or more. 
Ibn Battuta had no professional background or experience as a 
writer of geography, history, or ethnography, but he was, as Gibb 
declares, “the supreme example of le géographe malgré lui,” the 
“geographer in spite of himself.”* 

The Western world has conventionally celebrated Marco Polo, 
who died the year before Ibn Battuta first left home, as the 
“Greatest Traveler in History.” Ibn Battuta has inevitably been 
compared with him and has usually taken second prize as “the 
Marco Polo of the Muslim world” or “the Marco Polo of the 
tropics.”? Keeping in mind that neither man actually composed his 
own book (Marco’s record was dictated to the French romance 
writer Rusticello in a Genoese prison), there is no doubt that the 
Venetian’s work is the superior one in terms of the accurate, 
precise, practical information it contributes on medieval China 
and other Asian lands in the latter part of the thirteenth century, 
information of profound value to historians ever since. Yet Ibn 
Battuta traveled to, and reports on, a great many more places than 
Marco did, and his narrative offers details, sometimes in incidental 
bits, sometimes in long disquisitions, on almost every conceivable 
aspect of human life in that age, from the royal ceremonial of the 
Sultan of Delhi to the sexual customs of women in the Maldive 
Islands to the harvesting of coconuts in South Arabia. Moreover 
his story is far more personal and humanely engaging than 
Marco’s. Some Western writers, especially in an earlier time when 
the conviction of Europe’s superiority over Islamic civilization was 
a presumption of historical scholarship, have criticized Ibn Battuta 
for being excessively eager to tell about the lives and pious 
accomplishments of religious savants and Sufi mystics when he 

6 Introduction 

might have written more about practical politics and prices. The 
Rihla, however, was directed to Muslim men of learning of the 
fourteenth century for whom such reportage, so recondite to the 
modern Western reader, was pertinent and interesting. 

As in Marco’s case, we know almost nothing about the life of 
Ibn Battuta apart from what the autobiographical dimension of his 
own book reveals. Aside from three minor references in Muslim 
scholarly works of the fourteenth or fifteenth century that attest 
independently to the Moroccan’s existence and to his 
achievements as a traveler, no document has ever come to light 
from his own age that mentions him.'° To understand his charac- 
ter, his aspirations, his social attitudes and prejudices, his personal 
relations with other people and, finally, the way he “fits” into 
fourteenth-century Muslim society and culture, we must rely 
almost exclusively on the Rihla itself. Fortunately, by expressing 
here and there in its pages his reactions to events, his annoyances, 
his animosities, and the details of his personal intrigues, he reveals 
something of his own character. 

Western writers have sometimes characterized Ibn Battuta as a 
brave explorer like Marco Polo, risking his life to discover terra 
incognita and bring knowledge of it to public attention. In fact Ibn 
Battuta’s experience was drastically different from that of the 
Venetian. Marco traveled as an alien visitor into lands few 
Europeans had ever seen and whose people knew little, and cared 
to know little, about Europe. He was an oddity, a “stranger in a 
strange land,” who was given the opportunity to visit China only 
because of the very special political circumstances that prevailed 
for a short time in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries: 
the existence of the great Mongol states of Asia and their policy of 
permitting merchants of all origins and religions to travel and 
conduct business in their domains. Marco does indeed herald the 
age of European discovery, not because the peoples of Asia 
somehow needed discovering to set themselves on a course into 
the future, but because his book made an extraordinary and 
almost immediate intellectual impact on a young Western civiliz- 
ation that until that time had a cramped and faulty vision of what 
the wider world of the Eastern Hemisphere was all about. 

Ibn Battuta, by contrast, spent most of his traveling career 
within the cultural boundaries of what Muslims called the Dar al- 
Islam, or Abode of Islam. This expression embraced the lands 
where Muslims predominated in the population, or at least where 

Introduction 7 

Muslim kings or princes ruled over non-Muslim majorities and 
where in consequence the shari’a, or Sacred Law, of Islam was 
presumably the foundation of the social order. In that sense 
Islamic civilization extended from the Atlantic coast of West 
Africa to Southeast Asia. Moreover, important minority com- 
munities of Muslims inhabited cities and towns in regions such as 
China, Spain, and tropical West Africa that were beyond the 
frontiers of the Dar al-Islam. Therefore almost everywhere Ibn 
Battuta went he lived in the company of other Muslims, men and 
women who shared not merely his doctrinal beliefs and religious 
rituals, but his moral values, his social ideals, his everyday man- 
ners. Although he was introduced in the course of his travels to a 
great many Muslim peoples whose local languages, customs, and 
aesthetic values were unfamiliar in his own homeland at the far 
western edge of the hemisphere, he never strayed far from the 
social world of individuals who shared his tastes and sensibilities 
and among whom he could always find hospitality, security, and 

Today, we characterize the cosmopolitan individual in several 
ways: the advocate of international cooperation or world gov- 
ernment, the sophisticated city-dweller, the jet-setter. The Muslim 
cosmopolite of the fourteenth century was likewise urbane, well 
traveled, and free of the grosser varieties of parochial bigotry. 
But, above all, he possessed a consciousness, more or less acutely 
formed, of the entire Dar al-Islam as a social reality. He also 
believed, at least implicitly, in the Sacred Law as the proper and 
eminently workable foundation of a global community. 

To understand the intellectual basis of Ibn Battuta’s 
cosmopolitanism, we must re-orient ourselves away from the con- 
ventional view of history as primarily the study of individual 
nations or discrete “cultures.” In their writings more than twenty 
years ago the world historians Marshall Hodgson and William 
McNeill introduced and developed the “global” concept of the 
Eurasian, or preferably Afro-Eurasian, Ecumene, that is, the belt 
of agrarian lands extending west to east from the Mediterranean 
basin to China.!’ It was within this region that the major sedentary 
civilizations of the Eastern Hemisphere arose, where most cities 
sprang up, and where most important cultural and technological 
innovations were made. 

Beginning in ancient times, according to McNeill, the Ecumene 
went through a series of “closures” which involved increasingly 

8 Introduction 

complex interrelations among the civilizations of the hemisphere. 
Thus there evolved a continuous region of intercommunication, 
or, as we will call it in this book, the intercommunicating zone, 
which joined the sedentary and urbanizing peoples of the 
Mediterranean rim, the Middle East, Greater India, and China 
into a single field of historical interaction and change. Important 
innovations occurring in one part of the zone tended to spread to 
the other parts of it through trade, military conquest, human 
migration, or gradual diffusion. Moreover, the intercommuni- 
cating zone “grew” over the course of time by incorporating 
peoples in peripheral areas — sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast 
Asia, Central Asia, Europe north of the Alps — into the web of 
interrelations. Thus, the history of Africa and Eurasia in premod- 
ern times becomes more than the stories of individual, 
geographically bounded nations, cultures, or empires. It is also the 
history of the “unconsciously inter-regional developments,” to 
quote Hodgson, which “converge in their effects to alter the gen- 
eral disposition of the Hemisphere.” 

One of the most important dimensions of this “hemispheric 
history” was the role of pastoral populations who inhabited the 
great arid belt which ran diagonally from southwest to northeast 
across the intercommunicating zone, that is the chain of steppes 
and deserts extending from the Sahara through the Middle East 
and Central Asia to the Gobi. Contact between the herding 
peoples of the arid zone and sedentary societies tended in normal 
times to be mostly beneficial to both, involving the exchange of 
goods and elements of culture. However, the pastoralists, owing to 
their mobility and ethos of martial strength, were always a 
potential threat to the far richer settled civilizations. At periodic 
intervals beginning in the eighteenth century B.C. or earlier, 
nomadic invaders poured into neighboring agrarian lands, 
pillaging cities, terminating dynasties, and generally upsetting pre- 
vailing cultural and social patterns over wide areas of Eurasia and 
Africa. The last great nomadic movement occurred in the 
thirteenth century, when the Mongols and their Turkish-speaking 
allies erupted out of Central Asia and conquered China, Russia, 
and most of the Middle East, creating the largest territorial empire 
the world has ever known. 

Islam had come upon the world scene in the seventh century in 
connection with the explosion of Arabic-speaking, camel-riding 
herdsmen out of the Arabian desert under the leadership of the 

Introduction Y 

Prophet Muhammad and his successors. Western historical writing 
has given a great deal of attention to the early evolution of Islamic 
civilization, that is, the “classical” age of the Abbasid Caliphate 
(or High Caliphate) centered on Baghdad between the eighth and 
tenth centuries. For this period the astonishing contributions of 
Muslims to world history in art, science, medicine, philosophy, 
and international commerce have been recognized, especially in so 
far as they were a major formative influence on the rise of Chris- 
tian European civilization in the early Middle Ages. But precisely 
because historians of the West have been interested in Islam 
mainly in terms of its effects on the development of European 
institutions, the subsequent periods of Islamic history up to mod- 
ern times have been given less heed. Indeed, the conventional 
perspective in European and American textbook writing has been 
that Islamic civilization reached its “peak” during the Abbasid age 
and thereafter went into a gradual but inexorable “decline.” This 
notion that Islam somehow atrophied after the tenth or eleventh 
century has largely turned on the Western perception (consider- 
ably exaggerated) that Muslims rejected the intellectual heritage 
of Hellenistic rationalism about the same time that Europeans 
“rediscovered” it. Consequently, so the argument runs, the West, 
having adopted a “scientific” and “rational” view of the natural 
world, was able to “progress” in the direction of world dominance, 
while “traditional” civilizations such as Islam languished and fell 
further and further behind. 

In fact, the period of hemispheric history from 1000 to 1500 
A.D., what we will call the Islamic Middle Period, witnessed a 
steady and remarkable expansion of Islam, not simply as a re- 
ligious faith but as a coherent, universalist model of civilized life. 
To be sure, the intense, concentrated, innovative brilliance of the 
Abbasid Caliphate was not to be repeated in the subsequent half 
millennium of Islamic history. Yet if Islam did turn intellectually 
conservative by the standard of modern scientific rationalism, it 
nonetheless pushed outward from its Middle Eastern core as an 
attractive, satisfying, cohesive system for explaining the cosmos 
and for ordering collective life among ever-larger numbers of 
people, both sedentary and pastoral, both urban and rural. all 
across the intercommunicating zone. 

The spread of Islam into new areas of the hemisphere during the 
Middle Period was given impetus by two major forces. One of 
these was the advance of Turkish-speaking Muslim herding 

10 Introduction 

peoples from Central Asia into the Middle East, a movement that 
began on a large scale with the conquests of the Seljuk Turks in the 
eleventh century. In the ensuing 300 years Turkish cavalry armies 
pushed westward into Asia Minor and southern Russia and east- 
ward into India. The second force was the gradual but persistent 
movement of Muslim merchants into the lands rimming the Indian 
Ocean, that is, East Africa, India, Southeast Asia, and China, as 
well as into Central Asia and West Africa south of the Sahara. 

Yet the principal contribution of both warriors and merchants, 
establishing in some places Muslim military dominance and in 
other places only communities of believers under non-Muslim 
authority, was to prepare the ground for influxes of Muslim re- 
ligious and intellectual cadres. It was they, over the longer term, 
who founded the basic institutions of Islamic civilization in these 
new areas and who carried on the work of cultural conversion 
among non-Muslim peoples. 

A close look at the patterns of travel and migration in the post- 
Abbasid centuries reveals a quiet but persistent dispersion of legal 
scholars, theologians, Sufi divines, belle-lettrists, scribes, archi- 
tects, and craftsmen outward from the older centers of Islam to 
these new frontiers of Muslim military and commercial activity. At 
the same time, the members of this cultural elite who were living 
and traveling in the further regions consistently maintained close 
ties with the great cities of the central Islamic lands, thereby 
creating not merely a scattering of literate and skilled Muslims 
across the hemisphere, but an integrated, growing, self-replenish- 
ing network of cultural communication. 

Moreover, the most fundamental values of Islam tended to 
encourage a higher degree of social mobility and freer movement 
of individuals from one city and region to another than was the 
case in the other civilizations of that time. Islamic culture put great 
stress on egalitarian behavior in social relations based on the ideal 
of a community of believers (the umma) having a common 
allegiance to one God and his Sacred Law. To be sure, a great gulf 
separated the rich and powerful from the poor and weak, as was 
the case in all civilized societies until very recent times. But Islam 
mightily resisted the institutionalizing of ascribed statuses, ethnic 
exclusivities, or purely territorial loyalties. The dynamics of social 
life centered, not on relations among fixed, rigidly defined groups 
as was the case in Hindu India or even, to a lesser degree, the 
medieval West, but on what Hodgson calls “egalitarian con- 

Introduction 1 

tractualism,” the relatively free play of relations among individuals 
who tended to size one another up mainly in terms of personal 
conformity to Islamic moral standards.'* Consequently, wherever 
in the Dar al-Islam an individual traveled, pursued a career, or 
bought and sold goods, the same social and moral rules of conduct 
largely applied, rules founded on the shari’a. 

The Islamic world in Ibn Battuta’s time was divided politically 
into numerous kingdoms and principalities. Rulers insisted that 
their administrative and penal codes be obeyed, but they made no 
claims to divine authority. For the most part, Muslims on the 
move — merchants, scholars, and skilled, literate individuals of 
all kinds — regarded the jurisdictions of states as a necessary 
imposition and gave them as little attention as possible. Their 
primary allegiance was to the Dar al-Islam as a whole. The focal 
points of their public lives were not countries but cities, where 
world-minded Muslims carried on their inter-personal affairs 
mainly with reference to the universalist and uniform standards of 
the Law. 

The terrible Mongol conquests of Persia and Syria that occurred 
between 1219 and 1258 appeared to Muslims to threaten the very 
existence of Islamic civilization. Yet by the time Ibn Battuta began 
his traveling career Mongol political dominance over the greater 
part of Eurasia was proving conducive to the further expansion of 
Islam and its institutions. The powerful Mongol khans of Persia 
and Central Asia were converting to the faith, and the conditions 
of order and security that attended the Pax Mongolica of the later 
thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries gave freer play than ever 
to the movement of Muslims back and forth across Eurasia. 

It was in the late decades of the Pax Mongolica that Ibn Battuta 
made his remarkable journeys. In a sense he participated, 
sometimes simultaneously, in four different streams of travel and 
migration. First, he was a pilgrim, joining the march of pious 
believers to the spiritual shrines of Mecca and Medina at least four 
times in his career. Second, he was a devotee of Sufism, or 
mystical Islam, traveling, as thousands did, to the hermitages and 
lodges of venerable holy men to receive their blessing and wisdom. 
Third, he was a juridical scholar, seeking knowledge and erudite 
company in the great cities of the Islamic heartland. And finally, 
he was a member of the literate, mobile, world-minded elite, an 
educated adventurer as it were, looking for hospitality, honors, 
and profitable employment in the more newly established centers 

12 Introduction 

of Islamic civilization in the further regions of Asia and Africa. In any 
of these traveling roles, however, he regarded himself as a citizen, not 
of a country called Morocco, but of the Dar al-Islam, to whose 
universalist spiritual, moral, and social values he was loyal above any 
other allegiance. His life and career exemplify a remarkable fact of 
Afro—Eurasian history in the later Middle Period, that, as Marshall 
Hodgson writes, Islam “came closer than any other medieval society 
to establishing a common world order of social and even cultural 


1. Henn Cordier, quoted in Joseph Needham, Science and Civilization in China, 
vol. 4, part 3: Civil Engineering and Nautics (Cambridge, 1971), p. 486. 

2. This figure represents my calculation of the approximate extent of IB’s travels. 
Henry Yule estimates that he traveled more than 75,000 miles during his career, not 
counting journeys he undertook while living in India. Cathay and the Way Thither, 4 
vols. (London, 1913-16), vol. 4, p. 40. Mahdi Husain (MH, p. liii) suggests a total figure 
of 77,640 miles. 

3. On rihla literature in North Africa see M.B.A. Benchekroun, La Vie in- 
tellectuelle marocaine sous les Merinides et les Wattasides (Rabat, 1974), pp. 9-11, 251- 
57; André Michel, “Ibn Battuta, trente années de voyages de Pekin au Niger,” Les 
Africains 1 (1977): 134-36; A.L. de Prémare, Maghreb et Andalousie au XIVe siécle 
(Lyon, 1981), pp. 34, 92-93. 

4. Samuel Lee, The Travels of [bn Battuta (London, 1929). On the history of the 
European discovery of IB, see D&S, vol. 1, pp. xiti-xxvi. 

5. C. Défrémery and B.R. Sanguinetti (trans. and eds.), Voyages d'Ibn Battuta, 4 
vols. (Paris, 1853-58; reprint edn., Vincent Monteil (ed.), Paris, 1979). 

6. H.A.R. Gibb, /bn Battuta: Travels in Asia and Africa (London, 1929); and The 
Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D, 1325-1354, Translated with Revisions and Notes from the 
Arabic Text Edited by C. Défrémery and B.R. Sanguinetti, 3 vols. (Cambridge for the 
Hakluyt Society, 1958, 1961, 1971). 

7. The final volume is being translated and edited by Professor C.F. Beckingham. 

8. Gibb, Travels in Asia and Africa, p. 12. 

9. The second phrase is used by A.G. Hopkins, An Economic History of West Afria 
(New York, 1973), p. 78. 

10. On the medieval sources that mention IB see Chapter 14. 

11. Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in World 
Civilization, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1974); William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West: A 
History of the Human Community (Chicago, 1963). The concept of trans-regional 
“intercommunicating zones” is also important in the wnitings of Philip D. Curtin, 
notably Cross-Cultural Trade in World History (Cambridge, England, 1984). 

12. Marshall G.S. Hodgson, “Hemispheric Inter-regional History as an Approach to 
World History,” Journal of World History 1 (1954): 717. 

13. Marshall G.S. Hodgson, “The Role of Islam in World History,” International 
Journal of Middle East Studies | (1970): 116. 

14. Marshall G.S. Hodgson, “The Unity of Later Islamic History,” Journal of World 
History 5 (1960): 884. 

l Tangier 

The learned man is esteemed in whatever place or 
condition he may be, always meeting people who are 
favorably disposed to him, who draw near to him and seek 
his company, gratified in being close to him. ' 

"Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi 

The white and windy city of Tangier lies on the coast of Morocco 
at the southwestern end of the Strait of Gibraltar where the cold 
surface current of the Atlantic flows into the channel, forming a 
river to the Mediterranean 45 miles away. According to legend, 
Hercules founded the city in honor of his wife, after he split the 
continents and built his pillars, the mountain known as Jebel Musa 
on the African shore, the Rock of Gibraltar on the European. For 
travelers sailing between Morocco and the Iberian Peninsula the 
strait was indeed a river, only 16 miles across at its narrowest point 
and traversed in as little as three hours in fair weather. To sail east 
or west from one sea to the other was a more dangerous and 
exacting feat than the crossing, owing to capricious winds and 
currents as well as reefs and sandbars along the shores. Yet 
merchant ships were making the passage with more and more 
frequency in medieval times, and Tangier was growing along with 
the other ports of the strait as an entrepdot between the commercial 
networks of the Mediterranean and the North Atlantic. Tangier 
was a converging point of four geographical worlds — African and 
European, Atlantic and Mediterranean. It was an international 
town whose character was determined by the shifting flow of 
maritime traffic in the strait — merchants and warriors, craftsmen 
and scholars shuttling back and forth between the pillars or gliding 
under them between the ocean and the sea. 

We have only a faint idea of the local history of Tangier (Tanja) 
in the first quarter of the fourteenth century when Ibn Battuta was 
growing up there, being educated, and moving in the secure circles 
of parents, kinsmen, teachers and friends.* But there is no doubt 
that life in the town was shaped by the patterns of history in the 


14 Tangier 

Map 2: Region of the Strait of Gibraltar 





wider world of the strait. If the young Ibn Battuta, preoccupie 
with his Koranic lessons, was indifferent to the momentous con 
ings and goings in the region of the channel, these must have hac 
nonetheless, a pervading influence on the daily affairs of the cit 
and its people. 

The early fourteenth century was a time of transition for all th 
towns bordering the strait, as prevailing relationships betwee 
Africa and Europe on the one hand and the Atlantic an 
Mediterranean on the other were being altered, in some wa) 
drastically. Most conspicuous was the retreat of Muslim powe 
from Europe in the face of the Christian reconquista. During th 
half millennium between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, all « 
the Maghrib (North Africa from Morocco to western Libya) an 
most of Iberia were under Muslim rule. On both sides of the stra 
there developed a sophisticated urban civilization, founded on th 
rich irrigated agriculture of Andalusia (al-Andalus), as Musli 
Iberia was called, and flourishing amid complex cultural and con 
mercial interchange among cities all around the rim of the fz 
western Mediterranean. The unity of this civilization reached 1 
apogee in the twelfth century when the Almohads, a dynasty ¢ 

Tangier 15 

Moroccan Berbers impelled by a militant ideology of religious 
reform, created a vast Mediterranean empire, whose lands 
spanned the strait and stretched from the Atlantic coast to Libya. 

The Almohad sultans, however, proved incapable of managing 
such an enormous territory for long. Early in the thirteenth 
century the political edifice began to come apart amid economic 
decline, religious quarrels, and countryside rebellions. In northern 
Iberia Christian kingdoms, which until then had existed in the 
shadow of Muslim civilization, took the offensive. The victory of 
the combined forces of Aragon, Castile, and Portugal over an 
Almohad army at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 was 
the first of a succession of spectacular Christian advances against 
Muslim territory. One by one the great Muslim cities fell, Cordova 
in 1236, Valencia in 1238, Seville in 1248. By mid century the 
Almohads were all but driven from Iberia, and all that remained of 
Muslim power on the northern side of the strait was the 
mountainous kingdom of Granada. In North Africa the Almohad 
state split into three smaller kingdoms, one in the Eastern Maghrib 
(Ifriqiya) ruled by the Hafsid dynasty; a second in the Central 
Maghrib governed by the ’Abd al-Wadids; and a third in Morocco 
under a nomadic warrior tribe of Berber nomads known as the 
Banu Marin, or the Marinids. 

Rough and ready cavalrymen with no guiding ideology, the 
Marinids overthrew the last of the Almohad rulers, established a 
new dynastic capital at Fez, and restored a measure of political 
stability to Morocco in the last quarter of the thirteenth century. 
From the start the new sultans harbored dreams of resurrecting the 
Mediterranean empire of their predecessors, and with this in mind 
repeatedly waged war against the "Abd al-Wadids and the Hafsids, 
their neighbors to the east. Some of the Marinid kings mounted 
seaborne campaigns against the Iberian coast, but none of these 
invasions seriously threatened the Christian hold on the interior of 
the peninsula. In any event the Moroccans were obliged to pursue 
an active policy in the region of the strait, which was far too 
important strategically to be given up to the Christian states with- 
out a struggle. 

The contest, however, was no simple matter of Islam versus 
Christianity. The battle of faiths that had dominated the decades 
of the Almohad retreat was losing some of its emotional ferocity, 
and a relatively stable balance of power was emerging among six 
successor states. Four of them were Muslim — the Marinids, the 

16 Tangier 

’Abd al-Wadids, the Hafsids, and the Nasrids, who ruled Granada 
after 1230. The other two were Christian — Castile and 
Aragon-Catalonia. From the later thirteenth through the 
following century these six kingdoms competed in peace and war 
with little regard to matters of religion, which served mainly as 
ideological cover for utterly pragmatic political or military under- 

War and peace in the Strait of Gibraltar converged on the five 
principal towns which faced it — Tarifa, Algeciras, and Gibraltar 
on the European side, Ceuta and Tangier on the African. These 
ports were the entrepdts of trade between the continents, the 
embarkation points for warriors on crusade, and the bases for 
galleys which patrolled the channel. In the later thirteenth and the 
fourteenth centuries they were the objects of incessant military 
rivalry among the kings of the region. Algeciras, for example, was 
ceded by Granada to the Marinids in 1275, returned to Granada in 
1294, taken again by Morocco in 1333, and finally seized by Castile 
in 1344. Indeed, Tangier was the only one of the ports to retain the 
same political masters throughout this period, following the 
Marinid occupation in 1275. Part of the reason was that in the 
politics of the strait, Tangier was, relatively speaking, the least 
important of the five cities. The others all fronted the narrow 
easterly end of the channel and were vital to the trade and com- 
munication of the western Mediterranean. But Tangier, lying far 
off to the southwest and almost facing the Atlantic, was a prize of 
lesser magnitude. It would be the fortune of Portugal, an Atlantic 
power, to wrest the city from Moroccan control, but not until 

Still, Tangier was of considerable strategic value. The lovely 
bay, whose white beaches curve off to the northeast of the city, 
was the only natural indentation of any size on the entire coast of 
Morocco, and it could easily shelter a fleet of warships. Along with 
Ceuta (Sabta) and some lesser towns on the strait, Tangier had for 
several centuries served as a point of embarkation for naval and 
cargo vessels bound for Iberia. In 1279 Sultan Abu Yusuf, founder 
of the Marinid dynasty, supervised the massing of a fleet of 72 
galleys in the bay in order to send troops to relieve a Castilian 
siege of Algeciras.’ Aside from the recurrent movement of 
Marinid troops, horses, and matériel through the port, the city 
also played host to numerous bands of Muslim pirates, who 
harassed shipping in the strait and made raids on the Spanish 

Tangier 17 

Coast.* The hazardous and uncertain condition of interstate affairs 
no doubt stimulated the Tangierian economy and gave the 
population ample employment building ships, running cargos, 
hiring out as soldiers and seamen, and trafficking in arms and 
supplies. Short of a Christian attack, the city had little to lose and 
much to gain from the prevailing conditions of war and diplomacy 
in the region. 

If the continuing prosperity of the city in the aftermath of the 
Almohad collapse resulted partly from the vigorous efforts of the 
Marinids to check the reconquista, even more important were 
developments in trade and seaborne technology. In the course of 
the Christian crusades to Palestine between the eleventh and the 
end of the thirteenth centuries, European long-distance shipping 
took almost full command of the Mediterranean. This was the first 
great age of Europe’s economic development, and although trade 
between Christian and Muslim states grew by leaps, virtually all of 
it was carried in Latin vessels. In the western sea the Genoese took 
the lead, signing a commercial treaty with the Almohads in 
1137-38 and thereafter opening up trade with a number of 
Maghribi ports, including Ceuta, and possibly Tangier. in the 
1160s.” Merchants of Catalonia, operating principally from 
Barcelona and protected by the rising power of the kings of 
Aragon, extended their commercial operations to North Africa by 
the early 1200s. Traders from Marseille, Majorca, Venice, and 
Pisa also joined in the competition, offering grain, wine, 
hardware, spices, and weaponry, plus cotton, woolen, and linen 
textiles in return for the wool, hides, leather, wax, alum, grain, 
and oil of North Africa and the gold, ivory, and slaves of the lands 
beyond the Sahara. 

With commercial traffic in the western Mediterranean growing 
continually in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, it was only a 
matter of time before it would spill through the strait into the 
Atlantic. The Genoese, Catalans, Provengals, and Venetians were 
all established in the towns of the strait in the 1300s. But there 
were strong incentives to go further. To the south lay the Atlantic 
ports of Morocco and the prospect not only of expanding the 
Maghribi trade but of diverting some of the gold brought up from 
West Africa before it reached the Mediterranean outlets. By the 
later twelfth century Genoese vessels were already sailing beyond 
Tangier, round the northwestern tip of Africa, and down the coast 
to Salé, Safi, and other Moroccan ports. In 1291 the intrepid 

18 Tangier 

Vivaldi brothers of Genoa vanished into terra incognita after 
setting sail down the coast of Morocco, bound for India two 
centuries too soon.° 

It was also after 1275 that Genoese merchants began sailing 
northwestward from the strait around the great bulge of Iberia and 
into the waters of the North Atlantic. By 1300 both Genoese and 
Venetian galleys were making regular trips to ports in England and 
Flanders, carrying goods from all the Mediterranean lands and 
returning with woolens, timber, and other products of northern 
Europe. Here was occurring the great maritime link-up between 
the ocean and the sea that would weigh so much in the transfor- 
mation of Europe in the later Middle Ages. 

The invasion of the Atlantic by Mediterranean shipping made 
the Strait of Gibraltar of even greater strategic importance than it 
had been earlier and gave the cities along its shore a new surge of 
commercial vitality. Ceuta was the busiest and most prosperous of 
the towns on either side of the channel in the early fourteenth 
century.’ But Tangier, which lay along the southwesterly route 
from the strait to the ports of Atlantic Morocco, had its share of 
the new shipping traffic. In fair weather months vessels from 
Genoa, Catalonia, Pisa, Marseille, and Majorca might all be seen 
in Tangier bay — slender galleys which sat low on the surface of 
the water and maneuvered close to shore under the power of their 
oarsmen; high-sided round ships with their great triangular sails; 
and, perhaps occasionally after 1300, tubby-looking, square-rigged 
cogs from some port on the Atlantic coast of Portugal or Spain. 
And in addition to these, a swarm of Muslim vessels put out from 
the harbor to “tramp” the Maghribi coast, shuttle cargo to Iberian 
ports, or fish the waters of the strait. The movement of Christian 
merchants and sailors in and out of the town must have been a 
matter of regular occurrence. And in normal times these visitors 
mixed freely with the local Muslim population to exchange news 
and haggle over prices. 

Tangier was indeed a frontier town in the early fourteenth 
century. With rough Berber soldiers tramping through the steep 
streets to their warships, Christian and Muslim traders jostling one 
another on the wharves and in the warehouses, pirates disposing of 
their plunder in the bazaar, the city imaged the roisterous frontier 
excitement of the times. Perched on the western edge of the 
Muslim world and caught up in the changing patterns of trade and 
power in the Mediterranean basin, it was a more restless and 

Tangier 19 

cosmopolitan city than it had ever been before. It was the sort of 
place where a young man might grow up and develop an urge to 

In the narrative of his world adventures Ibn Battuta tells us 
virtually nothing of his early life in Tangier. From Ibn Juzayy, the 
Andalusian scholar who composed and edited the Rihla, or from 
Ibn Battuta himself in the most off-hand way, we learn that he was 
born Abu ’Abdallah Muhammad ibn ’Abdallah ibn Muhammad 
ibn Ibrahim al-Lawati ibn Battuta on 25 February 1304; that his 
family was descended from the Berber tribe known as the Lawata; 
that his mother and father were still alive when he left Morocco in 
1325; and that some members of his extended family besides 
himself were schooled in Islamic law and had pursued careers as 
legal scholars (fagihs) or judges (gadis). Beyond these skimpy 
facts, we know only what the Rihla reveals to us by implication: 
that he received the best education in law and the other Islamic 
sciences that Tangier could provide and that during his adolescent 
years he acquired an educated man’s values and sensibilities. 

His family obviously enjoyed respectable standing as members 
of the city’s scholarly elite. Tangier was not a chief center of 
learning in fourteenth-century North Africa; it was not a Fez, a 
Tlemcen, or a Tunis. When Ibn Battuta was growing up, it did not 
yet possess one of the madrasas, or colleges of higher learning, 
which the new Marinid rulers had begun founding in their capital.” 
But Tangier, like any city of commerce in the Islamic world, 
required literate families who specialized in providing a variety of 
skills and services: the officers of mosques and other pious found- 
ations, administrative and customs officials, scribes, accountants, 
notaries, legal counsellors, and judges, as well as teachers and 
professors for the sons of the affluent families of merchants and 

The education Ibn Battuta received was one worthy of a 
member of a legal family. It is easy enough to imagine the young 
boy, eager and affable as he would be in adult life, marching off to 
Koranic school in the neighborhood mosque to have the teacher 
beat the Sacred Book into him until, by the age of twelve at least, 
he had it all committed to memory. The education of most boys 
would go no further than this Koranic training, plus perhaps a 
smattering of caligraphy, grammar, and arithmetic. But a lad of 
Ibn Battuta’s family status would be encouraged to move on to 

20 Tangier 

advanced study of the religious sciences: Koranic exegesis, the 
traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (hadith), grammar, rhetoric, 
theology, logic, and law. The foremost scholar-teachers of the city 
offered courses in mosques or their own homes. Students might 
normally attend the lectures of a number of different men, sitting ina 
semi-circle at the master’s feet as he read from learned texts and 
discoursed on their meaning. 

The pupil’s task was not simply to grasp the substance of a text but to 
learn it by heart. The memorization of standard and classical texts 
comprising the corpus of Islamic knowledge was central to all ad- 
vanced education. The most respected masters in any field of learning 
were the men who had not only committed to memory and thoroughly 
understood the greatest number of books, but who could recall and 
recite passages from them with ease in scholarly discourse and debate. 
According to Ibn Khaldun, the great philosopher and historian of the 
later fourteenth century, memory training was even more rigorously 
pursued in Moroccan education than in other parts of the Muslim 
world.'? The purpose of education in the Islamic Middle Period, it 
should be understood, was not to teach students to think critically 
about their human or natural environment or to push the frontiers of 
knowledge beyond the limits of their elders. Rather it was to transmit 
to the coming generation the spiritual truths, moral values, and social 
rules of the past which, after all, Muslims had found valid by the 
astonishing success of their faith and civilization. Education was in 
every sense conservative. 

Although the narrow discipline of memorization occupied much of 
a student’s time, an Islamic education nonetheless addressed the 
whole man. In the course of his advanced studies a boy was expected 
to acquire the values and manners of a gentleman. This included his 
everyday conversation in Arabic. Despite the Berber-speaking 
heritage of North Africa, including Tangier and its environs, Arabic 
was the language of civilized speech in every Maghribi city. A man of 
learning, unlike the ordinary citizen, was expected to know the subtle 
complexities of formal Arabic grammar, syntax, and poetics and to 
decorate his conversation with Koranic quotations, classical allusions, 
and rhymed phrases."! Ibn Battuta’s family was of Berber origin, but 
we may suppose that he grew up speaking Arabic in his own household 
as well as in the company of other educated men and boys. The Rihla 
gives no evidence that he could speak the Berber language of northern 
Morocco at all. 

The narrative of his life experience reveals that in his youth he 

Tangier 21 

mastered the qualities of social polish expected of the urbane 
scholar and gentleman. 

Politeness, discretion, propriety, decency, cleanliness, ways of 
cooking, table manners and rules of dress all formed part of that 
extremely refined code of savoir vivre which occupied so pre- 
dominant a place in social relations and moral judgements. 
Whatever caused shame and could irritate or inconvenience 
someone was considered impolite. A courteous and refined 
man... evinced in his behavior a combination of attitudes, 
gestures and words which made his relations with others 
harmonious, amiable and so natural that they seemed 
spontaneous. ' 

This description pertains to learned Moroccans in the 
nineteenth century, but it could easily apply to Ibn Battuta and to 
the well-bred men of his time. If in the course of his world travels 
he would display some less fortunate traits — impatience, pro- 
fligacy, impetuousness, pious self-righteousness, and an in- 
clination to be unctuous in the presence of wealth or power — he 
was nonetheless an eminently civilized individual. As he grew into 
adulthood his speech, his manners, his conduct would identify him 
as an ’alim, a man of learning, and as a member of the social 
category of educated men called the ’ulama. 

As his education advanced, he began to specialize in the law, as 
other members of his family had done. The study of law (in Arabic 
figh) was one of the fundamental religious sciences. In Islam the 
Sacred Law, or shari’a, was founded principally on the revealed 
Koran and the words and actions of the Prophet. Ideally it was the 
basis not merely of religious practice but of the social order in its 
broadest expression. Although Muslim kings and princes pro- 
mulgated administrative and penal ordinances as occasion de- 
manded (and increasingly so in the Middle Period of Islam), the 
shari’a addressed the full spectrum of social relations — marriage, 
inheritance, slavery, taxation, market relations, moral behavior, 
and so on. Unlike the situation in the Christian world, no formal 
distinction was made between canon and secular legal systems. 
Therefore, Ibn Battuta’s juridical training was entirely integrated 
with his theological and literary education. 

In Sunni Islam, that is, mainstream or, perhaps less 
appropriately, orthodox Islam, the legal systems embraced four 

22 Tangier 

major “schools” of law, called madhhabs. They were the Hanafi, 
the Shafi’i, the Maliki, and the Hanbali. The four schools differed 
in matters of juristic detail, not in fundamental legal principles. 
The school to which an individual adhered depended largely on 
where he happened to have been born, since the madhhabs 
evolved during the early centuries of Islam along territorial lines. 

The Maliki school, named after its eighth-century founder Malik 
ibn ’Anas, has been historically dominant throughout North 
Africa. The Almohad rulers of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries 
possessed a distinctive approach to jurisprudence which set them 
and the minority of scholars who served them apart from the four 
schools and involved vigorous suppression of the Maliki doctors. 
The rude Marinid war captains who replaced the Almohads had no 
thoughts on the subject of law at all. They were, however, quick to 
distance themselves from the ideology of their predecessors by 
championing the re-establishment of Malikism. In this way they 
gained status and legitimacy in the eyes of Morocco’s educated 
majority and enlisted their help in consolidating the new political 
order. Therefore, Ibn Battuta grew up and went to school during a 
time of renaissance in Maliki legal studies. And partly because 
Malikism had been temporarily out of favor and was now back in, 
legal education in fourteenth century Morocco tended to stress 
uncritical, doctrinaire acceptance of the interpretations of law 
contained in the major Maliki texts.!* The law classes he attended 
in Tangier would have involved mainly the presentation and 
memorizing of sections of the corpus of Maliki figh, the professors 
using summaries and abridgments of major legal texts of that 

As his introductory legal studies proceeded, he was also 
assimilating the specific cultural style of a Muslim lawyer. The 
education, as well as the speech and manners, of the juridical class 
was largely the same everywhere in the Muslim world. Therefore, 
Ibn Battuta’s particular socialization was equipping him to move 
easily among men of learning anywhere in the Dar al-Islam. If he 
aspired to be a jurisprudent one day, then he was expected to 
exemplify the prized qualities of members of his profession — 
erudition, dignified comportment, moderation in speech and con- 
duct, and absolute incorruptibility. He also adopted the distinctive 
dress of the legal scholar: a more or less voluminous turban; a 
taylasan, or shawl-like garment draped over the head and 
shoulders; and a long, wide-sleeved, immaculately clean gown of 

Tangier 23 

fine material. Most educated men wore beards. In one passage in 
the Rihla Ibn Battuta makes an incidental reference to his own. '4 
(That reference, it might be added, is the only clue he offers 
anywhere in the narrative as to his own physical appearance. Since 
the ancestors of a Tangierian might include dark-eyed, olive- 
skinned Arabs, blue-eyed, fair-haired Berbers, and even black 
West Africans, nothing can be assumed abolut the traveler’s 

Another important dimension of his education was his intro- 
duction to Sufism, the mystical dimension of Islam. Throughout 
the Muslim world in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, 
Sufism was addressing popular desires for an Islamic faith of 
warmth, emotion, and personal hope, needs that outward 
performance of Koranic duties could not alone supply. Indeed it 
was during the later Middle Period that Sunni orthodoxy 
embraced Sufism wholeheartedly and transformed it into a 
powerful force for the further expansion of Islam. 

Two ideas were at the heart of the Sufi movement. One was that 
the individual Muslim ts capable of achieving direct and personal 
communion with God. The other was that the path to God could 
be found through the intermediary of a saintly master or shaykh. 
Such an individual was thought to be a wall, a “friend of God,” 
who radiated the quality of divine grace (baraka) and could trans- 
mit it to others. With the help of his master, the Sufi initiate 
immersed himself in mystical teachings, rituals, and special 
prayers and strove to inculcate high spiritual qualities in everyday 
life. Sufism was also a social movement because it involved the 
formation of congregations of seekers who gathered round a par- 
ticular master to hear his teachings and join with him in devotional 
exercises. All across the Islamic world in Ibn Battuta’s time these 
groups were just beginning to become institutionalized as religious 
orders, or brotherhoods, each one organized around common 
devotion to the spiritual teachings, or “path,” of the founder of the 
order and his successors. These fraternities were also developing 
as Civic organizations and mutual aid societies and, by the fifteenth 
century in some areas, as loci of considerable political power. 

Sufism had a special appeal for rural folk, whose arduous lives 
demanded a concrete faith of hope and salvation and who were 
isolated to a greater or lesser extent from the literate, juridically 
minded Islam of the cities. Sufi lodges, called zawiyas, organized 
as centers for worship, mystical education, and charity, were 

24 Tangier 

springing up all across North Africa in Ibn Battuta’s time, 
especially among rural Berber populations to whom they offered a 
richer, more accessible religion and a new kind of communal 

In Morocco Sufi preachers were notably active and successful 
among the Berber-speaking populations of the Rif Mountains, the 
region south and east of Tangier.'” Yet mystical ideas were also 
penetrating the towns in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, 
perhaps rather early in Tangier because of its nearness to the Rif. 
Moreover, Tangier, for all its intellectual respectability, was not 
one of the great bastions of scriptural orthodoxy like Fez, where 
the leading Maliki doctors were still inclined to be suspicious of 
Sufism, or any other religious idea not documented in their law 
books or theological treatises. 

Although we have no idea what Ibn Battuta’s early experience 
with Sufism may have been, his behavior during his travels is itself 
evidence that he grew up in a social climate rich in mystical beliefs 
and that these ideas were tightly interwoven with his formal, 
scriptural education. By the time he left Tangier, he was so deeply 
influenced by Sufi ideas, especially belief in personal baraka and 
the value of ascetic devotionalism, that his traveling career turned 
out to be, in a sense, a grand world tour of the lodges and tombs of 
famous Sufi mystics and saints. He was never, to be sure, a 
committed Sufi disciple. He remained throughout his life a “lay” 
Sufi, attending mystical gatherings, seeking the blessing and 
wisdom of spiritual luminaries, and retreating on occasion into 
brief periods of ascetic contemplation. But he never gave up the 
worldly life. He was, rather, a living example of that moral rec- 
onciliation between popular Sufism and public orthodoxy that was 
working itself out in the Islamic world of his time. Consequently, 
he embarked on his travels prepared to show as much equanimity 
in the company of holy hermits in mountain caves as in the pre- 
sence of the august professors of urban colleges. 

Aside from the local teachers and divines of his youth, he is 
likely to have had contact with men of letters who passed through 
Tangier at one time or another. The scholarly class of the Islamic 
world was an extraordinarily mobile group. In the Maghrib of the 
later Middle Period the learned, like modern conference-hopping 
academics, circulated incessantly from one city and country to 
another, studying with renowned professors, leading diplomatic 
missions, taking up posts in mosques and royal chanceries. 

Tangier 25 

Scholars routinely shuttled back and forth across the Strait of 
Gibraltar between the cities of Morocco and the Nasrid Sultanate. 
Indeed, Ibn Battuta had a cousin (the Rih/a tells us) who served as a 
gadi in the Andalusian city of Ronda. 

Apart from this normal circulation, there was over the long run of 
time a pattern of one-way migration of educated people from 
Andalusia to North Africa, a kind of Iberian brain drain which 
accelerated in response to each new surge of Christian power and 
concomitant loss of security and opportunity for Muslims on the 
northern side of the strait.'° Iberia’s loss, however, was North 
Africa’s gain, since Andalusian scholars and craftsmen, arriving in 
sporadic streams between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries, did 
much to enliven the cultural life of Maghribi towns. If Tangier took 
in few immigrants compared with Fez or other premier cities, the 
legacy of the great Andalusian intellectual tradition must have 
rubbed off on the city’s educated class to a significant extent. 

No young scholar, however well connected his family might be, 
could expect to pursue a religious or public vocation until he had 
undertaken advanced studies with at least a few eminent teachers. 
The local masters and “visiting scholars” of Tangier could give a boy 
a solid foundation in the major disciplines. But any lad with a large 
intellectual appetite and personal ambition to match was obliged to 
take to the road along with the rest of the scholarly community. Fez 
lay only a few days traveling time to the south, and its colleges. just 
being built under Maninid sponsorship, were attracting students from 
all Morocco’s provincial towns. But though Fez was fast gaining a 
reputation as the most important seat of learning west of Tunis, it 
lacked the shining prestige of the great cultural centers of the Middle 
East, notably Cairo and Damascus. In those cities were to be found 
the most illustrious teachers, the most varied curricula, the biggest 
colleges, the rarest libraries, and, for a young man with a career 
ahead of him, the most respected credentials. 


1. Quoted in George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges (Edinburgh. 1981), p. 91. 

2. The limited literary sources on Tangier in the Almohad age and later have been 
brought together in Edouard Michaux-Bellaire. Villes et tribus du Maroc. Tanger et sa 
zone, vol. 7 (Paris, 1921). 

3. Derek Latham, “The Later “Azafids,” Revue de l’Occident Musulman et de la 
Méditerranée 15-16 (1973): 112-13. 

26 Tangier 

4. Charles-Emmanuel Dufourcq, L’Espagne catalane et le Maghrib aux XII le e 
X1Ve siécles (Paris, 1966), p. 575. Dufourcq notes an upsurge of piracy emanating 
from Moroccan ports in the early fourteenth century. 

5. Hilmar C. Krueger, “Genoese Trade with Northwest Africa in the Twelfth 
Century.” Speculum 8 (1933): 377-82. Krueger does not mention Tangier 
specifically, but there is no doubt that Europeans were sailing there about this time 
since they were also beginning to put in at Atlantic ports southwest of Tangier. 

6. J.H. Parry. The Discovery of the Sea (New York, 1974), p. 75. 

7. Charles-Emmanuel Dufourcq, “La Question de Ceuta au XIIle siécle,” 
Hespéris 42 (1955): 67-127; Derek Latham, “The Strategic Position and Defence of 
Ceuta in the Later Muslim Period,” /slamic Quarterly 15 (1971): 189-204: Anna 
Mascarello, “Quelques aspects des activités italiennes dans le Maghreb médiéval,” 
Revue d'Histoire et de Civilisation du Maghreb 5 (1968): 74-75. 

8. Dufourcq, L’Espagne catalane, p. 159. 

9. A madrasa was founded in Tangier some time during the reign of Abu 
Hasan (1331-51). Henri Terrasse, Histoire du Maroc, 2 vols. (Casablanca, 
1949-50). vol. 2, p. 53. 

10. Ibn Khaldun, The Mugaddimah, 2nd edn., trans. F. Rosenthal, 3 vols. 
(Princeton, N.J.. 1967), vol. 2, pp. 430-31. 

11. On the culture of men of traditional learning in nineteenth- and twentieth- 
century Morocco, see Dale F. Eickelman, Knowledge and Power in Morocco: The 
Education of a Twentieth Century Notable (Princeton, N.J., 1985). 

12. Kenneth Brown, People of Salé: Tradition and Change in a Moroccan City, 
1830-1930 (Cambridge, Mass., 1976), p. 103. 

13. Alfred Bel, La Religion musulmane en Berbérie (Paris, 1938), pp. 320-22, 

14. On the dress of legal scholars in both Granada and Morocco see Rachel 
Arié, L’Espagne musulmane au temps des Nasrides (Paris, 1973), pp. 382-91. 

15. Bel, La Religion musulmane, pp. 352-53; Terrasse, Histoire de Maroc, vol. 
1, p. 81. 

16. Mohamed Talbi speaks of Muslim emigration from Spain as a “fuite des 
cerveaux” in “Les contacts culturels entre I'Ifriqiya hafside (1230-1569) et le 
sultanat nasride d’Espagne (1232-1492)” in Actas del II Coloquis hispano-tunecino 
de estudios historicos (Madrid, 1973), pp. 63-90. 

Q The Maghrib 

A scholar’s education is greatly improved by traveling in 
quest of knowledge and meeting the authoritative 
teachers (of his time). ' 

Ibn Khaldun 

Tangier would have counted among its inhabitants many indi- 
viduals who had traveled to the Middle East, most of them with 
the main purpose of carrying out the hajj, or pilgrimage to the 
Holy Places of Mecca and Medina in the Hijaz region of Western 
Arabia. Islam obliged every Muslim who was not impoverished, 
enslaved, insane, or endangered by war or epidemic to go to 
Mecca at least once in his lifetime and to perform there the set of 
collective ceremonies prescribed by the shari’a. Each year 
hundreds and often thousands of North Africans fulfilled their 
duty, joining in a great ritual migration that brought together 
believers from the far corners of the Afro—Eurasian world. A 
traveler bound for the Middle East might have any number of 
mundane or purely personal goals in mind — trade, study, 
diplomacy, or simply adventure, but the hajj was almost always the 
expressed and over-riding motive. The high aim of reaching Mecca 
in time for the pilgrimage season in the month of Dhu I-Hijja gave 
shape to the traveler’s itinerary and lent a spirit of jubilation to 
what was a long, exhausting, and sometimes dangerous journey. 
In the fourteenth century an aspiring pilgrim of Tangier had the 
choice of traveling by land or sea, or a combination of the two. 
European vessels which put in at Maghribi ports, as well as Muslim 
coasting ships, commonly took passengers on board and delivered 
them to some port further east along the Mediterranean shore.” 
Until the age of the steamship and the charter flight, however, 
most pilgrims chose the overland route across the Maghrib, Libya, 
and Egypt. This route was in fact part of a network of tracks 
linking the towns and cities of northern Africa with one another. A 
traveler from Morocco might follow a number of slightly varying 
itineraries, passing part of the way along the Mediterranean coast 




The Maghrib 29 

and part of the way across the high steppes which ran west to east 
between the coastal mountains and the Atlas ranges of the deep 
interior. Or, pilgrims starting out in southern Morocco could go by 
way of the oases and river valleys which were strung out at comfor- 
table intervals along the northern fringe of the Sahara. Northern 
and southern routes alike converged in Ifriqiya. From there to 
Egypt pilgrims took the coast road, the lifeline between the 
Maghrib and the Middle East, which ran along the narrow ribbon 
of settled territory between the Mediterranean and the Libyan 

Whether by land or sea, getting to Mecca was a risky affair. If 
seafarers had to brave storms, pirates, and hostile navies, overland 
travelers confronted bandits, nomad marauders, or the possibility 
of stumbling into a war between one North African state and 
another. Consequently, most pilgrims going overland kept. for the 
sake of security, to the company of others, often the small 
caravans that shuttled routinely between the towns and rural 
markets. Travelers who had little money to start with frequently 
traded a stock of wares of their own along the way — leather 
goods or precious stones for example — or offered their labor 
here and there, sometimes taking several months or even years to 
finally work or chaffer their way as far as Egypt. 

Quite apart from these little bands of pilgrims in the company of 
merchants and wayfarers was the great hajj caravan, which ideally 
went every year from Morocco to Cairo, and from there to the 
Hijaz with the pilgrims from Egypt. Starting usually in Fez or 
Tlemcen, the procession picked up groups of pilgrims along the 
way like a rolling snowball, some of them walking, others riding 
horses, mules, donkeys, or camels. By the time the company 
reached Cairo, it might in some years number several thousand. 

The flow of pilgrims across the nearly 3,000 miles of steppe, 
desert, and mountain separating Morocco from Mecca was one of 
the most conspicuous expressions of the extraordinary mobility 
and cosmopolitanism within the Dar al-Islam in the Middle 
Period. Although North Africa was known as the Island of the 
West (Jazirat al-Maghrib), a mountainous realm separated from 
the heartland of Islam by sea and desert, the intercommunciation 
across the barren gap of Libya, whether by Aaj caravan or 
otherwise, was nonetheless continuous — barring times of un- 
usual political instability on one side or the other. And while the 
commercial aspect of the link was important, its cultural di- 

30 The Maghrib 

mension was even more so. If few educated Egyptians, Syrians, or 
Persians found reason to travel west in the fourteenth century (and 
tended to think of the Maghrib as Islam’s back country, its Wild 
West), the learned classes of North Africa and Granada were 
always setting off on tours to the East in order to draw spiritual 
and intellectual sustenance from their scholarly counterparts in 
Cairo, Damascus, and the Holy Cities of the Hijaz. 

For scholarly North Africans the hajj was almost always more 
than a journey to Mecca and home again. Rather it was a rihla, a 
grand study tour of the great mosques and madrasas of the heart- 
land, an opportunity to acquire books and diplomas, deepen one’s 
knowledge of theology and law, and commune with refined and 
civilized men. 

Literate Moroccans of the fourteenth century owed their 
greatest intellectual debt not to the Middle East but to the learned 
establishment of Muslim Iberia. Yet Andalusia’s time was fast 
running out, and beleaguered little Granada, despite a brave 
showing of in its latter days, could no longer pro- 
vide much cultural leadership. The Middle East, however, having 
somehow survived the dark catastrophes of the Mongol century, 
was experiencing a cultural florescence, notably in the Mamluk- 
ruled lands of Egypt and Syria. Gentlemen scholars of far western 
cities like Tangier could readily look there for civilized models, 
higher knowledge, and learned companionship. And though the 
road to Mecca was long and perilous, the internationalism of 
Islamic culture, continuously reaffirmed, held men of learning in a 
bond of unity and shrank the miles between them. 

On 14 June 1325 (2 Rajab 725 A.H.) Ibn Battuta rode out of 
Tangier and headed southeastward through the highlands of the 
Eastern Rif to join the main caravan road that ran from Fez to 
Tlemcen. He was 21 years old and eager for more learning, and 
more adventure, than his native city could hope to give him. The 
parting was bittersweet: 

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, God’s richest 
blessing and peace be on him [at Medina]. I set out alone, 
having neither fellow-traveler in whose companionship I might 
find cheer, nor caravan whose party I might join, but swayed by 

The Maghrib 31 

an overmastering impulse within me and a_ desire 
long-cherished in my bosom to visit these _ illustrious 
sanctuaries. So I braced my resolution to quit all 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 did not, it seems, set out from Tangier with any plan to join 
the hajj caravan, if there was one that year. It was not, in any 
event, a bad year for a young man to launch forth entirely on his 
own, for political conditions in the Western Maghrib were un- 
typically calm. Abu Sa’id (1310-31), the reigning Marinid Sultan 
of Morocco, was a pious and relatively unenterprising ruler and, 
unlike many of the kings of his line, not much interested in 
pursuing military adventures either in Iberia or North Africa. 
Around the end of the thirteenth century the pilgrimage caravans 
from Morocco had had to be suspended for several years owing to 
Marinid wars against their eastern neighbor, the "Abd al-Wadid 
kingdom. But less intrigued than his predecessors with visions of 
a neo-Almohad empire, Abu Sa’id permitted a de facto peace to 
prevail on his eastern frontier during most of his reign. Con- 
sequently, merchants and pilgrims could expect to pass between 
the two realms in relative security. 

Riding eastward through Morocco’s mountainous interior and 
then onto the high plains that stretched into the Central Maghrib, 
Ibn Battuta reached Tlemcen, capital of the "Abd al-Wadid state, 
in the space of a few weeks. Although Tlemcen was a busy com- 
mercial transit center and intellectually the liveliest city anywhere 
between Fez and Tunis, he did not linger there. For upon arriving 
he learned that two envoys from the Hafsid Sultanate of Ifriqiya 
had been in the city on a diplomatic mission and had just left to 
return home. The ’Abd al-Wadids, enjoying an unusual break in 
their wars with the Marinids, had turned their full attention to 
their eastern marches where they were engaged in a protracted 
struggle with the Hafsids, notably over control of Bijaya (Bougie), 
a key Mediterranean port 450 miles west of Tunis. At the time Ibn 
Battuta arrived in Tlemcen, Abu Tashfin, the “Abd al-Wadid 
sultan, was conspiring with a number of Ifriqiyan rebels and pre- 
tenders to unseat his Hafsid neighbor and satisfy his own ex- 
pansionist ambitions.* It may be that the two envoys had come to 

32 The Maghrib 

Tlemcen to try to negotiate peace with Abu Tashfin and were now 
going home, albeit empty-handed.” In any case, someone advised Ibn 
Battuta to catch up with them and their entourage and proceed on to 
Tunis in the safety of their company. 

The busiest commercial routes out of Tlemcen led northward to the 
ports of Oran and Honein. But Ibn Battuta took the lonelier 
pilgrimage trail running northeastward through a series of river valleys 
and arid plains flanked on one side or the other by the low, fragmented 
mountain chains that broke up the Mediterranean hinterland. This 
part of the Maghrib was sparsely populated in the fourteenth century. 
He might have ridden for several days at a time without encountering 
any towns, only Berber hamlets and bands of Arabic-speaking camel 
herders who ranged over the broad, green-brown valleys and depress- 

After what must have been two or three weeks on the road, he 
caught up with the Ifriqiyans at Miliana, a small commercial center in 
the Zaccar hills overlooking the plain of the Chelif River. Eager 
scholar that he was, he could hardly have made better choices of his 
first traveling companions. One of them was Abu ‘Abdallah al- 
Zubaydi, a prominent theologian, the other Abu ‘Abdallah 
al-Nafzawi, a gadi of Tunis. Unfortunately, tragedy struck as soon as 
Ibn Battuta arrived. Both envoys fell ill owing to the hot weather (it 
was mid summer) and were forced to remain in Miliana for ten days. 
On the eleventh the little caravan resumed its journey, but just four 
miles from the town the gadi grew worse and died. Al-Zubaydi, in the 
company of the dead man’s son, whose name was Abu al-Tayyib, 
returned to Miliana for mourning and burial, leaving Ibn Battuta to 
continue on ahead with a party of Ifriqiyan merchants. 

Descending the steep slopes of the Zaccar, the travelers arrived at 
the port of Algiers, and Ibn Battuta had his first sight of the 
Mediterranean since leaving Tangier. Algiers was a place of minor 
importance in the fourteenth century, not the maritime capital it 
would come to be in another two hundred years. It had little to 
recommend it to a member of the educated class. Abu Muhammad 
al-’Abdari, an Andalusian scholar who had traveled from Morocco to 
Arabia 36 years earlier and had subsequently returned home to write a 
rihla of his experiences, sized up the city’s literate establishment and 
quickly wrote the place off: 

In setting foot in this town, I wondered whether one would be able 
to meet any enlightened people or any persons whose erudition 

The Maghrib 33 

would offer some attraction; but | had the feeling of one 
looking for a horse that wasn’t hungry or the eggs of a camel.” 

Ibn Battuta likely shared al-’Abdari’s opinion since he says 
nothing in his narrative about what Algiers was like. In any case, 
he and his merchant companions camped outside the walls of the 
city for several days, waiting for al-Zubaydi and Abu al-Tayyib to 
catch up. 

As soon as they did, the party set out for the port of Bijaya, the 
western frontier city of the Hafsid kingdom. The journey took 
them directly eastward through the heart of the Grand Kabylie 
Mountains, a region of immense oak and cedar forests, spectacular 
gorges, and summits reaching higher than 6,500 feet, rougher 
country than Ibn Battuta had seen since leaving home. Bijaya lay 
up against the slopes of the mountains near the mouth of the 
Souman River, which separates the Grand Kabylie range from the 
Little Kabylie to the east. It was a busy international port and the 
principal maritime outlet for the dense communities of Berber 
farmers who inhabited the highland valleys behind it. 

Bijaya was the first real city Ibn Battuta had the opportunity to 
explore since leaving Tlemcen. Nonetheless, he was determined to 
push on quickly, and this in spite of an attack of fever that left him 
badly weakened. Al-Zubaydi advised him to stay in Bijaya until he 
recovered, but the young man was adamant: “If God decrees my 
death, then my death shall be on the road, with my face set 
towards the land of the Hijaz.” Relenting before this high 
sentiment, al-Zubaydi offered to lend him an ass and a tent if he 
would agree to sell his own donkey and heavy baggage so that they 
might all travel at a quicker pace. Ibn Battuta agreed, thanked 
God for His beneficence, and prepared for the departure for 
Constantine, the next major city on the main pilgrimage route. 

Al-Zubaydi’s insistence on traveling fast and light had less to do 
with his young friend’s illness than with the dangers that lay on the 
road ahead. Ibn Battuta had had the good fortune to cross 
Morocco and the ’Abd al-Wadid lands during a period of relative 
peace. But the Eastern Maghrib in 1325 was in the midst of one of 
the recurring cycles of political and military crisis that charac- 
terized the Hafsid age. Sultan Abu Yahya Abu Bakr, who had 
acceded to the Hafsid throne in 1318, was yet striving to gain a 
reasonable measure of control over his domains in the face of a 
Pandora’s box of plots, betrayals, revolts, and invasions. On one 

34 The Maghrib 

side were rival members of the Hafsid royal family, who from 
provincial bases in various parts of the country were organizing 
movements either to seize the capital city of Tunis or to set up 
petty kingdoms of their own. On the other side were the ‘Abd al- 
Wadids, who repeatedly invaded Abu Bakr’s western territories 
and tried almost every year, though never successfully, to force the 
walls of Bijaya. 

As if these enemies were not enough, the sultan had to contend 
with the turbulent and unpredictable Arab warrior tribes who for 
more than two centuries had been the dominant political force 
over large areas of rural Ifriqiya. These nomads were descendants 
of the great wave of Arabic-speaking, camel-herding migrants, 
known collectively as the Banu Hilal, who had trekked from Egypt 
in the eleventh century and then gone on to penetrate the steppes 
and coastal lowlands of the Maghrib as far west as the Atlantic 
plains. If over the long run the relationship between these com- 
panies of herdsmen and the indigenous Berbers of the towns and 
villages was described far less by hostility than by mutual com- 
mercial and cultural dependence, the migrations were nonetheless 
a source of persistent trouble for North African rulers, who tried 
time and again to harness the military power of the Arabs to their 
own ends, only to find their erstwhile allies putting in with rebels 
and pretenders. In 1325 Arab bands were politically teamed up 
with at least two Hafsid rebels as well as with Abu Tashfin, the 
"Abd al-Wadid. At the same time that Ibn Battuta was making his 
way across the Central Maghrib, an ’Abd al-Wadid army was 
laying siege to Constantine and had Sultan Abu Bakr himself 
bottled up inside the city. In the meantime, a Hafsid pretender and 
his Arab cohorts took advantage of the sultan’s helplessness to 
occupy Tunis. The kingdom was in a state of civil confusion, the 
roads were unsafe, and roving bands of Arab cavalry plagued the 

Ignoring the tumult, Ibn Battuta and his companions struck out 
from Bijaya across the Little Kabylie Mountains and arrived at 
Constantine without encountering trouble. By this time (it must 
have been August) the approaches to the city were clear. The 
"Abd al-Wadid army had precipitously given up its siege some 
weeks earlier and returned to Tlemcen in failure, leaving Abu 
Bakr free to restore a degree of order in the region and lead his 
loyal forces back to Tunis to eject the rebels.’ 

Although Constantine was the largest city in the interior of the 

The Maghrib 35 

Eastern Maghrib, Ibn Battuta did not tarry there long. Con- 
sequently he has little to recall about it in the Rihla — except the 
one notable fact that he was privileged to make the acquaintance 
of the governor, a son of Abu Bakr, who came out to the edge of 
town to welcome al-Zubaydi. The meeting was a memorable one 
for the young pilgrim because the governor presented him with a 
gift of alms, the first of many presents he would receive from kings 
and governors during the course of his travels. In this instance it 
was two gold dinars and a fine woolen mantle to replace his old 
one, which by this stage of the journey was in rags. Almsgiving was 
one of the five sacred pillars of Islam, the duty of princes and 
peasants alike to share one’s material wealth with others and thus 
remit it to God. The obligation included voluntary giving (sadaqa) 
to specific classes of people: the poor, orphans, prisoners, slaves 
(for ransoming), fighters in the holy war, and wayfarers. Falling 
eminently into this last category, Ibn Battuta would during the 
next several years see his welfare assured, to one degree or 
another, by an array of pious individuals who were moved to 
perform their Koranic duty, the more readily so since the recipient 
was himself an educated gentleman well worthy of such tokens of 
God’s beneficence. 

Leaving Constantine better dressed and richer, he and his 
friends headed northeast across more mountainous country, 
reaching the Mediterranean again at the port of Buna (Bone, 
today Annaba). After resting here for several days in the security 
of the city walls, he bade farewell to the merchants who had 
accompanied him half way across the Central Maghrib and con- 
tinued on toward Tunis with al-Zubaydi and Abu al-Tayyib. Now 
the little party “traveled light with the utmost speed, pushing on 
night and day without stopping” for fear of attack by Arab 
marauders. Ibn Battuta was once again struck by fever and had to 
tie himself to his saddle with a turban cloth to keep from falling 
off, since they dared not stop for long. Their route took them 
parallel to the coast through high cork and oak forests, then 
gradually downward into the open plain and the expansive wheat 
lands of central Ifriqiya. From there they had a level road along 
the fertile Medjerda River valley to the western environs of Tunis. 

Of all the North African cities where art and intellect flourished, 
Tunis was premier during most of the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries. The Almohads had made it their provincial capital in 
the Eastern Maghrib, and it was under their patronage that it took 

36 The Maghrib 

on the physical and demographic dimensions of a major city, 
attaining a population of about 100,000 during peak periods of 
prosperity.® The Hafsids, who started out as Almohad governors 
over Ifriqiya and subsequently represented themselves as the 
legitimate dynastic heirs of the empire, continued to rule from 
Tunis and to cultivate the city’s corps of scholars and craftsmen, 
much as the Marinids, equally driven to identify themselves with 
the Almohad model of civilized taste, were doing in Fez. 

Like other Maghribi cities of that age, Tunis under the Hafsids 
built its splendid mosques and palaces, laid out its public gardens, 
and founded its colleges with wealth that came in large measure 
from long-distance trade. In the early fourteenth century Tunis 
was the busiest of the ports which lay along the economic frontier 
between the European seaborne trade of the Mediterranean and 
the Muslim caravan network of the African interior. The Ifriqiyan 
hinterland plain was narrow but rich enough to export a wide 
range of Maghribi products — wool, leather, hides, cloth, wax, 
olive oil, and grain. Tunis was also a consumer and transit market 
for goods from sub-Saharan Africa — gold, ivory, slaves, ostrich 
feathers. What gave the city its special prominence was its strategic 
position on the southern rim of the Sicilian Channel, which joined 
(and divided) the maritime complexes of the Western and Eastern 
Mediterranean. Tunis maintained close commercial ties with 
Egypt by way of Muslim coastal and overland trade and was well 
placed to serve as a major emporium for Christian merchants of 
the Western Mediterranean who found it a convenient place to 
buy exotic goods of the East without themselves venturing on the 
voyage to Egypt or the Levant. 

What Ibn Battuta recalls about his feelings upon arriving in 
Tunis is not the elation of a pilgrim who has reached one of the 
great centers of religious learning along the hajj route, but the 
forlornness of a young man in a strange city: - 

The townsfolk came out to welcome the shaykh Abu ’Abdallah 
al-Zubaydi and to welcome Abu al-Tayyib, the son of the qadi 
Abu ’Abdailah al-Nafzawi. On all sides they came forward with 

_ greetings and questions to one another, but not a soul said a 
word of greeting to me, since there was none of them that I 
knew. IJ felt so sad at heart on account of my loneliness that | 
could not restrain the tears that started to my eyes, and wept 

The Maghrib 37 
In no time at all, however things were looking up: 

One of the pilgrims, realizing the cause of my distress, came up 
to me with a greeting and friendly welcome, and continued to 
comfort me with friendly talk until I entered the city, where I 
lodged in the college of the Booksellers. 

After dodging tribal marauders all along the road from Bijaya, 
Ibn Battuta managed to arrive in Tunis during a period of relative 
political calm. The harried Abu Bakr, who had found himself shut 
out of the citadel of Tunis by rebels three different times since 
1321, returned from Constantine and recaptured the city perhaps 
only a few days ahead of Ibn Battuta’s arrival there.” Indeed Abu 
Bakr probably resumed authority just in time for the ‘Id al-Fitr, 
the feast celebrating the end of Ramadan, the Muslim month of 
fasting during daylight hours. Ibn Battuta was on hand to witness 
the sultan fulfill his customary duty of leading “a magnificent 
procession” of officials, courtiers, and soldiers from the citadel to 
a special outdoor praying ground (musalla) that accommodated 
the crowds gathered for the prayers marking the Breaking of the 

Ibn Battuta spent about two months in Tunis, arriving some 
days before 10 September 1325 and leaving in early November. It 
was common for educated travelers or pilgrims to take lodging 
temporarily in a college, even though they were not regularly 
attending lectures. The madrasa of the Booksellers where he 
stayed was one of three colleges in existence in Tunis at that 
time.!! His recollections of his first visit to the city are slight, but 
we might be sure that he spent most of his time in the company of 
the gentlemen-scholars of the city. He may indeed have had ex- 
posure to some of the eminent Maliki ’u/ama of the century. Since 
the demise of the Almohads, the Maliki school was enjoying as 
much of a resurgence in Ifriqiya as it was in Morocco. The Hafsid 
rulers were appointing Maliki scholars to high positions of state 
and patronizing the madrasas, where Maliki juridical texts were 
the heart of the curriculum. 

If the Tunis elite held out an estimable model of erudition, they 
were also masters of refined taste and that union of piety and 
restrained wordliness that Ibn Battuta would exemplify in adult- 
hood. During the previous century Tunis had been a distant refuge 
for successive waves of Muslims emigrating from Andalusia in the 

38 The Maghrib 

wake of the reconquista. Of all the North African cities with 
populations of Iberian descent, Tunis had the liveliest and most 
productive. The Andalusians, coming from a civilized tradition 
that was more polished than that of North Africa, were leaders in 
the fields of architecture, craftsmanship, horticulture, music, belle- 
lettres, and the niceties of diplomatic and courtly protocol. An 
Andalusian strain seems evident in Ibn Battuta’s own mannerly 
character, and we can wonder what seasoning effect two months in 
Tunis among such people may have had. 

That he was already showing promise as an intelligent Maliki 
scholar was evident in the circumstances of his departure from 
Tunis in November 1325. He had left home a lonely journeyer 
eager to join up with whoever might tolerate his company. He left 
Tunis as the appointed gadi of a caravan of pilgrims. This was his 
first official post as an aspiring jurist. Perhaps the honor went to 
him because no better qualified lawyer was present in the group or 
because, as he tells us in the narrative, most of the people in the 
company were Moroccan Berbers. In any case, a hajj caravan was 
a sort of community and required formal leadership: a chief (amir) 
who had all the powers of the captain of a ship, and a gadi, who 
adjudicated disputes and thereby kept peace and order among the 

The main caravan route led southward along Tunisia’s rich 
littoral of olive and fruit groves and through a succession of busy 
maritime cities — Sousse, Sfax, Gabés. Some miles south of 
Gabés the road turned abruptly eastward with the coast, running 
between the island of Djerba on one side, the fringe of the Sahara 
on the other. The next major stop was Tripoli, the last urban 
outpost of the Hafsid domain. 

The province of Tripolitania, today part of Libya, marked 
geographically the eastern extremity of the island Maghrib. From 
here the coastline ran southeastward for more than 400 miles, 
cutting further and further into the climatic zone of the Sahara 
until desert and water came together, obliterating entirely the 
narrow coastal band of fertility. Further on the land juts suddenly 
northward again into latitudes of higher rainfall. Here was the 
well-populated region of Cyrenaica with its forests and 
pasturelands and fallen Roman towns. If Tripolitania was 
historically and culturally the end of the Maghrib, Cyrenaica was 
the beginning of the Middle East, the two halves of Libya divided 
one from the other by several hundred miles of sand and sea. 

The Maghrib 39 

Across the breadth of the coastal Libyan countryside Arab herding 
tribes ruled supreme, and once again Ibn Battuta and his companions 
courted trouble. Between Gabés and Tripoli a company of archers, no 
doubt provided by the Hafsid sultan to protect the hajj caravan, kept 
rovers at bay. In Tripoli, however, Ibn Battuta decided to leave the 
main group, which lingered in the city because of rain and cold, and 
push on ahead with a small troop of Moroccans, presumably leaving 
his judgeship, at least temporarily, in the hands of a subordinate. 
Somewhere near the port town of Surt (Sirte) a band of cameleers 
tried to attack the little party. But according to the Rihla, “the Divine 
Will diverted them and prevented them from doing us harm that they 
had intended.” After reaching Cyrenaica in safety, the travelers 
waited for the rest of the caravan to catch up, then continued, 
presumably without further incident, toward the Nile. 

Crossing Libya, Ibn Battuta had greater reason than ever to be wary 
of trouble since he no longer had only himself to consider. While the 
caravan was in Sfax, he entered into a contract of marriage with the 
daughter of a Tunisian official in the pilgrim company. When they 
reached Tripoli, the woman was presented to him. The arrangement 
ended in failure, however, for Ibn Battuta fell into a dispute with his 
prospective father-in-law while traveling through Cyrenaica and 
ended up returning the girl. Undaunted, he then wedded the daughter 
of another pilgrim, this time a scholar from Fez. Apparently with 
income from his judicial office he put on a marriage feast “at which | 
detained the caravan for a whole day, and entertained them all.” The 
Rihla tells us nothing whatsoever about the character of either of these 
women or Ibn Battuta’s relationship with them. Indeed he would 
marry several times in the course of his travels, yet neither his wives, 
nor the slave concubines who were frequently in his train dunng later 
periods of his travels, would receive anything other than the scantest 
mention here and there in the Rihla. Wives vanish as casually and as 
inexplicably from the narrative as they enter it. In the Islamic society 
of that age a man’s intimate family relations were regarded as no one’s 
business but his own, and married Muslim women, at least in the 
Arabic-speaking lands, lived out their lives largely in seclusion. Ibn 
Battuta’s domestic affairs were not a proper subject for a rihla, nor 
would they be for the biography or autobiography of any public man of 
that time. Consequently we learn much less than we would like about a 
significant dimension of Ibn Battuta’s traveling life. 

Sometime in the late winter or spring of 1326 the caravan reached 
Alexandria at the western end of the Nile Delta.'* As treks across 

40 The Maghrib 

northern Africa went, Ibn Battuta managed it in less time than 
many travelers did, covering the more than 2,000 miles in the 
space of eight or nine months. If at this point he had been in a 
hurry to get to the Hijaz, he could have continued across the delta 
and the Sinai Peninsula, picking up the Egyptian caravan route to 
Mecca. But the next pilgrimage season was still eight months 
away, affording him plenty of time to explore the Nile Valley and, 
and as any serious scholar-pilgrim did, pay his respects to Cairo, 
which in the first half of the fourteenth century was the reigning 
intellectual capital of the Arabic-speaking world and the largest 
city in the hemisphere anywhere west of China. 


1. Ibn Khaldun, The Mugaddimah, 2nd edn., trans. F. Rosenthal, 3 vols. 
(Princeton, N.J., 1967), vol. 3, p. 307. 

2. Robert Brunschvig, La Berbérie orientale sous les Hafsides des origines a la 
fin du XVe siécle, 2 vols. (Paris, 1940, 1947), vol. 2, p. 97. 

3. M. Canard, “Les relations entre les Merinides et les Mamelouks au XIVe 
siécle,” Annales de l'Institut d’ Etudes Orientales 5 (1939): 43. 

4. Ibn Khaldun, Histoire des Berbéres et des dynasties musulmanes de | Afrique 
septentrionale, trans. Baron de Slane, 4 vols. (Paris, 1925-56). vol. 2. pp. 462-66, 
vol. 3, pp. 403-05. 

5. Brunschvig (Berbérie orientale, vol. 1, p. 148n) suggests this hypothesis. 

6. A. Cherbonneau, “Notice et extraits du voyage d’El-Abdary 4 travers 
Afrique septentrionale, au VIIe siécle de |'Hegire.” Journal Asiatique, Sth ser., 4 
(1854): 158. My translation from the French. 

7. The events of this period are described in Ibn Khaldun, Histoire des 
Berbéres, vol. 2, pp. 457-66; and Brunschvig, Berbérie orientale, vol. 1, pp. 144-50. 

8. Brunschvig, Berbérie orientale, vol. 1, pp. 356-57. 

9. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 146n. 

10. Ibid., vol. 2, pp. 301-02; Gb, vol. 1, p. 13n. 

11. Robert Brunschvig, “Quelques remarques historiques sur les medersas de 
Tunisie,” Revue Tunisienne 6 (1931): 261-85. The college of the Booksellers was 
known in Arabic as the Ma'ridiyya. 

12. In the Rihla IB remembers arriving in Alexandria on 5 April 1326 (1 Jumada 
1 726). Hrbek (Hr. pp. 417-18) argues that the date was more likely mid February 
(Rabi’ I 726) on the grounds that the trip from Tripoli to Alexandria should not 
have taken the three months Ibn Battuta allots to it, considering that no major 
delays are noted. Hrbek suggests that the journey probably took 40 to 45 days and 
that acceptance of an earlier arrival date in Alexandria helps to solve chronological 
problems that arise later on. 

3 The Mamluks 

As for the dynasties of our time, the greatest of them is 
that of the Turks in Egypt. ' 
Ibn Khaldun 

Of the dozens of international ports Ibn Battuta visited in the 
course of his travels, Alexandria impressed him as among the five 
most magnificent. There was not one harbor but two, the eastern 
reserved for Christian ships, the western for Muslim. They were 
divided by Pharos Island and the colossal lighthouse which loomed 
over the port and could be seen several miles out to sea. 
Alexandria handled a great variety of Egyptian products, in- 
cluding the woven silk, cotton, and linen from its own thriving 
textile shops. But more important, it was the most westerly situ- 
ated of the arc of Middle Eastern cities which funneled trade 
between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean. 

From the beginning of the Islamic age the flow of goods across 
the Middle East had followed a number of different routes, the 
relative importance of each depending on the prevailing con- 
figurations of political power and social stability. Ibn Battuta had 
the good fortune to make his first and lengthiest visit to Egypt at a 
time of high prosperity on the spice route running from the Indian 
Ocean to the Red Sea and hence down the Nile to the ports of the 

Contributing to Egypt’s affluence was the firm rule of the Bahri 
Mamluks, the Turkish-speaking warrior caste who had governed 
that country and Syria as a united kingdom since 1260. Over the 
second half of the thirteenth century the Mamluks had been 
obliged to go to war several times to prevent the Mongol armies of 
Persia from overruning Syria and advancing to the Nile. It is to the 
credit of Mamluk cavalry that they stopped the Tatars and saved 
Egypt from catastrophe by the skin of its teeth. Thus the cities of 
the Nile were spared the fate of Baghdad, which the Mongols laid 
waste in 1258 and reduced to the status of a provincial market 


42 The Mamluks 

Map 4: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Egypt, Syria and Arabia, 

7 [° Kiswa 
¢ AY w 

ablus lun A 

erusalgm vr 
>Bgthlehem = 

Hebron (d > 

—— Probable Itinerary RS 

300 ies 
IW] i_ i a Mecca * 

The Mamluks 43 

Although the Mongol threat to Syria did not end until about 
1315, Egypt entered the fourteenth century with a firm gov- 
ernment, a generally stable social order, and bright opportunities 
to exploit the commercial potential of its geographical position. 
Under the meticulous supervision of Mamluk soldiers and customs 
officers, the products of Asia were unloaded at the port of 
‘Aydhab half way up the Red Sea, moved overland by camel train 
to the Nile, then carried down the river on lateen-rigged vessels to 
Alexandria and the warehouses of Italian, French, and Catalan 
traders. Symon Semeonis, an Irish cleric who visited Alexandria in 
1323 on his way to the Holy land, experienced the Mamluk 
customs bureaucracy at work: 

On our arrival in the port, the [European] vessel, as is the 
custom, was immediately boarded by a number of Saracen 
[Muslim] harbor officials, who hauled down the sail, and wrote 
down the names of everybody on board. Having examined all 
the merchandise and goods in the ship, and having made a 
careful list of everything, they returned to the city taking the 
passengers with them... They quartered us within the first 
and second gates, and went off to report what they had done to 
the Admiral of the city, without whose presence and permission 
no foreigner is allowed either to enter or leave the city, and no 
goods can be imported.” 

Ibn Battuta spent several weeks in the busy port, seeing the 
sights (including the Pharos lighthouse and the third-century 
marble column known as Pompey’s Pillar) and fraternizing with 
the men of letters in the mosques and colleges. In Egypt the Maliki 
school of law was not nearly so widedly used as the Shafi’i code, 
but Malikism was dominant in Alexandria owing to the large 
representation of North Africans and Andalusian refugees among 
the educated population.’ In the Rihla Ibn Battuta recounts the 
achievements and miracles of several scholars and mystics of the 
city, most of them of Maghribi origin. 

At one point during these weeks he spent a few days as the guest 
of one Burhan al-Din the Lame, a locally venerated Sufi ascetic. 
Among the special talents of more enlightened Muslim divines was 
the gift of foretelling the future. It was in the company of Burhan 
al-Din that the young pilgrim got a first inkling of his destiny. The 
holy man, perceiving that Ibn Battuta had in his heart a passion for 

44 The Mamluks 

travel, suggested that he visit three of his fellow Sufis, two of them in 
India, the thirdin China. Ibn Battuta recalls the incident: “I was amazed 
at his prediction, and the idea of going to these countries having been 
cast into my mind, my wanderings never ceased until I had met these 
three that he named and conveyed his greeting to them.” 

For the moment, however, Ibn Battuta was content to wander in 
the valley of the Nile. Alexandria was not located on the river but 
linked to it by a canal, constructed a few years before his arrival, 
which ran eastward to the Rosetta Branch at the town of Fuwwa. 
Most commercial traffic to the interior went by river vessel 
through the canal and from there upstream to Cairo, which lay 
about 140 miles inland at the apex of the delta, a journey of five to 
seven days with the usual favorable northerly winds. 

Ibn Battuta was in no particular hurry at this point, however, 
since the next season of the Aajj was still about seven months off. 
Where most young scholars might have made a beeline for Cairo, 
the great metropolis, this pilgrim, already displaying his charac- 
teristic zeal to see everything, spent about three weeks, probably 
during April 1326, wandering through the rich commercial and 
textile-producing towns of the delta — Damanhur, Fuwwa, Ibyar, 
Damietta, Samannud, and others.* Along the way he sought out 
and lodged in the houses of numerous judges, savants, and Sufi 
shaykhs, including a celebrated saint of Fuwwa who also pro- 
phesied that the young man would one day wind up in India. He 
continued to support himself with the gifts and hospitality of the 
pious, not the least of his benefactors being the Mamluk governor 
of Damietta, who befriended him and sent him several coins. It 
might be presumed that Ibn Battuta was traveling in the Delta in 
the company of the woman he had married in Libya, except that: 
she is never mentioned in the Rihla again. 

At Samannud on the Damietta branch of the river he boarded 
one of the high-masted ships which thronged the river and sailed 
directly upstream toward Cairo. Numerous Christian and Jewish 
travelers — merchants, ambassadors, Holy Land pilgrims — sailed 
the Nile between the coast and Cairo during the fourteenth and 
fifteenth centuries, and few of them (in the narratives they later 
wrote) failed to marvel at the crowded, colorful, ever-blooming life 
of the river. Symon Semeonis extolled its natural wonders: 

This river is most pleasant for navigating, most beautiful in 
aspect, most productive in fishes, abounding in birds, and its 

The Mamluks 45 

water is most wholesome and pleasant to drink, never harmful 
or offensive, but well suited to man’s needs. Many other excel- 
lent things might be said about it were it not the retreat of a 
highly noxious animal, resembling the dragon, which devours 
both horses and men if it catches them in the water or on the 

Ibn Battuta, a minority among travelers in his failure to mention 
the crocodiles, was impressed by the sheer crush of humanity 
along the banks, a density of habitation in startling contrast to 
what he had seen crossing North Africa: 

There is no need for a traveler on the Nile to take any provision 
with him, because whenever he wishes to descend on the bank 
he may do so, for ablutions, prayers, purchasing provisions, or 
any other purpose. There is a continuous series of bazaars from 
the city of Alexandria to Cairo . . . Cities and villages succeed 
one another along its banks without interruption and have no 
equal in the inhabited world, nor is any river known whose 
basin is so intensively cultivated as that of the Nile. There is no 
river on earth but it which is called a sea. 

For all their teeming life, the market towns lining the lower Nile 
were but petty reflections of what the wayfarer beheld on reaching 
Cairo, the greatest bazaar of them all. Travelers of the time, 
whatever their origin, stood bedazzled at the city’s overpowering 
size. “This city of Cairo has a population greater than that of all 
Tuscany,” wrote the Italian gentleman Frescobaldi of his visit in 
1384, “and there is a street which has by itself more people than all 
of Florence.”° 

Modern scholars suggest the population of Cairo in the first half 
of the fourteenth century may have been between 500,000 and 
600,000, or six times larger than Tunis and fifteen times larger than 
London at the same period.’ A convergence of historical factors 
explains the phenomenal growth of the city from the later 
thirteenth to the mid fourteenth century. One was its status as 
capital of the Mamluk kingdom and chief residence of virtually the 
entire Turkish ruling class, around whom Egyptian political and 
economic life turned. Another was its position as the intersecting 
point of the prosperous Red Sea-to-Nile spice route and the trade 
and pilgrimage roads from the Maghrib and sub-Saharan West 

46 The Mamluks 

Africa. A third was the happy fact that its rulers had repulsed the 
Mongol horde and probably saved the population from being 
massacred. Indeed Cairo became a permanent refuge in the later 
thirteenth century for thousands of people from Iraq and Syria 
who fled the approach of the Tatars in panic. 

Although Cairo was spreading physically in several directions in 
the early fourteenth century, the majority of the population, in- 
cluding foreign visitors and refugees, lived packed inside the 
walled city, which lay about a mile and a half east of the river. This 
was Cairo properly termed, al-Qahirah (The Victorious). It was 
founded by the Fatimid dynasty in the tenth century as a royal 
residence and garrison and thereafter evolved as the center of 
commercial and intellectual life for the greater urban region, even- 
tually superseding in this respect the older Islamic city, known as 
Fustat or Misr, which was located some distance to the south. 

Habitation within walled Cairo was so dense and the surge of 
humanity so frantic that the city had the appearance of being 
drastically overpopulated. The crush of people, camels, and 
donkeys in the central commercial district was so great that Ibn 
Battuta might have found a tourist’s stroll down the Bayn al- 
Qasrayn, the main avenue, a thoroughly nerve-rending ex- 
perience. There were thousands of shops in the vicinity of the 
avenue, as well as more than thirty markets, each one a con- 
centration of a particular craft or trade — butchers, goldsmiths, 
gem dealers, candlemakers, carpenters, ironsmiths, — slave 
merchants. Armies of peddlers and food vendors also jammed the 
streets, hawking victuals to the Cairene citizens, almost none of 
whom had the facilities to cook at home. The centers of inter- 
national trade in the city were the caravansaries, called fundugs or 
khans. These were sometimes huge and splendidly decorated 
structures built around a central courtyard and containing rooms 
on the ground floor for storing goods and upstairs for lodging 
merchants. Some khans were constructed for particular groups of 
foreign traders, such as Maghribis, Persians, or Europeans. A 
caravansary for Syrian merchants built in the twelfth century had 
360 lodgings above the storerooms and enough space for 4,000 
guests at a time.® 

The affluence of Cairo in the 1320s was a reflection of the 
competence of the Mamluk government, indeed of a system of 
political and social organization that was working in the early 
fourteenth century about as well as it ever would. When Ibn 

The Mamluks 47 

Battuta entered the Mamluk domain, he fell under a political 
authority whose relationship to the general population was quite 
unlike what he had known at home. Whereas the Marinids of 
Morocco were of Berber stock, ethnically undifferentiated from 
most of the local population, the Mamluks were, in their Central 
Asian origins, Turkish language, and military ethos, utterly alien 
to their native Egyptian subjects. At the heart of the Mamluk 
government was the practice of recruiting the members of the 
ruling military and administrative elite from among young men of 
Turkish tribes in the steppe lands north of the Black and Caspian 
Seas. These youths entered Syria and Egypt as slaves, or in Arabic 
“mamluks.” They were then converted to Islam, educated in the 
fundamentals of religion, taught the arts of mounted warfare, and 
finally given their legal freedom and position of service in the 
Mamluk state. It was from among the ranks of these alien-born 
cavalrymen that the top government commanders (amirs) were 

Though the day to day management of the realm required 
constant contact and intertwining of interests between Mamluks 
and native Eyptians, the ruling minority nonetheless stood as a 
caste apart in its monopoly of political power and physical force. 
Ordinary folk were not even permitted to ride horses. Indeed, the 
purpose of the Mamluk system of recruitment and social insulation 
was not only to build and perpetuate an army of rugged Asian 
soldiers, unequivocally loyal to the state, but also to preserve the 
integrity and esprit de corps of the whole governing establishment 
by locking the subject peoples, even the locally born sons of 
Mamluks, out of it entirely. The ever-looming symbol of Mamluk 
dominance and exclusivity was the Citadel, an awesome complex 
of palace, mosques, offices, living quarters, and stables that stood 
on a rocky prominence 250 feet above Cairo. Here the sultan 
resided with an elaborate court and several regiments of mounted 
troops, cut off, to whatever degree he wished, from the com- 
moners thronging the streets below. 

The origins of this “oligarchy of lost children,” as one historian 
has characterized the Mamluks,” are linked to the tumultuous 
events of the eleventh century, when Turkish steppe warriors 
swarmed over the Middle East, seized power almost everywhere, 
and filled the political void left by the collapse of the classical 
Abbasid empire centered on Baghdad. Although by the twelfth 
century the unity of the Middle East was shattered, Turkish 

48 The Mamluks 

warlords made accommodations with local Arab and Persian 
populations and, with the aid of their comrades-in-arms and a 
continuing flow of slave recruits from Central Asia, succeeded in 
restoring law and order over fairly extensive areas of the Middle 
East and Asia Minor and founding a series of military dynasties, 

The Age of the Turk descended on Egypt in 1250 when a corps of 
slave-soldiers in the service of the decrepit Ayyubid dynasty staged 
a coup d’état and took power. In the course of the following half 
century the Bahri Mamluks, so named for the fact that they were 
originally quartered on an island in the Nile (Bahr al-Nil), con- 
solidated their rule over Egypt, conquered greater Syria, expelled 
the Latin Crusaders, and repeatedly beat back Mongol assaults 
from Persia. By the time Ibn Battuta arrived in Cairo the Mamluk 
empire had expanded to embrace not only Egypt, Syria, and 
Palestine, but also southeastern Asia Minor and the Red Sea rim. 

Although the Mamluks often lived up to their barbarian origins 
in their treatment of the native population (crucifixion and the 
severing of limbs were common punishments for crimes against the 
state), they nevertheless worked out a routine standard of 
cooperation with the ‘ulama and notability, who embodied Arab 
civilization. It was, after all, only through the educated elite, as 
literate spokesmen for the lower orders of society and as interpre- 
ters of the Sacred Law, that the Turks were able to make the social 
accommodations necessary to ensure the steady and tranquil flow 
of tax revenues from agricultural land and commerce. In turn, the 
scholarly class not only accepted the fact of Mamluk power as the 
only alternative to chronic instability but willingly stepped forward 
to make the government work, serving under Turkish comman- 
ders as judges, scribes, tax-collectors, market inspectors, chiefs of 
city quarters, hospital administrators, as well as preachers, 
teachers, and Sufi shaykhs. 

The rise of the Mamluks was also the achievement of the in- 
telligent, ruthless, and surprisingly civilized men who wore the 
black satin robe of the sultanate during the first century of the 
empire. Ibn Battuta had the luck to arrive in Cairo at the 
triumphant mid point of the reign of al-Nasir Muhammad ibn 
Qala’un, who ruled (with some brief interruptions) from 1293 to 
1341, longer than any sultan in the 267 years of the Mamluk 
regime. Such longevity was in fact a remarkable achievement, 
since the Turkish elite, appearing cohesive and fiercely fraternal 
from without, were quarrelsome and faction-ridden within. Power 

The Mamluks 49 

and position in the hierarchy depended largely on personal ability 
and pluck, obliging any officer with ambition to compete viciously 
against his fellows for the high offices (including the sultanate 
itself) and the stupendous personal grants of agricultural land 
revenues that went with them. 

The reign of al-Nasir Muhammad was the age of Cairo at its 
most resplendent, when the city blossomed into maturity as the 
world capital of Arab art and letters. While the Mongol horde 
ransacked its way through the Middle East, devastating Baghdad 
and plundering Damascus (1299-1300), Cairo offered a secure 
haven for scholars, craftsmen, and rich merchants who were 
nimble enough to escape across the Sinai Peninsula, taking with 
them the knowledge, artistic skills, and wealth that helped make 
Cairo the most cosmopolitan center of civilized culture anywhere 
in the Dar al-Islam. 

Mamluk officers were not granted agricultural estates outright 
but only rights to revenue from the land’s productivity. They did 
not normally live on their rural holdings and chose, if they could, 
to live in Cairo. Consequently, rents and taxes from thousands of 
peasant villages poured into the city and were lavishly expended 
on religious endowments, as well as on palaces, khans, racetracks, 
canals, and mausoleums, producing in all the most energetic surge 
of building that Cairo had ever known. Moreover, Mamluk archi- 
tects chose increasingly to build in stone rather than the brick and 
plaster of earlier generations, and so their monuments have en- 
dured. The skyline of domes and minarets which impresses the eye 
of the modern tourist in Old Cairo is for the most part the skyline 
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 

During his stay of about a month in the city,'® Ibn Battuta 
toured the monuments of the Bahri Mamluks, as well as the 
mosques and mausoleums of earlier dynasties. Since a disastrous 
earthquake in 1303 had destroyed many public buildings,’’ he 
must have seen numerous construction projects going on while he 
was there. Sultan al-Nasir was not only a generous patron of 
religious institutions, building some thirty mosques in the course 
of his reign, he also sponsored numerous civic enterprises, in- 
cluding a canal which ran between the walled city and the river and 
opened an extensive new area to urban settlement. 

Among the structures which most impressed Ibn Battuta was the 
Maristan, or hospital, built by Qala’un, the father and predecessor 
of al-Nasir. Today a sad shell of crumbling walls, it was one of the 

50 The Mamluks 

finest architectural creations of the age. “As for the Maristan,” Ibn 
Battuta reports, “no description is adequate to its beauties.” A 
modern historian describes its operation, showing that however 
brawling and unhealthy life in the narrow streets of the city might 
be, Cairo’s charitable institutions were sanctuaries of civilized 

Cubicles for patients were ranged round two courts, and at the 
sides of another quadrangle were wards, lecture rooms, library, 
baths, dispensary, and every necessary appliance of those days 
of surgical science. There was even music to cheer the sufferers; 
while readers of the Koran afforded the consolations of the 
faith. Rich and poor were treated alike, without fees, and sixty 
orphans were supported and educated in the neighboring 

If the credit for such enlightened philanthropy went to the 
sultans and amirs who paid for it, the inspiration and management 
were the achievement of the educated community of Cairo, among 
whom Ibn Battuta would have spent most of his time. He offers in 
the Rihla a brief Who’s Who of the city’s leading lights, but he 
gives no indication that he pursued systematic study with any of 
them, as in fact he would do in Damascus later that same year. It 
seems likely, though, that he attended lectures in some of the 

The colleges were the vital centers of intellectual and civic life 
wherein the religious, social, and cultural norms governing 
Egyptian society were taught and exemplified. A madrasa was in 
fact a mosque, though one designed primarily for teaching rather 
than for congregational prayer. It was Saladin who brought the 
madrasa idea from Iraq to Cairo in the twelfth century with the 
specific intention of founding Sunni schools to combat and 
suppress the Shi’i doctrines of the preceding Fatimid dynasty. As 
the city grew and prospered new colleges sprang up one after 
another, enough of them by the fourteenth century to elicit Ibn 
Battuta’s comment that “as for the madrasas in Cairo, they are too 
many for anyone to count.” The colleges of the Mamluk age were 
designed on a cruciform plan with a relatively small open 
courtyard, in contrast to the vast spaces within the chief con- 
gregational, or Friday, mosques. Opening onto the court were 
four vaulted halls, or liwans, where classes were normally held. 

The Mamluks 51 

This was the classic madrasa form of Ibn Battuta’s time, providing 
in fact the model for Marinid college building in Morocco. 

The college curriculum offered in Cairo would have been 
perfectly familiar to Ibn Battuta, as it was largely identical to what 
was presented in North African schools, except that the Shafi’i 
system of law was dominant rather than the Maliki. As in Tunis, 
Fez, or Tangier, education turned on the revealed and linguistic 
sciences, especially law. Studies in medicine, astronomy, 
mathematics, and philosophy were also available, though the 
teaching was usually conducted privately rather than in the 
madrasas. Cairo in the Mamluk age did not nurture men of 
creative originality (with the notable exception of Ibn Khaldun, 
who was a Tunisian but moved permanently to Egypt in 1383), but 
it did produce theologians, jurisprudents, historians, en- 
cyclopedists, and biographers of spectacular erudition and 
nimbleness of mind. It was these men that Ibn Battuta, and 
hundreds of scholars like him from throughout the Arabic-, 
Persian-, and Turkish-speaking Islamic world, came to the great 
city to see and hear.'* 

Ibn Battuta might well have remained in Cairo much longer than a 
month, since at the end of that time (mid May 1326) there still 
remained more than five months before the start of the hajj rituals 
in Mecca. The official Egyptian caravan, which traveled to the 
Hijaz across Sinai under the protection of the Mamluks, did not 
normally leave Cairo until the middle of the month of Shawwal, in 
that year mid September. '* But Ibn Battuta had an impetuousness 
about him (as he had already demonstrated in his journey across 
North Africa), and he was not inclined to wait for caravans or 
fellow travelers for very long. In fact he decided to proceed to 
Mecca on his own, not by the Sinai route at all, but by way of 
Upper Egypt to the Red Sea port of ’Aydhab and from there by 
ship to Jidda on the Hijaz coast. 

Pilgrims traveled both the northern and southern routes out of 
Cairo in the first half of the fourteenth century. The Sinai road was 
the shorter of the two, and it was relatively more secure because 
the sultans sponsored annual caravans and dispatched army units 
to maintain and police the route. The southerly track to ’Aydhab 
and Jidda was longer and there was no officially organized 
caravan. But this was the route of the spices, in Ibn Battuta’s time 
one of the busiest and strategically most important lanes of inter- 

52 The Mamluks 

national trade in the Afro—Eurasian world. The commercial in- 
frastructure of trails, river transport, cameleers, khans, and 
markets was extensively developed and elaborately organized, 
affording the wayfarer a normally safe journey from Cairo to 

Moreover, a pilgrim could normally expect to travel all the way 
to that town, located near the modern Sudanese border, without 
passing beyond the reach of Mamluk law and order. The sultan 
posted garrisons in Qus, Idfu, Aswan, and other important towns 
on the river and, when the situation called for it, dispatched 
punitive expeditions against the Arab or Beja tribes of the desert 
and Red Sea Hills. These unruly herdsmen, in normal times 
collaborators in the transit trade as guides and camel drivers, were 
quick to despoil caravans or defy Mamluk authority whenever the 
opportunity was too tempting to resist —a fact of Egyptian 
politics not, as we shall see, to be lost on Ibn Battuta. 

The young pilgrim’s two- to three-week journey up the Nile 
valley to the town of Idfu was accomplished without much 
adventure. He traveled by land rather than on the river, and at 
several points along the way he lodged in the homes, colleges, or 
lodges of scholars and Sufis.!° While passing through the town of 
Minya, he became embroiled in a minor incident, interesting for 
what it reveals of his high sense of civilized propriety — as well as 
a less appealing inclination to sanctimonious meddling: 

One day I entered the bath-house in this township, and found 
men in it wearing no covering. This appeared a shocking thing 
to me, and I went to the governor and informed him of it. He 
told me not to leave and ordered the lessees of (all) the bath- 
houses to be brought before him. Articles were formally drawn 
up (then and there) making them subject to penalties if any 
person should enter a bath without a waist-wrapper, and the 
governor behaved to them with the greatest severity, after 
which I took leave of him. 

A grateful governor and an annoyed corps of bath operators 
behind him, he continued on to Idfu, one of the principal trans- 
shipment centers for the overland haul to the coast. Here he 
crossed to the east bank of the river, hired camels, and set out for 
“Aydhab in the company of a party of bedouin Arabs. Their trek 
southeastward through the desert and then over the bare and 

The Mamluks 53 

smouldering Red Sea Hills took 15 days, about the normal time for 
the trip.'° 

Although Ibn Battuta’s brief description of ’Aydhab — its 
mosque, its men of learning, some customs of the inhabitants — is 
factual and detached, a traveler coming out of the desert would be 
likely to react to the town with a discomfiting ambivalence. On the 
one hand it was a flourishing port, its warehouses crammed with 
pepper, cloves, ivory, pearls, textiles, Chinese procelain, and all 
manner of exotic goods from Asia and tropical Africa, as well as 
the linen, silk, coral, sugar, and precious metals of Egypt and the 
Mediterranean. On the other hand, the fiery climate, the barren 
surroundings, and the country crudeness of the local hill folk made 
"Aydhab one of the most uninviting transit stops anywhere from 
the Mediterranean to China. Thousands passed through, but no 
one stayed a moment longer than required. Ibn Jubayr, the 
celebrated Andalusian pilgrim and rihla writer of the twelfth 
century, despised the place. After noting in his book that the town 
was rich and of great commercial importance, he fervently advised 
pilgrims to get to Mecca by some other way if they possibly could: 

It is enough for you of a place where everything is imported, 
even water; and this (because of its bitterness) is less agreeable 
than thirst. We had lived between air that melts the body and 
water that turns the stomach from appetite for food. He did no 
injustice to this town who sang, “Brackish of water and flaming 
of air.”!” 

Ibn Jubayr also took pains to warn travelers against the avarice of 
the ship captains, who loaded their vessels with pilgrims “until 
they sit one on top of the other so that they are like chickens 
crammed in a coop.” !® Somehow enduring these indignities, not to 
mention delays and storms, Ibn Jubayr had managed to reach 
Jidda after a week under sail and so continued on to Mecca. Ibn 
Battuta, as it happened, was not so lucky. When earlier he had 
passed through the town of Hiw (Hu) on the Nile, he paid a visit to 
a saintly sharif (descendant of the Prophet), one Abu Muhammad 
"Abdallah al-Hasani. Upon hearing of the young man’s intention 
to go to Mecca, the sharif warned him to return to Cairo, pro- 
phesying that he would not make his first pilgrimage except by the 
road through Syria. Ignoring the omen, Ibn Battuta had continued 
on his way southward. Reaching ’Aydhab, he discovered much to 

54 The Mamluks 

his chagrin that the local ruling family, a clan of the Beja people who 
inhabited the hills behind the city, were in revolt against the Mamluk 
governor.!” The rebels had sunk some ships in the harbor, driven out 
the Egyptian garrison, and in this climate of violence no one was 
hoisting sail for Jidda. If he were to be assured of reaching the Hijaz 
before the start of the hajj, Ibn Battuta had no real choice but to 
retrace his steps to Cairo and continue from there by one of the 
northern routes. 

Fortunately, the trip back did not take long. The Nile was reaching 
summer flood stage, and so after crossing the desert again and 
rejoining the river at Qus, he boarded a ship and returned to the 
capital in eight short days, arriving there, he recalls, in mid July. 

Perhaps during his voyage down the river, where he had the leisure 
to think out his plans, he came to the conclusion that if he did not linger 
in Cairo he could reach Syma in time to catch the hajj caravan which 
normally left Damascus on or about 10 Shawwal (10 September of that 
year), or about two weeks earlier than the departure of the pilgrims 
from Cairo.” It may have been his rather happy-go-lucky impetuosity 
that was driving him, or perhaps he thought it prudent to heed the 
word of the sharif of Hiw that he was destined to reach Mecca by way 
of Syria. In any case he stayed in Cairo, astonishingly enough, only 
one night before setting out for Syria, the Asian half of the Mamluk 

The main route from Cairo to Damascus was the royal road of the 
kingdom, since Damascus was a kind of second capital, responsible for 
the military governance of Greater Syria and for the defense of the 
eastern marches against the Mongols of Persia. The sultan himself 
frequently traveled to Damascus, usually in the company of an army. 
Moreover, Damascus was as great a city as Cairo in the production of 
luxury goods. The military lords of Egypt depended heavily on the 
caravans from Syria for their fine silks and brocades, their ceramics 
and glassware, their magnificent tents and horse-trappings, all of these 
articles traded mainly for Egyptian textiles and grain. Damascene 
artisans, such as masons, marble workers, and plasterers, frequently 
accompanied the caravans to Cairo to work in the construction of 
palaces, mausoleums, and mosques. For both commercial and politi- 
cal reasons, then, the Mamluks were assiduous in protecting and 
provisioning the Cairo-Damascus artery, hemming it with garrison 
posts and building bridges and caravansaries to facilitate the passage of 
men and goods. 

If Ibn Battuta had gone to Mecca with the Egyptian hajj caravan, he 

The Mamluks 55 

would have traveled due east across the peninsula to Aqaba, then 
southward into the Hijaz. Instead, he set a northeastward course 
through the farming towns of the eastern delta and from there 
along the sandy Mediterranean plain to Gaza, the desert portal to 
Palestine. We have no idea with whom he may have been 
traveling, though he refers vaguely in the Rihla to “those who were 
with me” on this stretch of his journey. All along this trail the 
government provided public caravansaries where, according to the 
Rihla, “travelers alight with their beasts, and outside each khan is 
a public wateringplace and a shop at which the traveler may buy 
what he requires for himself and his beast.” At Qatya, a station 
located several miles east of the modern day Suez Canal, the state 
maintained a customs house where officials examined passports 
and merchandise and collected a bonanza in duties from the 
mercantile caravans moving between Syria and Egypt. Symon 
Semeonis, who passed through Qatya in 1323, describes Mamluk 
police techniques: 

The village ... is entirely surrounded by the desert and is 
furnished with neither fortifications nor natural obstacles of any 
kind that might impede the passage of travelers. Every evening 
after sunset a straw-mat or carpet is drawn at the tail of a horse, 
sometimes near the village, sometimes far from it, now in one 
place, now in another, transversely to the route, for a distance 
of six or eight miles, more or less, according to the Admiral’s 
orders. This renders the sand so smooth that it is impossible for 
either man or beast to pass without leaving traces to expose 
their passage. Every morning before sunrise the plain is scoured 
in all directions by specially appointed horsemen, and whenever 
any traces of pedestrians or of horsemen are discovered, the 
guards hasten in pursuit and those who have passed are arrested 
as transgressors of the Sultan’s regulations and are severely 

At Gaza Ibn Battuta turned off the heavily traveled road leading 
to the Levantine ports and headed eastward into the high country 
of Judaea, having in mind to visit the sacred cities of Hebron (al- 
Khalil) and Jerusalem before continuing to Damascus.” The trail 
along the hilly backbone of Palestine, from Hebron to the Galilee, 
was not an important commercial road, but it was a route of 
pilgrimage for all three monotheistic faiths. After the wars of the 

56 The Mamluks 

Crusades ended in the 1290s, increasing numbers of Latin pilgrims 
traveled to the Holy Land in small groups, by way of either Egypt 
or the Levant. Although they were frequently harassed and in- 
variably overcharged, usually by local Muslims of the meaner sort, 
the Mamluk authorities, particularly in the fourteenth century, 
generally saw to it that they were protected from bodily harm. 

Hebron was special to Muslim, Christian, and Jew alike because 
it was the burial place of the fathers of monotheism: Abraham, 
Isaac, and Jacob, as well as their wives and Jacob’s son Joesph. In 
Mamluk times only Muslims were permitted to enter the mosque, 
built originally as a Crusader church, that stood over the tomb 
cave that contained cenotaphs of the three Patriarchs. In the Rihla 
Ibn Battuta describes the mosque, a massive stone structure “of 
striking beauty and imposing height,” as well as the cenotaphs 
standing inside, as a traveler of any faith might see them today. He 
also offers learned testimony to the truth of the tradition that the 
three graves do indeed lie beneath the mosque, a tradition verified 
by Frankish knights, who opened the cave in 1119 and discovered 
what were presumably the holy bones.”° 

The distance from Hebron to Jerusalem through the terraced 
Judaean hills was only 17 miles, and Ibn Battuta probably made 
the trip, including a brief look around Bethlehem, in a day or two. 
Jerusalem plays so solemn a part in the religious and cultural 
heritage of Western peoples and commands so much attention in 
contemporary world politics that we are inclined to assume it was 
always one of the great urban centers of the Middle East. In fact 
the Jerusalem of the fourteenth century was a rather sleepy town 
of no great commercial or administrative importance. Its 
population was only about 10,000,”4 and it was ruled as a sub-unit 
of the Province of Damascus. Its defensive walls were in ruins, 
part of its water supply had to be carried in from the surrounding 
countryside, and it was located on none of the important trade 
routes running through Greater Syria. From the point of view of a 
Mamluk official or an international merchant, it was a city of 
eminently provincial mediocrity. What kept it alive and sustained 
its permanent population of scholars, clerics, shopkeepers, and 
guides was the endless stream of pilgrims that passed through its 
gates. Jerusalem was a place of countless shrines and sanctuaries. 
For Christians the spiritual focus of the city was the Church of the 
Holy Sepulchre, for Jews it was the Western Wall of the temple 
(the Wailing Wall), and for Muslims it was the Haram al-Sharif, 

The Mamluks 57 

the Noble Sanctuary, revered as the third most blessed spot in the 
Dar al-Islam, after the Ka’ba in Mecca and the tomb of the 
Prophet in Medina. 

During his stay in the city of perhaps a week, Ibn Battuta 
probably spent a good deal of his time in the Haram, an expansive 
trapezoid-shaped area bounded by buildings and city walls and 
dominating the southeastern quarter of the city. The entire Haram 
was itself an enormous mosque open to the sky, though within it 
stood several sanctuaries having specific religious significance for 
Muslims. The most venerated of these was the Kubbat al-Skhra, 
the Dome of the Rock, a wondrously beautiful building set in the 
center of the Haram on the site of the ancient Temple of Solomon. 
This shrine, dating from the seventh century, is in the shape of a 
regular octagon, sumptuously ornamented with interwoven Arabic 
scriptural quotations and geometric designs and surmounted by a 
massive dome. Inside the sanctuary and directly beneath the dome 
lies embedded in the earth the blessed Rock of Zion. It was from 
here, it is told, that the Prophet Muhammad, transported at light- 
ning speed from Mecca to Jerusalem in the company of the Angel 
Gabriel, was carried on the back of a great winged steed up to the 
Seventh Heaven of Paradise, where he stood in the presence of 
God. It is in commemoration of Muhammad’s Night Journey that 
Muslims enter the Dome, make a circuit of the Rock, and descend 
to the little grotto beneath it. 

Ibn Battuta mentions in the Rih/a a number of the scholars and 
divines resident in Jerusalem. One of these, a Sufi master of the 
Rifa’i brotherhood named ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn Mustafa, took a 
special interest in the young man and was apparently impressed 
enough by his sincerity and learning to give him a khirga, the 
woolen, patch-covered cloak worn by Sufi disciples as a sign of 
their allegiance to a life of God-searching and self-denial. In the 
few days that Ibn Battuta stayed in Jerusalem he obviously could 
not have gone through any of the rigorous spiritual training re- 
quired of initiates prior to receiving their khirgas. A master could, 
however, bestow a lower form of investiture upon a person whom 
he wished to encourage in the mystical path.*° The incident seems 
to be one more bit of evidence that Ibn Battuta’s piety and 
knowledge of Sufism were conspicuous enough, even in his youth, 
to place him on occasion in the graces of the most august saints and 
wise men, even though he had no plans to give himself 
wholeheartedly to the mystical life. 

58 The Mamluks 

In his time Sufism was becoming intricately melded into the 
everyday religious life of Muslims. Although there were those who 
adopted asceticism or celibacy as methods personally suitable for 
drawing closer to God, Sufism was in no general way “monkish” or 
confined to a spiritually militant minority. Rather it was the in- 
timate, inward-turning, God-adoring dimension of Muslim faith, 
complementing outward, public conformity to the ritual and moral 
duties of the Sacred Law. It could take expression, depending on 
the individual's personal inclination, in everything from a life of 
mendicant wandering to occasional attendance at brotherhood 
meetings where mystical litanies were recited. Sufi masters, such 
as Ibn Battuta’s friend in Jerusalem, rarely limited their patronage 
to their formal disciples, but rather gave freely of their spiritual 
guidance and baraka to ordinary men and women who needed the 
solace or healing that only a surer feeling of God’s presence could 
provide. Although Ibn Battuta’s life of worldly adventure had 
little in common with that of a cloistered dervish, he associated 
with mystics whenever he could, as if to fortify himself with a 
deeper calming grace before taking to the road again. 

Jerusalem, however, was not to be the place for a devotional 
retreat, for the hajj season was drawing nearer and Damascus 
beckoned. Ibn Battuta’s exact route northward is uncertain, but he 
very likely traveled through Nablus, Ajlun, and the Galilee and 
from there across the Golan Heights to the Syrian capital.”° This 
journey was probably accomplished in a few days’ time since the 
entire trip from Cairo to Damascus, if the dates he gives us are 
correct, took no more than 23 days. By his own reckoning he 
arrived in Damascus on 9 August 1326 (9 Ramadan 726). 

[Damascus] stands on the place where Cain killed his brother 
Abel, and is an exceeding noble, glorious, and beauteous city, 
rich in all manner of merchandise, and everywhere 
delightful, .. . abounding in foods, spices, precious stones, 
silk, pearls, cloth-of-gold, perfumes from India, Tartary, 
Egypt, Syria, and places on our side of the Mediterranean, and 
in all precious things that the heart of man can conceive. It is 
begirt with gardens and orchards, is watered both within and 
without by waters, rivers, brooks, and fountains, cunningly 
arranged, to minister to men’s luxury, and is incredibly 
populous, being inhabited by divers trades of most cunning and 

The Mamluks 59 

noble workmen, mechanics, and merchants, while within the 
walls it is adorned beyond belief by baths, by birds that sing all 
the year round, and by pleasures, refreshments, and 
amusements of all kinds. 

Thus wrote Ludolph von Suchem,”’ a German priest who visited 
the city on his way home from the Holy Land in 1340-41. Muslims 
honored Damascus as the earthly equivalent of Paradise, and so it 
must have seemed to any haggard pilgrim tramping out of the 
Syrian waste. Quite unlike Jerusalem, bone dry on its craggy hill, 
Damascus lay in an oasis of extravagant greenness, a garden, in 
the gushy phrases of Ibn Jubayr, “bedecked in the brocaded 
vestments of flowers.””® Although bordered by desert on three 
sides and by the Mountains of Lebanon on the west, which all but 
blocked rain-bearing clouds from the Mediterranean, the city drew 
life from the river that flowed down the slopes of the 
Anti-Lebanon and onto the plain, where Damascene farmers dis- 
tributed its waters to the channels that fed thousands of orchards 
and gardens. Because the mountains prevented easy communi- 
cation with the coast, Damascus was not in a choice geographical 
position to handle long-distance trade between East and West. But 
it prospered as an international emporium in spite of this, owing to 
the profuse fertility of its oasis (al-Ghuta), which supported a 
population of about 100,000.” 

Indeed Ibn Battuta saw Damascus in the flush of a new pros- 
perity. During most of the preceding half century, hostilities be- 
tween the Mamluks and the Mongol Ilkhans of Persia had 
weakened Syrian trade links to India. But the Mongol threat had 
dissipated by 1315. Diplomatic relations between the two states 
improved and trade routes from Damascus to Iraq and the Persian 
Gulf were opened once again. Furthermore, the city had de- 
veloped a thriving trade with Asia Minor and the Black Sea 
region, specially in horses, furs, metals, and slaves, including, of 
course, Mamluk recruits. 

The visible splendor of Damascus, however, was a reflection not 
so much of international trade as of the city’s status as the Mamluk 
capital-in-Asia with its enormous garrison and the magnificent 
households of the high commanders. The royal armies, passing 
continually in and out of the city, required the production of huge 
quantities of provisions and weapons, while the ruling elite, 
together with their counterparts in Cairo, kept Damascene 

60 The Mamluks 

craftsmen busy day and night turning out exquisite wares and 

Saif al-Din Tankiz, viceroy of Damascus from 1313 to 1340, was not 
only a man of exceptional administrative ability (Ibn Battuta refers to 
him as “‘a governor of the good and upnght kind”), but a builder and 
city planner whose imagination and energy rivalled that of his 
sovereign lord al-Nasir Muhammad. Mirroring the sultan’s work in 
Cairo, Saif al-Din undertook a vast program to beautify and improve 
his city, endowing numerous mosques, madrasas, and other pious 
institutions, widening streets and squares, directing the expansion of 
residential areas outside the walls, and even waging an obsessive war 
against the surplus population of stray dogs.*” The Damascus that Ibn 
Battuta saw in 1326 was, like Cairo, a city in the process of transfor- 
ming itself under the stimulus of a political regime that, at least for the 
time being, had struck a congenial balance between harsh, swaggering 
authoritarianism and a love of civilized taste and comfort. 

The guardians of Damascene high culture were of course the 
Arabic-speaking scholars, who, like their colleagues in Cairo, 
affiliated with numerous religious, educational, and philanthropic 
foundations scattered throughout the city. Whereas Cairo had no 
pre-eminent center of learning in the fourteenth century, Damascus 
had its Great Mosque, called the Mosque of the Umayyads after its 
eighth-century builders. Around it all the other pious institutions 
revolved as satellites. 

During part of his stay in the city, Ibn Battuta boarded in one of the 
three Maliki madrasas there. (Malikism was the least important of the 
four legal schools in Syria and was represented by fewer colleges than 
the others.) But he may have fairly well lived in the Great Mosque, 
sitting beneath the marble columns of the golden-domed sanctuary, all 
around him the murmuring voices of lecturers and Koranic readers 
and children in circles reciting their sacred lessons. The prayer hall, a 
three-aisled nave more than 400 feet long, was open on its northern 
side and joined to a spacious court rimmed by arcades where, 
according to the Rihla, “the people of the city gather . . . in the 
evenings, some reading, some conversing, and some walking up and 
down.” The staff of officials attached to the mosque was huge, 
including, Ibn Battuta tells us, 70 muezzins (prayer callers), 13 imams 
(prayer leaders), and about 600 Koranic reciters. He describes the 
sanctuary as a place of continuous religious and educational activity, a 
never-ending celebration of God’s glory and beneficence: 

The Mamluks 61 

The townspeople assemble in it daily, immediately after the 
dawn prayer, to read a seventh part of the Koran . . . In this 
mosque also there are a great many “sojourners” who never 
leave it, occupying themselves unremittingly in prayer and re- 
citation of the Koran and liturgies . . . The townsfolk supply 
their needs of food and clothing, although sojourners never beg 
for anything of the kind from them. 

Ibn Battuta was one among this throng of wandering seekers, 
and it was during his 24 days in Damascus waiting for the hajj 
caravan to depart that he undertook his first formal studies 
abroad. Next to Cairo, Damascus possessed the greatest con- 
centration of eminent theologians and jurists in the Arabic- 
speaking world, many of them refugees from Baghdad and other 
Mesopotamian or Persian cities who had fled the Mongol tide. So 
the young scholar had before him a galaxy of luminaries from 
which he might choose his teachers. 

In the advanced curriculum the professor usually read and 
offered commentary on a classical book, then tested his students’ 
ability to recite it as well as understand its meaning. He awarded 
those who performed competently an iaza, or certificate, which 
entitled them to teach the same text to others. In the Rihla Ibn 
Battuta claims to have taken instruction and received ijazas from 
no less than 14 different teachers. He mentions in particular his 
“hearing” one of the most venerated texts in Islam, the Book of 
Sound Tradition of the Prophet (the Sahih) by the great ninth- 
century scholar al-Bukhari. He also details the essential infor- 
mation written on his ijaza: the chain of pedagogical authority 
linking his own teacher through numerous generations of sages 
back to al-Bukhari himself. This particular course of study, he tells 
us, took place in the Great Mosque and was completed in 14 daily 

Nothwithstanding the young man’s appetite for knowledge, it 
strains the imagination to see how he could have carried to com- 
pletion 14 different courses in the space of 24 days.*' He could not 
have devoted his every waking moment to his studies since he was 
by no means free of more mundane concerns. For one thing, his 
entire stay in Damascus took place during the month of Ramadan, 
when Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours, a 
strenuous obligation that upset the normal routines of daily life. 
He also admits in the Rih/a that he was down with fever during a 

62 The Mamluks 

good part of his stay and living as a house guest with one of the 
Maliki professors, who put him under a physician’s care. On top of 
that, he found time during this fleeting three and a half weeks to 
get married again, this time to the daughter of a Moroccan residing 
in Damascus. Given these preoccupations, we can surmise that he 
exaggerated the extent of his studies, that he undertook them 
during subsequent visits to Damascus without making that fact 
clear in the narrative,** or that some of the ijazas were awarded 
him, as was often done, in recognition of the piety and scholarly 
potential he demonstrated rather than as diplomas for books 
mastered.** But there is still no reason to doubt that despite illness 
and nuptial cares, he spent long August hours in the cool of the 
ancient mosque, absorbing as much learning as he could and 
gathering credentials that would contribute several years later to 
his appointment as a qgadi to the Sultan of India. 


1. Ibn Khaldun, The Mugaddimah, 2nd edn., trans. F. Rosenthal, 3 vols. 
(Princeton, N.J., 1967), vol. 1, p. 366. 

2. Symon Semeonis, The Journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy 
Land, trans. and ed. Mario Esposito (Dublin, 1960), p. 67. 

3. “Al-Iskandariyya,” El), vol. 4, p. 134. 

4. Gibb (Gb, vol. 1, p. 33n) states that IB probably did not visit all the towns of 
the Nile Delta that he claims to have seen during his first trip through the area. 
Although he passed through the delta at least three more times over the course of 
his travels, the Rihla bunches descriptions of places and persons into the narrative 
of the first visit and presents almost no new details in connection with subsequent 
trips. This method of organizing the story was in fact a literary device used in a 
number of points in the Rihia. It makes for several knotty problems of itinerary and 
chronology at various stages of the narrative. In the case at hand, Gibb’s argument 
rests on the fact that IB mentions a date (29 Sha’ban, 31 July 1326) in association 
with his visit to the town of Ibyar (Abyar) that cannot possibly be correct, since by 
the end of July he was presumably on his way to Damascus. Hrbek (Hr, pp. 418- 
20) disagrees, pointing out that despite the discrepancy of the date pertaining to 
Ibyar, other evidence (dates connected with named personages in various delta 
towns) tends to confirm IB’s statement that he visited the places he says he did 
during his first journey. Gibb and Hrbek do agree that he could not have been in 
the delta on 31 July. 

5. Symon Semeonis, Journey, p. 67. : 

6. P.H. Dopp, “Le Caire vu par les voyageurs occidentaux du Moyen Age,” 
Bulletin de la Société Royal de Géographie Weevil 23 (1950): 135. 

7. Several scholars have suggested this general estimate of the population, 
though more recently André Raymond argues for a much lower fourteenth-century 
(pre-Black Death) population of about 250,000. “La population du Caire, de 
Maqrizi 4 la Description de I'Egypte,” Bulletin d’Etudes Orientales 28 (1975): 214. 

8. Stanley Lane-Poole, The Story of Cairo (London, 1902), p. 270. 

The Mamluks 63 

9. Gaston Wiet, Cairo: City of Art and Commerce (Norman, Okla., 1964), p. 

10. An estimate in accord with Hrbek’s overall chronological reconstruction of 
IB’s first visit to Egypt. Hr, pp. 420-21. 

11. K. A.C. Creswell, The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1952, 
1959), vol. 1, pp. 66, 78, vol. 2, p. 195. 

12. Lane-Poole, Story of Cairo p. 212. 

13. On the cosmopolitanism of the leading colleges of Cairo in the fifteenth 
century, see Carl F. Petry, The Civilian Elite of Cairo in the Later Middle Ages 
(Princeton, N.J., 1981). 

14. ’Abdullah ’Ankawi, “The Pilgrimage to Mecca in Mamluk Times,” Arabian 
Studies 1 (1974): 147. 

15. In his travels on the Nile [bn Battuta has very little to say about the ruins of 
ancient Egypt (called in Arabic barbas). His brief description of the Pyramids, 
located just across the river from Cairo, is vague and partially inaccurate, leading 
Gibb to the conclusion that he never bothered to visit them personally (Gb, vol. 1, 
p. 51n). It must be remembered that the purpose of the Rihla was to edify literate 
Muslims on the places, personalities, and marvels of the Islamic world of their day 
and not on the architecture of pagan temples. 

16. Hr, p. 421. 

17. Ibn Jubayr, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, trans. R. J.C. Broadhurst (London, 
1952), p. 67. 

18. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, p. 65. 

19. The Mamluk government had a policy of sharing the commercial duties of 
the port with the local powers-that-be out of strategic necessity, but it frequently 
fell into altercations with them over the just distribution of the revenue. See Yusf 
Fadl Hasan, The Arabs and the Sudan from the Seventh to the Early Sixteenth 
Centuries (Edinburgh, 1967), pp. 73-79. 

20. ’Ankawi, “Pilgrimage to Mecca,” p. 149. 

21. Symon Semeonis, Journey, p. 103. 

22. He may have traveled from Gaza to Asqalon, a ruined port several more 
miles up the coast, before turning inland to Hebron. Hr, p. 425. 

23. Guy Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems (Beirut, 1965), pp. 316-17. 

24. Nicola A. Ziadeh, Urban Life in Syria under the Early Mamluks (Beirut, 
1953), p. 97. 

25. “Khirka,” EI,, vol. 5, pp. 17-18; Gb, vol. 1, p. 80n. 

26. It is at this point in the narrative that the reader encounters the first major 
discrepancy between itinerary and chronology. According to the Rihila, IB traveled 
extensively in Greater Syria following his departure from Jerusalem, visiting more 
than twenty towns and cities before reaching Damascus. Since he could not possibly 
have made such a complicated trip within the 23 days he allots for the entire 
journey from Cairo to Damascus, both Gibb and Hrbek have concluded that the 
itinerary after Jerusalem is largely artificial. Hrbek offers various bits of internal 
evidence to show that visits to particular places in Syria must have taken place 
during subsequent trips. He further suggests (and Gibb agrees) that IB took a 
direct route northward from Jerusalem to Damascus (Hr, pp. 421-25; Gb, vol. 1, p. 
81n). I have accepted the probable route Hrbek suggests, though it is conjectural. 
And I have reconstructed IB's Syrian itinerary on the premise that he did not travel 
extensively in the region in 1326. 

27. Ludolph von Suchem, Ludolph von Suchem's Description of the Holy Land, 
and of the Way Thither, trans. Aubrey Stewart (London, 1895), p. 129. 

28. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, p. 271. Large blocks of IB’s description of Damascus 
were taken from the rihla of Ibn Jubayr, who was there in 1184. However IB 
updates the material and adds various observations of his own. 

29. Ziadeh, Urban Life in Syria, p. 97. 

64 The Mamluks 

30. Ira Lapidus, Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages (Cambridge, Mass. 
1967), pp. 22, 70, 72, 75. 

31. He may have stayed 34 days, depending on whether the hAajj caravan left 
Damascus on the Ist or the 10th of Shawwal. See Chapter 4, note 3. 

32. Though IB makes no explicit mention of it, some evidence suggests that he 
spent time in Damascus in the late months of 1330. If so, his marriage and some of 
his studies might have occurred then. On this chronological problem see Chapter 6, 
note 2. 

33. See Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1974) 
vol. 2, p. 444. 

A Mecca 

The first House established for the people was that at 
[Mecca], a place holy, and a guidance to all beings. Therein 
are clear signs — the station of Abraham, and whosoever 
enters it isin security. It is the duty of all men towards God 
to come to the House a pilgrim, if he is able to make his way 

The Koran, Sura III 

Ibn Battuta gives no indication of how many people like himself were 
gathering in Damascus in 1326 to join the hay caravan to Mecca, but it 
was very likely several thousand. Frescobaldi, the Florentine 
nobleman who was in Damascus in 1384 at the start of the pilgrimage, 
estimated the company at 20,000.” In fact the size of the caravan varied 
greatly from year to year depending on a whole range of factors 
affecting individual decisions whether to attempt the trip — political 
and economic conditions at home, weather, prospects for trouble 
along the route. For most pilgrims the journey was a spiritually 
gladdening adventure, but it was also an extremely arduous one, 
requiring a sound body and careful advance preparations. Every 
participant was obliged to secure provisions for the round trp, as well 
as a mount, though Mamluk authonities did set up charitable funds to 
provide food and animals for the poorest among the travelers. Unless 
a pilgrim carried most of his supplies along with him, the journey could 
turn out to be extremely expensive, especially since the citizens of 
Medina and Mecca, desert-bound as they were and heavily dependent 
on the hajj trade for their survival, cheerfully exacted the highest 
prices they could get for food, lodging, and various services. Ibn 
Battuta himself was in bad financial straits toward the end of his stay in 
Damascus and might not have been able to set out that year had it not 
been for the generosity of the Maliki jurist with whom he stayed while 
he was sick. This gentleman, he tells us in the Rihla, “hired camels for 
me and gave me traveling provisions, etc., and money in addition, 
saying to me, ‘It will come in useful for anything of importance that 
you may be in need of — may God reward him.” 


66 Mecca 

The gathering of the pilgrims at Damascus was a decidedly 
political event. Both the Cairo and Damascus caravans set forth 
under the flag of the Mamluk state. Their safety en route and their 
timely arrival in Mecca in advance of the dates of the appointed 
rituals reflected on the capacity of the regime to maintain law and 
order in the realm. Moreover, in the latter half of the thirteenth 
century the Mamluks had imposed their political suzerainty over 
the rulers of Mecca and Medina. The former were a dynasty of 
Arabian Hasanid sharifs, that is, descendants of Hasan, son of ’Ali 
and grandson of the Prophet. The latter were also sharifs but the 
progeny of Husayn, ’Ali’s other son. The annual arrival of the hajj 
caravans at Mecca was an occasion for the ruling Sharif, called the 
Amir, to reaffirm, through an exchange of gifts and tribute, his 
fealty to the sultan and his recognition of Mamluk protectorship of 
the Holy Places, a responsibility carrying great prestige in the 
Muslim world. 

In the political pecking order of hajj groups, the Cairo caravan 
was pre-eminent. Each year the sultan appointed an amir al-hajj 
from among his favorite officers to lead the caravan and to act as 
his representative in Mecca. At the head of the procession went 
the mahmal, a green, richly decorated palenquin, which 
symbolized the sultan’s formal authority, though no one rode 
inside it. The amir al-hajj was also placed in charge of the kiswa, 
the huge black cloth that was woven and inscribed each year in 
Cairo and carried to Mecca to be draped over the Ka’ba. Though 
the Syrian caravan also had its amir al-hajj appointed either by the 
sultan or his viceroy, he stood down from the Cairene leader 
during ceremonies at the Holy Places. He was expected either to 
remain neutral or to follow the lead of his Egyptian colleague in 
negotiations or disputes with the sharifs or with the caravans from 
Iraq or the Yemen. 

A number of other officials accompanied the Cairo and 
Damascus caravans to keep order among the pilgrims and see to 
their special needs. Some of these principals were Mamluks, 
others were educated Arabs. They included a gadi, an imam, a 
muezzin, an intendant of intestate affairs (to take charge of and 
record the property of pilgrims who died along the route), a 
secretary to the amir al-hajj, medical officers, Arab guides, and a 
muhtasib, who policed business transactions and public morality. 

On 1 September 1326 (or it may have been the 10th)* Ibn 
Battuta set out, now for the second time in four months, to fulfill 

Mecca 67 

that “desire long-cherished” in his heart. (As later events would 
show, he left behind, and presumably divorced, the woman he had 
married in Damascus a short time earlier.) The staging ground for 
the caravan was the village of al-Kiswa a few miles south of the 
city. Here the main body of pilgrims from the city waited a few 
days for stragglers to catch up, while the amir al-hajj completed 
the job of organizing the various groups of travelers in a fixed 
order of march. 

The distance from Damascus to Medina was about 820 miles, 
and the caravan normally covered it in 45 to 50 days. The itinerary 
varied somewhat from year to year, but it coincided generally with 
the route of the now abandonned Hijaz Railway, which the 
Ottoman Turks built as far as Medina before World War I. From 
Damascus the trail ran southward along the fringe of the Syrian 
Desert to the oasis of Ma’an, located on about the same latitude as 
Cairo. From there the route turned slightly southeastward, veering 
away from the Gulf of Aqaba and running through the interior 
highlands along the eastern flank of the Hijaz mountains. At 
Tabuk, the northern gateway to Arabia, the caravan stopped for a 
few days while the pilgrims rested and watered their camels before 
venturing into the fierce land of nude mountains and vast, black 
lava fields that lay between there and Medina. 

Ibn Battuta thought the northern Hijaz a “fearsome 
wilderness,” and indeed it was at any season of the year. The trek 
through it was a physical trial for the stoutest of pilgrims, and the 
odds against calamity in one devilish form or another were not 
encouraging. Some pilgrims invariably perished along the way 
every year from exposure, thirst, flash flood, epidemic, or even 
attack by local nomads, who seldom hesitated to disrupt the 
Sacred Journey for what it might bring them in plunder. In 1361 
100 Syrian pilgrims died of extreme winter cold; in 1430 3,000 
Egyptians perished of heat and thirst.* Ibn Battuta recounts in the 
Rihla that a certain year the pilgrims were overcome south of 
Tabuk by the violent desert wind known as the samum: “Their 
water suplies dried up, and the price of a drink of water rose to a 
thousand dinars, but both buyer and seller perished.” 

He does not report that any unusual tragedies befell his own 
caravan, and we may suppose that the company kept to the normal 
schedule. He traveled, he tells us, in the company of a corps of 
Syrian Arab tribesmen, who may have been serving as guides. He 
also made the acquaintance of a number of educated travelers like 

68 Mecca 

himself, among them a Maliki jurist from Damascus and a Sufi from 
Granada whom he would meet again several years later in India. He 
also struck up a friendship with a gentleman of Medina, who made him 
his guest during the caravan’s four-day visit to that city. 

Medina, City of the Apostle of God, was the most bountiful of the 
little islands of fertility scattered along the interior slopes of the Hijaz 
mountains, a green spot of habitation existing in uneasy symbiosis with 
the bedouin of the desert. Before Islam, it was but one of several 
commercial stopovers on the camel route linking the Yemen with the 
Middle East. In 622 A.D. Muhammad and his tiny band of converts, 
retreating from a hostile and uncomprehending Mecca, moved north 
to Medina, which in the ensuing 34 years enjoyed its bnef moment of 
political glory as the capital of the rapidly expanding Arab empire. 
After the center of Muslim power shifted to Kufa, and then 
Damascus, Medina lost its political and military importance and would 
have been relegated once again to the back ridges of history were it not 
that the grave of the Prophet, who died there in 632, became an object 
of veneration second only to the Ka’ba. 

The Mosque of the Prophet, which sheltered the sacred tomb as 
well as those of his daughter Fatima and the Caliphs Abu Bakr and 
"Umar, became “al-Haram,” a place of inviolability. In the Middle 
Period Medina was as much a city of pilgrims as Mecca was; even the 
native townsmen were largely of non-Arabian origin. A journey to the 
Mosque of the Prophet was not obligatory for Muslims as part of the 
hajj duties. Nonetheless, few pilgrims failed to visit Medina, even 
though they may have reached the Hijaz from the west or south and 
would not pass through the city except as a special diversion from 

On the evening of the same day that the caravan made camp outside 
the walls of the city, Ibn Battuta and his companions went to the 
mosque, “rejoicing at this most signal favor, . . . praising God Most 
High for our safe arrival at the sacred abodes of His Apostle.” The 
sanctuary was in the form of an open court, surrounded on all sides by 
colonnades. At the southeast corner amidst rows of marble pillars 
stood the pentagonal tomb of Muhammad, and here Ibn Battuta 
repaired to pray and give thanks. During the following four days, he 
tells us in the Rihla, 

we spent each night in the holy mosque, where everyone [engaged 
in pious exercises]; some, having formed circles in the court and lit a 
quantity of candles, and with book-rests in their midst [on which 

Mecca 69 

were placed volumes] of the Holy Koran were reciting from it; 
some were intoning hymns of praise to God; others were 
occupied in contemplation of the Immaculate Tomb (God in- 
crease it in sweetness); while on every side were singers 
chanting in eulogy of the Apostle of God. 

During the days, he undoubtedly found time to visit other 
mosques and venerated sites in and around the city, including the 
cemetery (al-Baqi’) east of the walls that contained the graves of 
numerous kinsmen and Companions of the Prophet. He is also 
likely to have made a point of seeing the little domed tomb of 
Malik ibn ’Anas, the great eighth-century jurist and founder of the 
Maliki school of law. 

In the modern age charter buses whisk pilgrims along the paved 
highway connecting Medina with Mecca, but Ibn Battuta and his 
fellows faced 200 more miles of fiery desolation before reaching 
the goal of their hopes. Yet this final stage of the journey was 
different: haggard wayfarers became celebrants, uplifted and ren- 
ewed, and the whole dusty company was transformed into a 
joyous, white-robed procession. The change took place at Dhu I- 
Hulaifa, a tiny settlement just five miles along the southbound 
road out of Medina. This was one of the five stations (mikats) on 
the five principal trails leading to Mecca where pilgrims were 
required to enter into the state of consecration, called ihram. 
Here male pilgrims took off their traveling clothes, washed them- 
selves, prayed, and finally donned the special garment, also called 
ihram, which they would continue to wear until after they entered 
the Holy City and, if it were the time of the Greater Pilgrimage, 
performed the rites of hajj. The garment consisted of two large, 
plain, unstitched sheets of white cloth, one of which was wrapped 
around the waist, reaching to the ankles, the other gathered 
around the upper part of the body and draped over the left 
shoulder. Nothing was worn over or beneath the thram, and feet 
were left bare or shod only in sandals without heels. Women did 
not put on these garments, but dressed modestly and plainly, 
covering their heads but leaving their faces unveiled. Once the 
pilgrim assumed the thram, symbolizing the equality of all men 
before God, he was required to behave in a manner consistent 
with the state of sanctity into which he had voluntarily entered. 
The Prophet warned: “The Pilgrimage is in months well-known; 
whoso undertakes the duty of Pilgrimage in them shall not go in to 

70 Mecca 

his womenfolk nor indulge in ungodliness and disputing in the 
Pilgrimage. Whatsoever good you do, God knows it.”° 

After fulfilling the ceremonies of thram, the caravan set forth 
once again, the pilgrims walking straighter now and shouting 
God’s praises into the great Arabian void. The route followed a 
southwesterly course across low ridges of the Hijaz hills and then 
down to the plain bordering the Red Sea. The company reached 
the coast at Rabigh, a station about 95 miles north of Jidda, where 
the routes from Syria and Egypt finally converged and where the 
Egyptian pilgrims took the ihram. From here the caravan turned 
into the desert again, marching now southwestward along the 
coastal plain. Probably seven days after leaving Rabigh® they 
arrived in the morning hours at the gates of Mecca, the Mother of 

It was mid October 1326. Twenty-two years old and a year and 
four months the  pilgrim-adventurer, Ibn Battuta rode 
triumphantly into Mecca’s narrow, brown valley and proceeded at 
once to the “illustrious Holy House,” reciting with his companions 
the prayer of submission to the Divine will. 

What is Thy Command? I am here, O God! 
What is Thy Command? I am here! 

What is Thy Command? I am here! 

Thou art without companion! 

What is Thy Command? I am here!’ 

Among the cosmopolitan cities of Ibn Battuta’s time, Mecca was 
in one sense pre-eminent. From the end of Ramadan and 
throughout the months of Shawwal and Dhu 1-Qa’da, pilgrims 
from every Islamic land gathered in the city to pray in the Sacred 
Mosque, and, on the ninth day of the month Dhu 1-Hijja, to stand 
in fellowship on the plain of “Arafat before the Mount of Mercy. 
As Islam expanded into more distant parts of Asia and Africa 
during the Middle Period, the call to the hajj embraced an ever- 
larger and more diverse range of peoples. In the rites of the 
perambulations around the Ka’ba, the great stone cube that stood 
in the center of the mosque, Turks of Azerbaijan walked with 
Malinke of the Western Sudan, Berbers of the Atlas with Indians 
of Gujerat. The grand mosque, called the Haram, or Sanctuary, 
was the one place in the world where the adherents of the four 

Mecca 7} 

main legal schools, plus Shi’is, Zaydis, “Ibadis, and other 
sectarians, prayed together in one place according to their slightly 
varying ritual forms. Though there was a fixed order of prayer in 
the mosque for the four schools, reports Ibn Battuta, 

at the sunset prayer they pray all at the same time, each imam 
leading his own congregation. In consequence of this the people 
are invaded by some wandering of attention and confusion; the 
Malikite [worshipper] often bows in time with the bowing of the 
Shafi’ite, and the Hanafite prostrates himself at the prostration 
of the Hanbalite, and you see them listening attentively each 
one to the voice of the muessin who is chanting to the con- 
gregation of his rite, so that he does not fall victim to his 

Black Muslims and white Muslims, Sunnis and Shi’is all came to 
Mecca with the single declared purpose to fulfill a holy duty and to 
worship the One God. But they also came, incidentally, to trade. 
Pilgrims almost always brought goods with them to sell, sometimes 
whole caravan loads. The bedouin and oasis-dwellers of the Hijaz 
and the Yemen hauled in huge quantities of foodstuffs to feed the 
multitude. Ibn Jubayr wrote of his visit in 1183: 

Although there is no commerce save in the pilgrim period, 
nevertheless, since people gather in it from east and west, there 
will be sold in one day... precious objects such as pearls, 
sapphires, and other stones, various kinds of perfume such as 
musk, camphor, amber and aloes, Indian drugs and other 
articles brought from India and Ethiopia, the products of the 
industries of Iraq and the Yemen, as well as the merchandise of 
Khurasan, the goods of the Maghrib, and other wares such as it 
is impossible to enumerate or correctly assess.° 

Though Mecca’s own hinterland was a stony desert, Ibn Jubayr 
found the market street “overflowing” with “figs, grapes, 
pomegranates, quinces, peaches, lemons, walnuts, palm-fruit, 
water-melons, cucumbers and all the vegetables.” 

If Mecca at the season of the hajj was a microcosm of all the 
peoples and all the wares of a good part of Africa and Eurasia, its 
cosmopolitanism was in other respects shallow. It was a 
cosmopolitanism derived from a unique annual event and not from 

72 Mecca 

the existence of mighty, urbane educational or philanthropic in- 
stitutuions as was the case with Cairo or Damascus. When the 
pilgrims rolled up their prayer mats and headed back to their 
homelands in the latter part of Dhu !-Hijja, the city reverted to the 
more prosaic activities of a dusty western Arabian town. Though 
foreign traders, scholars, and stranded poor folk were to be seen in 
the city all through the year, the population dwindled quickly 
when the feast days were over. Mecca had no substantial 
agricultural base of its own and was almost completely dependent 
on neighboring oases and countries for its sustenance. In those 
conditions Mecca could never have grown into a metropolis or 
supported majestic colleges, khans, and palaces of the sort that 
distinguished the mature urban centers of Islam. Though the city 
had its colleges, most of them were modest, and teaching was 
largely conducted in the Haram.'® 

If privation and remoteness finally doomed Mecca to second- 
rate city-hood, those very conditions suited it perfectly as a place 
for spiritual retreat and ascetic exercise. Simply to live there for a 
short time was an act of self-denial — at least 1t was before the age 
of automobiles, public toilets, and air conditioners. The city lies, 
not like Medina, in the midst of an oasis, but at the bottom of an 
arid depression surrounded by a double range of treeless 
mountains. From the north, the south, and the southwest, three 
ravines lead the visitor down into “this breathless pit enclosed by 
walls of rock,”'' where summer temperatures soar to 126 degrees 
Fahrenheit. Before modern technology revolutionized the 
logistical aspects of the hajj, water and housing ran chronically 
short, epidemics broke out among the pilgrims, and flash floods 
raged suddenly down the central streets of the town, on several 
occasions flooding the Haram and severely damaging the Ka’ba. 
Yet like all deserts, the Meccan wilderness possessed a pure and 
terrifying beauty, an immensity of light and shadow that hinted at 
the workings of the Infinite. And though the land was unyieldingly 
grim, it inflicted its dangers and discomforts on all equally. re- 
ducing to triviality differences of race and class and driving the 
pilgrims together in the knowledge that only God is great. 

Whatever a pilgrim may have suffered on the road to Mecca, his 
personal cares were quickly enough forgotten as he entered the 
court of the Haram and stood before the great granite block 
enveloped in its black veil. “The contemplation of... the 
venerable House,” wrote Ibn Jubayr, “is an awful sight which 

Mecca 73 

distracts the senses in amazement, and ravishes the heart and mind.” !2 
Even the infidel Englishman Richard Burton, who visited the mosque 
in disguise in 1853, declared that “the view was strange, unique” and 
“that of all the worshippers who clung weeping to the curtain, or who 
pressed their beating hearts to the stone, none felt for the moment a 
deeper emotion than did [I].”"* 

Generations of rulers have made numerous alterations to the Haram 
and the Ka’ba, so that the structures look substantially different today 
from the way they did when Ibn Battuta saw them. In its modern form 
the Ka’ba is in the shape of a slightly irregular cube, set almost in the 
center of the court and rising toa height of SO feet. The walls of blue- grey 
Meccan stone are draped year round with the kiswa, made of black 
brocade and embellished with an encircling band of Koranic inscription 
in gold. A single door, set about seven feet above the ground and 
concealed by its own richly decorated covering, gives entry to the 
windowless interior of the sanctuary. There are no relics inside, simply 
three wooden pillars supporting the roof, ornamental drapes along the 
walls, lamps of silver and gold hanging from the ceiling, and acopy of the 
Koran. At the eastern corner of the exterior of the Ka’ba is embedded 
the revered Black Stone. which measures about twelve inches across 
and is set in a nm of silver. The surface of the stone is worn smooth and 
no one can be certain of its composition. In Koranic tradition Abraham 
built the Ka’ba, a wooden structure as it originally stood, to com- 
memorate the One God. Thoughin pre- Islamic times the sanctuary was 
a home of idols and its precinct a place of pagan rites, Muhammad 
restored it to its onginal purpose as a temple consecrated to the 
pnmordial monotheism of Abraham. 

When a visitor arrives in Mecca, whether or not he intends to 
undertake the hajj, he must as his very first act perform the tawaf, the 
circumambulation. He walks around the Ka’ba seven times 
counterclockwise, stepping quickly the first three times, then walking 
more slowly, all the while reciting prayers special to the occasion. Each 
time he passes the eastern corner he strives to kiss or touch the Black 
Stone, not because some wondrous power is invested in it but because 
the Prophet kissed it. During the less congested months of the year. 
the pious visitor may perform the tawaf and kiss the stone at his leisure 
several times a day. But in the hajj season the mosque becomes a 
revolving mass of humanity, giving the illusion that the very floor of 
the courtyard is turning round the Ka’ba. 

Facing the northeast facade of the shrine is a small structure (today 
in the shape of a little cage surmounted with a golden dome) called the 

74 Mecca 

Magam Ibrahim. Inside lies the stone said to bear the footprints of 
the Patriarch, who used the rock as a platform when he con- 
structed the upper portions of the House. When the pilgrim has 
completed his tawaf, he goes to the Maqam where he prays a 
prayer of two prostrations. Near the Maqam is the blessed well of 
Zamzam. Here the Angel Gabriel (according to one tradition) 
miraculously brought forth a spring to quench the thirst of Hagar 
and her little son Isma’il after her husband Abraham had gone off 
into the desert. From the Magam the pilgrim moves to the well to 
drink, which in Ibn Battuta’s time was enclosed in a building of 
beautiful marble. The sacred water is sold in the cloisters of the 
mosque and in the streets of the city. During their sojourn the 
pilgrims perform their ritual ablutions with it and some, despite 
the heavily saline taste, drink profuse amounts for its reputed 
healing qualities. 

When the pilgrim has drunk from the well, he may leave the 
mosque by the southeastern gate and proceed several yards to a 
little elevation, called al-Safa, which lies at one end of a Meccan 
street. From the steps of al-Safa he walks or jogs about a quarter 
of a mile along the street to another small eminence called al- 
Marwa. He repeats this promenade seven times, reciting prayers 
along the way, to commemorate Hagar’s frantic search for water 
along the ground lying between the two hills. This rite is called the 
sa’y, that is, the Running. With the performing of it the pilgrim has 
completed the preliminary rites of the hajj and may at last find his 
lodgings and begin to introduce himself to the city. 

The Syrian caravan of the year 1326 (726 A.H.) arrived at the 
western gate of Mecca sometime before dawn. Though probably 
exhausted from a night’s march, Ibn Battuta and his companions 
made their way at once to the center of the city and entered the 
Haram by the gate called al-Salem. Praising God who “hath re- 
joiced our eyes by the vision of the illustrious Ka’ba,” they per- 
formed the tawaf of arrival: 

We kissed the holy Stone; we performed a prayer of two bowings 
at the Maqam Ibrahim and clung to the curtains of the Ka’ba at 
the Multazam between the door and the black Stone, where 
prayer is answered; we drank of the water of Zamzam . . .; then, 
having run between al-Safa and al-Marwa, we took up our lodging 
there in a house near the Gate of Ibrahim. 

Mecca 75 

The “house” Ibn Battuta repaired to was in fact a Sufi hospice 
(he uses the term ribat) called al-Muwaffaq, located near the 
southwestern side of the mosque. In his usual fashion he quickly 
struck up acquaintances with the pious residents of the lodge, 
some of them Maghribis. We may suppose that he put to good 
advantage the three weeks he had to himself before the start of the 
hajj festival, exploring the secondary shrines and historic sites of 
the Prophet’s birthplace, rummaging through the wares in the 
market street, and perhaps climbing to the top of one of the holy 
mountains whose barren slopes roughed out the contours of the 
town. He also formed an opinion of the local citizenry, judging 
them generous, kindly, and proper. 

The Meccans are elegant and clean in their dress, and as they 
mostly wear white their garments always appear spotless and 
snowy. They use perfume freely, paint their eyes with kuhl, and 
are constantly picking their teeth with slips of green arak-wood. 
The Meccan women are of rare and surpassing beauty, pious 
and chaste. 

The use of perfumes, oils, and makeup would of course have 
been out of fashion for everyone during the days preceding the 
hajj, when personal frippery was forbidden. Ibn Battuta himself, 
keeping to his ritual declaration of intention to complete the rites 
of the pilgrimage in a state of consecration, continued to wear his 
white ihram garb from the time he assumed it on the road from 
Medina until his hajj was fulfilled a month later. He also, we may 
presume, obeyed with precision the special taboos that attended 
the state of ihram. In all certainty he did not get into arguments or 
fights, kill plants or animals, engage in sexual relations, cut his hair 
or nails, wear sewn garments, or adorn himself with jewelry.“ 

We can also be sure that during these three weeks he spent the 
better part of his days and probably some of his nights in the 
Haram, where he performed additional tawafs (always meritorious 
in the sight of God), drank from the well, and made conversation 
with new acquaintances. The great mosque was indeed the center 
of all public life in Mecca. The streets of the town, winding 
through the canyons and down the slopes of the encircling hills, all 
converged on the Haram, whose court formed the very bottom of 
the alluvial depression. The mosque was in the shape of an 
irregular parallelogram, the roofed-over portion of the structure 

76 Mecca 

between the outer walls and the court being suported by a forest of 
marble columns (471 of them by Ibn Jubayr’s count). Nineteen 
gates on all four sides gave access to the colonnades and court, and 
five minarets surmounted the mosque, four of them at the 
corners. '° 

The Haram was not only the place of the pilgrim stations but 
also the center for daily prayers, Koranic reading, and education. 
In the shade of the cloisters, or in the court when the sun was low, 
sat rings of learners and listeners, while copyists, Koran readers, 
and even tailors occupied benches set up beneath the arches of the 
colonnades.'® When prayers were not in session or the crush of 
pilgrims not too great, Meccan children played in the court, and 
the people of the city streamed back and forth through the gates, 
routinely using the sacred precinct as a short cut between one part 
of town and another. For poorer pilgrims the mosque was home. 
“Here,” wrote John Burckhardt, another nineteenth-century 
Christian who penetrated the Haram incognito, “many poor In- 
dians, or negroes, spread their mats, and passed the whole period 
of their residence at Mecca. Here they both eat and sleep; but 
cooking is not allowed.”'’ There was not a single moment day or 
night throughout the year, so says the tradition, when at least a 
few of the faithful were not circling the Ka’ba. In the evening the 
square was lighted with dozens of torches and candles, bathing the 
worshippers and the great cube in a flickering orange glow. 

When a pilgrim reached Mecca and circuited the Ka’ba, he still 
had, in an important religious sense, twelve miles to go before he 
would terminate his sacred journey. No Muslim was privileged to 
claim the title “al-Hajj” until he had traveled through the desert 
ravines east of the city to the plain of ’Arafat and, on the ninth day 
of Dhu I-Hijja, stood before the Mount of Mercy, the place where 
Adam prayed and where in 632 Muhammad preached his farewell 
sermon to his pristine congregation of believers. This annual re- 
treat into the Meccan wilderness embraces the complex of cere- 
monies that makes up the hajj proper, or Greater Pilgrimage, 
which Muslims regard as separate from (though also including) the 
rituals of the tawaf and the sa’y. The Meccan rites, performed 
alone and at any time of the year, are called the ’umra, that is, the 
Visit or Lesser Pilgrimage. 

Before Islam, Mecca was the center for a yearly pilgrimage of 
Arabian tribes that was purely pagan. The Prophet retained some 
of those rites but utterly transformed their purpose into a 

Mecca 77 

celebration of Abraham’s unyielding monotheism. The cere- 
monies rested on the authority of the Koran and on the 
traditionally accepted practices of the Prophet. Although minor 
details of the procedures vary according to the different juridical 
schools (such as that male Shafi’is have their heads shaved at a 
different point in the sequence of rites than do members of the 
other madhhabs), the hajj is the supreme expression of the unity of 
all believers. Indeed, when on the tenth of Dhu I-Hijja each 
pilgrim kills a goat or sheep in remembrance of God’s last-minute 
instruction to Abraham to sacrifice a ram rather than his own son, 
Muslims the world over do the same, thus uniting themselves 
symbolically with their brothers and sisters in the Arabian desert. 

Today, a million and a half Muslims commonly arrive in Mecca 
each year and set out for "Arafat in a white-robed horde on the 
eighth and ninth days of the sacred month. Many walk, but others 
travel in buses and cars along the multilane highway which winds 
out from the city. Saudi government helicopters circle overhead 
and crowd control experts monitor the proceedings from closed 
circuit television centers. First aid stations line the route, 
cropdusters spray the plain against disease, and an army of 
vendors greets the tired pilgrims at their destination with soft 
drinks and barbecued chicken. In Ibn Battuta’s time the journey 
was of course far less agreeable, even dangerous if the local 
bedouin took the occasion to plunder the procession. Those who 
could afford the price rode in enclosed camel-litters. But most of 
the pilgrims walked the hot stony trail: the pious did it barefoot. 

By tradition the pilgrims spend the night of the eighth day at 
Mina, a settlement in a narrow valley four miles east of the city. 
On the following morning they go on to the ‘Arafat plain and 
range themselves in a great circle around the jagged little hill 
called the Mount of Mercy. A city of tents and prayer mats is 
quickly unfurled. At noon begins the Standing, the central and 
absolutely essential event of the hajj. Throughout the afternoon 
and until the sun sets the pilgrims keep vigil round the Mount. or 
on its slopes if they can find room, reciting the prayer of obeisance 
to God (“What is Thy Command? I am Here!”) and hearing 
sermons preached from the summit. 

Precisely at sunset the Standing formally concludes and the 
throng immediately packs up and starts back in the direction of 
Mecca. By tradition the pilgrim must not perform his sunset prayer 
at "Arafat but at Muzdalifah, a point three miles back along the 

78 Mecca 

road to Mina. And equally by tradition everyone who is physically 
able races to get there as fast as he can. In Ibn Battuta’s time the 
“rushing” to Muzdalifah might have brought to mind the 
millennial charge of some gigantic army of white-clad dervishes. 
Today it has more the character of a titanic California commuter 
rush, meticulously orchestrated by the Saudi authorities to prevent 
hopeless traffic jams. Once arrived at Muzdalifah most of the 
pilgrims bed down for the night, though women, children, and the 
infirm may continue immediately on to Mina ahead of the crowd. 

On the morning of the tenth the pilgrims assemble at Mina for 
the start of the Feast of the Sacrifice (Id al-Adha), four days of 
celebration and desacralizing rites that bring the hajj to con- 
clusion. Mina’s sacred landmarks are three modest stone pillars, 
which stand at intervals from the eastern to the western end of the 
valley. As his first act the pilgrim must take a handful of pebbles 
(which he usually picks up along the road from ’Arafat) and cast 
seven of them at the western pillar. Just as the faithful Abraham 
threw stones at the devil to repulse his mesmeric suggestions that 
the little Isma’il need not after all be sacrificed, so the pilgrim 
must take aim at the devil-pillar as witness to his personal war 
against evil in general. When he has completed the lapidation, he 
buys a sheep or goat (or even a camel if he is rich) from any of the 
vendors who have collected thousands of animals for the occasion. 
He sets the face of the creature in the direction of the Ka’ba and 
kills it by cutting its throat as Abraham did after God mercifully 
reprieved his son. This act brings to an end the period of thram. 
The pilgrim must find a barber (dozens are on hand) and have his 
head shaved, or at least some locks cut, and then he is free to 
exchange his ritual garb for his everyday clothing. As soon as the 
rites of Mina are accomplished he returns to Mecca to perform the 
tawaf once again, now released from all prohibitions save for 
sexual intercourse. 

From the tenth to the thirteenth the solemnities of the Standing 
give way to jubilation and fellowship. The pilgrims return to Mina 
for two or sometimes three nights. They throw pebbles at all three 
of the devil-pillars each day, sacrifice additional animals, and 
socialize with countrymen and new-found friends. On the twelfth 
the first groups of hajjis begin leaving for home, taking care to 
perform the tawaf of farewell as their final ritual act. 

From the fourteenth century to today the fundamental cere- 
monies of the hajj have been altered only in the merest details. Ibn 

Mecca 79 

Battuta’s own brief and matter-of-fact recounting of these events 
in the Rihla might be startlingly familiar to some young civil 
servant of Tangier, making the sacred journey by Royal Air 


The great majority of pilgrims who streamed out through the 
Meccan gullies in mid November 1326 were heading back to the 
prosaic lives they had temporarily abandoned to make the holy 
journey. Some of them would take many months to reach home, 
working their way along, getting stranded here or there, or taking 
time to see the great mosque and college cities of the Middle East. 
Ibn Battuta does not tell us in the Rihla just when he decided that 
he would not, for the time being, return to Morocco. When he left 
Tangier his only purpose had been to reach the Holy House. Once 
there, did the Meccan bazaar, the exotic faces, the stories of 
strange sights and customs set his mind to some master plan for 
exploring the hemisphere? Was it there that he made his imposs- 
ible vow to roam the world without ever retracing his steps? Had 
he begun to realize the possibilities of traveling thousands of miles 
in every direction from Mecca without ever going beyond the 
limits of the familiar society of men who shared his values, his 
habits, and his language? Whatever soul-stirring effects his first 
hajj may have had on him, he was certainly no longer the boy who 
stood forlornly in the center of Tunis with nowhere to go and no 
one to talk to. After a year and a half away from home, he had 
already seen more of the world than most people ever would, he 
was cultivating a circle of learned and internationally minded 
friends, and he had won the title of “al-Hajj,” itself an entrée to 
respect among influential and well-traveled men. When he set off 
for Baghdad with the Iraqi pilgrims on 20 Dhu I-Hijja, one fact 
was apparent. He was no longer traveling to fulfill a religious 
mission or even to reach a particular destination. He was going to 
Iraq simply for the adventure of it. It is at this point that his 
globetrotting career really began. 


1. Arthur J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (New York. 1955), p. 86. 

2. Theophilus Bellorini and Eugene Hoade. eds. and trans., Visit to the Holy 
Places of Egypt, Sinai, Palestine and Syria in 1384 by Frescobaldi, Gucci and Sigoli 
(Jerusalem, 1948), p. 23. 

80 Mecca 

3. The Syrian caravan normally left Damascus on 10 Shawwal, or 10 September 
in 1326. "Abdullah ’Ankawi, “The Pilgrimage to Mecca in Mamluk Times,” 
Arabian Studies 1 (1974): 149. Since the Rihla is sometimes given to rounding off 
significant dates at the first day of the month, Ibn Battuta may well have left on or 
about 10 Shawwal rather than the Ist. 

4. ’Ankawi, “The Pilgrimage to Mecca,” pp. 160-61. 

5. Arberry, Koran, pp. 54 SS. 

6. IB gives the traveling time from Rabigh to Khulais (a palm grove on the 
route) as three nights. Ibn Jubayr made the trip from Mecca to Khulais in four 
days. The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, trans. R.J.C. Broadhurst (London, 1952), pp. 

7. A pilgrimage prayer translated in Ahmad Kamal, The Sacred Journey 
(London, 1961), p. 35. 

8. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, pp. 116-17. 

9. Ibid., p. 117. 

10. C. Snouk Hurgronje, Mecca in the Latter Part of the Nineteenth Century 
(Leiden, 1931), pp. 171-72. 

11. Eldon Rutter, The Holy Cities of Arabia, 2 vols. (London, 1928), vol. 1, p. 

12. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, p. 80. 

13. Richard Burton, Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and 
Meccah, 2 vols. (New York, 1964), vol. 2, p. 161. 

14. IB states in the Rihla that when he assumed the ihram garments he declared 
his intention of performing the rites of the Greater Pilgrimage (hajj) without the 
Lesser Pilgrimage (‘umra, or visit). The latter, comprised essentially of the tawaf 
and the sa’y, could be performed at any time of the year. When a Muslim entered 
Mecca at a time other than the hajj season, he could deconsecrate himself following 
the tawaf and the sa’y of arrival. He would then be in a state called tamattu’, 
meaning that he could enjoy a normal life and wear everyday clothes until the start 
of the Aajj, if in fact he planned to remain in the town until then. IB, however, 
vowed to perform the hajj, which included the tawaf and sa’y plus the rites of the 
walk to Arafat, without interrupting the state of ihram. Therefore, he was required 
to wear his white clothes and obey the attendant prohibitions until his hajj was 
completed. See “Hadjdj,” EI, vol. 3, p. 35. 

15. Gb, vol. 1, p. 203 n. IB counts five minarets, but Ibn Jubayr (Travels, p. 87) 
says there were seven, which agrees with nineteenth-century observers. There are 
seven today, though the precise locations of the towers have varied over the 

16. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, p. 86. 

17. Burckhardt, Travels, vol. 1, p. 273. 

5 Persia and Iraq 

He also said: “After us the descendants of our clan will 
wear gold embroidered garments, eat rich and sweet food, 
ride fine horses, and embrace beautiful women but they 
will not say that they owe all this to their fathers and elder 
brothers, and they will forget us and those great times.” 
The Yasa of Genghis Kahn 

When Ibn Battuta made his first excursion to Iraq and western 
Persia, more than a century had passed since the birth of the 
Mongol world empire. For a Moroccan lad born in 1304 the story 
of Genghis Khan and the holocaust he brought down on civilized 
Eurasia was something to be read about in the Arabic version of 
Rashid al-Din’s History of the Mongols. The Tatar storm blew 
closer to England than it did to Morocco and had no repercussions 
on life in the Islamic Far West that Ibn Battuta’s great grandfather 
was likely to have noticed. For the inhabitants of Egypt and the 
Levant the Mongol explosion had been a brush with catastrophe, 
mercifully averted by Mamluk victories but imagined in the dark 
tales told by fugitives from the dead and flattened cities that were 
once Bukhara, Merv, and Nishapur. For the Arab and Persian 
peoples of the lands east of the Euphrates the terrible events of 
1220-60 had been a nightmare of violence from which they were 
still struggling to recover in the fourteenth century. 

“With one stroke,” wrote the Persian historian Juvaini of the 
Mongol invasion of Khurasan, ‘a world which billowed with 
fertility was laid desolate, and the regions thereof became a desert, 
and the greater part of the living dead, and their skin and bones 
crumbling dust; and the mighty were humbled and immersed in 
the calamities of perdition.”? The Mongols wreaked death and 
devastation wherever they rode from China to the plains of 
Hungary but nowhere more so than in Persia, where most of the 
great cities of the northern region of Khurasan were demolished 
and their inhabitants annihilated. A modern historian estimates 
that the total population of Khurasan, Iraq, and Azerbaijan may 


82 Persia and Iraq 

Map 5: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Persia and Iraq, 1326-27 


Me Np, 

: oe ~ 

Baghdad | LOK us 8 ee 


aN Shushtar 


Persia and Iraq 83 

have dropped temporarily from 2,500,000 to 250,000 as a result of 
mass extermination and famine.” The thirteenth-century 
chronicler Ibn al-Athir estimated that the Mongols killed 700,000 
people in Merv alone.* That figure is probably a wild ex- 
ageeration, but it suggests the contemporary perception of those 
calamitous events. 

The Mongol terror did not proceed from some Nazi-like 
ideological design to perpetrate genocide. Nor was it a 
spontaneous barbarian rampage. Rather it was one of the cooly 
devised elements of the greater Genghis Khanid strategy for world 
conquest, a fiendishly efficient combination of military field tactics 
and psychological warfare designed to crush even the possibility of 
resistance to Mongol rule and to demoralize whole cities into 
surrendering without a fight. Once the armies had overrun Persia 
and set up garrison governments, wholesale carnage on the whole 
came to an end. Even the most rapacious Tatar general under- 
stood that the country could not be systematically bled over the 
long term if there were no more people left. After about 1260, and 
in some regions much earlier, trade resumed, fields were planted, 
towns dug themselves out, and remnants of the educated and 
artisan classes plodded back to their homes. Some cities, such as 
Tabriz, opened their gates to the invaders, and so were spared 
destruction. Others, Kerman and Shiraz for example, were in 
regions far enough to the south to be out of the path of the storm; 
they later acquiesced to Mongol overlordship while preserving a 
degree of political autonomy. 

And yet for the mass of Arabic- or Persian-speaking farmers, on 
whose productive labor the civilization of Mesopotamia and the 
Iranian plateau had always rested, the disaster was chronic. Over 
the long run the military crisis was not so much an invasion of 
Mongol armies at it was the last great trek of Turkish steppe 
nomads from Central Asia into the Islamic heartland, a 
re-enactment and indeed a continuation of the eleventh-century 
migrations that had populated parts of the Middle East with 
Turkish tribes and put their captains in political control of almost 
all of it. Genghis Khan could never have done more than found 
some unremarkable tribal state in Inner Asia were it not for his 
success at incorporating into his war machine numerous Turkish 
clans inhabiting the grasslands between Mongolia and the Caspian 
Sea. Turkish warriors trooped to the flag of Genghis by the tens of 
thousands, partly because the Mongols had defeated them, partly 

84 Persia and Iraq 

for the military adventure, partly because rain fell more often and 
grass grew taller progressively as one moved west and south. Turks 
far outnumbered ethnic Mongols in the mounted armies that 
attacked Persia, and they brought with them their wagons, their 
families, and their enormous herds of horses and sheep, which fed 
their way through Khurasan and westward along the flanks of the 
Alburz Mountains to the thick pastures of Azerbaijan. 

Although many of the Turkish invaders had themselves been 
converted to Sunni Islam in the preceding centuries as a result of 
contact with urban merchants and missionaries from Khurasan, 
they joined eagerly in the violent dismembering of Persian society, 
ridding the land of the farms, crops, irrigation works, and cities 
that obstructed the free movement of their herds. Over several 
decades thousands of Iranian peasants were killed, enslaved, and 
chased off their land. To make matters worse, the early Mongol 
rulers, beginning with Genghis Khan’s grandson Hulegu in 1256, 
could not quite make up their minds whether to carry through 
policies designed to reconstruct the country and revive agriculture 
or to treat the land as permanent enemy territory by taxing the 
peasants unbearably and permitting commanders, tribal chiefs, 
and state “messengers” to devour the countryside at the slightest 
sign of agrarian health. 

Ghazan (1295-1304), the seventh Ilkhan (or “deputy” of the 
Great Khan, as the Mongol rulers of Persia were called), made a 
determined effort to improve the administrative and fiscal system 
in ways that would lighten the peasants’ tax load, relieve them of 
indiscriminate extortion on the part of state officials, and restore 
their will to produce. The reforms had modest success, but they 
did not drive the economy decisively upward, owing to the 
petulant resistance of officials and war lords and the failure of 
Ghazan’s successors to persevere with sufficient energy. The 
strength and well-being of any civilized society depended on the 
prosperity of its agriculture, and in this respect Persia and Iraq 
entered the fourteenth century still dragging the chains of the 
Mongol invasion. “There can be no doubt,” wrote the Persian 
historian Mustawfi in 1340, “that even if for a thousand years to 
come no evil befalls the country, yet will it not be possible com- 
pletely to repair the damage, and bring back the land to the state 
in which it was formerly.”° 

Yet if the understructure of the Persian economy was weak, the 
Mongols succeeded remarkably well at paving over their own work 

Persia and Iraq 85 

of mass contamination with a new urban culture shiny enough to 
make an educated visitor forget all about the horrors of Merv. Like 
the Marinids, the Mamluks, and other crude conquerors fresh from 
the steppe, the Ilkhans were quick to surrender to the sophisticated 
civilization that enveloped them. Indeed the mind of the Mongol 
warrior was so culturally deprived that it presented a vast blank on 
which all sorts of refined and humane influences could be wnitten. In 
the earlier phase of the conquest the Tatar leaders turned for 
guidance to their Turkish subordinates, some of whom were Muslims 
with literate skills gained as a result of two or three centuries of 
contact with the cities of Khurasan on the fringe of the steppe. These 
allies supplied the Mongol language with a wnitten script (Uigur 
Turkish) and a corps of clerks and officials who did much of the 
initial work of installing Tatar government throughout the Genghis 
Khanid empire. Even as the invasion of Persia was still going for- 
ward, the people of distinctly Mongol origin in the forces, a minority 
group almost from the beginning, were intermarrying with Turks, 
taking up their language and ways, and rapidly disappearing into the 
great migrating crowd. By the end of the thirteenth century, purely 
Mongol cultural influences on Persia, excepting in matters of warfare 
and military pomp, had all but vanished. 

The Turkish model, however, was only half-way civilized and in 
the end no match for the Persian one at the elevated levels of literate 
culture. The Mongol invaders inherited proprietorship of an edifice 
of civilization far more complex and luxurious than anything they had 
ever experienced. The cultural Persianization of the IIkhanid regime 
was getting under way even while the smoke still hung over Baghdad. 
Hulegu (1256-65) was in theory subordinate to the Great Khan of 
the Mongols (Kublai Khan in China after 1260), but in fact he was 
the founder of an Iraqo—Persian kingdom, one of the four major 
successor states to the monolithic empire of Genghis. Orderly gov- 
ernment and efficient taxation of the population in a realm that 
extended from the Oxus to Anatolia absolutely required, as in 
Mongol China, the help of the native elite. Though thousands of 
educated people had been killed in the invasions, the remnants soon 
emerged from the wreckage and presented themselves for public 
service. Even the early Ilkhans, who favored Buddhism or Chnris- 
tianity rather than Islam, had no choice but to put administration and 
finance in the hands of the same families of native Muslim scribes 
and officials who had been running Persia before the invasion. 

In fact the Mongol leaders were transformed into Persians, or at 

86 Persia and Iraq 

least Turco—Persians, to a degree that the Mamluks never were in 
their relation to literate Egypt. The explanation is that the Mongol 
governing class was not a permanently alien elite continuously 
recruited fresh from the steppe. And it did not maintain itself by 
erecting a political system that depended on the maintenance of 
sharp cultural separations between rulers and subjects. Rather, 
the Turco—Mongol soldiery came to Persia to stay and became 
progressively identified with Persian ways. The dynasty, 
moreover, was founded on conventional principles of hereditary 
kingship over the Persian and Iraqi people, a relationship which 
gradually splintered the connections of sentiment and culture be- 
tween the Ilkhans and their kinsmen of Inner Asia.° 

The Mongols‘ accommodation to the native Irano—Muslim 
bureaucracy spurred their conversion to Islam, itself an inevitable 
step in their Persianization. Genghis had set a policy of toleration 
for all religions within the empire, and ultimately the formless 
tribal shamanism to which he remained loyal withered under a 
barrage of divine truths which missionaries of all the world-univer- 
salist faiths fired at his various successors. In Persia the pros- 
elytizers of several varieties of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam 
competed for the attention of the Ilkhans like so many peddlers 
determined to make a sale. The Mongols at first swung erratically 
from one religious preference to another, depending upon which 
rite could muster the most influence at court. 

Ghazan was the first ruler to proclaim Islam the state religion. 
He required the entire court to convert, put up mosques 
throughout the country, and endowed numerous pious institutions 
in the cities. With Mongol military power and Persian popular 
sentiment behind him, he wiped out Buddhism in that land. He 
also pulled down Nestorian Christian churches and put an end 
once and for all to naive European hopes that the Tatars could be 
brought over to Rome. Oljeitu (1304-16), Ghazan’s successor and 
the most spiritually erratic of all the IIkhans, was born a Nestorian, 
took up Buddhism, then converted to Islam. He first adopted 
Hanafi Sunnism, then Shafi’i; in 1310 he became a militant Shri 
and started a violent campaign to persecute Sunnis in general. His 
young son Abu Sa’id (1316-35), however, brought the court 
quickly back to Sunnism. What is more, he kept it that way. Most 
of his subjects were relieved and satisfied. Though Shi’ism has 
been the state religion of Iran since the sixteenth century, the great 
majority of Persians and Iraqis were still Sunnis (mostly Hanafi or 

Persia and Iraq 87 

Shafi’i) in the fourteenth. Ibn Battuta, dyed-in-the-wool Sunni 
that he was, could not have picked a more felicitous time to visit 
the IJkhanid state than in the reign of Abu Sa’id. 

When the Mongols converted to Islam, they also became both 
the disciples and the patrons of Persian art and culture. The 
decades of the holocaust had snuffed out intellectual and artistic 
life over much of the land, but it came to life so quicky after 1260 
that the brief eighty years of the IIkhanid age turned out to be an 
era of impressive cultural achievement, especially near the end 
when Ibn Battuta was there to bear witness to it. Like their steppe 
cousins in Cairo, the Mongol rulers did not hesitate to commit 
unspeakable barbarisms with one hand while with the other paying 
out large sums to promote refined craft and learning. Just a year 
after setting fire to Baghdad and a fair part of the stored up 
knowledge of the Abbasid Caliphate, Hulegu founded an ob- 
servatory at Maragheh in which Persian and Chinese scholars 
collaborated to work out astronomical tables that would be of 
immense importance to later generations. Ghazan executed his 
enemies by having them cloven in half, but he took an avid 
personal interest in the natural sciences and medicine. 

It was notably under Ghazan and his two successors that urban 
culture in Persia got back much of its old energy. To be sure, no 
single Persian city rivaled Cairo. But in Tabriz, the premier 
Mongol center, a great deal of monumental building was under- 
taken, even the construction of whole new suburbs. Oljeitu Khan 
founded a new capital at Sultaniya. The world of letters throve 
again too. The Mongols never had much time for love poetry or 
advanced theology, but they did appreciate practical science, 
geography, and history. The master historian of the age was 
Rashid al-Din, a Jewish convert to Islam who served as minister of 
state (vizier) under three Ilkhans. During the reign of Oljeitu, he 
completed his massive Collection of Histories, the first truly uni- 
versal history of mankind ever written, or even imagined. The 
work embraced not only the whole of the Islamic world but also 
China, Byzantium, and even the recently civilized kingdoms of 
western Europe.’ 

Rashid al-Din’s global vision was a reflection of an inter- 
nationalist spirit at the Mongol court that reached even beyond the 
Dar al-Islam. Taking a remarkably large-minded view of the 
boundaries of civilization, the monarchs reigned over an 
astonishing transmigration of ideas and technology that made 

88 Persia and Iraq 

Iikhanid culture an eclectic synthesis of Persian, Arabic, Turkish, 
Chinese, and even Tibetan elements. Over the political bridge that 
Genghis threw across the Asian grassland-sea marched hundreds of 
Chinese engineers, scientists, doctors, artists, and propagators of 
Buddhism seeking service and opportunity in Persia. A smaller 
number of Persians visited China. Though direct communciation 
between the two regions died down in the late thirteenth century when 
the Ilkhans converted to Islam and their diplomatic relations with the 
Peking Mongols deteriorated, Chinese cultural influences left en- 
during marks on Persian miniature painting, calligraphy, and textile 
and pottery design. In 1294 Gaykhatu Khan (1291-95) even intro- 
duced block-printed paper money on Chinese inspiration, though the 
Persians rejected this newfangled idea out of hand, resulting in a 
temporary collapse of the commercial economy.® 

The cosmopolitanism of the Ilkhanids, coupled with their enthusias- 
tic adoption of everything Persian, also did much to restore circulation 
on the routes of scholarship and craft linking Persian and Iraqi cities 
with the rest of the Islamic world. Indeed the Mongol period witnessed 
an important expansion of the Persian language as well as Irano 
—Islamic styles in art and humane letters into both Turkish Anatolia 
and India, where they increasingly set the standard of what polished 
culture should be. 

When the Mongol—Mamluk military struggle for Syria finally ended 
about 1315, intellectual links were quicky restored between Cairo, the 
new capital of Arab letters, and both the Arabic-speaking towns of 
Iraq and the Persian cities of the Iranian plateau. In the central Islamic 
lands Arabic and Persian continued to share the status of intellectual 
linguae francae. Many important writers, such as the historian Rashid 
al-Din, saw to it that their works were made available in both 
languages.” Thus, when Ibn Battuta entered Iran, his first excursion 
beyond the Arabic-speaking world, his inability to speak the native 
tongue was no particular disadvantage as long as he kept to the 
network of the learned, where bilingualism was common and where, 
at the very least, the symbolic language of religious observance, 
civilized manners, and Sunni erudition could always see him through. 
Indeed, for an educated Muslim traveler with good urban con- 
nections, it was almost as if the assault of the pagan Mongols had never 
even happened. 

Ibn Battuta left Mecca on 17 November 1326 (20 Dhu Il’Hijja 726) in 
the company of the pilgrims returning to Iraq and the wider region of 

Persia and Iraq 8&9 

eastern Islam. This was the official caravan of the Ilkhanid state, 
similar in organization to the Mamluk caravans sent from Damascus 
and Cairo. He had the good fortune to travel under the formal 
protection of the amir al-hajj, one Pehlewan Muhammad al-Hawih, 
who paid out of his own purse the cost of hiring half a double camel 
litter for the young man. Why should the amir, a favored official at 
the court of the Ilkhan of Persia, take an interest in this 22-year-old 
nonentity from Morocco? Part of the reason is that the caravan 
commander commonly patronized scholarly personages in the 
pilgrim company, especially if they were needy. Beyond that, Ibn 
Battuta did develop something of a personal acquaintanceship with 
the amir, as would be demonstrated in the following year. There 
may be a further hint here of the lad’s natural flair for disarming 
important people with his earnest piety and gregarious personality. 
In any case the enclosed camel litter was a godsend of comfort, far 
preferable to crossing the Arabian Peninsula on foot. 

By Ibn Battuta’s reckoning the pilgrim train was enormous: 
“Anyone who left the caravan for a natural want and had no mark 
by which to guide himself to his place could not find it again for the 
vast number of people.” But the enterprise was also as efficiently 
organized as the Mamluk caravan from Syria had been. “Great 
supplies of luxuries” were readily available, and the poorer hajjis 
were entitled to free food, water, and medicine. “They used to 
march during the night and light torches in front of the file of camels 
and litters,” Ibn Battuta recalls, “so that you saw the countryside 
gleaming with light and the darkness turned into radiant day.” 

The route north was more or less the one that pilgrims had 
followed ever since the early days of the Caliphate, when Zubayda, 
wife of the illustrious Harun al-Rashid, endowed the construction 
of a chain of water tanks and wells along the trail to keep the 
caravans safely supplied. From Medina, where the company laid 
over for six days, the track ran northeastward across the Nejd 
plateau, through the oasis of Faid. then along the eastern edge of 
the great Nafud sand desert. At a place called Wagqisa on the desert 
edge of the Mesopotamian basin, greeting parties from the Iraqi city 
of Kufa met the caravan with fresh provisions of flour, bread. dates. 
and fruit. About six days later the column reached the Kufa region, 
halting at al-Najaf (Mashhad ’Ali) just a few miles south of the 
Euphrates. The entire journey from Mecca to Mesopotamia took 
approximately 44 days.'” 

Ibn Battuta rested at al-Najaf for a few days since it was the burial 

90 Persia and Iraq 

place of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the fourth Caliph and son-in-law of the 
Prophet. ’Ali’s grand mausoleum in the heart of the town was a 
place venerated by all Muslims, but for the Twelver Shi'a, the 
largest of the Shi'i sects in Islam, it was a center of holy 
pilgrimage second only to Mecca. Though most of the population 
of greater Iraq and Persia were still Sunni in the fourteenth 
century, important Shi'i communities were scattered throughout 
the Ilkhanid realm, with the largest concentrations in lower 
Mesopotamia. '! 

The theological breach between the two groups centered on the 
Shi'i doctrine of the Imam, the leader-messiah descended from 
"Ali, who would one day reveal himself and fill the earth with truth 
and righteousness until the time appointed for the Last Judgement. 
Twelve Imams in the hereditary line of ’Ali through his sons Hasan 
and Husayn had ruled the early Shi’i community, which started out 
as a dissident political “party” (the general meaning of the term 
Shi'a) opposed to the majority leadership. The ’Alid Imams were 
regarded by their followers as possessing infallible and esoteric 
knowledge of the prophetic Revelation and as divine-right rulers 
whose temporal supremacy had been usurped by the Umayyad 
and Abbasid Caliphs. The twelfth Imam in the line, according to 
the teachings of the “Twelver” variety of Shi’ism, disappeared in 
the ninth century but did not die. One day he would return. 
Sunnis, by contrast, believed that the meaning of the Koranic 
revelation in relation to all apsects of both spiritual and mundane 
experience was to be interpreted by the consensus of the com- 
munity of believers, a unity collectively described in the four 
schools of jurisprudence. Sunnis gave ’Ali a hallowed place in 
Islamic history, but as a Caliph and a Companion of the Prophet, 
not as the progenitor of a dynasty of theocrats. Shi’i law was not in 
most respects significantly different from Sunni, and most of the 
time the two groups managed to live in peace. Except during 
surges of fanaticism on one side or the other, they treated one 
another with simple suspicion and the common varieties of re- 
ligious prejudice. 

Ibn Battuta makes it abundantly clear that he had little time for 
Shi'is, Twelver or otherwise. At several points in the Rihla he 
takes righteous potshots at their beliefs or recounts disparaging 
little anecdotes about their fanatical and misguided observances. 
He invariably refers to them as “Rafidis,” or “Turncoats,” a term 
of deprecation Sunnis commonly used. His intolerance may have 

Persia and Iraq 91 

been stiffened by the fact that the Maliki intellectual class in Morocco 
was inclined to juristic and theological dogmatism, largely in reaction 
to the anti-Maliki policies of the Almohads. In any case he did not 
mix much with Shi’i scholars and deliberately avoided visiting certain 
towns having predominantly Shi'l populations. He probably spent 
only a few days in al-Najaf (just where he does not say), though in 
the Rihla he gives a thorough and objective description of Ali’s 
beautiful domed mausoleum. '* 

From al-Najaf the pilgrim caravan continued on northward to 
Baghdad, its terminus. But Ibn Battuta, apparently not in the mood 
to see that city just yet, decided to make for Basra at the far southern 
end of the Tigris-Euphrates delta. A troop of local Arabs was going 
that way, so he hired a camel and joined them. Rather than taking a 
direct route to Basra by following the course of the Euphrates, the 
party first traveled due east along the northern fringe of the Great 
Swamp, a region of marshland, creeks, and lakes that covered the 
delta from the latitude of Kufa almost to the Persian Gulf.'? 

In five days the caravan reached the city of Wasit. Ibn Battuta’s 
companions remained there for three days in order to trade, so he 
took the opportunity to make an overnight excursion to the village of 
Umm ’Ubaida to visit the tomb of Shaykh Ahmad ibn al-Rifa’i, the 
twelfth-century founder of the Sufi order with which he had become 
affiliated during his stay in Jerusalem. At the zawiya of Umm 
’"Ubaida he had the luck to meet one of the Shaykh’s descendants, 
who was also visiting, and to be treated to a display of ecstatic 
exercises for which the Rifa’i disciples were well known: 

When the afternoon prayers had been said, drums and kettle- 
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 their dhikr 
[mystical litany] . . . 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.!* 

Ibn Battuta was too much the sober urban scholar to go in for that 
sort of religious frenzy, so a one-night sojourn at the lodge may have 

92 Persia and Iraq 

been quite enough for him. In any case he returned to Wasit to 
find that his caravan had already departed. He set off on his own in 
pursuit, perhaps a foolish thing to do in the Great Swamp, since a 
group of Sufi brethren who had straggled behind the caravan on its 
way to Wasit had been attacked and robbed by a band of Shi’i 
marsh-dwellers. In a day or two, however, he safely caught up with 
his party, which was now moving southward along a route gener- 
ally parallel to the Tigris. Some time in the latter part of January 
1327 the caravan reached Basra.'° 

It is easy enough to understand why Ibn Battuta made a point of 
seeing Basra. Any literate young man, even from the Far West, 
would have known what this city had been six centuries earlier: the 
veritable Athens of Islam where the classical civilization of the 
Arabs had first been conceived and cast. It had been the home of 
numerous early Muslim luminaries: theologians, philosophers, 
poets, scientists, and historians. It had also been the laboratory 
where the rules of classical Arabic grammar were worked out, the 
rules by which educated men conversed and wrote and distin- 
guished themselves from common folk. Though Baghdad super- 
seded it in the ninth century as the intellectual capital of the 
Arabs, Basra continued to prosper for several hundred years 
owing to its status as chief port of the Caliphate on the Persian 

The Mongols left the city alone when they conquered Lower 
Iraq, but their assault on Baghdad and other Mesopotamian 
towns, which produced a severe decline in agricultural and indus- 
trial productivity, afflicted the economy of Basra as well. By the 
time Ibn Battuta visited the town, it had shrunk to such an extent 
that its beautiful grand mosque stood alone two miles outside the 
inhabited area. For a scholar who knew his history there was an 
even sadder testimony to decline than the deterioration of the 
architecture. When he attended Friday worship in the mosque, he 
was appalled to hear the preacher committing dreadful errors of 
grammar in his sermon. “I was astonished at his conduct,” he 
recalls, “and spoke of it to the gadi Hujjat al-Din, who said to me 
‘In this town there is not a man left who knows anything of the 
science of grammar.’” 

Except for its thick forests of date-palms, the city had little to 
recommend it that was not past and gone. Ibn Battuta must have 
devoted most of his time there to visiting the mosque and the 
graves of several of the early immortals of Arab letters, as well as 

Persia and Iraq 93 

some of the Companions of the Prophet. As usual the local Sunni 
worthies, a small and undistinguished group, favored him with money, 
clothes, and food. The IIkhanid governor also received him and gave 
him presents. He probably stayed not more than a week or two. ip 

From Basra he took passage on a sambuq, a small, lateen-rigged 
boat common in the Mesopotamian niver trade, and sailed for ten 
miles along the Ubulla canal, passing “through an uninterrupted 
succession of fruit gardens and overshadowing palmgroves both to 
right and left, with traders sitting in the shade of the trees, selling 
bread, fish, dates, milk, and fruit.” The canal emptied into the Tigris 
estuary, called the Shatt al-’Arab, which linked the region of Basra 
with the gulf.’” Here, he transferred to a second vessel and sailed 
overnight to Abadan, which in that century was a few miles from the 
coast, though today it is more than twenty miles owing to the gradual 
build-up of the alluvial delta. '* 

While stopping at a small hospice in Abadan, he learned of a local 
Sufi anchorite, who lived year round in the marsh and sustained 
himself entirely on fish. He immediately went looking for this hermit 
and found him seated in the shell of a ruined mosque. The shaykh gave 
the young man the blessing he sought and even offered him a large fish 
for his supper. Ibn Battuta recalls in the Rihla that he was deeply 
moved by this meeting, to the point that “for a moment I entertained 
the idea of spending the rest of my life in the service of this shaykh.” 
Indeed, he seems to have had a recurring fascination for this sort of 
uncompromising asceticism, probably a tug of the heart that many 
gregarious, worldly men feel from time to time. At a number of 
junctures in his career he experienced little crises of the soul, when he 
thought of throwing up his life of adventure for the self-denying and 
rapturous existence of a true Sufi disciple. In the end, however, what 
he calls “the pertinacity of my spirit” won out, and he was back on the 
road and into the world of affairs. 

In this case he was back on the road in no time. Under the urging of 
an acquaintance from Basra, he contrived to get to Baghdad, not by 
turning around and heading back up the Tigris, but by making for the 
mountains of Persian Luristan, which was decidedly in the wrong 
direction. His plan was to make a long looping tour east of 
Mesopotamia through the Persian region of Jibal, or what he calls Iraq 
al-Ajami. Indeed it is at this point in the narrative that he speaks of his 
“habit” of shunning any road he had already traveled by. 

As it worked out, his next important destination was to be the city of 
Isfahan in the Jibal province on the far side of the lofty Zagros 

94 Persia and Iraq 

Mountains. Apparently in the company of his Basran friend, he 
went by ship from Abadan eastward along the delta coastline to 
the port of Machul, now Bandar-e-Ma’shur, in the Iranian part of 
Mesopotamia. There he hired a horse from some merchants and 
headed northward across the plain of Khuzistan, a province of 
marshes and sugar-cane fields. He followed a generally northward 
route through the agricultural towns of Ramhormoz (Ramiz) and 
Shushtar (Tustar), then turned westward to meet the Zagros, 
which rose suddenly as a barricade of rock along the eastern rim of 
the plain. 

The mountain crags and pinnacles, which formed the natural 
frontier between Mesopotamia and the Iranian plateau, were in- 
habited by fierce herding peoples called the Lurs. The Mongols 
had subdued this country perfunctorily in Hulegu’s time, but 
owing to its wild isolation from the centers of administration, they 
left law and order in the hands of a client dynasty of tribal barons, 
called atabegs. Ibn Battuta regarded some of the Lurs customs that 
came to his attention as thoroughly brutish and heterodox, but the 
atabeg and the little groups of literate men of the villages and 
hospices treated him well and gave him the usual presents owing to 
wayfarers.'? From Idhaj (or Malamir, and now Izeh), the 
mountain capital of the atabegs, he advanced northeastward 
through the frigid high passes of the Zagros (it was probably 
March) and thence to the orchard city of Isfahan, which lay at the 
western edge of the central plateau at an altitude of 4,690 feet. He 
was now in the heart of Persia. 

He found lodging in what seems to have been a Sufi center of 
abundant proportions, possessing not only a mosque, a kitchen, 
and rooms for disciples and travelers, but also a fine marble-paved 
hammam, or bath. The local head of the zawiya, a Persian named 
Qutb al-Din Husain, was also a shaykh of the Suhrawardiyya, one 
of the largest mystical orders of the later Middle Period with 
widespread affiliations in the eastern Islamic lands, including 
India. One day the young visitor was looking out the window of his 
room in the lodge and noticed a white khirqga, or patched Sufi’s 
robe, spread out in the garden to dry. He recalls thinking to 
himself that he would like to have one of them, just as he had 
collected one from the Rifa’i shaykh in Jerusalem, as a symbol of 
honorific connection with the Suhrawardiyya. In the next moment 
Qutb al-Din abruptly entered his room and ordered a servant to 
bring the robe, which he threw over his guest’s shoulders. Aston- 

Persia and Iraq 95 

ished, Ibn Battuta fell to kissing the shaykh’s feet, then, in his 
impetuous way, begged if he might not have his blessed skull cap 
as well. The request was granted forthwith. In the Rihla Ibn 
Battuta takes pains to list the chain of authority (isnad) linking him 
by virtue of this investiture with the twelfth-century founder of the 
brotherhood. But as in the Jerusalem episode, he assumed no 
obligation to pursue the Sufi way simply by accepting the shaykh’s 
casual blessing on a God-fearing traveler. 

He spent two weeks with Qutb al-Din in Isfahan, enjoying the 
preserved watermelon and other fruits of the Isfahan plain laid out 
at the zawiya’s table. At this point in history the city was not the 
noble capital it had been under the Seljuk Turks and would be 
again two centuries later under the Shi’i Safavids. Because of a sad 
inclination among the inhabitants to engage in violent factional 
rows, coupled with the turmoil of the early Mongol years, the city 
was only beginning to recover some of its earlier vigor.*° Perhaps 
dissatisfied with what the town had to show him of Persian culture, 
Ibn Battuta decided to travel another 300 miles south to Shiraz, 
chief city of the province of Fars. 

This journey, accomplished in ten days, took him along one of 
the historic trade routes of central Iran and through the central 
region of the ancient Persian empire. Since it was probably about 
mid April,” he followd the so-called summer road through the 
Zagros foothills rather than the winter road which ran nearer the 
high desert to the east.*? During the final days of the trip he 
climbed through a series of blooming mountain valleys and thence 
into the fertile, mile-high basin that sheltered Shiraz, the “Garden 

The luck of Shiraz in the Middle Period was that the Mongol 
monster had not been inclined to devour Fars province, the region 
being too hot for steppe herdsmen and too far away from the main 
Tatar centers in Azerbaijan. The city not only survived but opened 
its gates to refugees from the north, and so, as with Cairo, its 
intellectual life received a fillip from the arrival of well-educated 
fugitives. Ibn Battuta was attracted to Shiraz partly because of its 
reputation as the greatest center of Persian letters and partly 
because it was a city where, according to his contemporary 
Mustawfi, “most of the people strive after good works, and in 
piety and obedience to the Almighty have attained a high degree 
of godliness.”*? The city was sometimes called the Tower of Saints 
(Burj-i-Awliya) because of the profusion of holy tombs. It was also 

96 Persia and Iraq 

one of the loveliest towns in all Islam, and still is. Ibn Battuta 
remembers that “its inhabitants are handsome in figure and clean 
in their dress. In the whole East there is no city except Shiraz 
which approached Damascus in the beauty of its bazaars, fruit- 
gardens and rivers.” 

The young jurist wanted above all to meet the chief gadi of the 
city, Majd al-Din, a famous Persian scholar especially admired 
among Sunnis for having brilliantly defied the Shi’i IIkhan Oljeitu. 
When this ruler converted to Shi’ism, according to the version of 
the story recounted in the Rihla, he ordered that the khutba, the 
praise formulas recited at the beginning of the Friday mosque 
sermon, be changed throughout the land to exalt the name of ’Ali. 
When the people of Shiraz refused to cooperate, he commanded 
that Majd al-Din be executed by being thrown to a pack of 
ferocious dogs trained to eat humans. But when the dogs were let 
loose, Ibn Battuta relates, “they fawned on him and wagged their 
tails before him without attacking him in any way.” The Ilkhan 
was so astounded at the deliverance of this Muslim Daniel that he 
played out the Darius role perfectly, prostrating himself at the 
qadi’s feet, showering him with honors, and renouncing his errant 
doctrine for the Sunni faith. Ibn Battuta’s ending to the story is a 
bit artful, since we know from other sources that the most Oljeitu 
did was to call off persecutions of Sunnis while remaining a loyal 
Twelver until his death in 1316. Majd al-Din meanwhile held his 
post throughout the reign of Abu Sa’id and for twenty years after 
the collapse of the Mongol state.?* 

Soon after arriving in Shiraz in the company of three unnamed 
traveling companions, Ibn Battuta went to salute Majd al-Din, who 
questioned him about his homeland and his travels. The shaykh 
also offered him a small room in his college. Ibn Battuta does not 
say how long he stayed in the city, but the general chronological 
framework of the Persian tour would suggest that he remained 
something less than two weeks, visiting the mosques and the tombs 
of numerous Shirazi lights, including Abu ’Abdallah ibn Khafif, 
one of the forefathers of Persian Sufism, and the renowned poet 
Sa’di, who was buried in a lovely garden outside the city.7” 

Since there were no more specially interesting towns to visit 
between Shiraz and the seaports of the gulf, Ibn Battuta resolved 
to turn west and head once again in the general direction of 
Baghdad. His route took him through two high passes of the 
southern Zagros and the little town of Kazarun, then northwest- 

Persia and Iraq 97 

ward into the Khuzistan plain. Somewhere north of the port of 
Machul he crossed his outbound trail of some three months 
earlier. Advancing once again into the Mesopotamian marshlands, 
he forded the Tigris at an unidentified point perhaps about 
midway between Wasit and Basra. He finally arrived at Kufa on 
the Euphrates five or six weeks after leaving Shiraz.?° He was now 
back on the main pilgrimage road. From Kufa, he continued 
upriver past the ruins of ancient Babylon and the Shi’i towns of al- 
Hilla and Karbala. About the first week of June 1327 he reached 
the Tigris and the city of the Caliphs.*’ 

He gives the definite impression in the Rihla that he was 
traveling to Iraq primarily to see Baghdad. But he was under no 
illusions about the sad state of the city in his own time. He went 
there to honor its past and perhaps to walk among the ruins along 
the west bank of the river, imagining the ghosts of the divines and 
jurisprudents who had lived there five centuries earlier, founding 
the moral and intellectual code of civilization by which his own 
generation still lived. In the Rihla he introduces his description of 
the city with a set of perfunctory praise formulas (“of illustrious 
rank and supreme pre-eminence”) but then goes on to reiterate 
the mournful admission of his twelfth-century predecessor Ibn 
Jubayr that “her outward lineaments have departed and nothing 
remains of her but the name . . . There is no beauty in her that 
arrests the eye, or summons the busy passer-by to forget his 
business and to gaze.” 

It was not in fact as bad as all that. As with the buildup of silt in 
the irrigation canals, the city’s waning had been gradual. in most 
periods almost imperceptible. Despite Turkish military coups, 
sectarian violence, urban gang warfare, and the menace of floods 
pouring over neglected dykes, Baghdad retained a good share of 
both its international commercial prosperity and its residual pre- 
Stige as capital of the Caliphs long after the glorious eighth and 
ninth centuries. Even the rampaging Mongols left many of its 
public buildings standing and quite a few of its people alive. In fact 
Hulegu’s army had barely finished the sacking when he ordered, in 
typical fashion, that a vigorous restoration program should begin. 
Under an administration of local Arab and Persian officials, the 
city quickly pulled itself up to the status of provincial capital of 

Baghdad was no longer an important stop on a Middle Eastern 
study tour and Ibn Battuta found most of its numerous colleges in 

98 Persia and Iraq 

ruins. But teaching continued, notably in the Nizamiya, the 
eleventh-century prototype of the four-sided madrasa, and in the 
Mustansiriya, a college built in 1234 to provide professorial chairs 
and lecture rooms for all four of the major juridical schools.7* The 
Mosque of the Caliphs, one of the great congregational mosques 
located on the east bank of the river, had been burned down in the 
Mongol assault, but Ibn Battuta found it fully rebuilt and offering 
advanced studies. Although he stayed only two or three weeks in 
the city, he found time to go to the mosque to hear a set of lectures 
on one of the important compilations of Prophetic Traditions. 

If Baghdad’s intellectual life had had more to offer, he might 
have been content to remain there throughout the summer, 
awaiting the departure of the Aajj caravan in mid-September. Any 
traveler less obdurate than he would probably have been thankful 
for a long rest at this point before starting another trek across the 
Arabian waste. But unexpectedly, a new adventure suddenly came 
his way, and it would have been entirely out of character for him to 
pass it up. 

He arrived in Baghdad to learn that the Ilkhan himself was 
currently in residence, perhaps having wintered there as the rulers 
sometimes did to escape the cold of Azerbaijan. Abu Sa’id was 
then making preparations to return to the north, most likely to 
Sultaniya, the capital founded by his father Oljeitu. The Ilkhan 
always traveled in the company of a huge retinue, called in Arabic 
the mahalla, or “camp,” which was in effect the entire royal court 
in motion: several amirs and their mounted troops, myriad re- 
ligious and administrative personnel, and a small army of servants 
and slaves. In addition, the ruler’s wives and favorites, called the 
khatuns, all had their own suites of bodyguards and functionaries. 
Ibn Battuta jumped at the chance to tag along with the royal 
procession, “on purpose,” he explains, “to see the ceremonial 
observed by the king of al-’Iraq in his journeying and encamping, 
and the manner of his transportation and travel.” Either before 
leaving Baghdad or en route with the mahalla, he managed to 
secure the patronage of ’Ala al-Din Muhammad, one of the 
Iikhan’s leading generals. 

Abu Sa’id, the last of the Mongols of Persia, ascended the 
throne in 1316 at the age of twelve. He was in fact about a year 
younger than Ibn Battuta, who describes him as being “the most 
beautiful of God’s creatures in features, and without any growth 
on his cheeks.” The traveler also admired him for his civilized 

Persia and Iraq 99 

qualities. He was not only a committed Sunni, but a generous, 
pious, and tolerant one. According to the fifteenth-century 
Egyptian writer Taghribirdi, he was “an illustrious and brave 
prince, with an imposing aspect, generous and gay.”’” He wrote 
both Arabic and Persian with a beautiful hand, played the lute, 
composed songs and poems, and, in the latter part of his reign, even 
lightened some of the tax load on the peasantry. Whereas several of 
his Mongol predecessors were confirmed alcholics and some of 
them died of the consequences, he prohibited the use of spirits in 
the kingdom in accord with the Sacred Law — though with what 
success we do not know. There seems to have been little in his 
character that recalled his ancestor Genghis Khan. He represents 
rather the definitive conversion of the Ilkhanid state to polished 
Persian culture. Perhaps if he had reigned longer, he would have 
been a great builder like his contemporary al-Nasir Muhammad of 
Egypt. As it was, the political foundations he laid during his last 
eight years were not strong enough to ensure the survival of the 
regime, which utterly collapsed at his death in 1335, leaving Persia 
to face the remainder of the century in fragmentation and war.” 

In the summer of 1327, however, the dynasty looked vigorous 
enough to the Moroccan traveler, when he witnessed the nosiy, 
fearsome extravaganza of a Mongol Khan on the march: 

Each of the amirs comes up with his troops, his drums, and his 
standards, and halts in a position that has been assigned to him, 
not a step further, either on the right wing or on the left wing. 
When they have all taken up their positions and their ranks are 
set in perfect order, the king mounts, and the drums, trumpets 
and fifes are sounded for the departure. Each of the amirs 
advances, salutes the king, and returns to his place; then the 
chamberlains and the marshals move forward ahead of the king, 
and are followed by the musicians. These number about a 
hundred men, wearing handsome robes, and behind them comes 
the sultan’s cavalcade. Ahead of the musicians there are ten 
horsemen, with ten drums carried on slings round their necks, 
and five [other] horsemen carrying five reed-pipes . . . On the 
sultan’s right and left during his march are the great amirs, who 
number about fifty. 

Ibn Battuta may have had only a general notion of where he 
might be going when he left Baghdad with this mahalla in the latter 

100 Persia and Iraq 

part of June.*' In his description of the journey, he does not name 
any of the stations but states only that he traveled in the company 
of the Ilkhan for ten days. The king was almost certainly heading 
for the new capital of Sultaniya (172 miles northwest of Tehran), 
probably following the trans-Persian “Khurasan Road” by way of 
Kermanshah, the central Zagros, and Hamadan.** Somewhere 
near Hamadan the amir ’Ala al-Din Muhammad, Ibn Battuta’s 
patron, was suddenly ordered to leave the mahalla and proceed 
northward to Tabriz, apparently on urgent business of state.*? He 
almost certainly traveled with a lean, fast-riding detachment, and 
Ibn Battuta was given leave to go along. Again, his route to Tabriz 
is a mystery, but the party may have taken the old Abbasid high 
road from Hamadan northwestward through the mountains, pass- 
ing east of Lake Urmiya.** Meanwhile, Abu Sa’id and his suite 
lumbered on toward Sultaniya. 

Ibn Battuta could count it a stroke of good fortune to have this 
unexpected visit to Tabriz, for it was the premier city of the 
Persian Mongols and, at just this moment in history, one of the 
key commercial centers of the Eurasian world. Located in a grassy 
plain dominated to the south by the 12,000 foot pinnacle of Mount 
Sahand, Tabriz had been nothing more than the main town of the 
region until the Turco—Mongol herdsmen flooded into Azerbaijan. 
This migration produced a dramatic shift of both military power 
and population growth away from Mesopotamia to the high 
northwestern rim of Persia. The local notability had been wise 
enough to greet the Mongol invaders with the keys to the city, thus 
offering the Ilkhans the convenience of establishing their first 
capital in a town that their fellow Tatars had not first demolished. 

The anchoring of the Mongol state and the revival of trade 
found Tabriz rather than Baghdad the main junction of trans- 
Persian routes linking the Mediterranean, Central Asia, and the 
Indian Ocean. The city also attracted colonies of Genoese, 
Venetians, and other south Europeans, who responded fast to 
Mongol tolerance and internationalism by advancing in from their 
bases on the Eastern Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts. Even 
the Ilkhans who had converted to Islam observed the Pax 
Mongolica tradition of open trade and travel. Abu Sa’id, for 
example, signed a commercial treaty with Venice in 1320, and 
though Ibn Battuta does not mention the presence of Europeans in 
Tabriz in connection with his visit, we know some were there.*> 

The Ilkhan Ghazan made Tabriz worthy of the cultivated 

Persia and Iraq 101 

Persian gentlemen who staffed his secretariat by beautifying the 
town and ordering the construction of an entirely new suburb of 
grand buildings, including a mosque, a madrasa, a hospice, a 
library, a hospital, a residence for religious and state officials, and 
his own mausoleum — none of which has survived to the 
present.°° Around the end of the fourteenth century Tabriz had a 
population of 200,000 to 300,000 people.*’ Oljeitu established his 
own new capital at Sultaniya, and Abu Sa’id honored the change. 
But Sultaniya was the Ilkhanids’ Brazilia. The court and bureau- 
cratic elite resisted mightily the notion of leaving comfortable 
Tabriz, which remained the far greater city of the two.*8 

Ibn Battuta, unfortunately, had little time to take in the sights of 
the town. On the very morning after he arrived there with the 
Mongol envoys, ’Ala al-Din received orders to rejoin the Ilkhan’s 
mahalla. The Moroccan apparently decided there was nothing for 
it but to stick with his benefactor if he were to be assured of getting 
back to Baghdad in time for the hajj departure. And so off he went 
after a single night and without meeting any of the city’s scholars. 
He did, however, manage to squeeze in a look around. He lodged 
in a magnificent hospice, where he dined, he tells us, on meat, 
bread, rice, and sweets. In the morning he toured the great bazaar 
(“One of the finest bazaars I have seen the world over”) where the 
international merchantry displayed the wares of all Eurasia. 

He undoubtedly chafed at having to leave Tabriz so pre- 
cipitately. Yet he was to be unexpectedly compensated soon 
enough. For when he returned to the mahalla several days later, 
"Ala al-Din arranged for him to meet the IIkhan himself. The 
audience in the royal tent was probably brief, but Abu Sa’id 
questioned the visitor about his country, gave him a robe and a 
horse, and even ordered that a letter of introduction be sent to the 
governor of Baghdad with instructions to supply the young faqih 
with camels and provisions for the journey to the Hijaz. There was 
nothing very special about a pious ruler giving charity to a scholar 
on his way to the hajj. And Ibn Battuta, for his part, has relatively 
little to say in the Rihla about Abu Sa’id and his court compared, 
for example, to the dozens of pages he devotes to the Sultan of 
Delhi. But, at the time, the experience was significant if only as 
more evidence of those combined qualities of good breeding, 
piety, and charm which smoothed the young traveler’s way into 
the presence of the high and powerful. 

The Rihla is silent on the itinerary and schedule back to 

102 Persia and Iraq 

Baghdad, including his traveling companions. The entire round 
trip could have taken as little as 35 days, since he journeyed a good 
part of the way with a fast-moving royal envoy. He might then 
have been back in Baghdad as early as about mid-July.*” 

He still had two months to wait for the hajj caravan, which 
traditionally left Baghdad on 1 Dhu I-Qa’da, or in that year 18 
September. Since he had come back from his Tabriz expedition so 
quickly he “thought it a good plan” to squeeze in a tour, a rather 
uneventful one as it turned out, of the upper Mesopotamian reg- 
ion, known as the Jazira. He traveled northward along the Tigris 
to the important Kurdish city of Mosul, then on to Cizre (Jazirat 
ibn "Umar) in modern Turkey near the Iraqi border. This stretch 
generally replicated the route taken by Marco Polo 5S years earlier 
on his outbound journey from the Levant to China and by Ibn 
Jubayr in 1184, from whose book the Rihla lifts most of its des- 
criptive material on the Tigris towns. From Cizre, Ibn Battuta 
made a loop of about 360 miles through the plateau country west 
of the river. He got as far as the fortress city of Mardin (which is in 
modern Turkey), then doubled back by way of Sinjar (and a 
corner of modern Syria) to Mosul. His hosts along the way in- 
cluded the IIkhanid governor at Mosul (who lodged him and 
footed his expenses), the chief gadi at Mardin, and a Kurdish 
mystic whom he met in a mountain-top hermitage near Sinjar and 
who gave him some silver coins which he kept in his possession 
until he lost them to bandits in India several years later. 

When he returned to Mosul he found one of the regional 
“feeder” caravans ready to depart for Baghdad to join the main 
assembly of pilgrims. He also had the fortune to meet an aged holy 
woman named Sitt Zahida, whom he describes as a descendant of 
the Caliphs. She had made the hajj numerous times and had in her 
service a group of Sufi disciples. Ibn Battuta joined her little 
company and enjoyed her protection while traveling back along 
the Tigris. The acquaintance was sadly brief, for she died later 
during the Arabian journey and was buried in the desert. 

In Baghdad again, Ibn Battuta sought out the governor and 
received from him, as ordered by Abu Sa‘id, a camel litter and 
sufficient food and water for four people. Luckily, the amir al-hay 
was the same Pehlewan Muhammad al-Hawih who had looked 
after him on the previous year’s journey. “Our friendship was 
strengthened by this,” he recalls, “and I remained under his pro- 
tection and favored by his bounty, for he gave me even more than 

Persia and Iraq 103 

had been ordered for me.” Ibn Battuta might then have expected 
to return to Mecca in style except that at Kufa he fell sick with 
diarrhea, the illness persisting until after he reached his des- 
tination. During the long journey he had to be dismounted from 
his litter many times a day, though the amir gave instructions that 
he be cared for as well as possible. By the time he arrived in Mecca 
he was so weak that he had to make the tawaf and the sa’y 
mounted on one of the amir’s horses. On the tenth of Dhu I-Hijja, 
however, while camped at Mina for the sacrifice, he began to feel 

Perhaps after this punishing experience he deduced that he 
needed a rest. In a year’s time he had traveled more than 4,000 
miles, crossed the Zagros Mountains four times and the Arabian 
desert twice, visited most of the great cities of Iraq and western 
Persia, and met scholars, saints, gadis, governors, an atabeg, and 
even a Mongol king. At this point he might have sat against a pillar 
of the Haram and written a respectable rihla about nothing more 
than his travels of 1325-27. The trip to Persia, however, would 
appear in retrospect as little more than a trial run for the heroic 
marches that were to follow. What he needed in the fall of 1327 was 
an interval for rest, prayer, and study. Then, spiritually refreshed, 
he would be off again. 


1. V.A. Riasonovsky, Fundamental Principles of Mongol Law (Tientsin, 
1937), p. 88. 

2. Juvaini, The History of the World Conqueror, trans. J. A. Boyle, 2 vols. 
(Cambridge. Mass.. 1958), vol. 1, p. 152. 

3. John M. Smith, “Mongol Manpower and Persian Population,” Journal of the 
Economic and Social History of the Orient (1975): 291. 

4. Edward G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 
England, 1929-30), vol. 2, p. 439. 

5. Hamd-Allah Mustawfi, The Geographical Part of the Nuzhat al-Qulub, 
trans. G. Le Strange (Leiden, 1919), p. 34. 

6. D.O. Morgan argues that by the early fourteenth century a significant 
number of Turco-Mongols were giving up nomadism for proprietorship of 
agricultural estates acquired in the form of land grants (iqtas) from the Ilkhan, 
thereby planting their social roots in Persian soil. “The Mongol Armies in Persia,” 
Der Islam 56 (1979): 81-96. 

7. See Rashid al-Din, The Successors of Genghis Khan, trans. John A. Boyle 
(New York, 1971); and John A. Boyle, “Rashid al-Din: The First World 
Historian,” in The Mongol World Empire 1206-1370 (London, 1977), pp. 19-26. 

8. E. Ashtor, A Social and Economic History of the Near East in the Middle 
Ages (Berkeley, 1976), p. 257. 

104 Persia and Iraq 

9. Rashid al-Din, Successors of Genghis Khan, p. 6. 

10. Since IB gives all the stations on his trip from Mecca to al-Najaf, no apparent 
problems arise with Hrbek’s estimate of 44 days (Hr, p. 427). For this section of the 
narrative IB once again draws heavily on Ibn Jubayr’s descriptions of the route and 
halting places. 

11. A. Bausani, “Religion under the Mongols,” in J.A. Boyle (ed.), The 
Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge, England, 1968), vol. 5, pp. 538-47. 

12. IB does not mention the length of this stay in al-Najaf. Hrbek (Hr, p. 428) 
suggests three to five days on the speculative grounds that he would not have 
tarried long in a Shi’i town. 

13. G. Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate (Cambridge, England, 
1905), pp. 24-85. The author describes the complex topography of the Tigris - 
Euphrates basin in Abbasid times and later, stressing the fact that the course of the 
rivers and tributary streams and canals have changed repeatedly over the centuries. 

14. For clarity of meaning I have changed Gibb’s translation of the Arabic 
al-fugara’ (D&S, vol. 2, p. 5) from “poor brethren” (Gb, vol. 2, p. 273) to “Sufi 

15. Hrbek’s estimate of the chronology (Hr, pp. 428-29) is based on com- 
putations of distances and traveling times from other Islamic sources. 

16. This is Hrbek’s guess (Hr, p. 429) based on the idea that when IB sojourned 
in a spot for a substantial length of time, he always noted it. 

17. Le Strange (Lands, pp. 46-49) describes the canal system as it existed about 
that time. Also W. Barthold, An Historical Geography of Iran, trans. Svat Soucek, 
ed. with an introduction by C. E. Bosworth (Princeton, N.J., 1984), pp. 203-05. 

18. Ibid., pp. 48-49. 

19. IB’s description of the trip through the Zagros presents serious chronological 
difficulties. He passed through this region a second time in 1347 on his way back to 
North Africa. His remarks on the season, on the identity of the atabeg, and on 
certain events at the princely court make it reasonably clear that almost all of the 
descriptive information he associates with the 1327 trip actually pertains to the later 
one. The same is likely true concerning his personal experiences, notably a bout 
with fever. Both Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 288n, 290n) and Hrbek (Hr, pp. 429-31) 
agree that in the Rihla the two trips are confused. 

20. “Isfahan,” EI,, vol. 4, p. 102. 

21. Hrbek (Hr, pp. 431-33) rejects the Rihla’s statement that IB got his khirga 
from Qutb al-Din at Shiraz on 7 May 1327, since he could not possibly have reached 
Baghdad during the month Rajab (23 May-21 June 1327), a period when he himself 
asserts he was in that city. Hrbek suggests that owing to a lapse of memory or a 
copyist’s mistake, the date of the investiture should perhaps read 14 Jumada I 
rather that 14 Jumada II, that is, 7 April rather than 7 May. If he left Isfahan in the 
earlier part of April, he would have had time to reach Baghdad during Rajab. 

22. Edward G. Browne, A Year amongst the Persians (London, 1893), pp. 220- 
62; Le Strange, Lands, p. 297. 

23. Mustawfi, Nuzhat al-Qulub, pp. 113-14. 

24. Gb, vol. 2, pp. 300n, 304n. 

25. IB also visited Majd al-Din in 1347 while en route from India to Syria. Hrbek 
suggests ten days for the visit in 1327, though the Rihla presents a good deal of 
confusion between the first and second stays. Hr, pp. 433-34; Gb, vol. 2, p. 301n. 

26. Hrbek’s calculations of the Persian chronology are speculative since IB 
provides only three fixed dates for the entire period of travel from Mecca to 
Baghdad. The long journey from Shiraz to Baghdad is especially troublesome as 
routes and stations are extremely vague. Hrbek suggests 35-40 days for this 
itinerary (Hr, p. 434). 

27. Hrbek’s estimate (Hr, p. 434), is in accord with IB’s statement that he was in 
the city during the month of Rajab. 

Persia and Iraq 105 

28. “Masdjid,” EI,, vol. 3, p. 354. 

29. Quoted in Henry M. Howorth, History of the Mongols, 3 vols. (London, 
1876-88), vol. 3, p. 624. 

30. At the time IB was visiting Persia, the young IIkhan was under the political 
domination of the Amir Choban, who held a position at court tantamount to mayor 
of the palace. Shortly after IB left Persia, however, Abu Sa’id abruptly and 
ruthlessly eliminated Choban and two of the commander’s sons and took full 
charge of his kingdom. IB’s account of the fall of the Choban family is one of the 
few historical sources on these events. See J. A. Boyle, “Dynastic and Political 
History of the Il-Khans” in Boyle, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5, pp. 406-13. 

31. Hrbek (Hr, p. 437) suggests a June departure. 

32. Mustawfi, the fourteenth-century geographer and historian, names the 
stations on the Baghdad-to-Khurasan high road in Mongol times. Le Strange, 
Lands, pp. 61, 227-28. 

33. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 344n) suggests that “Ala al-Din probably got the order to 
go to Tabriz near Hamadan, calculated on the ten days already traveled from 

34. Le Strange, Lands, pp. 229-30. 

35. W. Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant au Moyen-Age, 2 vols. (Leipzig. 
1936), vol. 2, pp. 124-25. 

36. “Tabriz,” EI,, vol. 4, p. 586. 

37. I. P. Petrushevskey, “The Socio-Economic Condition of Iran under the Il- 
Khans” in Boyle, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 5, p. 507. 

38. “Tabriz,”, EI,, vol. 4, p. 586. 

39. IB states that when he got back to Baghdad he still had more than two 
months to go before the departure of the Aajj caravan. If it left at the normal time, 
about 1 Dhu I-Qa’da (18 September 1327), we can infer in general when the Tabriz 
excursion ended. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 346n) suggests it was before the end of June. 
Hrbek (Hr, pp. 436-37) offers 1 July or later. He also argues for a fast trip to Tabriz 
and back on the grounds that he was traveling part of the way with a royal official in 
a hurry. 

6 The Arabian Sea 

God is He who has subjected to you the sea, that the ships 
may run on it at His commandment, and that you may 
seek His bounty; haply so you will be thankful. ! 

The Koran, Sura XLV 

In the Rihla Ibn Battuta briefly describes a residence in Mecca of 
about three years, from September 1327 to the autumn of 1330. In 
fact, the overall chronological pattern of his travels from 1327 to 
1333 suggests that he lived in the city only about one year, taking 
the road again in 1328.” In either case he spent an extended period 
in the sacred city, living as a mujawir, or scholar-sojourner. “I led 
a most agreeable existence,” he recalls in the Rihla, “giving myself 
up to circuits, pious exercises and frequent performances of the 
Lesser Pilgrimage.” During this period, or at least the first year, he 
lodged at the Muzaffariya madrasa, an endowment of a late sultan 
of the Yemen located near the western corner of the Haram.’ Asa 
pilgrim-in-residence he had no trouble making ends meet on the 
charity of alms-givers and learned patrons. The imam of the 
Hanafi community, he reports, was “the most generous of the 
jurists of Mecca,” running up an annual debt of forty or fifty 
thousand dirhams dispensing alms to mujawirs and indigent 
travelers. The young Moroccan’s special benefactor appears to 
have been an esteemed North African jurist known as Khalil. This 
sage was the Maliki gadi of Mecca at the time and the imam of the 
pilgrimage rites. While Ibn Battuta was living at the Muzaffariya, 
the shaykh had bread and other comestibles sent to him every day 
following the afternoon prayer. 

The Rihla condenses Ibn Battuta’s residence into a few brief 
paragraphs and has much less to say about his own experiences 
than about the identities of various personages arriving in the haj 
caravans. Muslim readers of the narrative would not of course 
have to be given an elaborate account of how a sojourner passed 
his time in the Holy City. It was taken for granted that a pious man 
would lead a placid life of prayer, devotion, fellowship, and 


The Arabian Sea 107 

Map 6: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Arabia and East Africa, 
1328-30 (1330-32) 

co 7 

" Sstanan 

acorn aneweeee Probable itinerary 
@vateneepaausen duble—Sen’‘a (doubtful pa 

108 The Arabian Sea 

learning. It is curious nevertheless that Ibn Battuta makes no 
mention of having undertaken courses of study with any of the 
important professors. He says nothing of books learned or ijazas 
collected as he does in connection with his earlier and briefer stay 
in Damascus. But we may assume that he attended lectures on law 
and other subjects in the Haram or the colleges round about it.4 

The Haram was the central teaching institution in Mecca, that is 
to say, the place where the greatest number of classes gathered 
each day.” The leading ‘ulama of the city controlled the right to 
teach there, preventing any literate stranger from simply walking 
in and setting up a class. Only after a scholar’s knowledge and 
reputation had been adequately examined could he set down his 
carpet or cushion in an assigned place in the colonnades, a spot he 
might then have the right to occupy for the entire teaching year, if 
not his lifetime. The professor always lectured facing the Ka’ba, 
the students ranged in a circle around him, those behind sitting in 
very close so they might catch every word. The size of classes 
varied considerably, as they do in any modern university, de- 
pending on the subject being studied and the master’s fame. 
Anyone was free to listen in, and around the outer fringes of the 
circle people came and went as they pleased. A class usually lasted 
about two hours, including reading of a text, commentary on it, 
and questions. 

The teaching day started early, and if Ibn Battuta planned to 
attend the first lecture of the morning he would be in the Haram 
right after the prayer of first light when the lesson circles began to 
assemble. In the hours of the dawn, classes met in the open court 
around the Ka’ba, but when the Arabian sun loomed over the east 
wall of the mosque they quickly retreated into the shadow of the 
colonnades. The most important teaching went on during the cool 
hours of the morning and late afternoon. But circles might be seen 
in the mosque at any time of day, applying themselves to the 
religious sciences or the auxiliary subjects of grammar, elocution, 
calligraphy, logic, or poetics. Even in the late evening between the 
sunset and night prayers a professor might squeeze in an additional 
dictation or commentary. On Fridays most classes recessed, the 
community devoting itself to prayer and the hearing of the con- 
gregational sermon. 

Ibn Battuta’s serious academic work would have taken place 
during the first seven months of the year, beginning in mid 
Muharram when the pilgrim throng had departed. These were the 

The Arabian Sea 109 

tranquil, slow-paced months in the life of the town, when a young 
scholar might study in leisure, extending his knowledge of the 
shari’a, learning some fine points of grammar, or perhaps 
penetrating more deeply the spiritual mysteries of Sufism. In the 
eighth month (Sha’ban) the curriculum shifted to inspirational and 
didactic talks on the approaching month of fasting. With the 
arrival of Ramadan the regular teaching year came to an end. In 
the tenth and eleventh months (Shawwal and Dhu 1’Qa’da) 
lectures were given on the subject of the hajj and how to perform it 
properly. But as the Day of Standing approached, the influx of 
pilgrims, chanting and chattering, made public lecturing pro- 
gressively impractical. Only when the crowds drifted away in the 
first weeks of the new year would the academic cycle begin once 

As little as Ibn Battuta reveals about his months of con- 
templative immobility, there is little doubt that he became better 
educated, mainly, one supposes, in the corpus of Maliki 
jurisprudence. The depth of his education should not of course be 
overstated. He never became a jurist of first rank, and his 
judgeship in the Sultanate of Delhi was, as we shall see, a type of 
sinecure. But he also benefited from his sojourn by the fact that 
any individual who was known to have lived in the Holy City for an 
extended period commanded a degree of prestige not accorded the 
ordinary pilgrim who simply came and went. A veteran mujawir 
was credited with exemplary devotion to God and to His House. 
In a more practical light, a season or more in Mecca gave him the 
chance to make friends with all sorts of literate and influential 
people from distant countries, associations on which he might 
draw for hospitality over the ensuing two decades. 

When Ibn Battuta left Mecca after the hajj of 1328 (1330), his 
expressed intention was to vist the Yemen. He says nothing in the 
Rihla about plans to cross the equator into tropical Africa, or 
climb the mountains of Oman, or visit the pearl fisheries of the 
Persian Gulf. Yet he was already accustomed to finding himself in 
places he never intended to go. It is just possible that in Mecca he 
had heard reports of well-paying opportunities for foreign scholars 
at the royal court of Delhi and that he was already thinking of 
making his way to India in order to offer his services. The obvious 
way to get there was to go to the Yemen first, then take ship for 
Gujarat on the northwest coast of India. As it turned out, he went 

110 The Arabian Sea 

no further east than the Gulf of Oman on this adventure, delaying 
his journey to India another two years. 

Whatever his long-range plans may have been in 1328 (1330), he 
left Mecca and headed west to the coast following the pilgrimage 
events. He took two days getting to Jidda, the port of Mecca, where 
a motley fleet of Red Sea craft waited to ferry pilgrims across to 
’Aydhab or transport them down to Aden in the Yemen from where 
they would board bigger ships bound for the Persian Gulf, Africa, 
and India. Experienced caravaner though he was, this was to be his 
first real sea voyage. He could hardly have been cheered by that 
prospect when, reaching Jidda harbor, he found the profit-minded 
captains loading passengers, to use Ibn Jubayr’s phrase, “like 
chickens crammed in a coop.” In fact, a Meccan sharif, a brother of 
the two ruling princes and a man certainly worth knowing, invited 
the young faqgih to accompany him to the Yemen. But upon 
discovering that space on the sharif’s vessel would be shared with a 
number of camels, Ibn Battuta promptly declined the proposal and 
went looking elsewhere. He finally found passage on a jalba, 
probably a standard two-masted ship of modest proportions used 
commonly in the Red Sea trade.° 

Ibn Battuta’s refusal to set sail in the company of a small herd of 
dromedaries was none too cautious. The Red Sea was the most 
relentlessly dangerous of the waters on which the Mediterranean- 
to-China connection depended. Coral reefs lined both shores, 
shoals lay lurking in unknown places, and currents were irregular. 
Added to these hazards were the perils of the Saharan—Arabian 
desert which the Red Sea bisected: sandstorms, unendurable heat, 
and an absence of fresh water along most of the shore. If a ship went 
aground and the passengers managed to struggle ashore, they then 
faced the likelihood of perishing of thirst or being robbed and killed 
by pirate-bedouins, who waited patiently for just such accidents to 

The ships that braved this unfriendly sea could not have inspired 
much confidence in a landlubber like Ibn Battuta. Not only were 
Red Sea vessels usually small and overcrowded: like all Indian 
Ocean ships in that age, their hulls were constructed of wooden 
planks (usually of teak) laid end to end and stitched together with 
cords of coconut or palm fiber. Iron nails or bolts, which held 
together ships of the Mediterranean in the fourteenth century, were 
not used at all, and no ribbing or framework was installed to give the 
hull additional strength. Though stitched hulls may have proven 

The Arabian Sea 111 

more pliant in surf or in sudden contact with submerged rocks, 
Red Sea craft were fair weather vessels. Their pilots cast anchor at 
night, and when the weather looked bad they ran for port. “Their 
parts are conformable weak and unsound in structure,” remarks 
Ibn Jubayr on the jalbas of ’Aydhab. “Glory to God who contrives 
them in this fashion and who entrusts men to them.”’ On the other 
hand, experienced pilots had the measure of their ships, they knew 
every inch of the coast, and they could smell a storm coming long 
before it hit. “We observed the art of these captains and the 
mariners in the handling of their ships through the reefs,” con- 
tinues Ibn Jubayr. “It was truly marvelous. They would enter the 
narrow channels and manage their way through them as a cavalier 
manages a horse that is light on the bridle and tractable.”® 

Though Ibn Battuta’s pilot, a Yemeni of Ethiopian origin, was 
probably one of these old salts, no display of good seamanship 
could reverse the fact that it was the wrong time of year to be 
sailing south from Jidda with any expectation of making a quick 
run to a Yemeni port. In the northern half of the Red Sea the 
winds are northerly or northwesterly the year round, and between 
May and September they blow as far south as the Strait of Bab al- 
Mandeb. In those months commercial shippers normally planned 
to embark from Jidda or ’Aydhab in order to catch a favoring wind 
all the way to Aden. During the rest of the year, however, the 
winds were southeasterly from the strait to a latitude not far south 
of Jidda. If, as we suggest, Ibn Battuta left Mecca shortly after the 
hajj of 1328, the southwesterlies had already blown up south of 
Jidda. And sure enough: “We traveled on this sea with a favoring 
wind for two days, but thereafter the wind changed and drove us 
off the course which we had intended. The waves of the sea 
entered in amongst us in the vessel, and the passengers fell 
grievously sick.” 

Sailing on the tack across the open sea but falling away to 
leeward, the pilot finally landed at a promontory on the African 
coast called Ras Abu Shagara (Ras Dawa’ir) whose location is not 
far south of Jidda.” It was a common occurrence for ships crossing 
the Red Sea to miss their intended port either north or south and 
be forced to put in at roadsteads along the desert shore. Here, the 
Beja nomads of the Red Sea Hills made it their business to hire out 
camels and guides to lead travelers to a port, or, if it suited their 
fancy, to seize their possessions, plunder their ship, and leave 
them to die in the wilderness.'° It seems likely that Ibn Battuta’s 

112 The Arabian Sea 

captain was blown into shore by the storm and could not get out 
again with any hope of beating southward. In the event, the Beja 
were right on hand, and fortunately for the Moroccan and his 
seasick mates their intentions were honorable. Camels were ren- 
ted and the company proceeded southward along the coast to the 
small Beja port of Suakin. 

There, Ibn Battuta found another ship, which managed to get 
out of port and make for Arabia. After sailing to windward for six 
days, he finally reached the coast at a latitude barely south of 
Suakin’s. Leaving his ship behind once again, he traveled 30 miles 
inland to the agricultural district of Hali (Haly), located in the 
coastal region known as Asir. He had already made acquaintance 
with the tribal ruler of Hali when they traveled together to Jidda 
after the hajj. He spent several days as the chieftain’s guest, taking 
time also to visit a noted ascetic and joining the local Sufi brethren 
in prayers and recitation of litanies. 

Back on the coast again, he boarded one of his host’s own 
vessels, which took him southward to a little port along the 
Yemeni coast.'' From there he proceeded overland across the arid 
coastal plain to Zabid, chief city of lowland Yemen.'” 

After enduring the steaming cheerlessness of a Red Sea voyage 
for several weeks, his journey into the interior of Yemen must 
have seemed a happy relief, almost a reminder of home. Like 
Morocco, the Yemen was a land of geographical extremes. 
Terrain, soil, altitude, and temperature were to be experienced in 
profuse variety; almost any sort of vegetable or fruit could be 
grown in one subregion or another. The coastal strip fronting the 
Red Sea was dry and grim, but the highlands were temperate and 
green, utterly contradicting the usual stereotype of Arabia deserta. 
The summer monsoon winds, blowing out of Africa and brushing 
across the southwestern corner of the peninsula, drop their rains 
on the high mountain valleys, nourishing a dense population of 
sturdy farmers. These Arabic-speaking hill folk had strong 
traditions of tribal independence. But the agrarian economy en- 
couraged, as it always did everywhere, the ambitions of state- 
builders. As in Morocco in the Middle Period, the politics of the 
Yemen turned on the persistent tensions between centralizing 
sultans with their governors and tax-collectors, and the fissiparous 
tribesmen of the valleys, who much preferred to be left alone. 

Ibn Battuta visited the country when the cycle of dynastic 
centralization was at a peak. The Yemen had not been far enough 

The Arabian Sea 113 

removed from the Middle East heartland to escape the ubiquitous 
Turk. Kurdo—Turkish invaders from Egypt had seized the region 
in the twelfth century and later proclaimed an independent 
dynasty known as the Rasulid. 

The heart of this realm was formed by a triangle of three major 
cities: Zabid, the lowland winter headquarters of the sultans; 
San’a, the bastion of the mountains; and Ta’izz, the dynastic 
capital and highland city of the south. The San’a region was the 
most difficult to hold, for it was the home of tribes adhering to the 
Shi’i sect known as the Zaydi, whose doctrines included a pre- 
ference for choosing their own ’Alid imams as rulers. Zaydi im- 
amism was thus an ever-present ideology of potential revolt 
against the sultans of Ta’izz, who, like the population of the 
greater part of the country, were Sunni Muslims of the Shafi’ 

At the time of Ibn Battuta’s passage, Malik Mujahid Nur al-Din 
’Ali, fifth sultan in the Rasulid line (1321-62), had only just 
managed to pull the realm more or less together after spending the 
first six years of his reign squashing myriad plots and rebellions. In 
1327 he seized Aden, the great port at the Strait of Bab al- 
Mandeb. Since Aden was the key transit center for virtually all the 
trade passing between the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea, the 
customs revenue was immense. When the sultan had his governors 
collecting it and pumping it directly into the treasury at Ta’1zz, the 
investment in high urban culture rose accordingly. 

Despite the wild mountains and ferocious hill folk, Yemen’s 
cities drew freely on the cosmopolitan influences passing back and 
forth through the strait of Bab al-Mandab. Indian, Ceylonese, and 
Chinese ambassadors visited the Rasulid court, and the sultans, 
vigorous promoters of trade, enjoyed considerable prestige in the 
mercantile circles of the Indian Ocean.'? They competed furiously 
with the Mamluks for domination of the Red Sea and the spice 
trade, but the two states generally enjoyed peaceful relations. The 
Rasulids, not surprisingly, looked to Cairo for ideas as to what 
civilized government should be like. Court ritual and military 
regalia followed Mamluk models fairly closely, and the sultans had 
their own corps of slave soldiers in partial imitation of the mamluk 
system. !4 

When Ibn Battuta stepped into this diminutive civilization 
tucked into the corner of the Arabian waste, he had no trouble 
connecting with the scholarly establishment. In Zabid, a date-palm 

114. The Arabian Sea 

city located about 27 miles in from the coast, they gave him 
lodgings and promenaded him through their cool groves on the 
outskirts of town. In their company he listened to tales of the life 
of one of their most famous saints, a thirteenth-century scholar 
and miracle-worker named Ahmad ibn al-‘Ujayl. In the Rihla Ibn 
Battuta could not pass up the opportunity to recount how the 
shaykh had once demolished the rationalist doctrines of the local 
Zaydi Shi’a. One day, the story goes, a group of Zaydi doctors 
paid a visit to the master outside his hospice and enjoined him to 
debate the subject of predestination. 

The maintained that there is no predestined decree and that the 
[creature who is made] responsible for carrying out the 
ordinances of God creates his own actions, whereupon the 
shaykh said to them, “Well, if the matter is as you say, rise up 
from this place where you are.” They tried to rise up but could 
not, and the shaykh left them as they were and went into the 
hospice. They remained thus until when the heat afflicted them 
sorely and the blaze of the sun smote them, they complained 
loudly of what had befallen them, then the shaykh’s associates 
went in to him and said to him “These men have repented to 
God and recanted their false doctrine.” The shaykh then went 
out to them and, taking them by their hand, he exacted a pledge 
from them to return to the truth and abandon their evil 

After probably a brief sojourn in Zabid, Ibn Battuta decided to 
visit the tomb of this celebrated saint in the village of Bayt al-Fagih 
(Ghassana) about 25 miles north along the coastal plain. While he 
was there, he made friends with a son of the shaykh, who invited 
him to travel to the mountain town of Jubla (Jibla) southwest of 
Zabid to visit another scholar. He remained there for three days, 
then continued southward in the company of a Sufi brother 
assigned to lead him along the mountain trails to Ta’izz, the 
Rasulid capital. If Ibn Battuta remembers his route through the 
Yemen accurately, he was behaving in his characteristic way of 
meandering first in one direction, then in another, relying on 
serendipitous discoveries of good companionship to determine his 

Ta’izz lay at an altitude of 4,500 feet on the northern slope of the 
mountain called Jabal Sabr. Ibn Battuta describes the town as 

The Arabian Sea 115 

having three quarters, one for the sultan’s residence and his slave 
guards, high officials, and courtiers; a second for the amirs and 
soldiers; and a third for the common folk and the main bazaar. 
Though he does not mention it, he must have prayed in the 
beautiful three-domed mosque called the Muzaffariya, which still 
serves as the Friday mosque of the city.'® 

Finding the citizenry of Ta‘izz on the whole “overbearing, in- 
solent and rude, as is generally the case in towns where kings have 
their seats,” Ibn Battuta nevertheless got the usual warm welcome 
from the scholars. He was even given the privilege of meeting the 
king himself at one of the public audiences held every Thursday. 
Just as the IIkhan Abu Sa’id had done, Malik Mujahid questioned 
the visitor about Morocco, Egypt, and Persia, then gave in- 
structions for his lodging. Ibn Battuta has left in the Rihla a 
precious eye-witness description of the ceremonial of the Rasulid 

He takes his seat on a platform carpeted and decorated with 
silken fabrics; to right and left of him are the men-at-arms, 
those nearest him holding swords and shields, and next to them 
the bowmen; in front of them to the right and left are the 
chamberlain and the officers of government and the private 
secretary .. . When the sultan takes his seat they cry with one 
voice Bismillah, and when he rises they do the same. so that all 
those in the audience-hall know the moment of his rising and 
the moment of his sitting . . . The food is then brought, and it is 
of two sorts, the food of the commons and the food of the high 
officers. The superior food is partaken of by the sultan, the 
grand qadi, the principal sharifs and jurists and the guests; the 
common food eaten by the rest of the sharifs, jurists and gadis, 
the shaykhs, the amirs and the officers of the troops. The seat of 
each person at the meal is fixed; he does not move from it, nor 
does anyone of them jostle another. 

Ibn Battuta left Ta’izz on a horse given him by the sultan, but his 
immediate destination is none too certain at this point in the 
narrative. He may have journeyed 130 miles north along the 
backbone of the Yemeni mountains to San’a, spiritual capital of 
the Zaydis, and then back to Ta’izz again. But this excursion along 
treacherous trails through some of the grandest scenery in the 
world is described with such brevity and nebulous inexactitude as 

116 The Arabian Sea 

to raise serious doubts about its veracity.'’ It is more likely that he 
went directly from Ta’izz to Aden on the south coast of Arabia, 
arriving there sometime around the end of 1328 (1330) or early 
part of 1329 (1331).'* 

Looking out upon the Arabian Sea, Ibn Battuta was about to enter 
a world region where the relationship of Islamic cosmopolitanism 
to society as a whole was significantly different from what he had 
hitherto experienced. Up to that point he had traveled through the 
Irano—Semitic heartland of Islam, where the cosmopolitan class set 
itself apart from the rest of society in terms of its standards — 
urbane, literate, and committed to the application of the shari’a as 
the legal and moral basis of social relations. This class was the 
guardian of high culture and the means of its transmission within 
the Dar al-Islam. But it also shared its religious faith and its 
broader cultural environment with the less mobile and nearer- 
sighted peasants and working folk who constituted the vast 
majority. The lands bordering the Indian Ocean, by contrast, 
displayed a greater diversity of language and culture than did the 
Irano—Semitic core, and the majority of people inhabiting these 
lands adhered to traditions that were neither Irano—Semitic nor 
Muslim. In this immense territory Islamic cosmopolitanism com- 
municated more than the unity and universality of civilized 
standards; it also expressed the unity of Islam itself in the midst of 
cultures that were in most respects alien. In the Middle East an 
individual’s sense of being part of an international social order 
varied considerably with his education and position in life. But in 
the Indian Ocean lands where Islam was a minority faith, all 
Muslims shared acutely this feeling of participation. Simply to be a 
Muslim in East Africa, southern India, or Malaysia in the 
fourteenth century was to have a cosmopolitan frame of mind. 
This mentality may be partly attributed to the general tendency 
of minority groups in foreign societies to preserve and strengthen 
links with the wider cultural world of which they feel themselves 
members. But more to the point was the fact that Muslim 
minorities of the Indian Ocean were heavily concentrated in 
coastal towns, all of whose economies turned on long-distance 
seaborne trade. The intensity of this trade continuously reinforced 
the world-awareness of the populations of these towns, and com- 
pelled anyone with a personal stake in mercantile ventures to keep 
himself keenly informed of market conditions throughout the 

The Arabian Sea 117 

greater maritime world. A measure of the internationalism of 
Indian Ocean ports, whether in India, Africa, Malaysia, or the 
Arab and Persian lands, was the degree to which the inhabitants 
responded more sensitively to one another’s economic and politi- 
cal affairs than they did to events in their own deep hinterlands. 

In the high age of the Abbasid Caliphate Muslim mariners, 
mostly Arabs and Persians, penetrated the southern seas, estab- 
lishing trading colonies as far distant as China. The decline of the 
Caliphate undercut the dominant role of these merchants, but it 
had no contrary effect on the prestige of Islam as the religion of 
trade. In Ibn Battuta’s time the western half of the Indian Ocean 
was every bit a Muslim lake, and the seas east of India were 
becoming more so with every passing year. 

The ascendancy of Muslim trade is partly to be explained by 
simple Eurasian geography — the central position of the Irano 
-Semitic region in funneling goods between the Mediterranean 
and the spice and silk lands. But equally important was the ease 
with which Muslim merchants set themselves up in alien 
territories. The shari’a, the legal foundation on which they erected 
their communities and mercantile enterprises, traveled along with 
them wherever they went, irrespective of any particular political or 
bureaucratic authority. Moreover a place in the commercial com- 
munity was open to any young man of brains and ambition, what- 
ever his ethnic identity, as long as he were first willing to declare 
for God and the Prophet. As the repute of Muslims as the movers 
and shakers of international trade and the prestige of Islam as the 
carrier of cosmopolitan culture spread across the southern seas, 
more and more trading towns voluntarily entered the Islamic orbit, 
producing what the historian Marshall Hodgson calls a 
“bandwagon effect” of commercial expansion.'? Concomitant to 
this was a great deal of conversion in coastal regions and the rise of 
scholarly establishments and Sufi orders having their own webs of 
international affiliation overlaying the mercantile network. 

The Muslim communities of these maritime towns kept their 
faces to the sea, not the interior forest and bush, since the 
difference between prosperity and survival depended urgently on 
the arrivals and departures of ships. The development of complex 
interrelations among urban centers as far distant from one another 
as Aden and Malacca followed upon a basic natural discovery 
known among peoples of the ocean rim since ancient times. Across 
the expanse of the sea the direction of winds follows a regular, 

118 The Arabian Sea 

alternating pattern. During the winter months, from October to 
March, the northeast monsoon wind blows from off the Eurasian 
continent, passing across India and both the eastern and western 
seas in the direction of East Africa. In the west the wind extends 
about as far as 17 degrees south latitude, that is, near the mid point 
of the Mozambique Channel. In summer, from April to 
September, the southwest monsoon prevails and the pattern is 
reversed. Centuries before Islam, mariners of the Arabian Sea 
possessed a rich body of technical information on the monsoons in 
relation to other climatic and geographic factors, data on whose 
strength they could plan, and survive, long-distance voyages. By 
the later Middle Period, Muslim knowledge of the timing and 
direction of the monsoons had advanced to a state where almanacs 
were being published with which port officials and wholesale 
bazaar merchants could predict the approximate time trading ships 
would arrive from points hundreds or even thousands of miles 
away. ; 

The seasonal rhythm of the winds gave Indian Ocean trade and 
travel an element of symmetry and calculability not possible in the 
Mediterranean. There, the wind patterns were more complicated, 
and the fury of the winter storms, howling down through the 
mountain passes of Europe, all but prohibited long-distance ship- 
ping for a few months each year. The Indian Ocean, lying astride 
the equator, was a warmer, calmer, friendlier sea. It was especially 
so in the months of the northeast monsoon, when, notwithstanding 
the possibility of hurricanes, waters were placid and skies clear for 
weeks at a time, and when navigators could depend on a long 
succession of starry nights to make astronomical calculations of 
their position. Shipping activity was greater in the winter season 
than it was in summer, when the rain-bearing southwest monsoon 
brought stormier conditions. Still, trans-oceanic circulation de- 
pended on the full annual cycle of the winds, by which ships sailed 
to a distant destination during one half of the year and home again 
in the other.”° 

We may suspect that when Ibn Battuta arrived in Aden, he did not 
know exactly what his next move would be. If India and a job at 
the court of Delhi were already in his mind, he may have changed 
his plans on the strength of the sailing schedules. Presuming he 
reached Aden about mid January 1329 (1331),*' the northeast 
monsoon would have been at its peak, producing strong easterly 

The Arabian Sea 119 

winds. This was not a normal time for ships to embark from that 
port on direct voyages to the western coast of India. Nor was it the 
ideal time to set out for Africa, though some vessels did so. The 
problem was getting out of the Gulf of Aden against the wind. 
Once a ship beat eastward far enough to round Ras Asir (Cape 
Guardafui), the headland of the Horn of Africa, it could run 
before the northeast wind all the way to Zanzibar and beyond.” 
There is no evidence in the Rihla that before reaching Aden Ibn 
Battuta had a plan to visit tropical Africa. But his past record of 
impulsive side-tripping suggests that he may have been impro- 
vising his itinerary once again. If a ship were embarking for the 
East African coast, then he would go along too. 

In the meantime he rested at Aden for at least several days. Part 
of the time he stayed as a guest in the home of one of the rich 
international merchants: 

There used to come to his table every night about twenty of the 
merchants and he had slaves and servants in still larger 
numbers. Yet with all this, they are men of piety .. . doing 
good to the stranger, giving liberally to the poor brother, and 
paying God’s due in tithes as the law commands. 

When the young scholar was not sharing in this bounty, he was 
probably exploring the city and the harbor and perhaps sizing up 
the reliability of any ships bound for Africa. In the Middle Period 
the commercial life of Aden was concentrated at the eastern end of 
a mountainous, balloon-shaped peninsula jutting out from the 
South Arabian coast. Part of this presque-isle was an extinct 
volcano, Aden town occupying its crater, which on the eastern side 
was exposed to the sea. The harbor, facing the town, was enclosed 
within a stone wall with sea-gates, which were kept padlocked at 
night and opened every morning on the order of the governor.”" 

Like ’Aydhab, Aden was an international transit center whose 
famed prosperity had little to do with the trade of its local hinter- 
land, whose contribution to the import-export economy was mod- 
est. It controlled the narrows of Bab al-Mandeb and skimmed off 
the tariffs on a continuous flow of low-bulk luxury goods moving 
predominantly westward: spices, aromatics, medicinal herbs, 
plants for dyeing and varnishing, iron, steel, brass and bronze 
containers, Indian silks and cottons, pearls, beads, ambergris, 
cowrie shells, shoes, Chinese porcelain, Yemeni stoneware, 

120 The Arabian Sea 

African ivory, tropical fruits, and timber. In the Rihla Ibn Battuta 
gives a list of ten different Indian ports from which merchants 
commonly sailed to Aden. 

Walking along Aden beach, Ibn Battuta is likely to have seen a 
crowd of ships moored in the harbor or laid up on the beach, since 
mid winter was a season for cleaning hulls and refitting. The scene 
would not have been the same as the one he grew up with in 
Tangier bay, since Mediterranean and Indian Ocean shipbuilding 
traditions were as different as the patterns of wind and climate. 
For one thing, he would probably not have seen any galleys, whose 
use in the Indian Ocean was confined mainly to pirate gangs and 
navies. He would certainly not have seen any of the square-rigged 
round ships, which were just beginning to enter the Mediterranean 
from Atlantic Europe in his time. To his untrained eye the dhows 
of Aden might have looked tediously alike, except for variations in 
size and hull design. All of them would have been double-ended, 
that is, their hulls would have come to an edge at both ends of the 
ship, the square, or transom, stern being a sixteenth-century de- 
velopment introduced by the Portuguese. All of them would have 
been carvel built, that is, the teak or coconut wood planks of the 
hull laid edge to edge and lashed together with coir cord rather 
than nails. And most of them would have carried two triangular, 
or lateen, sails, a big mainsail and a smaller one on a mizzenmast 
aft. The largest of fourteenth-century trading vessels were as big as 
the dhows of modern times, having cargo capacities of up to 250 
tons and mainmasts reaching 75 feet or more above the deck.” 

The lack of variety in Indian Ocean shipbuilding was far less a 
reflection of stolid mariner conservatism than of centuries of ex- 
perimentation and refinement to solve the technological problems 
of using the monsoons to full advantage. The key breakthrough 
was the lateen sail, that gracefully curved, wing-like form that 
brings to Western minds all the images of Sindbad and the Arabian 
Nights. The lateen was probably first developed in the western 
Indian Ocean in ancient times, then diffused into the 
Mediterranean in the wake of seventh-century Muslim expansion. 
Square sails, such as those being used in northern Europe in the 
fourteenth century, performed efficiently when the wind was 
astern. But if the breeze turned too much toward the beam of the 
ship, the sail was taken aback, that is, it was pushed against the 
mast. The lateen, on the other hand, was a fore-and-aft sail. The 
wooden yard to which it was attached sloped downward toward 

The Arabian Sea 121 

the bow and thereby provided a stiff leading edge against the 
breeze. Consequently the sail could be set much closer to the wind 
without being taken back. A well-built lateen-rigged craft could 
sail in almost any direction except into the eye of the wind. 

The Indian Ocean dhow was not, however, in total harmony 
with its monsoonal environment. The sewn, unreinforced hull 
construction, whatever the advantages of its plasticity, could not 
tolerate more than a modest tonnage of cargo. The size of ships 
was also limited by the rigging itself, since the mainsail yard was 
usually about as long as the vessel and extremely heavy. A large 
crew was required to hoist it (perhaps thirty or more on the biggest 
ships), and they of course displaced precious space for goods and 
paying passengers. Moreover the crew had to perform extremely 
laborious and difficult procedures to maneuver the sail and spar. 
When wind conditions changed, the sail was never reefed aloft. 
Rather the yard was hauled down, the sail removed, and a smaller 
or larger one hoisted in its place, a task that might have to be 
carried out in a heavy gale. Going about, that is, turning the ship 
to the opposite tack, was an even trickier operation. It was always 
done by wearing round (turning tail to wind), and this involved 
pushing the luff end of the yard up to a position vertical to the 
mast, swinging it from one side of the mast to the other, then 
letting it fall again, all the while preventing the loose, sheet end of 
the enormous sail from flapping wildly out of control. The heavier 
the weather, the harder it was to control the rigging, all the worse 
if the crew had to push and stumble its way through a muddle of 
passengers, cargo, and livestock. Many a ship was lost when it 
blew too close to a dangerous shore, and the crew could not bring 
it round in time or lost control of the sail altogether. The danger 
was especially great during the high season of the southwest 
monsoon, when only a very brave captain or a fool would dare to 
approach the western coast of India. The conventional method for 
survival in violent storms was to haul down the yard, jettison the 
cargo, and make vows to God. 

Although Ibn Battuta logged thousands of miles at sea in the 
course of his adventures, the Rih/a is a disappointing record of 
fourteenth-century shipbuilding and seamanship. Since he pre- 
sumably had no sailing experience in early life, and his Tangerian 
upbringing was no doubt remote from the workaday world of the 
port, he was excusably indifferent to the rudiments of nautical 
technology. He is far better at recalling the characteristics of port 

122 The Arabian Sea 

towns and the pious personages inhabiting them than the 
humdrum details of navigation and life at sea.*° 

Sailing out of Aden, he has nothing whatsoever to say about the 
size or design of the ship to which he committed his fate, not even 
a classificatory name.”° Since it was bound for the distant reaches 
of the East African coast, it was probably a relatively large vessel. 
Trading dhows of that age sometimes had cabins of a sort, pre- 
sumably with roofs that served as decks. But they were probably 
not completely decked, obliging passengers to endure the voyage 
in an open hold, settling themselves as best they could amongst 
shifting bales of cargo. 

Dhows making the run from Aden (or Omani and Persian gulf 
ports) to East Africa carried a wide assortment of goods, some of 
them destined for the interior trade and some exclusively for the 
Muslim coastal towns, whose inhabitants depended on manu- 
factured imports to maintain households of reasonable civility and 
comfort. The staples of the upland trade were cloth (fine, colored 
stuffs produced mainly in India) and glass beads. The coastal 
population, especially the well-to-do families of merchants, 
scholars, and officials, consumed most of the luxury items. No 
genteel household would have been without its celadon porcelain 
from China, its “yellow-and-black” pottery from South Arabia, its 
silk wardrobes, glassware, books, paper, and manufactured tools. 
In exchange for these goods, the ships returned north with a range 
of raw, higher-bulk African commodities destined for dispersal 
throughout the greater Indian Ocean basin: ivory, gold, 
frankincense, myrrh, animal skins, ambergris, rice, mangrove 
poles, and slaves. 

Embarking from Aden, Ibn Battuta’s ship made a southwesterly 
course for the port of Zeila on the African shore of the gulf. Zeila 
was a busy town, the main outlet for inland trade extending to the 
Christian kingdom of Ethiopia, but the ship anchored there for 
only one night. Ibn Battuta made a quick foray into the bazaar, 
but his nostrils were assaulted by the unhappy combination of 
fresh fish and the blood of slaughtered camels. Pronouncing Zeila 
“the dirtiest, most diasgreeable, and most stinking town in the 
world,” he and his sailing companions beat a fast retreat to the 

The following day the vessel made an eastward course out of the 
gulf. In the winter monsoon season this could be accomplished 

The Arabian Sea 123 

only by making long tacks, beating to windward until they cleared 
Ras Asir. Once past the headland, they swung round to the 
southwest, hoisted the largest mainsail aboard, and ran before the 
monsoon.”’ Ibn Battuta reckoned a voyage of 15 days from Zeila 
to the next port-of-call, Mogadishu. The captain almost certainly 
coasted the whole way. His passengers would never have been out 
of sight of the great sand dunes heaped along the desolate Somali 

Until around the time of Ibn Battuta’s visit, Mogadishu was the 
busiest and richest port of the coast. It was in easy sailing range of 
the Persian Gulf, even easier than from the Yemen. The winter 
monsoon had carried the first Muslim settlers there, probably from 
the Gulf, in the tenth century or even earlier. Within two hundred 
years the town was booming, owing partly to its landward con- 
nections with the Horn and Ethiopia and partly to the transit trade 
in ivory and gold shipped there from the smaller towns further 

Like any of the other emporiums of the western ocean, 
Mogadishu had plenty of employment for the commercial brokers 
(called dallals in South Arabia) who provided the crucial 
mediation between the arriving sea merchants and the local 
wholesalers. Their speciality was knowledge of market conditions 
and working familiarity with both the civilities of the local culture 
and the relevant languages. In this case Arabic and Persian were 
the linguae francae of the ocean traders. Somali, as well as Swahili, 
the Bantu tongue that may have just been coming into use along 
the coast at this time, were the languages of the townsmen and 
hinterlanders.** When Ibn Battuta’s ship anchored in Mogadishu 
harbor, boatloads of young men came out to meet it, each carrying 
a covered platter of food to present to one of the merchants on 
board. When the dish was offered, the merchant fell under an 
obligation to go with the man to his home and accept his services 
as broker. The Mogadishi then placed the visitor under his “pro- 
tection,” sold his goods for him, collected payment, and helped 
him find a cargo for the outbound passage — all this at a healthy 
commission deducted from the profits. Sea merchants already 
familiar with the town, however, had their own standing business 
connections and went off to lodge where they pleased.” 

When the ship’s company informed the greeting party that Ibn 
Battuta was not a merchant but a faqih, word was passed to the 
chief gadi, who came down to the beach with some of his students 

124 The Arabian Sea 

and took the visitor in charge. The party then went immediately to 
the palace of Mogadishu, as was the custom, to present the learned 
guest to the ruler, who went by the title of Shaykh. Upon arriving 
there, the Moroccan recalls, 

one of the serving-boys came out and saluted the gadi, who said 
to him, “Take word to the intendant’s office and inform the 
Shaykh that this man has come from the land of al-Hijaz.” So 
he took the message, then returned bringing a plate on which 
were some leaves of betel and areca nuts. He gave me ten 
leaves along with a few of the nuts, the same to the gadi, and 
what was left on the plate to my companions and the qadi’s 
students. He brought also a jug of rose-water of Damascus, 
which he poured over me and over the qgadi. 

The Shaykh, moreover, commanded that the visitors be en- 
tertained in a residence for students of religion. Retiring there and 
ensconcing themselves on the carpets, the party addressed them- 
selves to a meal of local fare, compliments of the palace: a stew of 
chicken, meat, fish, and vegetables poured over rice cooked in 
ghee; unripe bananas in fresh milk; and a dish comprised of sour 
milk, green ginger, mangoes, and pickled lemons and chilies. The 
citizens of Mogadishu, Ibn Battuta observed, did justice to such 
meals as these: “A single person... eats as much as a whole 
company of us would eat, as a matter of habit, and they are 
corpulent and fat in the extreme.” 

Dining with these portly notables over the course of the next 
three days, the young scholar would likely have found them all 
speaking Arabic. Neither Mogadishu, however, nor any other 
towns of the coast could be described as alien enclaves of Arabs or 
Persians, ethnically isolated from the mainland populations. On 
the contrary, these were African towns, inhabited largely by 
people of African descent, whether Somali or Bantu-speaking 
stock. The spread of Islamic culture southward along the coast was 
not synonymous with the peopling of the region by colonists from 
the Irano—Semitic heartland. The rulers, scholars, officials, and 
big merchants, as well as the port workers, farmers, craftsmen, 
and slaves, were dark-skinned people speaking African tongues in 
everyday life. 

Human migration, however, accompanied trade as one of the 
enduring consequences of the harnessing of the monsoons. It was 

The Arabian Sea 125 

seaborne settlers from Arabia and the Persian Gulf who intro- 
duced Islam into the little ports and fishing villages along the 
coast, and it was the continuing trickle of newcomers who, along 
with the visiting merchants, assured and reinforced the Islamic- 
mindedness of coastal society. For Arabs and Persians of the arid 
northern rim of the sea, East Africa was a kind of medieval 
America, a fertile, well-watered land of economic opportunity and 
a place of salvation from drought, famine, overpopulation, and 
war at home. There is even some evidence of a thirteenth-century 
plantation at Mogadishu of a group of settlers from Tashkent, 
refugees from a Central Asian war.*” The great majority of im- 
migrants were males, who quickly married into the local families 
or took slave concubines, thereby obliterating any tendencies to- 
ward racial separatism. 

Among new arrivals, the warmest welcome went out to sharifs 
(or sayyids), who probably represented a substantial proportion of 
colonists from South Arabia. A sharif was a person recognized as a 
descendant of the Prophet. As a group, sharifs brought to the 
coastal towns two qualifications in unlimited demand. One was 
literacy and knowledge of the shari’a; the other was that elusive 
attribute called baraka, the aura of divine blessing that was be- 
lieved to attend sharifian status. Aside from commerce, which 
everyone seemed to have had a hand in, sharifian families per- 
formed multiple functions as town officials, judges, secretaries, 
political mediators, Sufi teachers, miracle-workers, and general 
validators of the Islamic status of the community and its gov- 
ernment. Above all, the sharifs, as well as other literate im- 
migrants, strove to implant the Sacred Law, specifically the Shafi’i 
school predominant in South Arabia. This was their most 
significant contribution to East African cosmopolitanism, for the 
law was the seal of oceanic unity on which the towns thrived. 

On the fourth day of his visit Ibn Battuta went out to meet the 
Shaykh, a sharif of distant Yemeni origin whose family had 
emerged as sultans of the city in the previous century. It was 
Friday, and following prayer in the central mosque the young 
guest (outfitted in new robes and turban for the occasion) was 
formally introduced. Then the ruler (whose name was Abu Bakr) 
led his retinue back to the palace. 

All of the people walked barefoot, and there were raised over 
his head four canopies of colored silk and on the top of each 

126 The Arabian Sea 

canopy was the figure of a bird in gold. His clothes that day 
were a robe of green Jerusalem stuff and underneath it fine 
loose robes of Egypt. He was dressed with a wrapper of silk and 
turbaned with a large turban. Before him drums and trumpets 
and pipes were played, the amirs of the soldiers were before 
and behind him, and the qadi, the fagihs, the sharifs were with 
him. He entered his council room; in that order, the viziers, 
amirs and the commanders of the soldiers sat down there in the 
audience chamber . . . They continued in this manner till the 
afternoon prayer.” 

Ibn Battuta seems to have witnessed more of these proceedings 
in subsequent days and may have stayed in Mogadishu for a week 
or two. But he was soon aboard ship again and continuing south- 
ward along the tropical coast known to the Arab geographers as 
the land of Zanj. Crossing the equator near the modern border 
between Somalia and Kenya, he saw the dry scrub land of the 
north gradually giving way to lusher vegetation and dense clusters 
of mangrove forest around the estuaries of creeks and narrow 
rivers. The ship anchored for one night off the island-town of 
Mombasa, a modest commercial center at the time, though it 
would become one of the leading ports of the coast in the next 
century. After Mombasa, they passed between the mainland and 
the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar, finally putting in at Kilwa, an 
islet just off the coast of what is today Tanzania. This was as far 
south as the ocean merchants normally went. With fair winds and 
calm seas, the voyage from Mogadishu to Kilwa should have taken 
something well short of two weeks, bringing the Moroccan and his 
shipmates there sometime in March 1329 (1331).*” 

Traveling through the Islamic world in the relatively stable times 
of the early fourteenth century, Ibn Battuta had the good fortune 
to intersect with a number of kingdoms and cities just as they were 
experiencing an eruption of cultural energy. Kilwa was a case in 
point. Growing up alongside other East African towns as a rustic 
fishing village awakened to the promise of upland ivory and gold, 
it was fast surpassing Mogadishu at the start of the century as the 
richest town on the coast. The rise of Kilwa (Kulwa) seems to have 
been linked to the sudden and shadowy appearing of a new ruling 
family, called the Mahdali, who traced their line to a sharifian clan 
of the Yemen. In all likelihood they came south along with other 
families of Arabian descent, not directly from the peninsula, but 

The Arabian Sea 127 

from Mogadishu or other northerly ports. In any case they staged a 
coup, bloodless or not, against the earlier rulers of Kilwa 
sometime near the end of the thirteenth century. 

Before the appearance of the Mahdali, most of the gold trade 
seems to have been controlled by the merchants of Mogadishu, but 
about three or four decades before Ibn Battuta’s visit, Kilwa 
seized Sofala and other, smaller ports south of the Zambezi River 
through which the gold was funneled to the market from the mines 
of Zimbabwe. Consequently, the Kilwans clamped a near 
monopoly on the trade, elevating their city to the status of the 
principal transit center for gold in the western ocean. All this was 
achieved without marshalling a great navy. Kilwa’s goals were 
limited economic ones, not the creation of a seaborne empire. 
Indeed the political organization of the coast was more akin to a 
configuration of city-states on the fourteenth-century Italian 
model than to the land kingdoms of the Middle East. And though 
Ibn Battuta speaks of Kilwa’s “jihads” against the Africans of the 
mainland, relations with the upcountry people must have been 
reasonably good most of the time if trade were to flow. 

Kilwa’s gold rush made its merchants, the Mahdali family 
among them, extravagantly wealthy by coast standards. Living 
amongst the laboring and seafaring population in the unwalled and 
thoroughly unplanned town at the northern end of the island, the 
well-to-do families enjoyed a style of living that was, in the words 
of a scholar of coastal archaeology, “competent, comfortable, and 
satisfying.”*> They lived in stone houses of up to three storeys and 
entertained guests in spacious sunken courtyards. They wore silk 
and cotton garments and plenty of gold and silver jewelry. They 
had indoor plumbing. They ate off imported Chinese porcelain. 
They attended the Friday sermon in a domed and vaulted mosque 
of coral rock that had been expanded to four or five times its size 
in the early part of the century. 

When the leading citizens had audience with Sultan al-Hasan 
ibn Sulayman (Abu |-’Mawahid Hasan), fourth ruler in the 
Mahdali line (1309-32) ,** they climbed to the highest point of the 
island overlooking the sea, where the great stone palace of Husuni 
Kubwa was being constructed. When they had business with him 
or his factor (for the sultan was probably the richest merchant in 
the city), they probably appeared at the spacious emporium, res- 
embling the plan of a Middle Eastern khan, which took up nearly 
half the area of the palace. The working folk down in the town 

128 The Arabian Sea 

enjoyed a reasonable standard of living, but they lived in closely 
packed little houses of mud-and-wattle and dined off coarser ware 
than Chinese celadon.*° 

Ibn Battuta was used to seeing impressive public monuments 
and in the Rihla he makes no mention whatsoever of the town’s 
distinctive architecture, though he certainly prayed in the central 
mosque and probably visited Husuni Kubwa.*© Wherever he 
traveled, however, he invariably took notice of pious and generous 
kings, believing as any member of the ’ulama class did that piety 
and generosity were the essential qualities of any temporal ruler 
worthy of his title. He describes al-Hasan ibn Sulayman as “a man 
of great humility; he sits with poor brethren, and eats with them, 
and greatly respects men of religion and noble descent.” 

If Ibn Battuta arrived at Kilwa in March, he is likely to have 
stayed no more than a few weeks. The recommended seasons for 
leaving the tropical coast were near the beginning (March and 
April) or the end (September) of the southwest monsoon. Sailing 
from Kilwa harbor in April, a captain could expect to reach an 
Arabian or even Indian destination before high summer, when the 
winds blasted those coasts with such force that ports had to be 
closed.*”? The Rihla has no comment on the voyage or the ship 
other than the destination, the port of Zafar (Dhofar) on the 
South Arabian shore. A month’s voyage would have brought Ibn 
Battuta there sometime in early May.** 

Governed by an autonomous Rasulid prince, Zafar was one of the 
chief ports of South Arabia, an entrepét on the India-to-Africa 
route and an exporter of frankincense and horses, the latter col- 
lected from the interior districts and shipped to India. It was a 
torrid place (the people bathed several times a day, Ibn Battuta 
reports), but in contrast to its grim hinterland it was also verdant, 
Owing to monsoon rains along the low shore. It was not a bad town 
to spend a summer, which the traveler very likely did, since there 
was little ship traffic until September, when the southwesterly 
winds broke up. He lodged and boarded with the usual dignitaries, 
feasting on fish, bananas, and coconuts, and chewing betel leaves, 
a favored breath sweetener and aid to digestion.” 

If he was contemplating a voyage to India at this point, he could 
easily have found a ship to sail him directly there in September. 
Instead, he took passage on “a small vessel” making for the Gulf 
of Oman. The ship was probably a coastal tramp, for the pilot was 

The Arabian Sea 129 

a local fellow. He put in at several anchorages along the way, 
including al-Hallaniyah, the largest of the Kuria Muria Islands 
(where Ibn Battuta met an old Sufi in a hilltop hermitage), the 
long island of Masira (where the pilot lived), and finally, at the far 
side of the headland of Ras al-Hadd, the little port of Sur on the 
Gulf of Oman. It was a scorching, thoroughly disagreeable 
voyage. Ibn Battuta lived on dates, fish, and some bread and 
biscuits he bought in Zafar. He might have had meals of roasted 
sea bird, but when he discovered that the blasphemous sailors 
were not killing their game by slitting the throat as the Koran 
prescribes, he kept well away from both the crew and their 
dinners. Somewhere along that desert coast he and his fellow 
passengers celebrated the Feast of the Sacrifice of the year 729 
A.H., or 3 October 1329 (or 731 A.H., 12 September 1331). 

Anchored off Sur a few days later, Ibn Battuta saw, or thought 
he could see, the busy port of Qalhat, which lay 13 miles further up 
the coast. His ship was to put in there the following day, but he 
had taken an intense dislike to the impious crew and wanted as 
little to do with them as he could. And since Qalhat promised to be 
a more interesting place to spend the night than Sur, he resolved to 
go there on foot. The intervening coastline was hot, rugged, and 
completely waterless, but the locals assured him that he could 
make the distance in a few hours. To be on the safe side, he hired 
one of the sailors to guide him. A passenger friend, a scholarly 
Indian by the name of Khidr, decided to go along as well, probably 
for the lark. Grabbing an extra suit of clothes and leaving the rest 
of his possessions on board with instructions to rendezvous the 
next day, he and his companions set off. It promised to be a day's 
promenade followed no doubt by a good dinner and lodging at the 
house of the gadi of Qalhat. 

In fact if things had gone any worse the two gentlemen would 
never have reached Qalhat at all, and the travels of Ibn Battuta 
might have ended in the wilds of Oman. Not long after leaving 
Sur, he became convinced that their guide was plotting to kill them 
and make off with the bundle of extra clothes, which would prob- 
ably fetch a good price in the local bazaars. Luckily, Ibn Battuta 
was carrying a spear, which he promptly brandished when he 
realized that the villainous guide had in mind to drown his 
employers as they were crossing a tidal estuary. Cowed for the 
moment, the sailor led them further up into the rocks, where they 
found a safe ford and continued on through the desert. Thinking 

130 The Arabian Sea 

all the time that Qalhat was round the next bend, they tramped on 
and on, scrambling across an endless succession of treacherous 
ravines that connected with the shore. They had not brought along 
nearly enough water, although some horsemen passed by and gave 
them a drink. 

Toward evening, the sailor insisted they work their way back 
down to the coast, which by that time was about a mile away. But 
Ibn Battuta refused, thinking the rogue’s only plan was to trap 
them among the rocks and run with the clothes. Then night fell, 
and though the sailor urged them to push on, Ibn Battuta insisted 
they leave the trail they were following and go into hiding. He had 
no idea how far they still had to walk, and, what was worse, he 
glimpsed a party of strange men lurking nearby. Khidr by this time 
was sick and utterly overcome with thirst. And so mustering as 
much strength and will as he could, Ibn Battuta kept watch 
throughout the night, holding the contested garments under his 
robe and clutching the spear, while Khidr and the malevolent 
guide slept. 

At dawn they returned to the trail and soon came upon country 
folk going into Qalhat to market. The sailor agreed to fetch water 
and after trudging across more ravines and precipitous hills they at 
last reached the gates of the city. By this time they were ex- 
hausted, Ibn Battuta’s feet so swollen inside his shoes “that the 
blood was almost starting under the nails.” To add insult to injury, 
the gatekeeper would not let them pass to find lodgings until they 
had presented themselves before the governor to explain their 

As Ibn Battuta might well have expected from previous ex- 
perience, the governor turned out to be “an excellent man,” who 
invited the two prostrate scholars to be his guests. “I stayed with 
him for six days,” Ibn Battuta recalls, “during which I was 
powerless to rise to my feet because of the pains that they had 
sustained.” Nothing more is heard of their tormentor, who pre- 
sumably returned to his ship a disappointed thief, but none the 
worse for trying. 

From the Rrihla’s description of Qalhat and its environs, Ibn 
Battuta is likely to have spent at least a few days having a look 
around, following recovery from his ordeal. Politically a de- 
pendency of the Sultanate of Hurmuz, Qalhat, like Muscat, Sohar, 
and other ports stretched along the coast between Ras al-Hadd 
and the Strait of Hurmuz, was a monsoon town of the first order. 

The Arabian Sea 131 

Cut off from the rest of Arabia by the sea on three sides and the 
arid void of the Empty Quarter on the fourth, the city communi- 
cated with western India more easily than with any other shore. 
Strolling through the bazaar, Ibn Battuta would have seen many 
Indian traders, selling rice and other foodstuffs to the port and 
hinterland population, buying horses, and of course dealing in all 
sorts of Asian luxuries bound ultimately for Tabriz, Cairo, Kilwa, 
and Venice. 

Friend Khidr is mentioned no more after Qalhat. Perhaps he 
booked passage on a dhow and returned to India. By this time Ibn 
Battuta seems to have resolved to head for Mecca again. And 
perhaps he had had his fill, for the time being, of pitching, unde- 
cked boats and their rascally crews. Qalhat was in fact to be his last 
view of the Indian Ocean for twelve years. Turning westward into 
the grim canyons of the eastern Hajar Mountains in the company 
of unnamed caravaners, he set a course across the rugged heart- 
land of Oman. The only stage he mentions 1s Nazwa (Nizwa), the 
chief town of the interior and capital of a dynasty of tribal kings 
known as the Banu Nabhan.” 

His description of his journey from central Oman back to Mecca 
leaves such a baffling trail of gaps. zigzags, time leaps, and con- 
fused information that the route and chronology cannot be ex- 
plained with any assurance, at least not until he arrives at al-Qatif, 
a town on the Arabian shore about half way up the Persian Gulf. 
He claims to have gone directly from Nazwa to Hurmuz, the great 
emporium guarding the narrow passage into the gulf and, at that 
time, the principal staging center for the overland caravan trade to 
Tabriz, Turkey, and the Black Sea. Hurmuz lay at the northern 
end of a barren little island (Jarun, or Jirun) five miles off the coast 
of Persia. Ibn Battuta says nothing about how he got there, but of 
course he would have had to make a short sea voyage across the 
Strait, perhaps from Sohar, an important port on the coast of 
Oman about 120 aerial miles over the mountains from Nazwa. Nor 
does he indicate how long he stayed in Hurmuz, and his des- 
cription of the town and its ruler seems to be associated entirely 
with a second visit he made there in 1347 on his way home from 
India and China.*! 

From Hurmuz he crossed to the mainland and made a 
northwestward excursion by way of Lar through the interior of 
Fars, or southern Persia, with the aim of visiting a Sufi shaykh at a 
place he calls Khunju Pal, probably the village of Khunj.** He 

132 The Arabian Sea 

then returned to the coast, but he mistakenly remembers the two 
ports of Siraf and Qais as one and the same place, leaving doubt as 
to which one he visited, if not both.** He describes pearl fisheries 
off the eastern shore (pearls being the leading export from the gulf 
to India), but their location remains vague. From Qais (or Siraf) 
he traveled to Bahrain, meaning to him the Arabian coastal dis- 
trict opposite the island that carries the same name.** But once 
again, he is completely mute on the matter of his return voyage to 
the western side of the gulf. 

After a presumably short stay in al-Qatif, he set off across 
Arabia, now for the fourth time and from a third new direction. 
Traveling southward to the oasis of al-Hasa (now al-Hufuf), then 
southwestward across the al-Dahna sand dunes, he arrived at al- 
Yamama, today a ruin 58 miles southeast of the modern Saudi 
capital of Riyadh. Here, he met a tribal chieftain of the Banu 
Hanifa Arabs and joined his party going to Mecca. The Rihla says 
nothing of the remaining stages nor of the date of arrival in the 
Holy City. If he left Oman about November, he would probably 
have reached Mecca some time in the winter of 1330 (1332). In any 
case, having climbed through the highlands of Yemen, crossed the 
equator to tropical Africa, endured several wearisome sea voyages 
through the hottest regions on earth, and almost lost his life for a 
clean suit of clothes, he was well deserving of another interlude of 
rest with his Koran and his law books in the shade of the Haram. 


1. A.J. Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (New York, 1955), p. 211. 

2. IB states that he performed the Aajj four successive times beginning in 1327 
(727 A.H.) and that he resided in Mecca for approximately three years. It is 
possible, however, that he stayed in the city only about one year, leaving for Aden 
and East Africa following the pilgrimage of 1328 (728 A.H.). The question of the 
length of his residence in Mecca is bound up with a much wider chronological 
problem, which we must introduce here. 

IB tells us that he left Mecca for East Africa following the hajj of 1330 (730 A.H.) 
and that he arrived back in the city some time before the pilgrimage of September 
1332 (732 A.H.). He states that he then left Mecca again following the 732 hay en 
route to Egypt, Syria, Anatolia, Central Asia, and India, and that he arrived at 
the banks of the Indus River on 12 September 1333 (1 Muharram 734), thus 
accomplishing that ambitious journey in the space of one year. Yet his own 
itinerary and chronological clues show that the trans-Asian trip took about three 
years. Therefore, the two dates are irreconcilable and present the most baffling 
chronological puzzle in the Rihla. 

For the entire complex and roundabout journey from Mecca to India IB offers 

The Arabian Sea 133 

not a single absolute date, nor does anything he says in connection with his long 
sojourn in India absolutely verify the year of his arrival there. Even the day he gives 
for crossing the Indus, 1 Muharram, that is, the first day of the new year, suggests a 
literary convention, symbolizing the start of the second major part of his narrative. Yet 
I am inclined to agree with Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, pp. 529-30) that IB’s India arrival date of 
September 1333 is approximately correct (see Chapter 8, note 26). Working backward 
through the itinerary from that date, IB’s description of traveling times, feast day 
celebrations, and seasons suggests that he must have left Arabia for Syria, Anatolia, 
and Central Asia no later than the winter or spring of 1330 (730 A.H.). If that dating is 
correct, he must have left Mecca for East Africa following the pilgrimage of October 
1328 (728 A.H.). Returning from Africa to Arabia, he states that he celebrated the 
Feast of Sacrifice (that is, the ceremony culminating the hajj festival) off the South 
Arabian coast. He does not mention the year, but if my hypothesis is correct, it would 
have been 3 October 1329 (10 Dhu I-Hijja 729). From South Arabia he traveled 
through Oman and the Persian Gulf region, then returned to Mecca. If he stayed in 
the city a relatively short time (not waiting for the pilgrimage of 730 A.H. to come 
around) and then started on his India journey, he would have traveled through Egypt 
and Syria in 1330 (730 A.H.), a chronology which accords with the 1333 India arrival 

Hrbek, contrary to Gibb, argues that IB’s Mecca departure date of 1332 (732 A.H.) 
is correct and that the India date is wrong (Hr, p. 485). He believes that IB could not 
have erred or lied in asserting that he attended the pilgrimages of 1329, 1330, and 1332 
without the learned and well-traveled Moroccans for whom the Rihla was written 
knowing the truth of the matter. Unfortunately, Hrbek never published the second 
part of his study of the chronology, so we have no idea how he might have argued that 
IB arrived in India two years later than he says he did. 

Hrbek’s argument about the Mecca departure date is in any case weakened by his 
admission that Gibb is probably correct in asserting that IB traveled in Egypt and Syria 
in 1330 (730 A.H.). That is, some of the events the Rihla groups with IB’s travels in 
Egypt and Synia in 1326 actually occurred in 1330. Most of the evidence that Gibb and 
Hrbek present centers on known dates of office of governors or religious officials 
whom IB says he met (Gb, vol. 2, pp. 536-37; Hr, pp. 483-84). Hrbek (Hr. p. 483) 
also points out IB’s statement, linked in the Rihla to 1326, that he attended a 
celebration in Cairo marking Sultan al-Nasir Muhammad’s recovery from a fracture of 
his hand. All independent chronicle sources state that this event occurred in March 
1330. Hrbek fits this evidence into his own hypothesis by suggesting, I think rather 
lamely, that IB sandwiched a trip to Egypt and Syria (utterly unreported in the Rihla) 
between the pilgrimages of 1329 and 1330. I prefer Gibb’s argument that IB was 
already heading in the direction of Anatolia in 1330. Gibb indeed presents some 
interesting though inconclusive evidence, which Hrbek fails satisfactorily to refute, 
that IB traveled in Asia Minor in 1331 (Gibb, vol. 2, pp. 531-32; Hr, pp. 485-86). 

No evidence I have seen eliminates the possibility that IB left Mecca after the hajj of 
1328 (728 A.H.) and traveled to East Africa in 1329. Yet why would he state that he 
stayed in Mecca throughout 1329 and most of 1330 and that he returned for the 
pilgrimage of 1332 if the truth were otherwise? And how can we challenge him when 
he describes, though briefly and impersonally, certain events which occurred in Mecca 
during those periods of time? While I share Gibb’s view that the India arrival date is 
nearly correct, I have no convincing answers to these questions. It must be re- 
membered, however, that the relationship between the entire chronological structure 
of the Rihla, a work of literature, and IB’s actual life experience is highly uncertain. 

3. Gb, vol. 1, p. 203n. 

4. IB mentions only that the Muzaffariya, where he lived, had a classroom and 
that a Moroccan acquaintance lectured on theology in the building. But he does not 
report that he attended a course. 

5. In basing this description of education in Mecca mainly on the work of the 

134 The Arabian Sea 

Dutch onentalist C. Snouck Hurgronje, who lived in the city for a year in the 1880s, I 
am assuming that the general patterns endured over the centuries. Snouck Hurgronje 
notes that “from the chronicles of Mecca . . . we may conclude with certainty that a 
life of learning like that which we have described, has been astir in the town for 
centuries past.” Mekka in the Latter Part of the Nineteenth Century (Leiden, 1931), p. 
211. Also A.S. Tritton, Materials on Muslim Education in the Middle Ages (London, 
1957); and “Masdjid,” EI,, vol. 3, pp. 361-67, 368-71. 

6. Ibn Jubayr crossed the Red Sea on a jalba and describes it. The Travels of Ibn 
Jubayr, trans. R.J.C. Broadhurst (London, 1952), pp. 64-65. Also G.R. Tibbetts, 
Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Coming of the Portuguese (London, 
1971), p. 56; and R. B. Serjeant, The Portuguese off the South Arabian Coast (Oxford, 
1963), p. 134. 

7. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, p. 65. 

8. Ibid., p. 69. 

9. Hr, p. 439; Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, p. 413. 

10. Ibn Jubayr, Travels, pp. 64-65. 

11. He landed at a port he calls al-Ahwab, whose location is not precisely known. 
Gb, vol. 2, p. 366n. 

12. At this point we need to note that the chronology of the journey from Mecca to 
East Africa, the Persian Gulf, and back to Mecca again is extremely uncertain. 
Traveling times between stages and length of stays are not often provided, and the 
internal chronological evidence is more limited than for the earlier journeys. One can 
be only as precise about the chronology as is warranted by IB’s statements and other 
internal evidence. Hrbek’s method of rationalizing a chronology for each segment of 
the journey in order to make everything fit properly between the few dates IB 
provides seems to be excessively conjectural. But his guesses are more often than not 

13. Gaston Wiet, “Les marchands d'Epices sous les sultans mamelouks,” Cahiers 
d'Histoire Egyptienne, ser. 7, part 2 (May 1952): 88; “Rasulids,” El,, vol. 3, pp. 1128- 

14. Al-Khazrejiyy, The Pearl Strings: A History of the Resuliyy Dynasty of Yemen, 
trans. J. W. Redhouse, 5 vols. (Leiden, 1906-18), vol. 3, part 3, p. 108. 

15. Hrbek (Hr, pp. 440-41) suggests that a more rational route would have been 
Zabid-Ghassana-San’a—Jubla-Ta’izz—Aden and that IB may have failed to remember 
accurately the succession of stops. But he admits that there is no internal evidence in 
favor of revising the itinerary. 

16. R.B. Lewcock and G.R. Smith, “Three Medieval Mosques in the Yemen,” 
Oriental Art 20 (1974): 75-86. 

17. The Rihla’s description of the journey Ta’izz—-San’a—Aden is completely silent 
on the routes taken, the stages, and the length of stopovers. Moreover, the bnef gloss 
on San’a is a combination of standard descriptive clichés and false information. The 
several lines devoted to this detour have the air of a purely literary adventure, possibly 
added by Ibn Juzayy (with or without IB’s complicity) on the grounds that readers 
would expect a traveler to the Yemen to tell them something of San‘a, whether he had 
been there or not. The San‘a trip might fall into the same category as the spurious 
journey to Bulghar described in Chapter 8, note 12, below. Robert Wilson, formerly 
of the Faculty of Oriential Studies, Cambridge University, has pointed out to me that 
everything IB says about San’a could have been drawn from the existing body of 
conventional geographical knowledge on the subject, from, for example, Ibn Rusta 
(tenth-century geographer), Kitab al-A’lak al Nafisa, ed. J. de Goeje (Leiden, 1892), 
pp. 109-10. Hrbek (Hr, pp. 440-41) doubts that IB went to San’a. So does Joseph 
Chelhod, a scholar of medieval Yemen. “Ibn Battuta, Ethnologue.” Revue de 
!’Occident Musulman et de la Méditerranée 25 (1978): 9. 

18. This approximate time of year is suggested by both Gibb (Travels, vol. 2, p. 373) 
and Hrbek (“Chronology,” p. 441). 

The Arabian Sea 135 

19. Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1974), vol. 2, 
pp. 542-48. ee ; 

20. On the economy and organization of monsoon trade in the southern seas see 
Phillip D. Curtin. Cross-Cultural Trade in World History (New York, 1984), pp. 96- 

oe Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 373) and Hrbek (Hr, p. 441) agree that he was probably in 
Aden about that time of year. 

22. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, pp. 372-73, 378. This book is in part a translation of 
the nautical works of Ahmad ibn Majid, the famous Arabian mariner-author who died 
in the early sixteenth century. Aside from the navigational information contained in 
the translation, Tibbetts has added extensive notes and commentary to produce in all a 
richly detailed study of Indian Ocean seafaring in the later Middle Period. Alan 
Villiers, a modern successor to Ibn Majid, sailed from Aden to East Africa in an Arab 
dhow, leaving in December 1939. Sons of Sinbad (London, 1940). 

23. R.B. Serjeant, “The Ports of Aden and Shihr,” Recueils de la Société Jean 
Bodin 32 (1974): 212; $. D. Goitein, “Letters and Documents on the India Trade in 
Medieval Times,” /slamic Culture 37 (1963): 196-97. 

24. W.H. Moreland, “The Ships of the Arabian Sea about A.D. 1500,” Journal of 
the Royal Asiatic Society | (1939): 176, Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, pp. 48-49. 

25. Tibbets (Arab Navigation, p. 3) remarks that “Ibn Battuta is not very observant 
of nautical affairs." The same point is made by Michel Mollat, “Ibn Batoutah et la 
Mer,” Travaux et Jours 18 (1966): 53-70. 

26. The design of the hull was the basis for classifying Indian Ocean ships. IB does 
provide a classificatory name for some of the vessels he traveled on during his career, 
but this is not necessarily very helpful. The connection between the medieval name of 
a ship and its precise hull design cannot be ascertained with certainty. See J. Hornell, 
“Classification of Arab Sea Craft.” Mariner’s Mirror 28 (1942): 11-40, A. H.J. Prins. 
“The Persian Gulf Dhows: New Notes on the Classification of Mid-Eastern Sea- 
Craft,” Persica 6 (1972-74): 157-165; George Hourani, Arab Seafaring in the Indian 
Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times (Princeton, N.J., 1951), pp. 87-89. 

27. Alan Villiers (Sons of Sinbad, pp. 21-243, passim) describes in dramatic detail 
his voyage from Aden to Mogadishu, Zanzibar, and the Gulf of Oman in 1939-40. 

28. Neville Chittick remarks that the “Maqdishi” language IB says he heard in the 
town was either Somali or an early form of a Swahili dialect, probably the latter. “The 
East African Coast, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean,” Cambridge History of Africa, 
5 vols. (Cambridge, England, 1977), vol. 3, p. 189. 

29. In his research on the dallals (brokers) of South Arabia, R. B. Serjeant notes 
the striking similanty between their functions and practices in modem times and IB's 
description of the brokers of Mogadishu. “Maritime Customary Law in the Indian 
Ocean” in Sociétés et compagnies de commerce en Orient et dans |’Océan Indien, Actes 
du 8(éme) Colloque International d'Histoire Maritime (Paris, 1970). pp. 203-204. 

30. B.G. Martin, “Arab Migration to East Africa in Medieval Times,” Inter- 
national Journal of African Historical Studies 7 (1974): 368. 

31. Ihave quoted this passage from Said Hamdun and Noel King’s lively translation 
(H&K, pp. 16-17). 

32. Both Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 379n) and Hrbek (Hr. p. 442) suggest that he sailed 
from Mogadishu in late February or early March. By the end of March the northeast 
monsoon was dying out (Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, p. 378). 

33. Peter Garlake, The Early Islamic Architecture of the East African Coast 
(London, 1966), p. 117. 

34. On the regnal dates of the Mahdali dynasty see Elias Saad, “Kilwa Dynastic 
Historiography: A Critical Study,” History in Africa 6 (1979): 177-207. 

35. More is known about life in Kilwa than any other coastal town in that age 
thanks largely to the excavations of Neville Chittick, Kilwa: An Islamic Trading City 
on the East African Coast, 2 vols. (Nairobi, 1974). 

136 The Arabian Sea 

36. IB’s description of the East African coast, though brief, is the only eye-witness 
account of the medieval period, so historians have squeezed the Rihla for every tidbit of 
information. See Neville Chittick, “Ibn Battuta and East Africa,” Journal de la Société 
des Africanistes 38 (1968): 239-41. 

37. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, pp. 373, 377-78. Alan Villiers (Sons of Sinbad, p. 
191) left the mouth of the Rufiji River south of Kilwa in late March for his return voyage 
to Oman. 

38. Hamdun and King (H&K, p. 68) have it from East African sailors that the trip 
would take about four weeks. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 382n), based on Villiers’ journey 
from Zanzibar to Muscat, says three to four weeks. Hrbek (Hr, p. 444) suggests six to 
eight weeks, which seems too long. 

39. In connection with his sojourn at Zafar, IB makes one of his important 
contributions to ethno-botany, describing in detail the cultivation and use of both 
coconuts and betel. 

40. The veracity of IB’s stay in Nazwa is uncertain, so I have not drawn attention to 
his description of the Banu Nabhan king of Oman, who he claims to have met, nor to his 
remarks on the religious beliefs of the Omanis. The interior region of Oman was the 
bastion of the Islamic sect known as the Ibadis. Reversing the Shi’ia doctrine of the 
supremacy of the House of ’Ali, the Ibadis believed that any member of the community 
of believers could be chosen as the Imam as long as he displayed the proper moral 
qualities and a capacity to uphold the Koranic law. If he failed, the community was 
obliged to withdraw its support. The Banu Nabhan (1154-1406), however, were not 
Imams, and their ascendancy represented a hiatus in the Imamate, which was restored 
in the fifteenth century. Roberto Rubinacci, “The Ibadis,” in A. J. Arberry and C. F. 
Beckingham (eds.), Religion in the Middle East, 2 vols. (Cambridge, England, 1969), 
vol. 2, pp. 302-17; and Salij ibn Razik, History of the Imams and Seyyids of Oman, 
trans. G. P. Badger (London, 1871). 

IB’s description of Nazwa is brief and fuzzy, he makes inaccurate or doubtful remarks 
about Ibadi customs, and his itinerary from Nazwa to Hurmuz on the far side of the 
Persian Gulf is a complete blank. Neither Gibb nor Hrbek explicitly questions the 
truthfulness of IB’s journey through the interior of Oman. J. C. Wilkinson, a scholar of 
Omani history, expresses grave doubts and has pointed out to me some of the textual 
problems with this section of the Rihla. Personal communication from J.C. Wilkinson, 
Oxford University. 

41. Hrbek (Hr, pp. 445-48) develops a line of argument suggesting that IB did not 
visit Hurmuz, Persia, or any point on the eastern shore of the Gulf in 1329 (1331), but 
rather has inserted into the narrative a description of a journey that actually took place 
in 1347 when he traveled from India to Hurmuz and thence to Shiraz. Hrbek thinks that 
in 1331 he went directly from Nazwa to al-Qatif overland along the eastern coast of 
Arabia. The argument is based heavily on the fact that IB’s description of Hurmuz, his 
meeting with its sultan (Tahamtan Qutb al-Din), and the civil war in which that ruler had 
been engaged all relate to a situation pertaining in 1347. The other points Hrbek makes 
to sustain his theory are inferential and speculative. I cannot accept it, partly on the 
grounds that IB may well have blended his descriptions of two trips to Hurmuz, and 
partly on the fact that in his report of an interview with the King of Ceylon in 1344 he 
speaks of having discussed with that monarch the pearls he had already seen on the 
island of Qais off the eastern shore of the Gulf. MH, p. 218. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 402n) 
also recognizes the chronological confusion here. 

42. Hr, p. 450; Gb, vol. 2, p. 406n. 

43. Ibid., p. 407n. Gibb thinks he visited Qais; Hrbek (Hr, p. 450) believes it was 
Siraf. In the fourteenth century Qais was a far more important commercial center than 
Siraf and a likelier place for IB to embark for Arabia. 

44. IB refers to Bahrain as a city, but Hrbek (Hr, p. 451) believes his description of 
such a place refers in fact to al-Qatif, the chief town of the coastal district known in 
earlier Muslim times as Bahrain. The term later referred solely to the island. 

7 Anatolia 

This country called Bilad al-Rum is one of the finest 
regions in the world; in it God has brought together the 
good things dispersed through other lands. Its inhabitants 
are the comeliest of men in form, the cleanest in dress, the 
most delicious in food, and the kindliest of God’s 

creatures. ! 
Ibn Battuta 

Sometime near the end of 1330 (1332) Ibn Battuta boarded a 
Genoese merchant ship at the Syrian port of Latakia (Ladiqiya) 
and sailed westward into the Mediterranean, bound for the south 
coast of Anatolia. He was on his way to India and once again 
headed squarely in the wrong direction. 

His intentions had been straightforward enough when he left 
Arabia some months earlier. He would go to Jidda, buy passage 
ona ship for Aden, and continue from there to India on the winter 
monsoon, just as hundreds of returning South Asian pilgrims were 
doing at the same time. First, though, he must secure the services 
of a rafiq, a guide-companion who knew India well, spoke Persian, 
and would have contacts of some value in official circles. Although 
the illustrious Sultan of Delhi was welcoming scholars from abroad 
and offering them prestigious and rewarding public posts, a young 
North African could not wander through rural India on his own 
and then, if he made it to Delhi at all, simply turn up unannounced 
at the royal palace. A rafiq was essential, and after several weeks 
in Jidda he failed to find one.? 

At this point he seems to have decided it would be better to 
approach India by a more circuitous route and hope to meet up 
with persons along the way who could lead him to Delhi and 
provide him with the necessary connections. And so boarding a 
sambugq he sailed directly to the Egyptian coast, made his way to 
’Aydhab, and from there retraced his journey of a few years 
earlier across the desert and down the Nile to Cairo. He rested 
there a short time, then continued across Sinai, now for the second 


Map 7: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Anatolia and the Black Sea Region, 1330—32 (1332-34) 


ivasy, Sr wet gh 
a Erzincana.. AeA" 


oo { Mach 
Y a2 oo 

ore Probable Itinerary AR 
OR eS eedeteanees Doubtful Journey 

Anatolia 139 

time, to Palestine. From this point his precise itinerary is un- 
certain, but he is likely to have traveled northward (including a 
quick inland detour to Jerusalem) through the Levantine coast 
towns — Ashqelon, Acre (Akko), Beirut, and finally Latakia.* 
Arriving there, he had in his company one al-Hajj Abdallah ibn 
Abu Bakr ibn Al-Farhan al-Tuzari. All we know of. this 
gentleman, whom Ibn Battuta met in Cairo, is that he was an 
Egyptian legal scholar and that he determined to accompany the 
Moroccan on his travels. As it came to pass, the two men would 
remain fast friends and companions for many years. 

Sailing from the coast of Syria to Anatolia in order to get to 
India made some sense, for it is precisely what Marco Polo had 
done more than sixty years earlier on his way to the Persian Gulf. 
From the south Anatolian ports of Ayas (Lajazzo), Alanya, and 
Antalya, trade routes ran northward over the Taurus Mountains to 
the central plateau where they joined the trans-Anatolian trunk 
road linking Konya, Sivas, and Erzurum (Arz al-Rum) with Tabriz 
and thence with Central Asia or the gulf. But since Ibn Battuta 
would spend about two years in Anatolia and the Black Sea region 
and finally approach India by way of the Hindu Kush and 
Afghanistan, a far more difficult and time-consuming passage than 
the gulf route, we can only conclude that he was playing the tourist 
again, his Indian career plans sidetracked in favor of more casual 

There was nothing unusual about him and al-Tuzari taking 
passage out of Latakia on a European vessel. Italians. Catalans, 
and Provengals had long since eliminated Muslim shipping from 
the eastern Mediterranean except for coasting trade and the short 
run between the Levantine coast and Cyprus. Using Famagusta, 
the chief port of Cyprus, as the hub of their operations in the 
eastern sea, the Genoese called at both Levantine ports and those 
along the south Anatolian coast.* 

Ibn Battuta describes the vessel he boarded as a gurqura, which 
was probably lateen-rigged, two-masted, and fitted with two or 
even three decks. It may have been much larger than any ship he 
had seen in the Indian Ocean, since the Italian “round ships” of 
the time, with their great superstructures over the bow and stern, 
were known to hold as much as 600 tons dead weight of cargo and 
as many as 100 crewmen. As usual, Ibn Battuta fails to tell us 
what sort of lading the ship was carrying, perhaps a load of Syrian 
cotton or sugar, but he does note that the captain treated his 

140 Anatolia 

Muslim passengers “honorably” and did not even charge them for 
the trip. Making a course northwestward around the tip of Cyprus, 
the ship approached Alanya, the western Taurus Mountains 
looming behind it, some time in the last weeks of 1330 (1332).° 

Except for his brief trip to Tabriz in Azerbaijan, Ibn Battuta was 
for the first time visiting a land whose Muslim inhabitants were 
mostly Turkish. Arab travelers to Anatolia in the twelfth and 
thirteenth centuries, a modern scholar has noted, experienced 
jarring attacks of culture shock when they confronted the alien 
ways of the Turks, as if finding themselves in some remote part of 
equatorial Africa.’ In the centuries of the Abbasid Caliphate the 
ridges of the eastern Taurus had effectively protected the Asian 
territory of Christian Byzantium from the Arab armies of Iraq and 
Syria. But the high green valleys of eastern Anatolia were a 
magnet to the hordes of Turkish herdsmen who poured into the 
Middle East in the eleventh century as part of the conquests of the 
Great Seljuks. The natural route of this vast sheep and horse 
migration was westward from Khurasan to Azerbaijan, then on to 
Anatolia. At Manzikert in 1071 Seljuk cavalry achieved the 
military triumph over the Byzantine army that had eluded the 
Abbasids for three centuries. Once the Greek defenses of the 
eastern mountains collapsed, one nomadic throng after another 
advanced through the passes and fanned out over the central 
plateau. Within a century Byzantium had given up all but the 
western quarter of Anatolia, and a new Muslim society was 
emerging which had had no more than peripheral contact with the 
world of the Arabs. 

The transformation of Asia Minor from a land of Greek and 
Armenian Christians to the country we call Turkey was a long and 
extremely complex process not by any means completed until 
several centuries after Ibn Battuta made his visit. When the 
empire of the Great Seljuks broke up in the twelfth century, their 
dynastic heirs, the Seljuks of Rum (as Anatolia was traditionally 
known to Muslims, a term harking back to the rule of “Rome”) 
gradually consolidated their authority over the central and eastern 
regions. While the Seljukid commanders settled down in Konya 
and other ancient Greek and Armenian towns and took up the 
ways of the city, Turkish pastoral clans, conventionally called 
Turcomans (or Turkmens), continued to drift over the Anatolian 
plateau and into the highland valleys that rimmed it on all sides. In 

Anatolia 141 

the first half of the thirteenth century, however, the majority of the 
inhabitants of the region were still neither Muslim nor Turkish. 
Large Christian populations thrived in the towns and crop-bearing 
lands of the Seljukid domain. A steady process of conversion to 
Islam was occurring, sometimes as a result of unfriendly pressures, 
but it was slow. Moreover, along the perimeters of Anatolia, Chris- 
tian polities continued to survive: the kingdom of Little Armenia in 
Cilicia bordering the southeastern coast, the Empire of Trebizond (a 
Greek state that had broken away from Constantinople) on the 
Black Sea, and of course the remaining Asian provinces of 
Byzantium. Moreover, the frontier between Byzantium and the 
sultanate became relatively stable, and the two governments treated 
one another much of the time in a spirit of neighborly diplomacy. 

This political pattern was radically disrupted in the aftermath of 
the Mongol invasions. In 1243 the Tatars stormed over the Armenian 
mountains, flattened the Seljukid army at Kose Dagh, and 
penetrated deep into the plateau. In 1256 they returned again in a 
campaign strategically linked to Hulegu’s conquest of Iraq. In the 
following year Konya, the Seljukid capital, was taken, and by 1260 
Mongol garrisons occupied most of the important towns of eastern 
and central Anatolia. The sultanate was not abolished, however, but 
propped up as a vassal state paying tribute to the Ilkhanate of Persia. 
Indeed the invasion was carned off without the usual cataclysm of 
terror and destruction. Only one city, Kayseri, was sacked, and the 
conquest never seriously threatened Byzantine territory. Trebizond 
and Little Armenia continued to endure under the Mongol shadow. 

Yet if the military record of the invasion seems a vapid sideshow 
set against the terrifying drama in Persia, it nonetheless jolted 
Anatolia into an era of profound political and cultural change by 
laying it open to more migrations of Central Asian nomads. The first 
thirteenth-century wave of Turcomans arrived in panicky flight from 
the Mongol war machine, the second came in its ranks. Throughout 
the IIkhanid period, more bands continued to press in. The im- 
mediate demographic effects of these movements are obscure, but 
there is no doubt that in the century after 1243 the ethnically Turkish 
population of Anatolia rose dramatically. Turkish came to be spoken 
and written more widely, and the situation of Christian communities, 
especially in rural villages in the path of migrating flocks and herds, 
became more and more precarious. 

In the west of the peninsula the Turco-Mongol irruption con- 
fronted Byzantium with unprecedented nomadic pressure. Giving 

142 Anatolia 

way to the new migrants arriving from Azerbaijan, Turcoman 
groups long established in central Anatolia pushed westward. 
Moreover, as the Tatar overlords turned their attention to the 
business of tax collecting and civil order, many of the newcomers 
preferred to pass on quickly to the mountain peripheries where 
Mongol-Seljukid authority was safely nominal. Here great leagues 
of Turcoman warriors led a wild and wooly existence, raiding back 
into Seljukid territory and battling one another for choice grazing 

The very shape of Anatolia, a finger between the seas pointing 
due westward, directed the surge of pastoral movement into the 
Byzantine marches and the upper reaches of the valleys that ran 
down to the Aegean. Ever since the ninth century the Muslim — 
Byzantine frontier had given employment to mounted fighting 
men, called ghazis, who made a vocation of staging raids into 
Greek territory and living off the booty. Organized in war bands 
and often operating just beyond the boundaries of the Muslim 
government whose military interests they served, these volunteer 
champions of jihad lived by a chivalric code of\ virtue and loyalty 
founded on the precepts of the Koran and thé teachings of the 
early Sufis. Though not all ghazis were of Turkish blood, the 
tactics and traditions of mounted holy war had been elaborately 
developed on the Muslim frontiers of Central Asia. Turkish 
warriors led the conquest of eastern and central Anatolia on behalf 
of the Seljuks, and though the Mongols were not ih the beginning 
Muslims at all, the ghazi spirit was already deeply engrained in the 
Turkish warrior-herdsmen who preceded and followed them. 
Frontier warfare died down in the high period of the Seljukid 
sultanate when relations with Byzantium were relatively calm, but 
it flared up again in the crowded, turbulent ae of the 
western marches in the later thirteenth century. | 

The withering of the great state structures thlat governed 
Anatolia encouraged this new phase of roisterous disorder on the 
frontier. Behind the lines of Turcoman advance, the sultanate was 
no longer in a position to control or restrain the nomads to its own 
ends. The Ilkhanid governors, obliged to take an ever-greater 
share of responsibility for the affairs of the state they themselves 
had defeated and repressed, were by 1278 running eastern 
Anatolia as a distant province of Persia with neither the will nor 
the manpower to take charge of the Turcoman peripheries. Just 
beyond the nomad frontier, the Byzantine defenses proved weaker 

Anatolia 143 

than expected. In 1204 the Frankish and Venetian leaders of the 
Fourth Crusade, having decided to capture Constantinople rather 
than Jerusalem, had forced the Greek emperor to rule in exile 
from the Anatolian city of Nicaea (Iznik). The traditional capital 
was restored in 1261, but this Latin interlude seriously weakened 
Byzantine resources. Preoccupied thereafter with the protection of 
their European and Aegean territories against Christian rival 
states, the emperors of the later thirteenth century defended their 
Asian domain in a spirit of phlegmatic resignation. 

As the Seljukid dynasty slid gently into oblivion, several small 
Turcoman principalities, or amirates, emerged along a 
mountainous arc extending from the border of Little Armenia in 
the south to the coasts of the Black Sea. Some of these states were 
tiny and ephemeral, but by the beginning of the fourteenth century 
about twelve important centers of power, including the Ilkhanid 
provinces as one of them, dominated the new political map of 
Anatolia. The princes, or amirs, of these states ruled simply by 
virtue of their fitness as Turcoman war captains, the biggest of the 
“big men” who succeeded in gathering a larger following of 
mounted archers than their rivals with promises of booty and land. 
As the Byzantines fell back to their ships almost everywhere 
except the fragment of Asian territory opposite the Bosphorus, the 
Aegean hinterland was partitioned among five principal amirates 
extending along the curve of the arc: Menteshe in the south, then 
Aydin, Sarukhan, Karasi, and in the far north facing the remaining 
Byzantine strongholds the Osmanlis, or state of Osman. 

The Muslim conquest of western Anatolia in the first half of the 
fourteenth century was in the long view only the beginning of a 
new age of Turkish power. For under the banner of the des- 
cendants of Osman, called by Europeans the Ottomans, Turkish 
cavalry would cross the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles and swarm 
into the Balkans. Traveling among the Turkish amirates in 1331, 
two years before his own Moroccan sovereign was preparing a last 
and utterly futile attempt to retake Spain for Islam, Ibn Battuta 
may have gained some comfort from the spectacle in Anatolia, 
where the situation was quite the reverse. By the time he ended his 
traveling career, the Ottoman armies were advancing on Greece. 
Barely more than a century and a half after his death they would 
be attacking the eastern frontiers of Morocco and marching up the 
Danube to Central Europe. 

Though the Anatolia Ibn Battuta saw was nearing the end of the 

144 Anatolia 

century of political cracking and straining that marked the transition 
from the Seljukids and Byzantines to the Ottoman Empire, the 
continuity of urban and lettered culture was never really broken. 
Putting up their mosques and palaces in the midst of ancient Greek 
cities, the Turkish dynasties were naturally profoundly influenced by 
Byzantine architecture, craftsmanship, and everyday custom. But 
their model of Muslim civilization was the Persian one they brought 
with them over the mountains. A literate tradition of their own still in 
the future, the Turkish rulers and officials who took up residence in 
the towns encouraged the immigration of Persian scholars, 
secretaries, and artisans, who helped to make Konya in the twelfth 
and thirteenth centuries an important international center of belles- 
lettres, Sufi teaching and architectural innovation. Then, in the 
Mongol panic of the 1220s and later, many more educated and 
affluent Persians arrived in Anatolia, attracted by the prosperous 
urban culture of the sultanate. Like Cairo and Shiraz, Konya and 
other Anatolian towns found themselves benefiting unexpectedly 
from the flight of brains and money from greater Persia. These 
refugees, as it turned out, did not get far enough away from home by 
half, but the Mongol invasion was so uncharacteristically mild that 
city life went on much as before. Indeed, under Ilkhanid sovereignty 
the high culture of eastern and central Anatolia became more Persia- 
nized than ever before. 

In the west the hard-riding Turcoman chiefs wasted no time for- 
saking their tents for the urban Byzantine citadels they captured and 
assembling around themselves Persian-speaking immigrant 
schoolmen who would show them proper civilized behavior. At the 
time of Ibn Battuta’s visit Persianate letters and refinements pre- 
vailed in the courtly circles of the amirates. Moreover the Arabic 
influence at higher levels of society was not entirely missing. Arabic 
was the accepted language of building and numismatic inscriptions 
and of legal and fiscal documents. Some Persian scholars could speak 
the language, and a few notable intellectual figures from Arab lands 
lived and worked in Asia Minor.* Though Ibn Battuta did not know 
Persian at that point in his travels (by his own admission) and would 
never learn much Turkish (a fact he was loath to admit), he could 
expect to have no more trouble making himself understood among 
the learned fraternity of Anatolia than he had had in Iran.” 

The spectacular city of Alanya (‘Alaya), where Ibn Battuta, al- 
Tuzari, and apparently other companions stepped onto Anatolian 

Anatolia 145 

soil in the early winter of 1330 (1332), was one of the chief south 
coast ports linking the interior beyond the coastal ridges of the 
western Taurus with the lands of the Arabs and Latins. The harbor 
and shipyards lay at the eastern foot of a great Gibraltar-like 
promontory rising 820 feet above the sea and surmounted by a 
complex of walls and forts. '0 The ruler of this bastion was the amir 
of Karaman, one of the most powerful of the Turcoman states to 
emerge in the later thirteenth century. In the company of the local 
gadi Ibn Battuta prayed the Friday prayer in the mosque of the 
citadel and the following day rode out ten miles along the shore to 
pay respects to the Karamanid governor at his seaside residence. 
There was the usual interview, and the traveler accepted his first 
present, money in this instance, from an Anatolian dignitary. 

After a presumably short stay in Alanya, Ibn Battuta and his 
friends continued westward along the coast, probably on the same 
Genoese ship, to Antalya, the next major port. Like Alanya, it 
had been a Seljukid town until taken over by a Turcoman war lord 
who subsequently founded a local dynasty called the Teke. Ibn 
Battuta spent his first night in the local madrasa as the guest of its 
shaykh. But the next day a man dressed in frowzy-looking clothes 
and wearing a felt cap on his head came to the college and, 
addressing the visitors in Turkish, invited them to come to dinner. 
The invitation was translated and Ibn Battuta politely accepted. 
But after the man jad gone away he protested to his host that the 
fellow was obviously poverty-sticken and should not be imposed 
upon to provide a meal. 

Whereupon the shaykh burst out laughing and said to me “He is 
one of the shaykhs of the . . . Akhis. He is acobbler, and a man 
of generous disposition. His associates number about two 
hundred men of different trades, who have elected him as their 
leader and have built a hospice to entertain guests in, and all 
that they earn by day they spend at night.”!! 

And so, following the sunset prayer the puzzled visitor and his 
host went off with the shabby cobbler to his lodge. 

We found it to be a fine building, carpeted with beautiful Rumi 
rugs, and with a large number of lustres of Iraqi glass... 
Standing in rows in the chamber were a number of young men 
wearing long cloaks, and with boots on their feet. Each one of 

146 Anatolia 

them had a knife about two cubits long attached to a girdle 
round his waist, and on their heads were white bonnets of woo] 
with a piece of stuff about a cubit long and two fingers broad 
attached to the peak of each bonnet . . . When we had taken 
our places among them, they brought in a great banquet, with 
fruits and sweetmeats, after which they began their singing and 

Thus Ibn Battuta had his introduction to the fityan associations 
of Anatolia, the institution that would subsequently see him 
through more than 25 different towns and cities with displays of 
hospitality more lavish and enthusiastic than he would experience 
anywhere else in the Muslim world.'* The fityan organizations, 
also called the akhis (originally a Turkish word meaning 
“generous”), were corporations of unmarried young men repres- 
enting generally the artisan classes of Anatolian towns. Their 
purpose was essentially the social one of providing a structure of 
solidarity and mutual aid in the urban environment. The code of 
conduct and initiation ceremonies of the fityan were founded ona 
set of standards and values that went by the name of futuwwa, 
both words coming from the same Arabic root and referring in 
concept to the Muslim ideal of the “youth” (fata) as the exemplary 
expression of the qualities of nobility, honesty, loyalty, and 
courage. The brothers of the fityan were expected to lead lives 
approaching these ideal qualities, which included demonstrations 
of generous hospitality to visiting strangers. The leaders of the 
associations were usually prestigious local personages of mature 
years who held the honorific title of “Akhi.” 

Known from Abbasid times in varying forms of organization and 
purpose, the precepts of the futuwwa appear to have entered Asia 
Minor from Iran where fityan corporations had long been estab- 
lished (though Ibn Battuta barely mentions them in connection 
with his travels there). By the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries 
associations existed in probably every Anatolian town of any size. 
In the era of political upheaval and fragmentation extending from 
the Mongol invasion to the rise of the Ottoman Empire, the fityan 
were filling a crucial civic function of helping to maintain urban 
cohesiveness and defense. Each association had its distinctive 
costume, which normally included a white cap and special 
trousers, and the members met regularly in their lodges or the 
homes of their Akhis for sport, food, and fellowship. Drawing 

Anatolia 147 

their initiates from young workers and craftsmen, the clubs were 
organized to some degree along occupational lines, though they 
were not synonymous with trade guilds, which also existed. 
Meetings and initiation rites incorporated prayers and mystical 
observances, the religious dimension reinforcing the secular bonds 
of common interest and civic idealism. 

Coming away from his first fityan banquet “greatly astonished at 
their generosity and innate nobility” and doubtless looking for- 
ward to the pleasant evenings that lay on the road ahead, Ibn 
Battuta turned his back on the Mediterranean and pushed north- 
ward through the coastal hills to the lake district of the 
southwestern interior and the territory of the Amirate of Hamid. 
At the town of Burdur he and al-Tuzari (and perhaps other com- 
panions) stayed in the house of the mosque preacher, but the 
fityan put on a marvelous entertainment, “although,” he admits, 
“they were ignorant of our language and we of theirs, and there 
was no one to interpret between us.” Turning northeastward next 
day the travelers continued to Egridir (Akkridur), capital of the 
Hamid dynasty situated at the southern end of a beautiful 
mountain lake. 

From this point in the Anatolian journey Ibn Battuta’s recon- 
struction of his itinerary presents serious and puzzling im- 
plausibilities. Though we will never be quite sure which way he 
went after leaving Egridir, the force of logic would suggest that he 
continued eastward over the Sultan Daghlari mountains to Konya 
at the southwestern edge of the central plateau, arriving there 
sometime early in January 1331 (1333)."" 

Talking with the scholars under the domes of the beautiful 
Seljukid mosque of ’Ala al-Din or the college of Ince Minare. Ibn 
Battuta might have felt a bit as though he were back in Iran again, 
for Konya, whose population was a mix of Turks, Persians, 
Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, was the most Persianized of 
Anatolian cities at the level of educated culture.'* It was not. 
admittedly, the grand capital it had been in the heyday of the 
Seljukids. But it was an important trade center. and it glowed with 
the residual prestige of its great endowments and the memory of 
Jalal al-Din Rumi, the thirteenth-century Sufi poet whose works 
are classics of world literature. 

During the late winter and spring of 1331 (1333), if our guess at 
the actual itinerary is correct, Ibn Battuta traveled from Konya 
across the central plateau to as far east as Erzurum in the 

148 Anatolia 

mountains of Armenia, and then back again. If he had at the time 
no immediate desire to go to India, some of the merchants and 
scholars he met on the trail probably did, for much of the way he 
kept to the Mongol-controlled trunk roads connecting both the 
eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea with Tabriz and the 
main spice and silk routes beyond it. In 1271 the young Marco 
Polo and his father had disembarked at Ayas in Little Armenia 
and followed the trans-Anatolian road by way of Sivas, the 
principal long-distance emporium of the eastern interior, to the 
upper Tigris and thence to China. 

In the later twelfth and the thirteenth centuries the Seljukids 
had built numerous caravansaries (Khans) along the main routes 
eastwards of Konya. A merchant bound for Persia could not have 
found grander or more comfortable road accommodations 
anywhere in the Muslim world. Designed to serve both ordinary 
travelers and sultans on the march during the long and cold 
Anatolian winters, the most elaborate khans had, in addition to 
the usual sleeping quarters and storerooms grouped around an 
open courtyard, a large covered hall, a bath, a small mosque. and 
a massive, ornately carved portal. The Mongols built even more 
hostelries and placed contingents of mounted police along the 
roads to collect tolls and ensure the safety of the merchants. Even 
today the ruins of 23 khans still stand along the old road between 
Konya and Sivas.'° 

In the Rihla Ibn Battuta does not, surprisingly enough, mention 
staying in any of these caravansaries. But he has much to say about 
the hospitality of the Akhis. At all his major stops between Konya 
and Sivas (excepting Karaman (Laranda). the capital of the 
Karamanid dynasty, where he was entertained by the sultan 
himself) he lodged with the local fityan. At Sivas he had the happy 
experience of being argued over by two different associations for 
the honor of regaling him first. One group of brothers representing 
the Akhi Bichaqchi met him and his companions at the gate of the 

They were a large company, some riding and some on foot. 
Then after them we were met by the associates of the . . . Akhi 
Chalabi, who was one of the chiefs of the Akhis and whose rank 
was higher than that of Akhi Bichaqchi. These invited us to 
lodge with them, but I could not accept their invitation, owing 
to the priority of the former. We entered the city in the 

Anatolia 149 

company of both parties, who were boasting against one 
another, and those who had met us first showed the liveliest joy 
at our lodging with them. 

Ibn Battuta stayed with one club for three nights, the other for 
six, and during that time had an interview with the Ilkhanid 
governor, for he was now once again in the territory of the Mongol 
king. He gave the usual account of his wanderings, but it was also 
an occasion where he reveals the aptitude for well-timed un- 
ctuousness that would later serve him so well in India. The gov- 
ernor questioned him about the rulers of various countries through 
which he had traveled: 

His idea was that I would praise those of them who had been 
generous and find fault with the miserly, but I did nothing of the 
kind, and, on the contrary, praised them all. He was pleased 
with this conduct on my part and commended me for it, and 
then had food served. 

From Sivas eastward the sequence of stopovers given in the Rihla 
leaves doubt as to the precise route Ibn Battuta and his com- 
panions followed. The high road to Tabriz, the route of the spice 
merchants, ran from Sivas across the hills of the eastern plateau to 
Erzincan (Arzanjan), a large Armenian city, and thence to 
Erzurum, the last important town west of the passes leading into 
Azerbaijan. Ibn Battuta, however, made two long and arduous 
side trips. One was to Amasya (Amasiya) and Sunisa (Sunusa), 
two Ilkhanid towns in the Pontic Mountains (Kuzey Anadolou 
Daghari), the lofty range that runs parallel to the Black Sea coast. 
The other was to Gumushane (Kumish), high up in the forests on 
the main road between Erzurum and the sea.'® He intended to 
stay in Erzurum only one night but was obliged to remain for 
three, at the insistence of an elderly Akhi, who personally catered 
the visitors’ meals, though he was by local accounts more than 130 
years old! 

As the itinerary in the Rihla has it, Ibn Battuta and his friends 
were suddenly and inexplicably transported as if by jet aircraft 
from Erzurum to the city of Birgi, which lay almost 700 miles to 
the west. He says nothing of his return journey from eastern 
Anatolia, but by his own account he was in Egridir, capital of the 
Hamid principality, at the beginning of Ramadan, which was 8 

150 Anatolia 

June in 1331 (16 May in 1333). Accounting logically for his where- 
abouts during the previous several months, he may well have been 
in Egridir for a second time, returning westward, when Ramadan 
arrived.'’ He remained there several days, attending the royal 
court and breaking the fast every evening in the company of the 
sultan and his qadi. 

He then rode westward to Ladhiq, prosperous capital of the 
little amirate of Denizli, where he celebrated the Id al-Fitr, the 
Breaking of the Fast, with the local doctors of the law. He was now 
approaching the Aegean and passing into the marches where 
Turcoman cavalry had only in the previous few decades expelled 
the Byzantine armies and landlords and where the majority of the 
urban population was still Christian. Ladhiq had a large and 
economically vigorous population of Greeks engaged in the pro- 
duction of fine cotton fabrics. “Most of the artisans there are 
Greek women,” the Rihla reports, “for in it there are many 
Greeks who are subject to the Muslims and who pay dues to the 
sultan... The distinctive mark of the Greeks there is their 
[wearing of] tall pointed hats, some red and some white, and the 
Greek women for their part wear capacious turbans.” 

The fityan associations were there too of course, and this time 
their vehement ministrations were almost enough to send Ibn 
Battuta and his friends fleeing in panic: 

As we passed through one of the bazaars, some men came down 
from their booths and seized the bridles of our horses. Then 
certain other men quarrelled with them for doing so, and the 
altercation between them grew so hot that some of them drew 
knives. All this time we had no idea what they were saying, and 
we began to be afraid of them... At length God sent us a 
man, a pilgrim, who knew Arabic, and I asked what they 
wanted of us. He replied that they belonged to the fityan, that 
those who had been the first to reach us were the associates of 

the ... Akhi Sinan, while the others were the associates of 
the .. . Akhi Tuman, and that each party wanted us to lodge 
with them . . . Finally they came to an agreement to cast lots, 

and that we should lodge first with the one whose lot was 

After resting in Ladhiq for some days following the festivities of 
"Id al-Fitr, the little party joined a caravan going west. Now their 

Anatolia 151 

road wound down along the valleys of the ancient Aegean lands of 
Phrygia and Caria and past the vineyards and olive groves that 
signalled the travelers’ return to the Mediterranean rim. 

Throughout the rest of 1331 (1333) Ibn Battuta continued his 
tour of Turkish principalities, moving northward through the 
Aegean hinterland and visiting in succession the courts of 
Menteshe, Aydin, Sarukhan, Karasi, Balikesir, and_ finally 
Osman. These were the front line states of the Muslim advance, 
which by the time of his arrival in the region had left the hapless 
Byzantines clinging precariously to a few patches of fortified Asian 
territory. Moreover, by 1331 Turkish bands were already raiding 
Aegean islands and the Balkan shore opposite the Dardanelles, 
preliminary bouts for the invasion of Europe that was soon to 

The speed with which the Byzantines vacated the Aegean 
littoral left the Turkish invaders suddenly in possession of a region 
of tremendous agricultural and commercial wealth and an urban 
tradition going back more than two millennia. Barely out of the 
saddle, the upstart ghazi chiefs readily transformed themselves 
into civilized princes. Ibn Battuta was much impressed by his 
reception at Birgi, capital of the Amir Mehmed of Aydin, where 
he arrived probably some time in July. Owing to the intense 
summer heat, he spent several days in the company of the sultan 
and his retinue at a royal mountain retreat. Then, moving down 
out of the highlands to the Aegean coast, the travelers turned 
north again, visiting in succession the ancient cities of Aya Soluk 
(Ephesus), Izmir (Smyrna), Manisa, Bergama (Pergamom), 
Balikesir, and finally Bursa and Iznik (Yaznik, Nicaea). Akhis, 
shaykhs, and princes came forward all along the way to host him 
and ply him with gifts. Everywhere except in Aya Soluk. There he 
forgot to get off his horse when he saluted the governor, a son of 
the amir of Aydin, thus breaking a fundamental Turkish courtesy. 
Consequently the governor snubbed him by sending him nothing 
more valuable than a single robe of gold brocade. The traveler also 
seems to have had an unsatisfactory time in the mini-amirate of 
Balikesir, whose sultan he describes as “a worthless person” and 
its people as “a large population of good-for-nothings™ for failing 
to build a roof on their new congregational mosque and therefore 
having to conduct the Friday prayer in a grove of walnut trees. 

In a completely contrasting tone he reports his introduction to 
Orkhan, ruler of the principality of Osman: “This sultan is the 

152 Anatolia 

greatest of the kings of the Turkmens and the richest in wealth, 
lands and military forces.” From the perspective of the mid 1350s 
when the Rihla was composed, such a comparative evaluation 
would have seemed painfully accurate to all the other western 
amirates as well as the Christians of Constantinople. For between 
the time of the Moroccan’s visit to Anatolia and the close of his 
traveling career, the Osmanlis, or Ottomans, elbowed their way 
into world history. 

Osman, the Turcoman chief, who appears in history through a 
fog of later Ottoman legend, started his military career in the late 
thirteenth century organizing mounted archers in the Sakarya river 
region sandwiched between the great amirates of Germiyan and 
Kastamonu. He achieved fame suddenly in 1301 when he defeated 
a 2,000-man Byzantine force near Izmit (Nicomedia). As Greek 
resistance stiffened out of desperation to keep their remaining 
footholds in Asia, Osman’s ranks swelled with Turcoman cavalry 
from other amirates. In 1326, the year Osman died, the important 
Greek city of Bursa was taken and became for a time the Ottoman 
capital. In early 1331 Orkhan, his son and successor, captured 
Iznik and in the following six years virtually eliminated Byzantine 
power east of the Bosphorus. 

Ibn Battuta passed through the Osmanli kingdom at the historic 
moment when it was consolidating a rich agricultural and urban 
base in Anatolia and was on the brink of almost seven decades of 
military expansion in every direction. Orkhan’s talents as a 
military leader were apparent to the visitor: 

Of fortresses he possesses nearly a hundred, and for most of his 
time he is continually engaged in making the round of them, 
staying in each fortress for some days to put it into good order 
and examine its condition. It is said that he had never stayed for 
a whole month in any one town. He also fights with the infidels 
continually and keeps them under siege. 

Less than fifteen years after Ibn Battuta observed Orkhan’s com- 
pulsive war-making, the Ottoman army conquered the 
neighboring amirate of Karasi and soon thereafter crossed the 
Dardanelles into Thrace. The Byzantine fortress of Gallipoli fell in 
1354, and when Orkhan died in 1360, the Turkish war machine 
was poised for the conquest of southeastern Europe.'® 

When he was not fighting, Orkhan found time to establish a 

Anatolia 153 
madrasa in Iznik in 1331'? and would undertake a good deal more 
public building later in his reign, laying the cultural foundations 
that would transform his still very Greek cities into Turko—Muslim 
ones. The fityan clubs were already active in Bursa. Ibn Battuta 
lodged in the hospice of one of the Akhis and passed the night of 
the fast of Ashura (10 Muharram, or 13 October 1331) there in a 
“truly sublime” state, listening to Koranic readings and a homiletic 
sermon. He also met Orkhan himself during his stay in Bursa 
(though he has nothing to say about the meeting) and received 
from him a gift of “a large sum of money.” In Iznik he met the 
Khatun, wife of Orkhan, and remained in that city for some weeks 
owing to one of his horses being ill. 

When he started out again sometime in November,”’ now 
traveling eastward to his rendezvous with the Black Sea, he had in 
his company, he tells us, three friends (including al-Tuzari), two 
slave boys, and a slave girl. This is one of the few occasions in the 
Rihla where he reveals precisely the composition of his entourage. 
He was also trailing, we may surmise, several horses and a large 
accumulation of baggage. Heading into the last stage of his 
journey through Asia Minor, it seems clear that a significant 
change had occurred in both his material welfare and his own 
sense of his social status as an ’alim of moderate fortune. He 
speaks in the Rihla of “the prestige enjoyed by doctors of law 
among the Turks.” Indeed, as a jurist, a pilgrim, and a represen- 
tative of Arab culture, he was treated with more honor and de- 
ference among the Turkish princes, themselves hungry for 
approval as legitimate and respectable Muslim rulers, than 
anywhere else in his travels up to that point. In turn he began to 
assert himself more as a mature and lettered man in the presence 
of secular power. In Milas at the court of Menteshe he successfully 
interceded before the sultan on behalf of a jurist who had fallen 
out of favor owing to a political slip. In Aydin the amir Mehmed 
asked him to write down a number of hadiths, or traditions of the 
Prophet, recalled from memory, then had expositions of them 
prepared in Turkish. Later, at the palace in Birgi Ibn Battuta 
loudly denounced a Jewish physician, who had a prominent posi- 
tion at court, for seating himself in a position above the Koran 
readers. The incident was not so much an expression of anti- 
semitism as a demonstration of his sense of pious propriety and his 
willingness to stand up for righteous standards as he perceived 
them, whatever the sultan’s reaction.” 

154. Anatolia 

Visiting about twenty princely courts (including seats of gOv- 
ernors) in the space of less than a year, he could well support his 
claim to status as a gentleman of consequence with a growing store 
of assets in hospitality gifts, not only clothes, horses, and money, 
but slaves and concubines. For the first time in his travels he 
speaks of acquiring bonded servants, portending the day in India 
when he would be accompanied by a large retinue of them. The 
amir of Aydin gave him his first slave, a male Greek captive. In 
Ephesus he purchased for himself a young Greek girl for forty gold 
dinars. In Izmir the sultan’s son gave him another boy. In Balikesir 
he bought a second girl. When he left Iznik he had, as he reports, 
only three slaves (one perhaps having been sold), but he was in 
any case traveling as a man of substance. The conspicuous 
evidence of his wealth and prestige would continue to grow during 
the ensuing journey across Central Asia. 

But first he had to get across the Pontic Mountains to the Black 
Sea in the dead of a bitter Anatolian winter. In stark contrast to his 
summer promenade through the orchards and vineyards of the 
lovely Aegean valleys, the final trek out of Asia Minor was a chain 
of annoyances and near fatal calamities reminiscent of his dis- 
tastrous march to Qalhat along the South Arabian coast. The 
trouble began at the Sakarya River several miles east of Iznik 
when the little party started to follow a Turkish horsewoman and 
her servant across what they all thought was a ford. Advancing to 
the middle of the river, the woman suddenly fell from her horse. 
Reaching out to save her, her servant jumped into the frigid water 
but both of them were carried away in the swirling current. A 
group of men on the opposite bank, witnessing the accident, 
immediately swam into the stream and managed to drag both 
victims ashore. Half-drowned, the woman eventually revived, but 
her servant perished. The men then warned Ibn Battuta and his 
companions that they must go further downstream to cross safely. 
After heeding this advice, they discovered a primitive wooden 
raft, loaded themselves and their baggage on it, and were pulled 
across by rope, their horses swimming behind. 

Then at the village of Goynuk (Kainuk), where they lodged in 
the house of a Greek woman for a night, they encountered heavy 
snow. A local horseman guided them onward through the drifts as 
far as a Turcoman village, where another rider was hired to take 
them to Mudurnu (Muturni), the next important town on the far 
side of a wooden mountain pass.” After leading them deep into 

Anatolia 155 

the hills, the guide suddenly made signs that he wanted money. 
When he was refused any compensation until he delivered his 
employers safely into town, he snatched a bow belonging to one of 
the travelers and threatened to steal it. Ibn Battuta relented then, 
but the moment the rogue had money in his hand he fled, leaving 
the startled little band to find their own road in the deep snow. 
Eventually they came to a hill where the track was marked by 
stones, but by this time the sun was setting. If they tried to camp in 
the forest overnight, they were likely to freeze to death; if they 
continued on they would only lose their way in the dark. 

I had a good horse, however, a thoroughbred, so I planned a 
way of escape, saying to myself, “If I reach safety, perhaps I 
may contrive some means to save my companions,” and it 
happened so. I commended them to God Most High and set 
out... After the hour of the night prayer I came to some 
houses and said “O God, grant that they be inhabited.” I found 
that they were inhabited, and God Most High guided me to the 
gate of a certain building. I saw by it an old man and spoke to 
him in Arabic; he replied to me in Turkish and signed me to 
enter. I told him about my companions, but he did not under- 
stand me. 

Then, in a thoroughly improbable stroke of providence, Ibn 
Battuta found that he was at a Sufi hospice and that one of the 
brethren was a former “acquaintance” of his, an Arabic-speaking 
chap (from what corner of the worid we are not told) who quickly 
grasped the situation and sent a party to rescue the stranded 
companions. After a warm night and a hot meal in the lodge, the 
group continued on to Mudurnu, arriving just in time for the 
Friday prayer. 

Convinced now that they needed an interpreter, Ibn Battuta 
engaged a local man (who had made the hajj and spoke Arabic) to 
take them to Kastamonu, the largest town in the region, which lay 
ten days to the northeast. Though the man was prosperous and 
reasonably well educated, he quickly revealed himself to be a 
greedy and unscrupulous character, selling anything he could lay 
his hands on in the village market places, stealing part of the daily 
expense funds, and appropriating for himself the money the 
travelers wished to pay a sister of his who fed them in a village 
along the way. But they still needed the fellow to get them through 

156 Anatolia 

the mountains. “The thing went so far that we openly accused him 
and would say to him at the end of the day ‘Well, Hajji, how much 
of the expense-money have you stolen today?’ He would reply ‘So 
much,’ and we would laugh at him and make the best of it.” 

On top of all these miseries Ibn Battuta’s slave girl almost 
drowned crossing another river. 

The weary caravaners must have been blessedly relieved to 
arrive at Kastamonu, capital of the principality of the Jandarids 
and an island of moderately civilized comfort in the snowy 
wilderness. Ibn Battuta once again received the sort of treatment 
to which he was accustomed, feasting with the local scholars, 
meeting the amir in his lofty citadel overlooking the city,** and 
accepting the usual robes, horse, and money. He remained there 
some weeks, enjoying his last encounter with a generous 
Anatolian prince and perhaps waiting for the weather to improve. 
Then, riding northeastward into the Pontic, now apparently with 
an entourage of nine, he crossed one of the high passes and 
descended through the dense forests of the northern slopes, the 
Black Sea and the land of the Golden Horde before him. 


1. Gb, vol. 2, p. 416. 

2. IB’s reference to a stay of 40 days in Jidda cannot be taken as a precise 
recollection. As Hrbek points out (Hr, pp. 453, 467) IB repeatedly reports the 
length of his stopovers in particular places as “forty days” or “about forty days.” 
The use of this number as a conventional rounded figure was common among 
Middle Eastern and Islamic peoples. It appears frequently in Islamic ideology and 
ritual in Morocco. See Edward Westermarck, Ritual and Belief in Morocco, 2 vols. 
(London, 1926), vol. 1, p. 143. 

3. The Rihla’s earliest description of travels through Greater Syria appears to 
be a compilation of four separate journeys, the second one being in 1330 (1332) 
(see Chapter 3, note 26 and Chapter 6, note 2). Thus it is difficult to know precisely 
which cities he visited during each of the four tours. He claims, without adding any 
descriptive material, to have passed through Hebron, Jerusalem, and Ramla on his 
way from Gaza to Acre in 1330 (1332). Hrbek (Hr, p. 454) is inclined to believe, for 
reasons of chronology and logic, that these stopovers are out of place and that he 
went directly up the coast to Latakia without passing into the interior. However, IB 
could have fitted in a second visit to the holy places of Hebron and Jerusalem and 
been back on the coast in a matter of a few days. Moreover, he may have visited 
several towns and castles in far northern Syria in 1330. He mentions them, how- 
ever, only in connection with the 1326 itinerary. 

4. In the 1330s the Genoese were probably just beginning to frequent 
Levantine ports after a hiatus of several decades owing to conflict between the 
Mamluks and the last of the Crusader states. W. Heyd, Histoire du commerce du 
Levant au moyen-dge, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1936), vol. 1, pp. 547-8, vol. 2, pp. 61-62. 

Anatolia 157 

5. Eugene H. Byrne, Genoese Shipping in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries 
(Cambridge, Mass., 1930), pp. 5-9. 

6. 1B claims to have taken ten nights to get from Latakia to Alanya, but if the 
wind was favorable, as he says, the trip could have been made in two or three days. 
Hr, pp. 4545S. 

7. Claude Cahen, Pre-Ottoman Turkey (London, 1968), p. 153. 

8. Ibid., pp. 227, 256, 349-50. 

9. IB gives an oblique impression that he learned Turkish at some point in his 
career, but, as Gibb points out (Gb, vol. 2, p. 420n), there is no evidence that he 

10. Seton Lloyd and D.S. Rice, Alanya (Ala‘iyya) (London, 1958). 

11. Where Gibb has translated IB’s term al-fata akhi as “Young Akhi,” I have 
made it simply “Akhi.” The leaders of the fityan were seldom young. 

12. Speros Vryonis, The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the 
Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century (Berkeley 
and Los Angeles, 1971), pp. 396-402. The author lists 26 places where IB speaks of 
being entertained by a fityan club. I count 27 or possibly 28. 

13. The main difficulty with the journey through Anatolia is that the trip from 
Konya to Erzurum is arbitrarily inserted in the narrative between his stops at Milas 
and Birgi, both cities in the far west of the peninsula. IB says nothing of how he got 
from Milas to Konya or from Erzurum to Birgi. The journey through eastern 
Anatolia seems obviously misplaced, but there are no internal clues to help sort out 
the actual itinerary. Hrbek (Hr, pp. 455-64) suggests that if IB’s movements were 
reasonably logical, he is likely to have gone from Antalya to Egnidir, then turned 
eastward at that point and traveled on to Konya and Erzurum. He would have 
returned to Egridir by a fairly direct route and arrived there in time for Ramadan (8 
June 1331 or 16 May 1333). He states that he was in that city for the start of the 
fast. Such a pattern of movement would fit in well with the chronology of the 
Anatolian travels taken as a whole. That is, arriving on the south coast in late 1330 
(1332), he would have spent the first five months or so going to Egridir, Konya, 
Erzurum, and back again. He would then have continued westward to Milas, Birgi, 
and the Aegean coast, traveling through that region, as he states several times, 
during the summer. There is at least one annoying snag in this hypothetical 
reconstruction. IB places himself in Egridir for the start of Ramadan, but during a 
single visit to that town. Hrbek’s speculative solution hangs on the assertion that IB 
probably visited Egridir twice and that the Ramadan visit in May occurred 
following his return from the eastern region. There are of course several examples 
in the Rihla of his collapsing descriptions connected with two or more visits to a 
place into a single, first visit. I believe Hrbek’s reconstruction remains plausible for 
want of anything better. P. Wittek thinks that owing to the chronological and 
geographical problems of the Konya—Erzurum trip, IB made it up on hearsay. Das 
Fiirstentum Mentesche (Amsterdam, 1967). p. 66. However, [B's eastern Anatolian 
detour presents numerous details of personal experience. 

14. “Konya,” EI, vol. 5, pp. 253-56; J. Bergeret. “Konya,” Archéologia 96 
(July 1976): 30-37. 

15. Halil Inalcik, The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600, trans. 
Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber (London, 1973). pp. 53, 108-09. 

16. IB’s precise itinerary in eastern Anatolia is impossible to fathom. The Rihla 
has him going directly from Sunisa to Gumushane, but no direct route existed 
owing to the high mountains. Hrbek speculates on alternative roads he could have 
taken (Hr, pp. 458-59). 

17. See note 13. 

18. In contrast to the standard historiography I have not closely identified the 
early Ottoman conquests with the holy war of ghazis. A recent essay convincingly 
argues that the ideology of tribal solidarity and the shared adventure of “nomad 

158 Anatolia 

predation” unified Osman’s and Orkhan’s military enterprises, not jihad against the 
Greeks. See Rudi Paul Lindner, Nomads and Ottomans in Medieval Anatolia 
(Bloomington, Ind., 1983). 

19. Inalcik, Ottoman Empire, p. 8. 

20. IB states that he was in Bursa for the fast of Ashura (10 Muharram 732 or 13 
October 1331). He took two days getting from Bursa to Iznik and remained in the 
latter city 40 days (probably more or less). 

21. D&S, vol. 2, p. xiii. These authors point out that [IB demonstrated consider- 
able tolerance toward non-Muslims. In this instance the Jewish physician did 
something reprehensible in his eyes. 

22. Charles Wilson (ed.), Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Asia Minor 
(London, 1895), p. 14. 

23. “Kastamuni,” El,, vol. 4, pp. 737-39; Wilson, Murray’s Handbook, p. 7. 

Q The Steppe 

We traveled eastward, seeing nothing 
but the sky and the earth. ' 
William of Rubruck 

If Ibn Battuta had inquired among the merchants of Sinope the 
most sensible way to get from the northern coast of Anatolia to 
India, they probably would have told him to go to Tabriz by way of 
Trebizond, then on to Hurmuz and a ship to the Malabar coast. He 
chose, on the contrary, to make for the city of al-Qiram (Solgat, or 
today Stary Krim) in the interior of the Crimean Peninsula on the 
far side of the Black Sea. Al-Qiram was the seat of the Mongol 
lord governing the province of Crimea under the authority of 
Ozbeg, Khan of Kipchak, the kingdom known later to Europeans 
as the Golden Horde. It was also the chief inland transit center for 
goods passing from Kaffa and other Italian colonies on the 
Crimean coast to the towns of the populous Volga River basin, the 
heart of the khanate. 

Ibn Battuta does not explain why he and his companions de- 
cided to cross the sea and approach India by the longer, more 
difficult route across the Central Asian steppe, but it is easy 
enough to guess. For one thing, he had already seen Tabriz, 
Hurmuz, and a good bit of Persia, and if he was to honor his 
extravagant pledge to shun territory already covered, then the 
northern route, the fabulous silk road of Inner Asia, was his 
obvious alternative. We may also suspect that by this time he had 
devised a grand scheme not only to visit all the great cities of the 
central lands of Islam, but to penetrate the outer fringes of the 
expanding civilized world as well. He had been to Kilwa, the last 
outpost of gadis and city comforts in the southern tropics. And 
now he had the opportunity to discover the limits of cultured 
society in the wilds of the north, where summer nights were so 
short that intricate theological problems arose as to the hours of 
prayer and the fast of Ramadan. Moreover, the previous year and 
a half in Anatolia had taught him all he needed to know about the 


160 The Steppe 

satisfaction Turkish princes seemed to derive from entertaining 
and rewarding visiting fagihs. He was certainly well aware that the 
Kipchak state had become officially Islamic only in his lifetime and 
that New Saray (al-Sara’), its capital on the Volga, was a flower of 
cosmopolitan industry and culture that had bloomed overnight in 
the frigid steppe. If the little amirs of Asia Minor could treat him 
so well and contribute so materially to his personal fortune, what 
might he expect from Ozbeg Khan. whose territories and wealth 
were so much greater. 

In the Rihla he proposes a list of “the seven kings who are the 
great and mighty kings of the world.” One of them, naturally 
enough, was the Sultan of Morocco, who commissioned the 
writing of the book. Another was the Mamluk ruler of Egypt anda 
third the Sultan of India. The remaining four were Mongols of the 
House of Genghis: the Yuan emperor of China, the Ilkhan of 
Persia, and the khans of Chagatay and Kipchak. Though the 
Mongol world empire no longer existed in the Moroccan’s time 
except as a political fiction, its four successor kingdoms (plus the 
White Horde of western Siberia) ruled among them the greater 
part of the land mass of Eurasia. Admittedly Ibn Battuta did more 
than justice to Ozbeg and his cousin the Khan of Chagatay to put 
them on his list at all, for unlike the others (excepting perhaps the 
Sultan of Morocco, who had to be included anyway) they were not 
masters of one of the core regions of agrarian civilization. They 
were heirs rather to the Inner Asian plains, the core of the Turko 
—Mongol domain where the pastoral way of life still predominated, 
and where civilization came harder and later owing to the limits of 
agriculture and to physical distance or isolation from the main 
Eurasian centers of culture and trade. 

But if mighty kings are to be judged by the size of their 
kingdoms, the khans of Kipchak and Chagatay were among the 
awesome, for together their territories covered an expanse of 
grassland, desert, and mountain more than half the size of the 
continental United States. From the fertile grain-growing valley of 
the Volga, Ozbeg Khan dispatched his governors to the Crimea, to 
the northern Caucasus, to the alluvial delta (called Khwarizm) of 
the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, and to the immense Ukrainian 
steppe north of the Black Sea. To the forested uplands in the 
northwest he sent his cavalry to collect annual tribute from the 
Christian princes of Russia and orchestrated their dynastic affairs 
to keep them weak and divided. In the Slavic southwest he inter- 

The Steppe 161 

vened when it suited him in the affairs of the kingdom of Bulgaria. 
In his foreign policy he exerted an influence of a special sort over 
the Mamluk sultanate, because his kingdom supplied Cairo with 
most of its ruling class, the young male slaves who were captured 
in frontier wars or were purchased or extracted from poor families 
of the Kipchak steppe. 

Ibn Battuta visited the lands of Kipchak just a century after the 
Mongols launched their invasion of western Eurasia. In six years 
of cataclysmic violence (1236-41) the Tatar war machine under the 
generalship of Batu and Subedei had devoured cities and towns of 
Russia, Poland, and Hungary, leaving the Pope and the kings of 
the Latin West trembling for the future of Christendom. Though 
the conquerors withdrew from eastern Europe as precipitately as 
they had come, Batu, son of Jochi and grandson of Genghis Khan, 
established a camp near the lower Volga which became as Saray, 
or later Old Saray, the capital of the Khanate of Kipchak. Ibn 
Battuta knew the state under that name, the Golden Horde being 
an appellation bestowed by the Russians two centuries later. The 
adjective “golden” remains open to different explanations, but 
“horde” came from the Turkish word “ordu,” meaning camp or 
palace. The name carries a certain irony, for it suggested to the 
fourteenth century a meaning contrary to the modern image of a 
throng of wild barbarians riding into battle. The ordu of Batu (d. 
1256) and his successors was the core of a stable and disciplined 
government under which, as in Persia, rampant bloodshed and 
destruction yielded to political conditions favoring revival of 
agriculture, increased international trade, and the rise of towns, 
some of them, like Old and New Saray, from the ground up. 

Prior to the Mongol invasion Islam was the dominant faith 
among the settled Bulghar Turks of the middle Volga region but 
had made little headway in the Crimea or the Ukrainian steppe. 
The khans of the Golden Horde were for the most part as inter- 
nationally minded as their cousins in Persia, encouraging the 
traders of all nations, tolerating confessional diversity, and for the 
first seventy years of the khanate’s history keeping the promoters 
of both Islam and Christianity guessing as to what religion the 
royal court would finally accept. In 1313 Ozbeg ascended the 
throne and, as Ghazan had done in Persia 18 years earlier, pro- 
claimed Islam the religion of state. His decision was a blow to both 
the Roman and Byzantine churches, which had until then held 
sanguine hopes of bringing the khans to Christ. 

162 The Steppe 

The victory of Islam was in fact almost certainly inevitable. If 
Mongol internationalism had from the point of view of European 
history the effect of “opening” western Asia to Latin priests and 
Italian merchants, it gave in the long run far greater advantage to 
Muslim traders and preachers, who had already been pressing into 
the steppe zone for centuries. The Volga had close historic links 
with the Muslim Irano—Turkish cities of northern Persia and 
Transoxiana, that is, the regions east of the Caspian. Those cities 
offered a much handier and weightier model of civilization to the 
khanate than either Byzantium or Latin Europe could do. As the 
new political order in western Asia emerged, the caravans from 
the southeast brought ever-growing numbers of merchants, 
scholars, craftsmen, and Sufi brethren, seeking fortunes and con- 
verts in the burgeoning towns of the khanate. Whether Christian 
friars and Italian traders were present or not, these towns assumed 
from the later thirteenth century an increasingly Muslim character. 

Ozbeg’s Islamic policy was in fact recognition of a cultural 
conversion of the region that was already taking place. The 
Russian tributary states of the northern forests remained loyal to 
their Orthodox church, and the Islamization of the steppe was by 
no means complete when Ibn Battuta passed through, since he 
himself bears witness to Turkish Christian communities in the 
Crimea. For him, however, the important development was not 
the conversion of the countryside; rather, the establishment of 
Islam as the “official” religion signified that the shari’a was to have 
a larger role in society, superseding local or Mongol custom in 
matters of devotion and personal status. If the Sacred Law were to 
be applied in the realm, then gadis and jurists had to be imported 
from the older centers of literacy. Thus in Ibn Battuta’s time the 
towns of the western steppe were firmly linked to the international 
network of judges, teachers, and scribes along which he always 
endeavored to travel. 

He remembers spending more than a month and a half in Sinope in 
the early spring of 1332 (1334), the last eleven days waiting for a 
favorable wind after he, al-Tuzari, and other companions booked 
passage on a ship bound for the Crimea. He remarks that the 
vessel belonged to some “Rumi,” probably in this case Genoese 
rather than Greek.” Italian shipping had invaded the Black Sea in 
force following the fall of Constantinople to Frankish Crusaders in 
1204. Both the Genoese and the Venetians held mercantile col- 

The Steppe 163 

onies in the Crimea and along the shore of the Sea of Azov. In Ibn 
Battuta’s time these two powers competed murderously for the 
trade of the Black Sea, but they had virtually no commercial 
competition from either Muslims or Greeks. 

When captains of the Black Sea were under sail, they usually 
preferred to hug the coast because of the tempests that might 
suddenly come blasting off the northern steppe. Though we have 
no clue whether Ibn Battuta’s ship was a big one, his pilot seemed 
confident enough to launch into the open sea and make a straight 
course for the Crimea. But three nights out of Sinope a violent 
storm blew up. In his Indian Ocean travels Ibn Battuta had seen 
nothing like it. 

We were in sore straits and destruction visibly before our eyes. I 
was in the cabin, along with a man from the Maghrib named 
Abu Bakr, and I bade him go up on deck to observe the state of 
the sea. He did so and came back to me in the cabin saying to 
me “I commend you to God.” 

The vessel could make no headway against the furious wind and 
was blown back nearly to Sinope. The storm subsided for a time, 
then returned as savagely as before, and the ship was again driven 
back. Finally the wind swung round to the stern and after several 
days of panic and near-catastrophe the Crimean mountains 
loomed ahead. The captain made for Kerch on the western bank 
of the strait leading into the Sea of Azov. But as he approached 
the port he sighted people on the shore apparently trying to signal 
him off. Fearing enemy war galleys in the harbor (Venetians? 
Turkish pirates?), he turned westward along the coast, probably 
heading for either Kaffa or Sudak. 

Then, for reasons unexplained, Ibn Battuta asked the captain to 
put him and his companions ashore, not in a port but at a 
roadstead somewhere along the rural Crimean coast. The party 
disembarked and, after spending the night in a rural church, 
negotiated with some local Christian Turks for the hire of horses 
and a wagon. Within a day or so they reached Kaffa, chief colony 
of the Genoese merchantry. 

Ibn Battuta counted about 200 ships in Kaffa harbor. Some of 
them would carry away the cloths and other luxury wares that had 
come along the silk road from Persia or China. Others would 
load their decks with war captives and the sad children of im- 

164 The Steppe 

poverished steppe folk, consigning some to the slave market of Cairo. 
others to the sugar plantations of Cyprus or the rich households of 
Italy. But mainly, ships’ holds would be filled with the raw products of 
the steppe and forest: grain from the Volga, timber from the 
mountains of southern Crimea, furs from Russia and Siberia, salt, 
wax, and honey. Though the Franks built their houses and conducted 
their business in Kaffa at the pleasure of the Khan of the Golden 
Horde and though good relations between them sometimes broke 
down, this city was the most profoundly Latinized of all the Black Sea 
ports. Probably a large minority of the population was Genoese, the 
rest a heterogeneous crowd of Turkish soldiers and nomads, Russian 
fur traders, Egyptian slave agents, Greeks, Circassians and Alans, 
not to mention Florentines, Venetians and Provencals.* 

Ibn Battuta, in any case, was not to feel at home in Kaffa. When he 
and his friends arrived there they went to lodge in the mosque. While 
they were resting inside, the Catholic churches of the town suddenly 
began ringing their bells. Pious Muslims in general regarded church 
bells as one of the more odious manifestations of Christian sacrilege. 
Ibn Battuta for one had never heard such a satanic clamor. Reacting 
with more bravado than sense, he and his companions bounded to the 
top of the minaret and began chanting out the Koran and the call to 
prayer. Soon the local gadi rushed to the scene, weapon in hand, 
fearing the visitors would be in danger for provoking the hostility of 
Europeans. What the Christians in the streets below might have done 
in response to this comic opera gesture we will never know, but the 
incident ended with no sectarian violence. 

Leaving Kaffa within a day or two, Ibn Battuta and his party 
continued on by wagon to their immediate destination al-Qiram, the 
provincial capital and main staging point for the trans-Asian caravans. 
Traveling now in the company of an officer of state on his way to see 
the governor, their route presumably took them westward along the 
coast as far as the port of Sudak (Surdak or Soldaia), then inland over 
the steep southern scarp of the Crimean mountains.* Al-Qiram lay 
beyond the hills at the edge of the flat grassy plain that was ecologically 
the vestibule of the great Kipchak steppe. Though a Genoese consul 
was sometimes in residence, al-Qiram was a decidedly Muslim town in 
its economy and culture (a mosque carrying Ozbeg Khan’s inscription 
on it still stands).° Ibn Battuta met several scholars, including the 
Hanafi and Shafi’1 judges, and stayed in a Sufi hospice. 

Though Tuluktemur, the Muslim Turkish governor of the town, 
was not feeling well, he received the visitors anyway and presented the 

The Steppe 165 

Moroccan with a horse. It was soon learned that this amir was 
preparing to set out for New Saray to see the khan. In Persia Ibn 
Battuta had been given the unexpected privilege of traveling in the 
mahalla of the Mongol king, and now once again the chance of his 
itinerary had brought him to al-Qiram just in time to make a 700- 
mile journey to the Volga under imperial escort with no worries 
about personal amenities, highwaymen, or malevolent guides. To 
this purpose he bought three wagons and animals to pull them: one 
cart for himself and a slave girl (probably one of the young Greek 
women he acquired in Asia Minor), a second smaller one for al- 
Tuzari, and a third large one for the rest of his companions. 

Up to that point Ibn Battuta had had almost no experience with 
wagons, for they were largely unknown in the Arab world where, 
since Roman times, the backs of camels and other beasts had 
replaced wheeled conveyances as the means of transporting people 
and goods. This was not, however, the case in Central Asia. Over 
the next year Ibn Battuta would find himself bumping and swaying 
over the steppe in the Turkish version of the prairie schooner. 
Both two and four wheeled carts were used, pulled by teams of 
horses, camels, or oxen. Mongol and Turkish nomads customarily 
followed their herds in wagons over which they erected round lath 
and felt tents (yurts). Whenever they halted for a period of time 
they disassembled these residences, or removed them in one piece, 
and set them up on the ground. When William of Rubruck, the 
French Franciscan who compiled a precious description of the 
steppe peoples during the early Mongol Age, left Sudak in 1253 on 
his way to the court of the Great Khan, he was advised by Greek 
merchants to carry his possessions by wagon rather than pack 
horse. That way he could leave his belongings on board 
throughout the trip, and if he wanted to ride his own horse he 
could go along at the relaxed pace of the oxen.° The felt sides of 
the wagon covering, Ibn Battuta notes, were fitted with little 
grilled windows: “The person who is inside the tent can see [other] 
persons without their seeing him, and he can employ himself in it 
as he likes, sleeping or eating or reading or writing, while he is still 
journeying.” A prosperous steppe-dweller might own one or two 
hundred wagons. 

The ordu of a rich Moal [Mongol] seems like a large town, 
though there will be very few men in it. One girl will lead 
twenty or thirty carts, for the country is flat, and they tie the ox 

166 The Steppe 

or camel carts the one after the other, and a girl will sit on the 
front one driving the ox, and all the others follow after with the 
same gait.’ 

Ibn Battuta traveled as an honored member of the wagon train, 
whose privileged company included not only the amir Tuluktemur 
but also his brother, two sons, the wives of all these men, and a 
small bureaucracy of Muslim functionaries. He reckons that the 
first long stage of the journey from al-Qiram to Azak (Tana, now 
Azov) on the southern side of the delta of the Don took 23 days. 
He does not mention any known stopping places, so the route is a 
puzzle. Very likely the caravan crossed the peninsula separating 
the Crimea from the mainland, then turned eastward over the 
grassland north of the Sea of Azov and across the esturaries of the 
Miuss and the Don.* 

Since driving the wagons through the shallow fords of the rivers 
was a muddy, bothersome operation, Tuluktemur had _ the 
solicitude to send Ibn Battuta on ahead with one of his officers and 
a letter of introduction to the governor of Azak. Since European 
ships could sail directly to the mouth of the Don but no further, 
this town had become the most distant of the important Frankish 
establishments, competing actively with Kaffa for the sale of 
Italian and Flemish textiles. 

Ibn Battuta and his party camped in their wagons outside the 
town, though they were welcomed by the governor and the local 
religious personalities. In two days’ time Tuluktemur arrived and 
amid the requisite displays of obeisance and hospitality on the part 
of the citizenry erected three huge tents, one of silk and two of 
linen and around them a cloth enclosure with an antechamber in 
the shape of a tower. 

Here the amir entertained his retinue and Azak’s dignitaries 
with titanic quantities of the rude cuisine the upper classes of Inner 
Asia normally consumed — millet gruel, macaroni, boiled meat of 
horse and sheep, and fermented mare’s milk, called qumizz. 
Carried in hide bags on the wagons, qumizz was the nutritious 
staple of the Turko—Mongol diet. William of Rubruck, tasting it 
for the first time, “broke out in a sweat with horror and surprise,” 
though later he decided it was “very palatable . . ., makes the 
inner man most joyful and . . . intoxicates weak heads.”” He also 
liked the millet beer which flowed freely at Mongol banquets. The 
House of Genghis was notorious for its bibulousness, a family 

The Steppe 167 

attribute scarcely affected by conversion to Islam, since the Hanafi 
doctors conveniently took the position that this particular potation 
was not expressly prohibited by the Koran. Ibn Battuta found 
qumizz “disagreeable” and, being a strait-laced Maliki, would have 
nothing to do with liquor. But he had no other cause to complain 
about Tuluktemur’s hospitality. He got the usual robe and horse 
and indeed reports somewhat smugly that as they entered the 
audience tent the amir “made me precede him, in order that the 
governor of Azak should see the high esteem he had for me.” 

At this time Ozbeg Khan was not in residence at New Saray but 
camped about 280 miles southeast of Azak in the region known in 
modern times as the Stavropol Plateau, a rugged upland jutting 
northward from the main mass of the Caucasus Mountains. Since 
the founding of the I!khanate of Persia, these mountains had been 
the de facto frontier between the two states, but the grazing land 
was too good and the trade routes running between the Black Sea 
and the Caspian too important to allow the region any peace. In 
1262 Berke and Hulegu, first cousins though they were, had gone to 
war for control of the Caucasus, and in the ensuing century the two 
dynasties hurled armies at one another time and time again. It is 
conceivable that Ozbeg perhaps led his ordu south in 1332 to see to 
frontier defenses or plan an operation against Abu Sa‘id.'” But the 
Rihla says nothing of such a purpose. Possibly, the khan went south 
to take the waters, for he was camped at Bish Dagh (Pyatigorsk). 
celebrated than as now for its mineral spas. 

Tuluktemur soon left Azak to join the khan, but Ibn Battuta and 
his associates stayed behind for three days waiting for the governor 
to provide him with new equipment for the next leg of his journey. 
Perhaps attaching himself to a military column, he then set out 
southeasterly across the Kuban—Azov lowland. Arriving at Bish 
Dagh, he found that the khan had already decamped. Traveling 
eight more days, he finally caught up with the ordu in the vicinity of 
al-Machar (Burgomadzhary). It was the early days of Ramadan, 
May 1332 (1334).!! 

I set up my tent on a low hill thereabouts, fixed my flat in front of 
the tent, and drew up my horses and wagons behind, then the 
mahalla came up . . . and we saw a vast city on the move with its 
inhabitants, with mosques and bazaars in it, the smoke of the 
kitchens rising in the air (for they cook while on the march), and 
horse-drawn wagons transporting the people. 

168 The Steppe 

On the morrow of his arrival in the camp he presented himself 
before the khan on recommendation of two of the sovereign’s 
religious dignitaries. He found Ozbeg seated upon a silver gilded 
throne in the midst of an enormous tent whose exterior was 
covered, after the fashion of all the Kipchak rulers, with a layer of 
bright golden tiles. The Khan’s daughter, his two sons, other royal 
kinsmen, and the chief amirs and officers were assembled below 
the throne, but his four khatuns, or wives, sat on either side of 
him. Ibn Battuta has a good deal to say in the Rihla about the 
freedom, respect, and near equality enjoyed by Mongol and 
Turkish women in startling contrast to the custom in his own land 
and the other Arab countries. (When a well-dressed and unveiled 
Turkish woman comes into the bazaar in the company of her 
husband, he remarks derisively, “anyone seeing him would take 
him to be one of her servants.”) If wives and mothers often 
influenced politics in the palaces of the Moroccan Marinids, as we 
may assume they did, counsel was given in the confines of the 
harim. But in the Mongol states the women of the court shared 
openly and energetically in the governing of the realm. Princesses 
of the blood, like their brothers, were awarded apanages, or 
landed properties, which they ruled and taxed as private fiefs quite 
apart from the state domain. The khatuns sometimes signed de- 
crees and made major administrative decisions independently of 
the khan. The prim Moroccan fagih, in whose own country the 
notion of a wife of the sultan appearing publicly at his side would 
have seemed unimaginable, could only grimace in amazement at 
the Kipchak ceremonial. He relates that when the senior khatun 
and queen of the khanate enters the golden tent, the ruler 
“advances to the entrance of the pavilion to meet her, salutes her, 
takes her by the hand, and only after she has mounted to the couch 
and taken her seat does the sultan himself sit down. All this is done 
in full view of those present, and without any use of veils.” 

In the following days Ibn Battuta went round to visit the 
khatuns, each of whom occupied her own mahalla. 

The horses that draw her wagon are caparisoned with cloths of 
silk gilt... In front of {the wagon of] the khatun are ten or 
fifteen pages, Greeks and Indians, who are dressed in robes of 
silk gilt, encrusted with jewels, and each of whom carries in his 
hand a mace of gold or silver, or maybe of wood veneered with 
them. Behind the khatun’s wagon there are about a hundred 

The Steppe 169 

wagons, in each of which there are four slave girls full-grown 
and young . .. Behind these wagons [again] are about three 
hundred wagons, drawn by camels and oxen, carrying the 
khatun’s chests, moneys, robes, furnishings, and food. 

Ibn Battuta had to sleep in his own cart because the ruling class 
of Central Asia had the exasperating habit of not giving lodging to 
their distinguished visitors. But he dined a number of times in the 
presence of the khan and thankfully accepted horses, sheep, 
foodstuffs, and robes from the khatuns after regaling them 
(through interpreters) with his earlier adventures. He probably 
stayed in the camp throughout Ramadan.'? He was there to 
celebrate the "Id al-Fitr, the Breaking of the Fast, an occasion of 
public feasting during which Ozbeg Khan, notwithstanding his 
contribution to the enduring triumph of Islam in the western 
steppe, made himself helplessly drunk and arrived late and 
staggering at the afternoon prayer. 

A short time after this festival the khan and his retinue set out 
for the city of Astrakhan, which lay about 80 miles across the 
North Caspian lowlands on the left bank of the Volga. 

When Ibn Battuta visited Princess Bayalun, Ozbeg’s third ranking 
wife, and told her of the great distance he had journeyed from his 
native land, he reports that “she wept in pity and compassion and 
wiped her face with a handkerchief that lay before her.” She knew 
how it felt to live in an alien country far from the familiar society of 
her childhood, for she was a daughter of Andronicus III, Emperor 
of Byzantium.'> Several times in the thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries dynastic marriages took place between daughters of 
Greek emperors and Mongol or Turkish rulers. These alliances 
were ultimately of small help in checking the expansion of the 
Ottomans (Orkhan married a Byzantine princess in 1346), but 
relations between Constantinople and the court of the Golden 
Horde were generally good. The emperors knew that Kipchak 
power was an effective counterweight to their Balkan rivals, the 
Christian kingdoms of Serbia and Bulgaria; they also endeavored 
to defend the interests of the Byzantine church in the Mongol 
protectorates of Christian Russia. The khans, for their part, 
wanted the Bosphorus (which ran under the walls of Con- 
stantinople) open to the trade and diplomatic exchanges on which 
the vitality of their alliance with the Mamluks of Cairo depended. 

170 The Steppe 

When the royal ordu reached Astrakhan, it was learned that 
Princess Bayalun had received permission from her husband to 
return temporarily to Constantinople to give birth to a child in the 
palace of her father. As we should not be surprised to learn, Ibn 
Battuta immediately applied to the khan for authorization to g0 
along. Here was an unexpected opportunity to venture beyond the 
Dar al-Islam for the first time in his career and to see one of the 
great cities of the world, renowned among Muslims for its 
spectacular setting, its fabulous bazaars, its splendid buildings, and 
the fact that it had held out against the relentless expansion of 
Islam over the previous 700 years. There was nothing ex- 
traordinary about a Muslim visiting Constantinople in the 
fourteenth century. Merchants and envoys from Turkish or Arab 
lands went there when business required it, and in the previous 
century the Emperor Michael III had sponsored reconstruction of 
a mosque in the heart of the city.'* A Muslim gentleman would not 
have been advised to wander overland through Christian territory 
as a purely private adventure, but he might do so in the train of an 
embassy from one ruler to another. At first Ozbeg refused the 
Moroccan’s request, fearing the risk. 

But I solicited him tactfully and said to him “it is under your 
protection and patronage that I shall visit it, so I shall have 
nothing to fear from anyone.” He then gave me permission, and 
when we took leave of him he presented me with 1,500 dinars, a 
robe, and a large number of horses, and each of the khatuns 
gave me ingots of silver... The sultan’s daughter gave me 
more than they did, along with a robe and a horse, and 
altogether I had a large collection of horses, robes, and furs of 
miniver and sable. 

On 10 Shawwal (5 July 1332 or 14 June 1334) the cavalcade set 
out westward across the hot flat prairie, crossing the Don and the 
Dneiper, then turning southward toward the estuary of the 
Danube.'° Ibn Battuta was attended by a small following of com- 
panions and slaves, the Princess Bayalun by 5,000 horsemen under 
the command of an amir, 500 of her own troops and servants, 200 
slave girls, 20 Greek and Indian pages, 400 wagons, 2,000 horses, 
and about 500 oxen and camels. The peasants and herdsmen who 
had the misfortune to live along the route were obliged (as such 
folk were in all the Mongol states) to supply this monstrous 

The Steppe 171 

caravan with food, often to their destitution and ruin. After 
traveling some 52 days the company arrived at the fortress of 
Mahtuli on the frontier between Byzantium and the Christian 
kingdom of Bulgaria. The place is probably to be identified with 
the town of Jamboli (Yambol) in the southeastern interior of 
modern Bulgaria.'° Here the steppe wagons were exchanged for 
horses and mules, the Turkish amir and his troops turned back to 
the Volga, and the khatun continued on into the mountains of 
Thrace with her personal retinue. Ibn Battuta soon had plenty of 
evidence that he was entering an alien world: 

She left her mosque behind at this castle and the prescription of 
the call to prayer was discontinued. Wines were brought to her 
as part of her hospitality-gift, and she would drink them, and 
[not only so but even] swine . . . No one was left with her who 
observed the [Muslim] prayers except a certain Turk, who used 
to pray with us. Inner sentiments concealed [hitherto] suffered 
a change through our entry into the land of infidelity, but the 
khatun charged the amir Kifali to treat me honorably, and on 
one occasion he beat one of his mamluks when he laughed at 
our prayer. 

About three weeks after leaving Mahtuli the procession reached 
the landward walls of Constantinople. 

Ibn Battuta stayed in the city for more than a month. As a guest 
of the daughter of Andronicus III, he was given a robe of honor 
and awarded an interview with the emperor (who employed a 
Syrian Jewish interpreter and questioned him about the Christian 
shrines of Palestine). He wanted to see as much of the city as he 
could, and for this the emperor assigned him a Greek guide, who 
mounted him on a royal steed and paraded him through the streets 
in a noisy fanfare of trumpets and drums. He visited markets, 
monasteries, and the great church of Hagia Sophia (though he did 
not go inside because he would have had to prostrate himself 
before the cross). He traversed the Golden Horn, that is, the arm 
of the Bosphorus protecting the northern side of the city. in order 
to see the busy Genoese colony of Galata. 

He also had a brief promenade and conversation with a monk 
named George, whom he identifies as the ex-emperor Andronicus 
II. This little episode has confounded Byzantinists and scholars of 
the Rihla. Ibn Battuta reports accurately enough that in 1328 in 

172 The Steppe 

the climax of a seven-year civil war Andronicus III forced his 
predecessor and grandfather to abdicate at the point of a sword. 
The hapless old man retired to a monastery. He died, however, in 
February 1332, and by no plausible rearranging of the Rihla’s 
itinerary could Ibn Battuta have visited Constantinople in time to 
see him alive. But since the story of his encounter with someone in 
the streets of the city has the ring of truth about it, we may fairly 
suppose that the palace guide failed to clarify the identity of the 
mysterious cleric or, worse yet, was having a bit of fun with his 
credulous Arab guest.!’ 

Ibn Battuta’s recollection of Constantinople is offered in a spirit 
of tolerance, objectivity, and indeed wonder. But taken by itself it 
would mislead us. The Byzantines thought of themselves as the 
heirs of Rome and the guardians of Hellenic culture, but by the 
fourteenth century all the ponderous grandeur of nobles and pre- 
lates amounted to a vast pretension, kept up behind the walls of 
the bastion-city while all around the empire was slowly crumbling 
to bits. Though Andronicus stayed the territorial shrinkage on the 
European side and presided over a time of considerable artistic 
and literary vitality (as is often the case in civilizations on the brink 
of destruction), Byzantium in the 1330s was a minor Greek state of 
southeastern Europe and little more. Its international trade had 
been abandoned to the Italians, its currency was almost worthless, 
its landlords were grinding the peasantry unmercifully, its army 
was an assemblage of alien mercenaries, and its Asian territories 
had been all but lost to the triumphant Turks. It was a state living 
on borrowed time and past glory. Ibn Battuta either senses little of 
this or, to his credit, refrains from twisting the knife. Could he 
have believed that 121 years after his visit the descendants of 
Orkhan would storm the massive walls and transform Hagia 
Sophia into a mosque? 

Though the historical record suggests that Bayalun eventually 
returned to her husband’s ordu,'® she made known to the Turks in 
her suite that she still professed Christianity and wished to remain 
with her father for an indefinite period. She granted her escorts 
permission to return home, and thus Ibn Battuta left with them, 
probably sometime in the autumn of 1332 (1334).'? After 
journeying back through Thrace and recovering his wagons at the 
Greek frontier, he rode north into the steppe just as the terrible 
Asian winter was setting in. He was soon barricading himself 

The Steppe 173 

inside three fur coats, two pairs of trousers, two layers of heavy 
socks, and horseleather boots lined with bearskin. 

I used to perform my ablutions with hot water close to the fire, 
but not a drop of water fell without being frozen on the instant. 
When I washed my face, the water would run down my beard and 
freeze, then I would shake it and there would fall from it a kind a 
snow . . . | was unable to mount a horse because of the quantity 
of clothes I had on, so that my associates had to help me into the 


Reaching Astrakhan and finding that Ozbeg had returned to New 
Saray 225 miles up the Volga, the company turned northward in 
pursuit, riding along the frozen river as if it were a highway. They 
reached the capital probably in late November.”” 

New Saray was a creation of the Pax Mongolica. Ozbeg may have 
undertaken its construction only about 1330, but Ibn Battuta found 
it “of boundless size” and “choked with its inhabitants.” He claims 
that he spent half a day walking across the breadth of the town and 
back again, “this too through a continuous line of houses, among 
which there were no ruins and no gardens.””! It was a city of wood 
more than of stone, but he counted 13 congregational mosques and 
numerous smaller ones. Its complex of craft shops exported metal 
ware, leather, and woven silk and woolens. Its bazaars handled the 
Volga traffic in grain, furs, timber, and slaves, crisscrossed with the 
flow of the trans-Asian luxury caravans linking Persia and China 
with the Italian colonies on the Black Sea. 

Along with the silks, the decorated pottery, the mosaic tiles, and 
all the other goods by which civilized taste might be expressed on 
the Islamic frontier, there also arrived the little bands of scholars, 
mystics, and hopeful bureaucrats. Some of them came from Egypt, 
Bulghar, or Anatolia, most from the Irano—Turkish regions of 
northern Persia and Khwarizm. During his brief stay in the icy 
town, Ibn Battuta entered their circle and accepted their 
hospitality. One of the most eminent of the immigrants. an auth- 
ority on medicine and former head of a hospital in Khwarizm, even 
gave him a Turkish slave boy as a gift. The Moroccan also 
presented himself at the royal residence to give a full report on his 
trip to Byzantium. We may wonder what Ozbeg’s reaction may 
have been to his wife’s decision to remain in Constantinople, but on 
this the Rihla is silent. 

174 The Steppe 

Having proudly reached the northerly limit of his traveling 
career, Ibn Battuta left the Volga about mid December, de- 
termined, it would seem, to progress in the general direction of 
India. Over the ensuing eight months he made his way by an 
erratic and, to students of the Rihla, perplexing course to the 
valley of the Indus. For about the first five of those months he 
traveled in parts of Khwarizm, Transoxiana (Mawarannahr), and 
possibly Khurasan. Politically these regions fell among the Mongol 
realms of Kipchak, Persia, and Chagatay. Together, they 
embraced the immense arid zone extending from the northern 
Iranian plateau to the Altai Mountains and the Kazakh steppe, a 
land of sand deserts and barren, echoing plains. Not until his 
journey through the western Sahara 19 years later would he con- 
front such menacing, indomitable territory. 

Yet Muslim civilization had pushed into this unsparing country 
much before his time. The two river systems of the Amu Darya 
and the Syr Darya (Jaxartes) bisected the desert and, like the Nile, 
supported dense agricultural populations and big towns along dis- 
continuous ribbons of irrigated land. In the previous century the 
armies of Genghis had perfected their instruments of terror on the 
unfortunate peoples of Transoxiana and in the aftermath of the 
conquest civilization for a time simply vanished. It is a tribute to 
the human spirit that the desert bloomed with markets and 
mosques so quickly again, and this despite the later invasion of 
Hulegu and a succession of mass destructions perpetrated in wars 
between the Persian Mongols and their cousins, the khans of 

Ibn Battuta passed through the region during a period of rela- 
tive peace and prosperity. He found some of the towns he visited 
populous and flourishing. In Urgench (Urganj), provincial capital 
of the Golden Horde in Khwarizm and chief emporium of the 
fertile Amu Darya delta, he remembers that the bazaar was so 
crowded he could not get his horse through it and had to save his 
visit for a Friday, when most of the shops were closed. And this in 
a town which Genghis Khan had submerged entirely under water 
by opening a dam in the river. Bukhara, by contrast, once the most 
sophisticated city of all Transoxiana, was still struggling to revive 
after having been sacked, burned, and depopulated by Tatar 
armies in 1220, 1273, and 1316. “Its mosques, colleges, and 
bazaars are in ruins,” the Rihla reports, and “there is not one 
person in it today who possesses any religious learning or who 

The Steppe 175 

Map 8: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Central Asia and 
Afghanistan, 1332-33 (1334-35) 

New Saray 



Doubtful Journey 

Ae RE aw 
100, 290 300 490 500 600 Kin wd Am "Ghazna 
100 300 Mi. Ses 

176 The Steppe 

shows any concern for acquiring it.” Balkh, oldest city of the Amu 
Darya valley and capital of the ancient Greco—Bactrian empire, 
Ibn Battuta found “completely delapidated and uninhabited.” 

Mongol holocausts or no, Khurasan—Transoxiana remained to 
the landward commerce of Afro—Eurasia what the Arabian Sea 
was to the monsoon trade: the complex crossroads of trails con- 
necting all the major agrarian regions of the hemisphere with one 
another. Most of the time, Ibn Battuta and his party kept to the 
main roads linking the principal cities, sometimes, perhaps almost 
always, in the company of commercial caravans. The wagons he 
had traveled with in the northern steppe were no longer suitable 
further south. Crossing the Ustyurt plateau between the Volga and 
Khwarizm, he accompanied a caravan of camel-drawn carts, but in 
Urgench he reverted to horses and to camels mounted with litters. 
When he left Khwarizm he was sharing a double litter with al- 
Tuzari. He also had 50 horses given to him by Princess Bayalun 
during the trip to Constantinople. These animals had been meant 
to supplement his food supply, but he preferred simply to add 
them to his growing store of personal wealth. He admits that after 
he arrived in Khwarizm he began to accumulate a greater number 
of horses than he dared mention. He even bought an unusually 
beautiful black steed with part of a gift of a thousand dinars that 
the Kipchak governor of the region gave him. 

Aside from horses, the traveler’s property included a retinue of 
slaves, though we can never be sure how many he had with him, 
male or female, at any particular time. When he left the Volga he 
was sharing his wagon with no fewer than three young women. 
While traveling near Bukhara, one of them gave birth to a baby 
girl. The new father believed that the child was born “under a 
lucky star” and that his fortunes improved from the moment of her 
birth. But, sadly, she died two months after he reached India. 

He scarcely mentions his male companions other than the 
ubiquitous and shadowy al-Tuzari. Travelers always banded 
together on the open road, especially in such dangerous and 
waterless parts of the earth as this, so we may suppose that the 
composition of the party changed from one town to the next. In 
New Saray he was joined by one ’Ali ibn Mansur, a sharif and 
merchant of Iraq who planned to go all the way to India. But in 
Urgench this gentleman met up with a party of traders from his 
native town, changed his mind, and went off with them in the 
direction of China. At Tirmidh on the upper Amu Darya, Ibn 

The Steppe 177 

Battua linked up with a Persian sharif and his two sons who were 
also on their way to look for employment in Delhi. 

He and this kaleidoscope of associates visited about 21 important 
towns on his zigzag course through Khwarizm, Transoxiana, 
Khurasan, and Afghanistan. Or so he claims. If he visited all the 
cities of IIkhanid Khurasan that he mentions (Herat, Jam, Tus, 
Nishapur, Bistam, and others), his tour was rushed and distracted, 
evidenced in the Rihla in cursory descriptions and perfunctory 
recollections of experiences and encounters.” 

The most memorable event of these months was his meeting with 
’Ala al-Din Tarmashirin, Khan of Chagatay (1326-37). Ibn Battuta 
names him as one of the seven mighty kings of the world, though in 
most respects he was the least of the lot. Alughu, a grandson of 
Chagatay (the second son of Genghis), founded the khanate in the 
1260s in the aftermath of the border wars and dynastic quarrels that 
split the conqueror’s world empire into four kingdoms. The realm 
of the House of Chagatay encompassed an enormous region of 
desert, steppe, and mountain extending from the Amu Darya and 
Afghanistan to beyond the Irtisch River deep in the recesses of 
nomadic Asia. This was the geographic heart of the Mongol empire, 
but it was also the region where agrarian resources were most 
limited, where towns were most widely scattered, and where 
Turko—Mongol captains perpetuated the harsh ways of their 
ancestors long after their kinsmen in China and Persia were living in 
palaces and dining with lawyers and sycophantic poets. 

Ibn Battuta celebrates Tarmashirin as “a man of great dis- 
tinction” and “just in his government” because, like Ozbeg, he was 
the first of his dynasty to make Islam the official religion of state and 
only the second who would have paid much attention to an itinerant 
jurist from North Africa. Ibn Battuta stayed with the khan in his 
camp on the road southwest of Samarkand for 54 days in the cold 
late winter of 1333 (1335). When he left he was given 700 silver 
dinars, two camels, and a warm sable coat. Only later in India did he 
learn that perhaps within a few months of his departure from the 
ordu this khan “of vast kingdom and immense power” had been 
rudely overthrown by a treacherous nephew and a league of anti- 
Muslim commanders. The Moroccan had been lucky to see this 
tempestuous kingdom in a brief moment of unity under Islam, for in 
the aftermath of the rebellion civil war broke out and the tealm was 
sheared in half, not to be reunited again until the end of the century. 

Ibn Battuta crossed the towering Hindu Kush, the great divide 

178 The Steppe 

separating Inner Asia from the watershed of the Indus, in the late 
spring of 1333 (1335).** He might have chosen any of several high 
passes through the mountains. Merchants running caravans from 
Transoxiana to Afghanistan routed themselves through one pass or 
another depending on the reports of snow, rock slides, or bandits. 
After camping for a few weeks at Qunduz not far south of the upper 
Amu Darya (which forms the modern Soviet—A fghan border) in order 
to graze his horses and camels and await the warm weather, the faqih, 
his slaves, and his learned associates ascended the northern slope 
through the gorges of the Andarab River valley. He crossed the divide 
at the 13,000 foot Khawak Pass. “We crossed the mountain,” Ibn 
Battuta recalls, “setting out about the end of the night and traveling on 
it all day long until sunset. We kept spreading felt cloths in front of the 
camels for them to tread on, so that they should not sink in the snow.” 

Descending along the spectacular Panjshir Valley, the caravan 
passed through Charikar and onto the Kabul plain, where all the main 
mountain trails converged. At Ghazna Ibn Battuta and his friends 
were entertained by the Chagatay governor. Then, moving southwest- 
ward in the company of merchants driving 4,000 horses to market in 
India, they crossed the Sulayman Mountains by the main route 
through the Khyber Pass, or possibly by a more southerly road.” 
Traversing a narrow gorge, they had a skirmish with a band of Afghan 
highwaymen, and later Ibn Battuta and some of his party became 
separated for a time from the main caravan. But these were minor 
adventures, and after a three- to four-month journey from the far side 
of the Hindu Kush, they road into the Indus plain. Ibn Battuta tells us 
that he reached the great river on the first day of 734 A.H., or 12 
September 1333.76 

With this event, the first part of the Rihla comes to an end, signifying 
an important transition in Ibn Battuta’s career. During the three years 
between his departure from Mecca and his arrival at the banks of the 
Indus, he had become, with his slaves, his horses, and his pack train of 
expensive accoutrements, a traveler of considerable private 
means — but a traveler nonetheless. Except for his service as caravan 
gadi on the road between Tunis and Alexandria, he had never had any 
sustained employment in legal scholarship. Now, however, he was 
about to seek an official career. Word had gone round the mosques 
and madrasas of Islamdom that fortune and power were to be had in 
service to Muhammad Tughlug and the court of Delhi. The Rihla 

The Steppe 179 

The king of India . . . makes a practice of honoring strangers 
and showing affection to them and singling them out for gov- 
ernorships or high dignities of state. The majority of his 
courtiers, palace officials, ministers of state, judges, and rela- 
tives by marriage are foreigners, and he has issued a decree that 
foreigners are to be called in his country by the title of ’Aziz 
(Honorable), so that this has become a proper name for them. 

Gentleman, pilgrim, jurist, raconteur, world traveler, and guest 
of amirs and khans, Ibn Battuta had good reason to think he was 
just the sort of public servant Muhammad Tughluq was looking 



1. William Woodville Rockhill (trans. and ed.), The Journey of William of 
Rubruck to the Eastern Parts of the World (London, 1900), p. 94. 

2. “Rumi” is usually to be translated as “Greeks,” but at other points in the 
narrative IB uses the term when he means Genoese. See Gb, vol. 2. p. 467n. 

3. W. Heyd, Histoire du commerce du Levant au moyen-dge, 2 vols. (Leipzig, 
1936), vol. 2, pp. 172-74. 

3. IB associates a visit to Sudak with his later trip from Astrakhan to Con- 
stantinople. Other than inserting Sudak into the itinerary, he says nothing about a 
detour into the Crimea. More plausibly, 1B passed through Sudak on his way from 
Kaffa to al-Qiram. See Gb, vol. 2, p. 499n and Hr, pp. 470, 478-79. 

5. B. D. Grekov and A.J. Iakubovskij, La Horde d'Or, trans. F. Thuret 
(Paris, 1939), p. 91. 

6. Rockhill, William of Rubruck, p. 49. 

7. Ibid., p. 57. Marco Polo also describes the wagons. The Book of Ser Marco 
Polo, trans. and ed. Henry Yule, 2 vols., 3rd edn, rev. Henri Cordier (London, 
1929), vol. 1, pp. 252-55. 

8. The caravan might conceivably have crossed the Kerch Strait east of al- 
Qiram, then approached Azaq from the south. Some topographical hints in the 
Rihla, however, argue for the northern route. Hr, pp. 470-71. 

9. Rockhill, William of Rubruck, pp. 67, 85. 

10. Ozbeg led unsuccessful invasions of IIkhanid territory in 1319, 1325, and 
1335. J.A. Boyle, “Dynastic and Political History of the IIkhans” in The 
Cambridge History of Iran (Cambridge, England, 1968), vol. 5, pp. 408, 412-13, 
Bertold Spuler, Die Goldene Horde (Leipzig. 1943), pp. 93-96. 

11. IB states that he arrived at Bish Dagh on | Ramadan, which was 27 May 
1332 or 6 May 1334. 

12. At this point in the narrative IB claims to have made a journey, all within 
the month of Ramadan, from Ozbeg’s camp to the middle Volga city of Bulghar 
and back again, a total distance of more than 800 miles. Stephen Janicsek has 
argued convincingly that this trip never took place. “Ibn Battuta’s Journey to 
Bulghar: Is it a Fabrication?” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (October 1929), 
pp. 791-800. Janiscek shows that IB’s cursory description of both Bulghar and the 
Land of Darkness beyond (to which he does not claim to have gone but only heard 
about) are based on earlier geographical writings in Arabic. He also points out that 

180 The Steppe 

IB could not possibly have made the journey in anywhere near the time he allots to 
it and that he says virtually nothing about his route, his companions, his personal 
experiences. or the sights he would have seen along the way. The Bulghar trip is the 
only section of the Rihla whose falsity has been proven beyond almost any doubt 
though the veracity of some other journeys may be suspected. such as the trip is 
San‘a in the Yemen. We must remember, however. that the Rihla was composed as 
a literary survey of the Islamic world in the fourteenth century. It was well known 
among literate Muslims that Bulghar was the most northerly of Muslim communi- 
ties. Moreover, several medieval geographers wrote in fascination about the frigid 
Land of Darkness, that is, Siberia. As Janiscek argues, IB knew that a book about 
travels throughout Islamdom ought to include a description of those regions. If IB 
did not go to Bulghar. he might nonetheless satisfy his readers’ expectations by 
saying that he did. Scholars of the Rihla are generally in agreement that the 
Bulghar detour is a fiction. Gb, vol. 2, p. 491n and Hr, pp. 471-73. Also. because 
of IB’s rich and detailed description of life in Ozbeg’s ordu, we may suppose that he 
remained there throughout Ramadan 1332 (1334). 

13. A letter addressed from one Byzantine monk to another and dated 1341 has 
confirmed that at that time a daughter of Andronicus II] was married to Ozbeg 
Khan. R.J. Loenertz. “Dix-huit lettres de Gregoire Acindyne. analysées et 
datées,” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 23 (1957): 123-24; also Hr. pp. 474-76. 
“Bayalun™ is a Mongol name, not a Greek one. Paul Pelliot, Notes sur l'histoire de 
la Horde d'Or (Paris, 1949), pp. 83-84. 

14. Mehmed Izzeddin, “Ibn Battouta et la topographie byzantine.” Actes du VI 
Congres Internationale des Etudes Byzantines, 2 vols. (Paris. 1951), vol. 2. p. 194. 

15. IB’s reporting of his itinerary from Astrakhan to Constantinople is blurry 
and confused. There is, however, no reason to doubt that he and the princess 
traveled by way of the northern and western shores of the Black Sea. See Gb, vol. 
pp. 498-503n: and Hr, pp. 476-79. 

16. Gb, vol. 2, p. 500n. 

17. IB presents detailed, vivid. and generally accurate descriptions of the 
Byzantine court and some of the city’s important buildings. The account, however. 
is also muddled by errors. puzzling observations, and impossible stories. He in- 
forms us, for example, that the Latin Pope made an annual visit to Constantinople! 
The supposed meeting with the ex-emperor Andronicus II (whom IB calls George, 
when his monastic name was Antonius) is only the most egregious of his misunder- 
standings. Hrbek (Hr. p. 481) believes that IB had a meeting with someone 
important but fabricated his identity in order “to add a further item to his collection 
of personal acquaintances with sovereigns.” Neither Gibb nor Hrbek believe that 
the itinerary can be rearranged to place IB in Constantinople before February 

18. According to the letter of Gregoire Acindyne. she was with Ozbeg in 1341. 
See note 13. 

19. Hr, p. 477. 

20. Ibid., p. 482. 

21. Scholars formerly believed that both Old and New Saray were founded in the 
thirteenth century, the one by Batu. the other by his brother Berke. But recent 
numismatic evidence suggests that Ozbeg not only made his capital at New Saray 
but founded the city as well. I thank J. M. Rogers of the British Museum for use of 
his unpublished MS (1981) reviewing recent Soviet archaeological work on the 
cities of the Golden Horde. The great size of the city has been confirmed by 
excavations. Grekov and Iakubovskij. La Horde d'Or. pp. 135-43. 

22. On this scholar, Grekov and Iakubovskij. La Horde d'Or, pp. 157-58. 

23. IB’s journey through Khurasan is doubtful. His itinerary is confusing and his 
description almost devoid of personal details. He mentions only one stopover 
between Bistam in the western part of Khurasan and Qunduz in northern 

The Steppe 181 

Afghanistan, the straight line distance between them being more than 700 miles. He 
would also have had to undertake this excursion at top speed in order to sandwich it 
into his own chronological scheme. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 534) believes that this section 
of the narrative is “highly suspect” but offers no case. Most of the descriptive matenal 
is taken up with an account of the popular rebellion that gave rise to the Sarbadar 
state, one of the kingdoms that seized a share of greater Persia following the collapse 
of the IIkhanate in 1335. The revolt began in 1336. IB was in India by that time and 
does not claim to have witnessed any of the events he describes. See J. M. Smith, Jr.. 
The History of the Sarbadar Dynasty 1336-138] A.D. (The Hague, 1970). 

24. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 531) proposes that IB crossed the Hindu Kush at the 
Khawak Pass about the end of June. IB’s reference to snow and cold weather in the 
pass. however, suggests a month no later than May. See J. Humlum, La géographie de 
l' Afghanistan (Copenhagen, 1959). The Arabic passage of the Rihla Gibb translates 
“we stayed on the northern side of the Hindu Kush until the warm weather had 
definitely set in” may be rendered “until the warm weather had begun to set in.” D&S, 
vol. 3, p. 84. 

25. IB's route from Kabul to the Indus is a puzzle owing to the uncertain identity of 
several place names as well as his failure to say precisely where he reached the river. 
Gibb, Mahdi Husain, and Peter Jackson have analyzed the problem and each arrives 
at a different conclusion. The issue pivots on the identity of “Shashnagar,” which IB 
claims to have passed through on his road from Kabul to the river. If this locality is 
Hashtnagar, a district near Peshawar (in northern Pakistan), IB is likely to have 
crossed the Sulayman Mountains through the Khyber Pass. MH, pp. 1-2. If, however, 
it is to be identified with Naghar, a place south of Kabul, he probably entered the 
Indus plain in the Bannu (Banian) district about 100 miles south of Peshawar. Peter 
Jackson, “The Mongols and India (1221-1351)”, Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 
1977, p. 224. To complicate the problem further IB tells us that he spent 15 nights 
crossing a “great desert.” Gibb (Gb, vol.3, p. 591n) believes that he probably traveled 
through the desert south of Ghazna and reached the Indus in the Larkana district of 
Sind, that is, less than 300 miles from the mouth of the river. 

26. IB’s statement that he arrived at the Indus River on 1 Muharram 734 (12 
September 1333) is probably more or less accurate. The date is open to question, 
however, since he claims to have left Mecca at the end of 732 A.H. (12 September 
1332), yet he took about three years traveling from there to India. Therefore, one date 
or the other must be wrong, and if the Mecca departure date is correct he would not 
have reached India until the autumn of 1335. (See Chapter 6, note 2 for a fuller 
discussion of this issue.) On the whole, the indications that he crossed the Indus by the 
autumn of 1333 are more compelling than the arguments supporting his departure 
from Arabia in 1332. The evidence for the 1333 arrival may be summarized as follows: 

(a) IB reports events surrounding the departure of Sultan Muhammad Tughluq 
from Delhi in order to suppress a rebellion in Ma’bar in the far south of India (see 
Chapter 9). The revolt broke out in 1334. IB states that the sultan left the capital on 9 
Jumada I, which was 5 January in 1335 (see Chapter 9, note 21). IB had clearly been 
living in the capital for some time when this event occurred. If the dating here is 
correct, he must have entered India in 1333, or at least many months before the fall of 

(b) Muslim medieval sources date the deposition and death of Tarmashinn, Khan 
of Chagatay, in 1334-35 (735 A.H.). IB states that he heard about the khan‘s being 
overthrown “two years” after his arrival in India (Gb, vol. 3, p. 560). This would 
accord with IB’s having visited the ruler’s camp in the late winter of 1333. If he had 
been there in 1335, that is, very shortly before Tarmashirin was overthrown, he would 
likely have heard the news within a short time of reaching India, not two years. 

(c) Passing through Ajodhan (Ajudahan) on his way from the Indus to Delhi, IB 
recounts that he met the holy man Farid al-Din al-Badhawuni. Mahdi Husain (MH, p. 
20) explains that no shaykh of that name existed at that time and that IB must have 

182 The Steppe 

been referring to his grandson ‘Alam al-Din Mawj-Darya. Mahdi Husain also notes 
that this latter personage died in 734 A.H. Assuming Mahdi Husain is right on the 
question of the saint's identity, then IB must have crossed the Indus no later than 
that year. Gibb (Gb, vol. 2, p. 529n and vol. 3, p. 613n) also argues this point. 

Q Delhi 

Many genuine descendants of the Prophet arrived there 
from Arabia, many traders from Khurasan, many painters 
from China . . . many learned men from every part. In 
that auspicious city they gathered, they came like moths 
around a candle.! 


Arriving at the western edge of the Indo—Gangetic plain, Ibn 
Battuta was entering a world region where his co-believers made 
up only a small minority of the population. They were, however, 
the minority that ruled the greater part of the subcontinent of 
India. Over the very long term the fundamental patterns of Indian 
society and culture had been defined by the repeated invasions of 
barbarian charioteers or cavalrymen from Afghanistan or the 
steppe lands beyond. In the eleventh century, about the same time 
that the Seljuks were radically changing the political map of the 
Middle East, the Muslim Turkish rulers of Afghanistan began 
dispatching great bands of holy warriors against the Hindu 
cultivators of the Indus and Ganges valleys. These ghazis seized 
the main towns of the Punjab, or upper Indus region. Lahore 
became a capital of two Turko—Afghan dynasties, first the 
Ghaznavids and later the Ghurids. 

In 1193 Qutb al-Din Aybek, a Ghurid slave commander, 
captured Delhi, then a small Hindu capital strategically located on 
the Yamuna River at the eastern end of the natural military route 
through the Punjab plain to the fertile Ganges basin. In 1206 he 
seized power in his own right, proclaiming Delhi the capital of a 
new Muslim military state. During the ensuing century the sultans 
of the Slave Dynasty, as it was called after the mamluk origins of 
its rulers, defeated one after another the Hindu kingdoms into 
which North India was fragmented and founded an empire ex- 
tending from the Indus to the Bay of Bengal. 

The first phase of the Muslim conquest of North India was a 
splendid ghazi adventure of looting, shooting, and smashing up 


184 Delhi 

Map 9: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in India, Ceylon, and the 
Maldive Islands, 1333—45 



Alternative Itineraries 
between Ghazna and 

400 @00 800 Km. 

400 s(Mi. 

Delhi 185 

the gods of Hindu idolators. The new kings of Dehli, however, 
imposed civil order on the conquered areas and created a structure 
of despotism designed to tax rather than slaughter the native 
peasantry. In the rich plains around the capital, the Muslim 
military elite secured its authority as a kind of ruling caste atop the 
stratified social system of the Hindus. A pyramid of administration 
was erected linking the sultan, from whom all power derived by 
right of conquest, with several levels of officialdom down to the 
petty Hindu functionaries who supervised tax collections in 
thousands of farming villages. Like the Turkish rulers of the 
Middle East and Anatolia, the sultans learned proper Muslim 
statecraft from the Abbasid tradition, though adding here and 
there colorful bits of Hindu ceremonial. Within several decades of 
the founding of the sultanate, these erstwhile tribal chieftains were 
transforming themselves into Indo—Persian monarchs, secluded 
from the populus at the center of a maze of intimidating ritual and 
an ever-growing army of officials, courtiers, and bodyguards. 

Delhi grew rapidly in the thirteenth century, not because it was 
an important center of industry or a key intersection of trade, but 
because it was the imperial residence. As Ibn Battuta had 
witnessed in other leading capitals, the operation of the army, the 
bureaucracy, and the royal household required an immense 
supporting staff of clerks, servants, soldiers, construction workers, 
merchants, artisans, transporters, shopkeepers. tailors. and 
barbers. Delhi was typical of parasitic medieval capitals, its royal 
establishment feeding magnificently off the labor of the lower 
orders and the revenues of hundreds of thousands of Hindu 

In 1290 the Slave dynasty expired and was succeeded by two 
lines of Turkish sultans. The first were the Khaljis (1290-1320), 
men sprung from an Afghan tribe of that name. The second were 
the Tughlugids (1320-1414), called after the founding ruler, Ghiyas 
al-Din Tughlug. During the first four decades of these kings, the 
empire expanded spectacularly. "Ala al-Din Khalji (1296-1316), a 
brilliant administrator, created a new standing army of cavalry, 
war-elephants, and Hindu infantry. Advancing to the Deccan 
plateau of Central India, he conquered one important Hindu state 
and raided nearly to the tip of the subcontinent. Areas of South 
India that "Ala al-Din merely plundered, Ghiyas al-Din Tughlug 
(1320-25) and his son Muhammad Tughluq (1325-51) invaded 
again, then annexed to the empire, replacing Hindu tributaries 

186 Delhi 

with Turkish or Afghan governors appointed from Delhi. By 1333 
Muhammad Tughluq ruled over most of India. Thus the congeries 
of ethnic groups, languages, and castes that comprised the civiliz- 
ation of the subcontinent were politically united, however pre- 
cariously, for the first time since the Gupta empire of the fifth 
century A.D. 

The great danger of dispatching armies as much as 1,300 miles 
south of Delhi was that the northwest frontier might be inade- 
quately defended against new disturbances emanating from Inner 
Asia. In 1224, just 18 years after the founding of the sultanate, 
Genghis Khan irrupted over the Hindu Kush and penetrated as far 
east as the Indus. In the reign of the Great Khan Ogedei, the 
Tatars invaded again, seizing Lahore in 1241. Later in the century 
the Khans of Chagatay, hemmed into the steppe by the other three 
Mongol kingdoms, looked upon India as the most promising outlet 
for their combative energies. Chagatay armies and raiding parties 
crossed the Sulayman mountain passes in the 1290s and continued 
to do so repeatedly for three more decades. About 1329 
Tarmashirin, the Chagatay khan whom Ibn Battuta visited a few 
years later, invaded India and even threatened Delhi. But 
Muhammad Tughlug chased him back across the Indus, putting an 
end to further Mongol incursions of any moment (at least until the 
catastrophic invasion of Tamerlane at the end of the century). 

By successfully defending North India against the Tatars over 
the course of more than a century, the sultans earned 
well-deserved reputations in the wider world as champions of 
Muslim civilization, a status akin to their contemporaries, the 
Mamluks of Egypt. Thus Delhi, along with Cairo and the Turkish- 
ruled towns of Anatolia, became a refuge for skilled and literate 
men who had fled Transoxiana or Persia before the Mongols killed 
or enslaved them. The silver lining around the devastations of the 
Islamic heartland was the consequent flowering of civilized life in 
cities just beyond the reach of Mongol cavalry. In the time of the 
early Slave dynasty, Delhi had been an armed camp, an outpost of 
hardy faith fighting for its survival against Hindu idolators on three 
sides and Mongol devils on the fourth. But once the sultans 
showed they could defend the community of believers against such 
powers of darkness, Delhi rose quickly as the central urban base 
for the advance of Islam into the subcontinent. The rulers basked 
in their hard-won prestige by opening up their court and 
administration to all Muslims of talent, skill, or spiritual repute 

Delhi 187 

and patronizing them with stipends and gifts, as well as grand 
public edifices in which to pursue their vocations. 

From Khurasan and Transoxiana came theologians and legists 
who introduced the universalist standards of the Sacred Law. The 
sultan appointed immigrant scholars as gadis and legal advisers 
and generally deferred to them to enforce the shari’a in matters of 
religious practice and civil disputes involving believers. Since the 
Hanafi madhhab was dominant in Khurasan and Central Asia, it 
became the basis of juridical practice in the sultanate. As the 
Muslim population grew, so did the demand for qualified jurists, 
requiring the construction of colleges offering studies in Hanafi 
fiqh and the other religious sciences. According to the Egyptian 
scholar al-Umari, who wrote from plainly exaggerated information 
supplied by travelers returned from India, there were “one 
thousand madrasas in Delhi, one of which is for the Shafi’ites and 
the rest for the Hanafites.”* 

Also from central Islamdom came belle-lettrists, historians, 
poets, and musicians to entertain the imperial court, chronicle its 
achievements, and extol the virtues of the king. Though Hindi, 
Turkish, Gujarati, and numerous other Indian tongues could be 
heard in the streets and bazaars of Delhi, Persian was used in 
polite circles, thus extending its range as the language of literate 
prestige all the way from Anatolia to Bengal. Speaking and writing 
in Persian, the Muslim elite of India reaffirmed in effect their 
cultural and historical connections to the central lands and at the 
same time created a linguistic barrier of exclusivity and privilege 
between themselves and the Hindu masses. 

Craftsmen migrating from the west imported the Arabo-Persian 
architectural and decorative traditions. Delhi, like other rising 
Muslim cities of that period, grew outward from a hub of grand 
public buildings — mosques, palaces, Sufi khangas, colleges, and 
mausolea — that incorporated the domes, arches, and calligraphic 
inscriptions characteristic of Middle Period architecture in Persia. 
Since the immigrant community was small. however, Hindu 
artisans and laborers had to be hired in large numbers to carry out 
most of the work. Thus all sorts of native structural and decorative 
elements found their way into these buildings, some of them built 
with the sandstone blocks of demolished Hindu temples. 

The earliest Muslim Delhi was established within the refortified 
walls of the old Hindu town, Kil’a Ray Pithora. Here Sultan Qutb 
al-Din Aybek (and several of his successors) built the con- 

188 Delhi 

gregational mosque and mausolea complex called the Quwwat al- 
Islam. Near it rose the Qutb Minar, the great tapering sandstone 
tower whose bands of Arabic inscriptions proclaimed Koranic 
truths and the military triumphs of the first Slave sultans. By Ibn 
Battuta’s time three additional urban aggregations — three more 
cities of Delhi — had been founded, all on the west bank of the 
Yamuna River within about five miles of one another. One was Siri, 
built by Ala al-Din Khalji as a military camp and later walled in. 
The second was Tughluqabad, a walled complex and fortress 
founded by Ghiyas al-Din Tughluq. The third was Jahanpanah, 
where Muhammad Tughluq built a magnificent residence, the 
Palace of a Thousand Pillars. 

The. prospering of Muslim life in Delhi and numerous other 
Hindustani towns in the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries 
was evidence of a continuous stream of native conversion. India’s 
immigrant population of Turks, Afghans, Persians, and Arabs 
never represented more than a small minority of the total. By the 
time Ibn Battuta visited the country, the great majority of Muslims 
there were Indian-born. Most of India’s rural population remained 
true to the Hindu tradition. Though the sultanate required 
Hindus, at least in theory, to pay special taxes (as Christians and 
Jews under Muslim authority were required to do), the gov- 
ernment for the most part left them alone to live and worship as 
they wished. Nevertheless, Indo—Muslims were by the late 
thirteenth century working their way into the intelligentsia and the 
elite circles of the sultanate. Ministers and provincial governors of 
Indo—Muslim origin were being appointed. Indian-born scholars, 
poets, and religious doctors were appearing in the royal court. As 
Islam in the Indian context matured, the most conspicuous social 
tensions within the upper strata were occurring, not between 
Muslim and Hindu, but between the rising Indo—Muslim elite and 
the still dominant notables who traced their lineages to the older 
Islamic lands. 

In fact the cultural ties between India and the rest of the Dar al- 
Islam were becoming stronger in the early fourteenth century. 
Under the Muslim Ilkhans Persia was restored to its old position as 
the hub of circulation throughout the Islamic world. As a result, 
merchants, holy men, and envoys were moving in greater numbers 
between there and India over the high roads through Afghanistan. 
Both the Khaljt and Tughluq sultans cultivated diplomatic ties not 
only with the Ilkhans but also with the Mamluks and, later, the 

Delhi 189 

rulers of Kipchak and Chagatay. These connections in turn helped 
broadcast information about the sultanate among international 
professional and scholarly circles. Ibn Battuta may have first heard 
in Cairo about attractive opportunities for official service at the 
brilliant court of Delhi. 

It was sometime between 1327 and 1330 that Sultan Muhammad 
Tughluq decided on the policy of systematically filling the highest 
posts of his administration and judiciary with foreigners and re- 
warding them with fabulous gifts and stipends. This plan was but 
one of several peculiarities of his reign. Ibn Battuta was himself 
one of the prominent chroniclers of that period and shared with 
other contemporary writers certain norms and expectations as to 
the behavior of a proper Sunni ruler.” Most of the sultans and 
amirs who starred in the drama of the later Mongol Age complied 
outwardly with the standards of orthodoxy well enough that their 
historians applied the conventional panegyrics to them and their 
regimes. If the ruler upheld the shari‘a in religious and civil affairs, 
patronized the scholars and spiritual luminaries, gave generously 
to the prominent and the poor, attended feasts and Friday prayers, 
condemned pagans and Shiites, and refrained from indulging 
publicly in things forbidden. then learned opinion normally gave 
its stamp of approval. 

Muhammad Tughluq, however, was the odd duck of fourteenth- 
century rulers — eccentric, anomalous, baffling. In the eves of the 
educated men who served him (and later wrote books about him). 
he repeatedly deviated from the norms of tradition and advocated 
policies that were visionary, extreme, and unfathomable. Though 
he presided over his court in the grand style of the Abbasid 
Caliphs, cultivated relations with the major states of Islam, and 
doubled, in God's name, the size of the Indian empire. the official 
establishment could not adjust themselves to his quixotic schemes 
and contradictions. They ultimately deserted him wholesale. 

Muhammad was a religious scholar of greater attainments than 
any of the other more or less polished rulers of his time. He 
insisted that his Muslim subjects perform the ritual prayers and 
abstain from wine. He took a lively interest in legal studies and 
memorized large sections of the corpus of Hanafi law. He 
mastered the art of calligraphy and wrote elegant Persian verse. 
He learned Arabic in order to read religious texts. He showered 
patronage on scholars and divines. Yet he also pushed his inquiries 

190 Delhi 

well beyond the boundaries of orthodox propriety. He invited 
Hindu and Jain sages to court and engaged them in theological 
discussion. He consorted with yogis. He even took up the study of 
Greek philosophical rationalism, a subject anathema to 
fourteenth-century Sunni doctors.* 

Muhammad was also a man of action in the best tradition of the 
Turkish war captain. Rather than confining himself to the usual 
policy of merely seizing chunks of Hindu territory and squeezing 
them for taxes, he pursued in a spirit of relentless logic a series of 
ingenious, sweeping, and unprecedented projects to reorganize 
government and society. Most of these schemes were initiated 
during the first ten years of his reign, that is, prior to Ibn Battuta’s 
arrival. All of them ended in disaster. The sultan developed a plan 
to rationalize and improve agricultural production and 
tax-gathering in the fertile Doab region between the Ganges and 
Yamuna Rivers southeast of Delhi. The result was a serious decline 
of productivity and a protracted peasant revolt. He conceived a 
grand strategy to take the offensive in the northwest and invade 
the Chagatay Khanate. He raised a huge mounted force, kept 
them on the muster role for a year at great expense, then aban- 
doned the entire plan — except for dispatching an army into 
Kashmir, where Hindu mountain men annihilated it.” He issued 
copper coins backed by gold in the treasury in order to compensate 
for a shortage of silver, probably getting the idea from China. If 
the Chinese were amenable to token money, however, Indians 
were not. Counterfeiting became rampant, the coins dropped pre- 
cipitously in value, and the sultan finally had to redeem them for 
gold at immense cost to the government. 

In 1326, he decided to found a new capital at Deogir, renamed 
Daulatabad, a city located in the barren Deccan plateau more than 
400 miles south of Delhi. His aim was apparently to better 
assimilate newly conquered areas by shifting the center of gov- 
ernment to South India. If the scheme was politically logical and 
reasonably planned, it was from a human standpoint grievously 
unrealistic. The official classes comfortably ensconced in Delhi 
resisted the move, wanting nothing to do with life in that dismal 
province. The sultan responded to such recalcitrance by ordering a 
mass exodus of the royal household and almost the entire gov- 
erning corps. Modern historians are divided on the question of the 
extent to which Delhi was depopulated and ruined in consequence 
of the migration. In any case the experiment failed. If Muhammad 

Delhi 191 

briefly achieved a tighter grip on the south, conspiracies and 
revolts were soon erupting in the north, forcing him to return. 
Moreover, about 1329 he was obliged to defend Delhi against the 
invading army of Tarmashirin Khan. Within but a few years of his 
decision to move his government to Daulatabad, his officials and 
their retinues were being given authorization to desert the city and 
trek back to Delhi. 

The sultan appears to have decided early in his reign, perhaps 
following the resistance of his officials to resettling in Daulatabad, 
that he could best put his innovative policies into action by en- 
trusting them to foreign political servants on whose personal 
loyalty he could count in return for salaries and perquisites. Since 
educated men were constantly circulating from one Muslim court 
to another in that age, it was easy enough to attract them to India. 
But once again the plan backfired. The more respectable Sunni 
gentlemen recoiled at the sultan’s queer orthodoxy. The less hon- 
orable tried to get rich on Muhammad's naive generosity, then 
sneak out of the country at the first opportunity. 

All of the sultan’s murky, fruitless dreams for a model Muslim 
state reveal both an impressive vision and a deplorable inability to 
accommodate his will to social and political realities. He was a bull 
in the china shop of Indian society, insensitive to the delicate 
compromises among social groups and power cliques that had held 
the sultanate together for more than a century. The intricate 
regional and caste divisions within Hindu society, the primitive 
communications system, and the dogged rivalries within the 
Muslim elite itself all put far greater limits on central authority 
than Muhammad could bring himself to admit. 

As the criticisms of his ’ulama and the leading divines became 
known to him, he reacted with petulant brutality. Rather than com- 
promise with opinion, he chose to ferret out and punish those who 
failed by their disloyalty or incompetence to make his reforms 
succeed. In any Muslim state of that age the ruling warrior class 
was expected to be arbitrary, capricious, and nasty up to a certain 
limit in the interest of public order. But Muhammad Tughlug went 
too far. It was one thing to chastise rebels and thieves by having 
them cut in half, skinned alive, or tossed about by elephants with 
swords attached to their tusks. It was quite another thing to inflict 
such humiliations on distinguished scholars and holy men for 
merely questioning public policy or happening to be a friend of 
someone who did. “Not a day or week passed,” reports the con- 

192 Delhi 

temporary chronicler Barani, “without the spilling of much 
Musulman blood and the running of streams of gore before the 
entrance of his palace.”° 

At the same time that he repressed and terrorized his own boon 
companions and officers of state, Muhammad continued to bestow 
stupendous prizes and salaries on those he happened to favor at 
the moment. Barani relates: 

His indiscriminate liberality did not stop to differentiate be- 
tween the deserving and the undeserving, between an 
acquaintance and a stranger, between a new and an old friend, 
between a citizen and a foreigner, or between the rich and the 
poor. All of them appeared to him just the same. Nay more, the 
gift of the monarch preceded the request and the amount or 
value of the donation exceeded the wildest expectations of the 
receiver; so that the latter was literally confounded.’ 

The political message such actions carried was that the sultan, the 
Shadow of God, was the temporal source of all power, whether for 
good or evil, and that the people must understand their utter 
subordination to his will. Thus to take service with Muhammad 
Tughlug was to live a life of reckless insecurity, to spin the wheel 
of chance with every word or action on which the sultan might 
choose to have an opinion. 

As Muhammad’s schemes went awry and the empire began to 
crack, the atmosphere of the imperial court became increasingly 
paranoid and brooding. By 1334 the constructive energies of the 
government were exhausted, a seven-year drought was about to 
begin, and the sultan was facing the earliest of the 22 major 
rebellions that would consume the last decade and a half of his 
reign. The Sultanate of Delhi had reached its peak of power and 
was about to founder. It was in these conditions of imminent 
disaster that the Moroccan traveler chose to arrive in Hindustan. 

Ibn Battuta reached the valley of the Indus River at an uncharac- 
teristically tranquil moment in the history of that tumultuous 
frontier. After more than a century of chronic hostilities between 
the sultanate and the Mongols, Muhammad Tughluq had 
accomplished something of a truce with his Tatar neighbor. The 
routes from Persia and Central Asia were busy with trade, and 
distinguished visitors were arriving regularly at the government 

Delhi 193 

immigration and customs posts set up at the main crossing points 
along the river. 

At the Indus, intelligence officers charged with controlling the 
movements of persons in and out of the empire subjected the 
Moroccan and his friends to meticulous observation. Who is this 
individual? What does he look like? Where has he come from? 
How does he dress and behave? How many servants and animals 
does he have with him? The answers to these and numerous 
other questions were immediately written up and dispatched by 
rapid courier relay to the governor of the northwest frontier at 
Multan, a city east of the river in the Punjab region, and to the 
sultan in Delhi (or wherever in the kingdom he happened to be). 
The visitors were then instructed to proceed to Multan to await 
the sultan’s orders regarding their fitness to continue to Delhi 
and the degree of honor to be accorded them. 

Ibn Battuta relates that he did not in fact go directly to Multan 
but set off on a side trip to visit Sind, the arid valley of the lower 
Indus and its delta. The region was of special historic interest to 
educated travelers — and to readers of the Rihla — since it had 
first been conquered for Islam by an Arab army early in the 
eighth century. The highlights of Ibn Battuta’s detour included a 
five-day boat trip down the great river to the delta port of Lahari 
in the company of its governor, meetings with various Sufi 
divines, and an unpleasant brush with a rhinoceros. The itinerary 
of the trip is ambiguous because Ibn Battuta fails to make clear 
where along the Indus, within a range of about 550 miles, he had 
first arrived from Afghanistan.* Moreover, a_ study of 
chronological matters in the narrative suggests that the events he 
describes in connection with Sind may well have taken place at a 
later time, probably in 1341 when he traveled there from Delhi at 
the summons of the sultan.” It seems plausible that he and his 
company did in fact go directly to Multan in order to secure 
official clearance before traveling further into the empire. 

Located at that time near the Ravi River, one of the tributaries 
of the Indus, Multan was the military capital of the western 
borderlands. Multan was also known as the headquarters of the 
Suhrawardiya, one of the two important Sufi orders represented 
in India. Upon arriving in the city, Ibn Battuta presented himself 
before the governor, then took lodgings in a Suhrawardi khanqga 
Just outside the town. He was even introduced to Rukn al-Din 
Abu I’Fath, the Grand Shaykh of the brotherhood, thus fulfilling 

194 Delhi 

the astonishing prediction that the old Egyptian mystic had made 
to him in Alexandria seven years earlier. (On the road from 
Multan to Delhi a short time later he would visit Ala al-Din 
Mawj-i Darya, master of the Chishti order. This man was not 
quite the second of the three divines the Egyptian told Ibn 
Battuta he would meet in India. Rather it was his grandson. ) 

Ibn Battuta remained in Multan at least two months and 
perhaps throughout much of the winter of 1333-34.!" There he 
had the company of traveling notables from Bukhara, 
Samarkand, and other cities to the west. Most prominent among 
them was Khudhawand-Zada Oiwan al-Din, qadi of the Chagatay 
city of Tirmidh. Ibn Battuta had been traveling off and on with 
this judge, two of his brothers, and a nephew on the journey 
through Afghanistan. When the intelligence reports on the new 
visitors reached Muhammad Tughlugq, he replied that Qiwan al- 
Din was to be given special honors. Consequently, there arrived 
in Multan from Delhi one of the sultan’s chamberlains with 
instructions to accompany the gadi and other foreign gentlemen 
to the capital. Al-Makhdumah Jahan, the sultan’s mother, also 
sent along three eunuchs to escort Qiwan al-Din’s wife and 

No one, however, was to be permitted to proceed to Delhi on 
pretense of seeking official employment unless he planned to stay 
permanently. Ibn Battuta was interviewed again: was he serious 
in his intentions to serve the sultanate? He answered with con- 
viction, and we have no reason to doubt that at this point in his 
career he was expecting a long residence in India. Nonetheless, 
his intentions had to be put in writing. “When I told them that I 
had come to stay they summoned the qadi and notaries and drew 
up a contract binding me and those of my company who wished 
to remain in India, but,” he adds, “some of them refused this 

As another sign of his commitment, he had taken the trouble 
either in Afghanistan or the Punjab to buy a selection of suitable 
gifts to present to the emperor at the critical moment of his first 
audience. His purchases included a load of arrows, several 
camels, more than thirty horses, and, he recalls vaguely, “white 
slaves and other goods.” The financing of these expensive pre- 
sents reflected rather ominously on the climate of brash 
opportunism prevailing in Delhi. It was customary, everyone 
knew, for Muhammad Tughluq to respond to honorable visitors 

Delhi 195 

with gratuities of far larger value, making the symbolic point that 
he, and no one else, was the wellspring of all good things. 
Speculating on the likelihood of such unequal exchanges, men 
with capital advanced funds to newcomers to buy gifts with the 
promise of a handsome return out of the value of the sultan’s 
reciprocation. Always quick to grasp the local custom, Ibn Battuta 
took a loan from a Multani entrepreneur to buy part of what he 
needed. He notes in the Rihla that when he later paid the man 
back, “he made an enormous profit through me and became one 
of the principle merchants.” 

Leaving Multan probably some time in the late winter of 1334, 
Ibn Battuta and the other foreign gentlemen followed the 
chamberlain and his government retinue along the main military 
and commercial road leading eastward from the Indus watershed 
to the valley of the upper Ganges. The route ran the breadth of the 
high Punjab plain, where dense rice-growing settlements lay along 
the tributary system that spread like the fingers of many hands to 
the northeast of the Indus.'' Ibn Battuta was leading a group of 
about 40 companions, servants, and slaves. They were, we may 
assume, mainly the same people who had accompanied him 
through Afghanistan, including the Egyptian friend al-Tuzari and 
the young slave woman with the infant daughter she had borne her 
master in the camp of Tarmashirin Khan.'* Qadi Qiwan al-Din 
and his entourage, however, were all the center of official 
attention. Twenty cooks were even hired to go ahead of the main 
party each day, set up the evening camp. and greet the judge with 
a hot meal as soon as he arrived. 

The chamberlain might have been advised to take on fewer 
cooks and a larger body of soldiers to protect his guests. On the 
morning the caravan left the town of Abohar, Ibn Battuta and 21 
others lagged behind in the place for several hours. Finally setting 
out about midday to catch up with the main group, they were 
suddenly attacked by 82 Hindu bandits. Only two of the assailants 
had the advantage of being on horseback, but it was a close call 

My companions were men of courage and vigor and we fought 
stoutly with them, killing one of their horsemen and about twelve 
of the footsoldiers, and capturing the horse of the former. I was 
hit by an arrow and my horse by another, but God in His grace 
preserved me from them, for there is no force in their arrows. 

196 Delhi 

Apparently no force at all, for Ibn Battuta and his friends were 
certainly not dressed in armor plate. The bandits were soon 
driven off, and to celebrate victory in the fashion of the time the 
heads of the 13 slain were cut off, carried to that evening's 
stopping place, and suspended from the walls of a government 
fort. The incident was the young visitor’s first experience with the 
limits of imperial power among the rural Hindu population, even 
near the trunk roads of the sultanate. In his next brush with 
native insurgents some seven and a half years later, he would not 
be so lucky. 

Ibn Battuta’s first impression of Delhi might be clearer to us if 
he did not describe it in one part of the Rihla as “a vast and 
magnificent city... the largest city in India, nay rather the 
largest of all the cities of Islam in the East” and in another part as 
“empty and unpopulated save for a few inhabitants.” The con- 
tradiction probably reflects the ’ulama’s disapproval. which Ibn 
Battuta shared, of Sultan Muhammad’s decision in 1327 to move 
them to Daulatabad, his new capital in the dreary Deccan. Over 
about two years large numbers of officials, courtiers, and artisans 
did relocate. When Ibn Battuta arrived some time in the spring of 
1334, part of the intelligentsia was still in Daulatabad. When he 
tells us the city was “empty and unpopulated”, he was probably 
thinking only of the people that mattered, like a bored social 
climber at a crowded cocktail party who recalls that “nobody was 
there.” In fact the large lower-class Hindu population of Delhi 
likely never went anywhere, excepting servants and employees of 
the state. Indeed about the same time that the sultan imposed his 
Daulatabad policy he also started building Jahanpanah, his new 
walled urban complex and palace a few miles northeast of old 
Delhi. Moreover, by the early 1330s he was giving up his dream 
of a capital in the center of his empire and permitting groups of 
unhappy exiles to return north if they wished. There seems little 
doubt that the city Ibn Battuta saw was in fact the largest in India 
and growing rapidly to serve the insatiable needs of the governing 

When he arrived there, the sultan was absent in the Doab 
region southeast of Delhi. A tax revolt had erupted among the 
much-burdened peasantry, and Muhammad had been obliged to 
lead an army out from the capital to crush it. Nevertheless Ibn 
Battuta and his party went immediately to the new palace in 
Jahanpanah. There, in the huge wooden-roofed audience 

Delhi 197 

chamber called the Hall of a Thousand Pillars (Hazar Sutun). 
they paid their respects to Khwaja Jahan, the sultan’s vizier. 
They also presented gifts at the palace residence of 
al-Makhdumah Jahan (the sultan’s blind mother), ate a cere- 
monial meal, and accepted silk robes and other token gratuities 
befitting their status. At a second audience on the following day 
the vizier gave Ibn Battuta 2.000 silver dinars to “wash his head.” 
a symbolic gift of welcome proportioned in amount to the 
visitor's importance. A comfortably furnished house awaited him 
and his personal retinue in Kila Ray Pithora, the ancient Delhi 
of sandstone buildings and narrow streets clustered around the 
Quwwat al-Islam and its lofty minaret. In this house he would 
live during the next several years, passing many hours. we may 
presume, in the courts and domed arcades of the great mosque. 

Until Muhammad Tughlug returned to Delhi, Ibn Battuta had 
no official appointment. However. the sultan was receiving reg- 
ular reports on all the foreigners arriving in the capital in his 
absence. He sent orders to the vizier to give the new man. who 
had not yet lifted a finger in service to the state. an annual 
stipend of 5,000 silver dinars to be paid from the revenue of two 
and a half villages located about 16 miles north of the city.'* It 
was customary for state officials, army officers, and special 
honorees of the sultan to be paid regular allowances from taxes 
on crops produced in peasant villages rather than directly from 
the royal treasury. In the areas of North India where the auth- 
ority of the sultanate was firm, the thousands of rural hamlets 
were registered, grouped in units of one hundred, and 
administered at the local level by petty Hindu or Muslim 
functionaries under the authority of the provincial governors. 
Grants of revenue from these villages could be awarded. with- 
drawn, or transferred at the pleasure of the sultan, and they 
carried no hereditary rights. The grantee did not have to live on 
his estate (and normally did not) nor take responsibility for the 
governing of its inhabitants, a task the state assumed directly. 
The poor farmers who toiled to produce this income had, of 
course, nothing to say about these arrangements. 

Unknown fagih that he was. Ibn Battuta’s initial emolument 
did not amount to much by comparison with the revenue estates 
of the established elite. Nonetheless. while awaiting the 
emperor’s return during the late spring of 1334, he took the 
trouble to ride out to the North Indian plain to inspect his two 

198 Delhi 

and a half villages. The Hindu country folk inhabiting these 
wretched clusters of mud wall and thatch held no fascination for 
him. He says nothing in the Rih/a about the look of the hamlets 
or their residents, and he probably never bothered to visit them 
more than once. 

Then on 8 June word came that Muhammad Tughlug was 
camped at a castle just seven miles from the city. On the vizier’s 
orders, Ibn Battuta and the other newcomers went immediately 
out to the fort to greet the ruler with their gifts of obeisance. In 
order of their professional eminence each suppliant entered the 
audience room and was presented to the Master of the World, a 
tall, robust, white-skinned man seated, his legs tucked beneath 
him, on a gold-plated throne.'” This was the critical moment, for 
the emperor’s first reaction to a man could mean the difference 
between future riches and total, immediate ostracism from the 
royal court. 

I approached the sultan, who took my hand and shook it, and 
continuing to hold it addressed me most affably, saying in 
Persian “This is a blessing; your arrival is blessed; be at ease, | 
shall be compassionate to you and give you such favors that 
your fellow-countrymen will hear of it and come to join you.” 
Then he asked me where I came from and I said to him “From 
the land of the Maghrib”... Every time he said any en- 
couraging word to me I kissed his hand, until I had kissed it 
seven times, and after he had given me a robe of honor | 

Thus Ibn Battuta jumped the first hurdle into the circle of 
privilege. The next day he joined the triumphal entry into Delhi, 
a spectacular cavalcade of festooned elephants and cavalry, 
Hindu infantry columns, and singing girls. Muhammad Tughluq, 
the crusher of insurgent peasants, was now the benefactor to his 
people in the most extravagant tradition of a Hindu king: 

On some of the elephants there were mounted small military 
catapults, and when the sultan came near the city parcels of 
gold and silver coins mixed together were thrown from these 
machines. The men on foot in front of the sultan and the other 
persons present scrambled for the money, and they kept on 
scattering it until the procession reached the palace. 

Delhi 199 

Shortly after these events two court Officials paid a visit to Ibn 
Battuta and some of his associates to tell them the emperor was 
ready to make appointments to various government and religious 
posts: ministers, secretaries, commanders, judges, and madrasa 
teachers. “Everyone was silent at first,” Ibn Battuta remembers, 
“for what they were wanting was to gain riches and return to 
their countries.” He for one was ready to come forward, de- 
claring that he was descended from a long line of legal scholars 
and that he would be pleased to serve in some juridical capacity. 

Forthwith he and several other notables were led to the Hall of 
a Thousand Pillars, where Sultan Muhammad awarded him the 
important office of gadi of Delhi. The emperor controlled all 
appointments to the judiciary, which constituted a branch of 
government separate from the political administration. Ibn 
Battuta would serve under the gadi al-qudat, or Chief Judge of 
the realm. Moreover, in a city as large as Delhi he was probably 
only one of several judges holding comparable positions.'® His 
compensation was to be two villages in addition to the ones he 
already had, carrying a total annual salary of 12,000 silver dinars. 
He also received 12,000 dinars in cash as an advance bonus, a 
horse with saddle and bridle, and yet another robe of honor. 
Such an income was not nearly as large as that of other, more 
prominent appointees. The average Hindu family, however, lived 
on about 5 dinars a month; a solider in the royal army was paid 
1914,"7 Compared to ordinary folk of Hindustan, the obscure 
Moroccan fagih was about to become a very rich man. 

After several years of enjoying the favor of numerous kings 
and princes purely on the strength of his social status, earnest 
piety, and bright personality, Ibn Battuta was now walking into 
circumstances far more promising than anything he had known 
before. Muhammad Tughluq’s policy was to pack his government 
with foreign professionals on whose personal loyalty he thought 
he could rely. Alien origin had become a more important 
criterion for office than distinction and experience. Only such 
circumstances can explain this stranger from the Far West of 
Islam being handed a magistracy whose responsibilities should 
have put him way out of his depth. Since leaving Morocco, he 
had spent hardly any time in sustained study of the law, excepting 
his brief sojourn in Damascus and his months in Mecca. He had 
had virtually no experience as a jurisconsult or sitting judge. 

200 Delhi 

sultanate, yet he did not, as he pointed out to his new master, 
speak it well at all. He also admitted that, as a Maghribi, he was 
trained in the Maliki madhhab, whereas almost all shari’g 
decisions in India were founded on the Hanafi school. Very few 
people from Maliki countries lived in India, so there could hardly 
be much work to do. The sultan dismissed all these objections 
and appointed two Persian-speaking Hanafi scholars to serve as 
his “substitutes.” Their job was presumably to do the day-to-day 
work of hearing cases of religious infraction or civil disputes 
among Muslims, the normal responsibilities of a qadi. “They will 
be guided by your advice,” the emperor charged his new 
magistrate, “and you will be the one who signs all the 

Ibn Battuta’s appointment to what can only be characterized as 
a sinecure'® supports the complaint of contemporary critics that 
the official ’u/ama of the sultanate, comprising both the judiciary 
and the various state ministries, were on the whole a mediocre, 
self-interested, and acutely insecure group of men, more so than 
in other Muslim states of the time, and more so under 
Muhammad Tughlug than his predecessors. The emperor’s 
method of governing was to mobilize the skills and energies of 
the learned classes in the interests of his personal despotism. He 
demanded that the ’u/ama endorse his every scheme. He even 
routed the most saintly, apolitical Sufis out of their lodges, 
dispersing them to the provinces to propagate the faith under his 
personal orders. Though publicly he showed respect for the 
shari’a and the legal scholars (on a few occasions submitting with 
symbolic humility to a gadi’s unfavorable judgment in a case 
against the state), he curtailed the independence of his judges 
and controlled their legal opinions more closely than did other 
Muslim rulers of the time. 

Among officers of state, the sultan’s energy, wilfulness, and 
fabulous generosity invited toadyism and corruption. On the 
other hand, the ’ulama, though not as a group highly distin- 
guished, leaned to rigidity and ultra-conservatism in their Sunni 
orthodoxy, an attitude brought on partly by Islam’s precarious 
dominance in an overwhelmingly infidel land. Consequently, the 
sultan’s continuing flirtations with unacceptable, even pagan, 
philosophies, his strange reform ideas, and finally his failure to 
hold on to all the territory won for the faith in South India 
produced a swell of outrage, private mutterings, and secret 

Delhi 201 

resistance. Muhammad was undeterred. “My remedy for rebels, 
opponents, disobedient persons and evil-wishers is the sword,” he 
says in a hypothetical conversation with the chronicler Barani. “I 
will continue punishing and striking with my sword till it either 
cuts or misses. The more the people oppose me, the greater will 
be my punishments.”'” Ibn Battuta indeed bears witness to a 
desperate crescendo of brutality far worse than anything he had 

seen in other lands. 

In spite of all that we have related of his humility, his sense of 
fairness, his compassion for the needy, and his extraordinary 
liberality, 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 those who are for 
execution are executed, those for torture tortured, and those 
for beating beaten. 

Open-hearted, eager to please, and far too gregarious for his 
own good, the young qgadi soon found himself enmeshed in the 
morbid, dangerous politics of the imperial court. The sultan 
remained in Delhi only about seven months — from June 1334 to 
the following January. During this period neither Ibn Battuta nor 
his two “substitutes” got around to hearing any legal cases. 
Rather he occupied his time attending at court or accompanying 
his master on the great gaudy hunting expeditions for which all 
Turkish and Mongol warrior kings were known. These colossal 
promenades in the Delhi hinterland required the participation of 
almost the entire ruling establishment. Courtiers and high offi- 
cials were expected to purchase their own outing equipment, as it 
were, in diminutive imitation of the sultan’s splendid en- 
campment. Like everyone worthy of esteem, Ibn Battuta felt 
obliged to buy a large tent with a white fabric enclosure. together 
with food, utensils, clothing. carpets, animals, and a corps of 
servants sufficient to haul and supervise all this matériel. A team 
of eight men had to be hired to carry the dula, or decorated 
palanquin, in which a notable rode when not preferring his horse 
or elephant. In the Rih/a Ibn Battuta makes much of the “vigor 
and energy” he showed in always being ready to leave Delhi the 
same day the sultan did and how he was honored during these 

202 Delhi 

excursions with invitations to sit or ride in close proximity to the 
Shadow of God. 

Keeping up with the ruling class of India, however, was 
frighteningly expensive. Like the Turko—Mongol states, the 
sultanate was an extremely personal system of power. Bonds of 
loyalty and respect between social groups were maintained 
through a chain of favor starting with the sultan and extending 
downward through the political ranks to the lowliest servant. 
What the ruler expended in gifts and stipends his officeholders 
were expected to give back in future presents to him or redis- 
tribute to their own servants, clients, and suppliers. This 
medieval version of “trickle down theory” kept the political 
system reasonably stable, but it also put tremendous pressure on 
men of position to spend freely. Spectacular donations and 
purchases strengthened a man’s authority over those below him 
and his prestige among those above. Caution and frugality invited 
scorn. Any temptation to invest in long-term capital enterprise or 
save for a rainy day was easily resisted, for the state could part a 
man from his riches with devastating suddenness. Everyone in 
the elite circles, and especially the governors and senior military 
officers, were thus encouraged to compete feverishly with one 
another in stupendous, ceaseless spending. “If one of the nobles 
bestowed fifty horses in his wine party and gave robes to two 
hundred persons,” says Barani, “another noble hearing this 
would feel jealous, and would try to give away a hundred horses 
and to bestow robes on five hundred persons.””” 

Ibn Battuta was not of course in the same league with the great 
commanders of the realm, but he lost no time piling up debts to 
finance his gifts to the sovereign and a properly luxurious house- 
hold. He confesses frankly in the Rihla that he developed a 
reputation for extravagance and that the sultan was well aware of 
it. We should not conclude, however, that he was necessarily a 
bigger spender than other men of comparable status. He admits 
freely of his prodigality, not to confess humbly to a bad habit, but 
to show that he lived generously and expansively as befitting a 
qadi of Delhi. Nonetheless, he had to find a way to pay off the 
merchants who had staked him to his début in the capital because 
they were preparing to leave the country on a commercial 
venture. The amount in question was 55,000 silver dinars. The 
Rihla rather tires the reader with its lengthy description of his 
strategies for getting Muhammad Tughluq to pay his bills for 

Delhi 203 

him, suggesting that he spent a good part of his first half year in 
Delhi preoccupied with his personal finances. To broach the 
subject before his master he composed a praise poem to him in 
Arabic that ended, candidly enough, with the lines: 

Make speed to aid the votary to thy shrine, 
And pay his debt — the creditors are dunning. 

The sultan was pleased with the ode and agreed to pay, but the 
disbursement from the treasury was held up. Ibn Battuta then got 
his creditors to make an appeal to Muhammad on his behalf. 
Success again, but payment was delayed a second time because of 
certain procedural improprieties involving another official. Ibn 
Battuta appealed once more, this time sending the sultan three 
camels, two gilded saddles, and plates of sweets. At long last the 
money was released, not only the 55,000 dinars for the debt but 
also the 12,000 the sultan had earlier agreed to give him. 

By the time all this was settled Muhammad Tughluq was 
preparing to leave the capital once again. Sometime in 1334 
rebellion had broken out in Ma’bar, the Tamil-speaking region in 
the far southeast of the subcontinent that had been annexed to 
the empire by Muhammad Tughluq’s father only eleven years 
earlier. The leader of the rising was not a Hindu prince but Jalal 
al-Din Ahsan Shah, the sultan’s own governor. Rallying the 
support of the Muslim amirs and soldiers under his authority, he 
proclaimed himself Sultan of Ma’bar. Despite the political perils 
of campaigning 1,300 miles from the capital, Muhammad 
mustered an army to march to Daulatabad, then on to Madurai, 
chief city of Ma’bar. Ibn Battuta expected to be ordered to go 
along on the expedition. To his surprise and relief, the sultan 
instructed him to remain in Delhi and, aside from his judgeship, 
appointed him administrator of the mausoleum of Qutb al-Din 
Mubarak, the Khalji sultan who reigned from 1316 to 1320 and 
under whom Muhammad Tughluq had entered military service as 
a young man. Just before the royal departure on 5 January 
1335,?' Ibn Battuta gained one more audience with his master, 
this time persuading him to allot extra funds for the upkeep of 
the tomb, not to mention money to repair his own residence. 

During the next two and a half years, he resided in Delhi. 
refurbishing his house, building a little mosque next to it, and 
running up more debts. He even spent, much to his later 

204 Delhi 

embarrassment, 1,060 dinars a friend had left in his trust before 
leaving with the sultan. He and his substitutes may have heard legal 
cases in Delhi during this period, but he makes no mention of them. 
His principal interest seems to have been the mausoleum. The burial 
place of a sultan was often an important royal endowment. It was 
first of all a mosque but might also have associated with it a college, a 
Sufi retreat, and facilities to dispense food and lodging to wayfarers 
and the needy. Ibn Battuta had to supervise all these functions. He 
recalls that this complex employed 460 persons, including Koran 
reciters, teachers, theological students, Sufis, mosque officials, 
clerks, and various classes of cooks, servants, and guards. All of 
these people were supported from the revenue of 30 villages whose 
crops were assigned to the tomb and with funds allocated directly 
from the state treasury. He also busied himself overseeing con- 
struction of a dome over the sepulchre.”* 

His responsibilities were made even greater by the disastrous 
famine that hit North India in 1335 and lasted seven years. Barani 
reports that “thousands upon thousands of people perished of 
want,”*’ and Ibn Battuta speaks of Indians being reduced to eating 
animal skins, rotten meat, and even human flesh. As the famine 
became general and starving country folk poured into Delhi to find 
relief, Ibn Battuta distributed quantities of food from the stores 
allocated to the mausoleum. He presents a picture of himself in this 
work as an exemplary administrator, mentioning that the sultan sent 
him a robe of honor from Daulatabad after hearing from one of his 
officers about the fine job the Maghribi was doing dispensing welfare 
to the stricken. 

Some time during this period, probably in the summer of 1335 or 
1336, he left Delhi for two months to make an official inquiry in the 
region of Amroha, a town located across the Ganges about 85 miles 
east of Delhi.** He traveled with a proper retinue, including 30 
companions and “two brothers, accomplished singers, who used to 
sing to me on the way.” Charges had been made that ‘Aziz al- 
Khammar, the district’s tyrannical tax-collector, was holding back on 
grain shipments assigned from a number of villages to the 
mausoleum. Meeting first with the notables of Amroha, Ibn Battuta 
learned that al-Khammar was to be found in a village on the Sarju 
River, requiring a journey of another 190 miles or so eastward across 
the north Gangetic plain.*” Finally catching up with his man, he 
succeeded in having him arrange for transport of a large quantity of 
grain to Delhi. 

Delhi 205 

But more revealing of the young qadi’s authority was his official 
investigation of a violent feud that had broken out between al- 
Khammar and the amir of the military district. Al-Khammar pre- 
sented a number of complaints against the officer, including the 
charge that one of the amir’s servants, a man named al-Rida, had 
broken into his house, stolen 5.000 dinars, and drunk some wine. 

] interrogated al-Rida on this subject and he said to me “I have 
never drunk wine since J left Multan, which is eight years ago.” 
I said to him “Then you did drink it in Multan?” and when he 
said “Yes” I ordered him to be given eighty lashes and impris- 
oned him on the charges preferred. because of the presumptive 
evidence against him. 

Ibn Battuta was not behaving with arbitrary severity here. 
Rather he was imposing the precise sharia punishment for im- 
bibing wine — 80 lashes, no more, no less. It was a religious 
infraction falling within a gadi’s normal authority. On the charge 
of burglary. however, the man was to suffer the penalty of the 
sultan’s law and thus sent off to Delhi in chains. If Ibn Battuta 
sentenced other malefactors to the lash while he served in Delhi, 
we have no way of knowing, for this is the only judgment he 
reports having made during his years in India. 

Some time in 1337 or 1338 the sultan returned north. Because of 
the famine that still raged around Delhi, he apparently stopped 
there only briefly before moving to a temporary capital at a place 
on the west bank of the Ganges some distance north of the town of 
Kanauj (Qinnawj).”° Intending to remain there several months, he 
ordered construction of a modest palace and called it Sargadwari, 
the Gate of Paradise. It was hardly so happy a residence. for the 
expedition against Ma’bar had ended in total failure. Muhammad 
had advanced as far as the central Deccan when an epidemic broke 
out among his troops, forcing him to return to Daulatabad and 
leaving the traitorous Ahsan Shah still on his throne in Madurai. 
Not only did the embattled sultan lose any hope of preventing the 
secession of Ma’bar, but between the time he left Delhi and re- 
turned to the north, several other defecting Turkish or Afghan 
commanders raised rebellions, effectively terminating imperial 
rule over much of South and Central India. 

The empire disintegrating around him, the sultan summoned 

206 Delhi 

many of his Delhi officials to join him at Sargadwari, Ibn Battuta 
among them. Some time after the gadi and his entourage arrived 
there, “Ain al-Mulk, the Indo—Muslim governor of the province 
immediately east of the Ganges, revolted out of fear that the 
emperor wrongly suspected him of disloyalty. After boldly raiding 
the army’s stocks of elephants and horses, ’Ain al-Mulk, four of 
his brothers, and a force of Hindu soldiers escaped eastward across 
the river to safety. At this point the sultan contemplated marching 
back to Delhi to reinforce his depleted army and deal with the 
rebels at some later time. Ibn Battuta, who was in the thick of the 
crisis and an eye witness to all that occurred, reports that 
Muhammad’s commanders urged him to strike back at the rebels 
before they had time to consolidate their position. If Muhammad 
Tughlug was a disaster as a politician, he had proven himself a 
skillful soldier and tactician from the time of his father’s reign. 
Taking his officers’ advice, he advanced by forced march along the 
west bank of the Ganges to Kanauj to secure the town ahead of 
Ain al-Mulk. Ibn Battuta was traveling in the vanguard under the 
command of the vizier Khwaja Jahan. In the meantime ’Ain al- 
Mulk and his company crossed the river again. Foolishly over- 
estimating his own military talents and the likelihood of defections 
from the sultan’s ranks, ’Ain al-Mulk attacked the imperial 
vanguard near Kanauj in the early hours of the morning. 

The troops, then, drawing their swords, advanced towards their 
adversaries and a hot battle ensued. The sultan gave orders that 
his army’s password should be “Dilhi” [Delhi] and “Ghazna”; 
each one of them therefore on meeting a horseman said to him 
“Dilhi” and if he received the answer “Ghazna” he knew that 
he was one of his side and if not he engaged him. The aim of the 
rebel had been to attack only the place where the sultan was, 
but the guide led him astray and he attacked the place of the 
vizier instead . . . In the vizier’s regiment there were Persians, 
Turks and Khurasanians; these, being enemies of the Indians, 
put up a vigorous fight and though the rebel’s army contained 
about 50,000 men they were put to flight at the rising of the day. 

Numerous rebel soldiers drowned trying to reach the east bank 
of the river; others were captured, including ‘Ain al-Mulk himself, 
and brought before the sultan. “Muleteers, pedlars, slaves and 
persons of no importance” were released, but on the very after- 

Delhi 207 

noon of the battle 62 of the traitorous leaders were thrown to the 
elephants. “They started cutting them in pieces with the blades 
placed on their tusks and throwing some of them in the air and 
catching them,” Ibn Battuta remembers, “and all the time the 
bugles and fifes and drums were being sounded.” ‘Ain al-Mulk 
must have expected a similar fate, or worse. But what Muhammad 
Tughlug could take away he could also give. Convinced that his 
governor had acted rashly “through mistake,” as Barani has it,”” 
the emperor pardoned him and gave him the modest post of 
supervising the royal gardens in Delhi. 

Despite his total victory, Muhammad returned to his capital in a 
fury of despair.*” The famine raged on, Bengal had broken away 
from the sultanate or was about to, other revolts were igniting here 
and there, and all his dreams of a tidy, productive empire were 
falling to ruin. Thus he lashed out at whatever enemies, real or 
imagined, happened to be at hand. In such a sinister environment 
as this, only the most circumspect, inconspicuous officeholder 
might expect to survive indefinitely. Eager, sociable young qadis, 
on the other hand, were likely to make a disastrous slip sooner or 

It might well have happened earlier than it did. At some point 
during his residence in Delhi, Ibn Battuta married a woman 
named Hurnasab and had a daughter by her. As usual we learn 
almost nothing in the Rihla about his domestic affairs, except that 
this woman was a daughter of Ahsan Shah, leader of the Ma’bar 
rebellion, and a sister of Sharif Ibrahim, a court official and 
governor who had plotted a rebellion and was subsequently ex- 
ecuted in the palace while Ibn Battuta was in attendance there. 
Although the Rihla gives no hint that his marriage to Hurnasab 
brought him under suspicion, having family ties with men guilty of 
high treason was hardly an advantage at the court of Muhammad 
Tughluq. Ibn Battuta would later in his travels be a guest of one of 
Ahsan Shah’s successors in Ma’bar, suggesting that he may well 
have had some concealed sympathy for the rebellion there.”” 

The event that finally got him into trouble was his friendship 
with Shaykh Shihab al-Din, a venerable Sufi originally from 
Khurasan. It was a long-held tradition among the most pious and 
principled divines of Islam to shun relationships with secular rulers 
on the argument that such collaboration would taint them and 
detract from their total service to God. Nizam al-Din Awliya, the 
illustrious master of the Chishti brotherhood who died eight years 

208 Delhi 

before Ibn Battuta came to India, bluntly cold-shouldered both Khalji 
and Tughluq emperors at every opportunity. “The house of this 
humble one has two doors,” Nizam al-Din is known to have said. “If 
the Sultan enters through one, I shall go out by the other.”*’ Such 
aloofness as this was quite unacceptable to Muhammad Tughlug, 
whose political theory included the idea that Sufi ascetics and ivory- 
tower theologians should submit to his will as much as the official 

Whether Shihab al-Din was a Chishti or not is unclear, but twice he 
brashly refused to obey his sovereign’s commands. In the first incident 
he spurned a government post offered to him. In retaliation 
Muhammad had the shaykh’s beard plucked out hair by hair, then 
banished him to Daulatabad. Some time later he had him restored to 
favor and appointed him to an office, which in that instance Shihab al- 
Din agreed to accept. When Muhammad went off on the Ma’bar 
expedition, Shihab al-Din established a farm near the Yamuna Rivera 
few miles from Delhi and there dug himself a large underground house 
complete, as Ibn Battuta describes it, with “chambers, storerooms, an 
oven and a bath.” Returned to the capital, the sultan ordered Shihab 
al-Din to appear at court, but the troglodyte refused to emerge. When 
Muhammad had him summarily arrested, the shaykh retorted that the 
sultan was an oppressor and a tyrant. The court ’ulama pleaded with 
him to recant. When he would not, he was tortured in the most 
heinous manner, then beheaded. 

Ibn Battuta, by contrast, was hardly the sort to martyr himself for 
rigid principles. The odor of politics did not bother him at all, and 
official service and reward were his ambition. Unfortunately, he had 
made the mistake of going out one day to see Shihab al-Din and his 
marvelous cave. Following the shaykh’s arrest, the sultan demanded a 
list of all who had visited him, and the Maghnibi’s name was on It. 
“Thereupon,” Ibn Battuta recalls, “the sultan gave orders that four of 
his slaves should remain constantly beside me in the audience-hall, 
and ‘customarily when he takes this action with anyone it rarely 
happens that the person escapes.” For nine days Ibn Battuta remained 
under guard, imagining in cold horror his short final journey to the 
main gate of the Jahanpanah palace where executions were carried out 
and the corpses left to lie three days in public view. 

The day on which they began to guard me was a Friday and God 
Most High inspired me to recite His words Sufficient for us is God 
and excellent the Protector. | recited them that day 33,000 times and 

Delhi 209 

passed the night in the audience-hall. I fasted five days on end, 
reciting the Koran from cover to cover each day, and tasting 
nothing but water. After five days I broke my fast and then 
continued to fast for another four days on end. 

Then, just after Shihab al-Din was executed, the terrified gadi, 
much to his surprise, was suddenly released and allowed to go 

Shaken by this dreadful experience, he secured permission a 
short time later to withdraw from his official duties and seclude 
himself with Kamal al-Din "Abdallah al-Ghari, a well-known Sufi 
who occupied a hermitage, indeed another cave, on the outskirts 
of Delhi. Kamal al-Din was a rigorous ascetic, living in extreme 
poverty and performing awesome feats of self-denial. Ibn Battuta 
had gone into brief periods of spiritual retreat previously in his 
career, but this time he threw himself into the abstinent life, 
ridding himself of his possessions, donning the clothes of a beggar, 
and fasting to the point of collapse. He remained in these penitent 
circumstances for five months, probably unsure of what he would 
do next. Apparently he had decided at least that life with 
Muhammad Tughluq was far too dangerous to continue. 

Meanwhile, the sultan went on a military tour to Sind and from 
the town of Sehwan summoned his gadi to appear before him. Ibn 
Battuta presumably made the journey immediately, though the 
Rihla has no comment on it or the route.*'! When he arrived, 
Muhammad received him “with the greatest kindness and 
solicitude” and pressed him to return to his judgeship and rejoin 
the palace circle. Determined to avoid that fate at all costs, Ibn 
Battuta countered with a request to make the hajj, the most 
persuasive reason he could come up with for getting permission to 
leave the country. Much to his relief, the sultan agreed. For 
several weeks thereafter, beginning in June 1341, he resided in 
another Sufi Ahanqa, this time progressively extending his periods 
of self-denial until finally he could fast for 40 days at a stretch. 

Then suddenly he was called into the royal presence again, this 
time to hear an astounding proposal. Knowing his “love of travel 
and sightseeing,” the sultan wished to make his North African gadi 
ambassador to the Mongol court of China. His mission would be to 
accompany 15 Chinese envoys back to their homeland and to carry 
shiploads of gifts to the Yuan emperor. Ibn Battuta was preparing 
to leave for Mecca and until that moment probably had no thought 

210 Delhi 

of traveling eastwards of India. Now he was being handed an 
opportunity, not only to get away from Muhammad Tughlug and the 
gloom of Delhi, but to visit the further lands of Islam and 
beyond — and to do it in grander style than he had ever traveled 
before. It was an offer much too promising to refuse. 


1. Quoted in P. Hardy, Historians of Medieval India (London, 196), p. 98. 

2. Ibn Fadl Allah al--Uman, A Fourteenth Century Arab Account of India under 
Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq, trans. and ed. Iqtidar Husain Siddigi and Qazi 
Mohammad Ahmad (Aligarh, 1971), p. 36. 

3. Since IB lived and traveled in India for about a decade and since he and his editor 
expected literate Moroccans to be particularly interested in facts about that distant land, 
he devotes nearly a fifth of the Rih/a to a description of the history, political affairs, 
social customs, class relations, and Muslim religious life of the sultanate and other 
regions of the subcontinent. The Rihia is one of a very few contemporary literary sources 
on fourteenth-century India, especially the life and times of Muhammad Tughlua. IB is 
indeed the sole source of information on a number of historical events, including some 
of the rebellions against the sultan. He also gives a brief dynastic history of the kingdom, 
based, as he reveals, on information supplied to him mainly by Kamal al-Din ibn al- 
Burhan, the chief judge. Where IB’s reporting has been checked against the other 
contemporary sources, he has been found reasonably accurate. For the modern 
historian, however, the value of the narrative has been restricted by the lack of a clear 
chronological framework and almost no references to either absolute or relative dates. 
The other chronicles of the time suffer from the same deficiency. 

Since the Rihla is a book for Muslims about Muslims. indeed literate Muslims, it is an 
inadequate source on Hindu society and civilization. Though IB does describe certain 
Hindu customs and gives some examples of the interpenetration of Hindu and Muslim 
culture, he is generally disinclined to examine the life of Muslim peasant folk, much less 
infidel peasant folk. Despite the thread of amiable tolerance that runs through the 
Rihla, 1B’s perspective is identical with that of the other Muslim writers of the time. “For 
them, indeed as for Muslim historians outside India,” Peter Hardy writes, “the only 
significant history is the history of the Muslim community; they are historians of the res 
gestae of the politically prominent members of a group united by ties of common faith 
rather than historians of the whole people of the area controlled by the Delhi sultan.” 
Historians of Medieval India, p. 114. 

4. Muhammad Tughlugq was also suspected of being under the pernicious influence 
of a disciple of Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328), a famous theologian and exponent of the 
Hanbali madhhab who had lived in Damascus. Ibn Taymiyya incurred the opposition of 
the orthodox scholars by his critical rejection of Sufi mysticism and by his insistence on 
the right of ijtihad, that is, the freedom to inquire into the foundations of particular 
points of law even where an authoritative madhhab decision already existed. IB claims 
to have heard him preach in Damascus in 1326 and characterizes him as having, 
according to Gibb’s translation, “some kink in his brain.” Gb, vol.1, p. 135. The validity 
of IB’s remark is examined by D. P. Little, “Did Ibn Taymiyya Have a Screw Loose?” 
Studia Islamica 41 (1975): 39-111. 

5. Peter Jackson links the plan for the conquest of Chagatay with an abortive 
invasion of Kashmir, called the Qarachil expedition. “The Mongols and the Delhi 
Sultanate in the Reign of Muhammad Tughlug (1325-51).” Central Asiatic Journal 19 
(1975): 128-43. 

Delhi 211 

6. Ziya al-Din Barani, Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, trans. and ed. H.M. Elliot and 
John Dowson, The History of India as Told by its Own Historians, vol. 3 
(Allahabad, 1964), p. 236. Barani was a courtier at the court of Muhammad 
Tughluq and perhaps an acquaintance of IB. Under the patronage of Firuz Shah, 
Muhammad’s successor, he wrote a history of the sultanate from 1266 to 1351. He 
interprets each reign in the light of his own orthodox morality and finds 
Muhammad Tughluq badly wanting. 

7. Quoted in K.M. Ashraf, Life and Conditions of the People of Hindustan, 
2nd edn (New Delhi, 1970), p. 150. 

8. See Chapter 8, note 25. 

9. IB states that his first visit to Sind took place shortly after the suppression of 
a local uprising, the Sumra revolt, by the military governor Imad al-Mulk Sartiz. 
This official was not appointed, however, until about 1337. Peter Jackson, “The 
Mongols and India (1221-1351),” Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 1977, pp. 
225-26. IB may therefore be confusing this alleged tour of Sind with the trip he 
took there from Dethi shortly before July 1341. He also says that he visited Sind for 
the first time during the “hottest period of the summer.” Such a remark fits poorly 
into the chronological scheme of his arrival in India, which he claims began on 12 
September 1333. There is no evidence that he remained in the Punjab and Sind 
from then until the following summer. The 1341 visit, however, apparently did take 
place in early summer, which was indeed the time of the scorching southwesterly 
winds. Jackson develops a line of argument about IB’s chronology to suggest that 
he did not visit China at all, that he stayed in India until 1346-47 (747-48 A.H.), 
and that he left there definitively by way of an overland route through Sind and 
Khurasan. Jackson admits, however, that if IB did pass through Sind as late as 
1346-47, Sartiz was no longer governor there, having been transferred to the 
Deccan in 1345 (p. 226). Thus the Sumra rebellion, for which IB offers the only 
description, may well have taken place in 1341 rather than 1333. M.R. Haig 
discusses IB’s itinerary in Sind and struggles unsuccessfully with the chronological 
difficulties. “Ibnu Batuta in Sindh,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 19 
(1887): 393-412. C. F. Beckingham suggests the Sind visit may have taken place in 
1341 rather than 1333-34. “Ibn Battuta in Sind” in Hamida Khuhro (ed.), Sind 
through the Centuries: Proceedings of an International Seminar, Karachi 1975 
(Karachi, 1981), pp. 139-42. 

10. IB states that he had been in Multan for two months when the sultan’s 
chamberlain arrived. Gb, vol. 3, p. 606. If he did not in fact visit Sind at this time, 
he may have stayed quite a bit more than two months in Multan. 

11. A description of the route during the Sultanate period is found in A.M. 
Stow, “The Road between Delhi and Multan,” Panjab University Historical Society 
3 (1914-15): 26-37. 

12. He mentions in connection with his arrival on the Indus that he had about 40 
people with him. This company probably numbered more or less the same on the 
continuing trip to Delhi. 

13. Mahdi Husain, Tughlug Dynasty (Calcutta, 1963), pp. 145-75. The author 
presents a lengthy analysis of the transfer of the capital and its consequences for 
Delhi. He suggests that the destruction of Delhi alleged by Barani and others has 
been greatly exaggerated. Other modern historians disagree. 

14. IB names the villages, which have been identified by Gibb (Gb, vol. 3. p. 
741) and Mahdi Husain (MH, p. 122). 

15. Mahdi Husain (Tughlug Dynasty, p. 480) presents a description of the sultan 
compiled from various medieval sources. 

16. On the general organization of the judicial system, S.M. Ikram, Muslim 
Rule in India and Pakistan, 2nd edn (Lahore, 1966), pp. 149-52; and A. B.M. 
Habibullah, The Foundation of Muslim Rule in India, 2nd edn. (Allahabad, 1961), 
pp. 271-79. 

212 Delhi 

17. Ashraf, Life and Conditions, p. 291. 

18. Onsinecurism among the religious, judicial, and educational officeholders of 
fifteenth-century Egypt see Carl F. Petry, The Civilian Elite of Cairo in the later 
Middle Ages (Princeton, N.J., 1981), pp. 201, 319. 

19. Quoted in Mohammad Habib and Afsar Umar Salim Khan, The Political 
Theory of the Delhi Sultanate (Allahabad, n.d.), p. 159. 

20. Quoted in M. Mujeeb, The Indian Muslims (Montreal, 1967), p. 209. 

21. IB gives the departure date as 9 Jumada I, or 5 January 1335. All recent 
authorities are agreed that the Ma’bar rebellion broke out in 1334, and Mahdi 
Husain (Tughlug Dynasty, p. 243) affirms that Muhammad Tughlug must have left 
Delhi the following year. Unfortunately, in a note in his translation of the narrative 
(MH, p. 140), he mistakenly converts 9 Jumada I to 21 October 1341. Gibb (Gb, 
vol. 3, p. 758) repeats the error. 

22. The tomb of Qutb al-Din Mubarak no longer exists. 

23. Barani, Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, p. 238. 

24. IB states that he made this trip during “the period of the rains,” that is, 
during the summer or early fall monsoon season. Although he says nothing in the 
context of his years in Delhi about other excursions other than the trips to Kanauj 
(see below) and Sind, he mentions later in the Rihla of having visited Gwalior, a 
city about 150 miles south of the capital, sometime between 1334 and 1341. 

25. IB’s Saru River is the Sarju. MH, p. 145n. 

26. Gibb (Gb, vol. 3, p. 698) and Mahdi Husain (Tughlug Dynasty, pp. 254, 658) 
agree that the sultan established his temporary capital on the Ganges in 1338. 
Jackson (‘The Mongols and the Delhi Sultanate,” p. 149) suggests 1337 or 1338. IB 
states that Muhammad was absent from Delhi on the Ma’bar expedition for two 
and a half years from January 1335. 

27. Barani, Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi, p. 249. 

28. Mahdi Husain (Tughlug Dynasty, p. 254) asserts that Muhammad Tughluq 
stayed at Sargadwari from late 1338 until mid 1341, then returned to Delhi. IB also 
implies that the sultan remained there two and a half years (Gb, vol. 3, p. 698), but 
he does not make clear how much of that time he spent with the royal party. Mahdi 
Husain (Tughlug Dynasty, p. 256) dates the ’Ain al-Mulk rebellion to 1340. A date 
of mid 1341 for the sultan’s return to Delhi, however, does not accord well with 
IB’s statement that he visited him in Sind sometime before July of that year. 

30. Aziz Ahmad, “The Sufi and the Sultan in Pre-Mughal Muslim India,” Der 
Islam 38 (1962): 147. 

31. See note 9. 

10 Malabar and the Maldives 

And in this land of Malabar there are Moors in great 
numbers. . . They are rich, and live well, they hold all the 
sea trade and navigation in such sort that if the King of 
Portugal had not discovered India, Malabar would already 
have been in the hands of the Moors, and would have had 
a Moorish King. ' 

Duarte Barbosa 

About 1340, 15 ambassadors representing Toghon Temur, the 
Mongol emperor of the Yuan Dynasty of China. arrived at the 
court of Delhi.” Commercial ties between China and the sultanate 
may have been the main business of the mission, since the Yuan 
emperors were pursuing a vigorous overseas trade policy. Ibn 
Battuta’s explanation of the event is that the delegation came to 
seek permission of Muhammad Tughlug to have a Buddhist shrine 
constructed at a town about 80 miles east of Delhi.” The sultan 
declined to authorize the project, and this was the message he 
wished his special envoy to carry to Peking. Ibn Battuta claims that 
the sultan chose him for this honor because he knew his gadi loved 
“to travel and go abroad.” This is hardly a convincing rationale for 
appointing an ambassador to the largest and most populous 
kingdom in the world. Perhaps Muhammad thought the peripate- 
tic Moroccan would have the energy and motivation to persevere 
in the mission despite the hardships of a long sea voyage. And 
perhaps he wished to maximize the prestige of the embassy by 
selecting an Arab, a pious scholar of the Prophet's race, to repres- 
ent him. (Ibn Battuta was an Arab in his literate culture, though 
Berber in ethnic origin.) 

Whatever the reason, the ex-qadi was taking on a greater weight 
of official responsibility than he ever had before. Not only was he 
required to get himself to Peking and back, he also had to trans- 
port, and safeguard with his life. an entire caravan of royal pre- 
sents for the Yuan emperor. The Chinese emissaries had earlier 
arrived in Delhi with 100 slaves and cartloads of fine clothing, 


214 Malabar and the Maldives 

brocade, musk, and swords, compliments of Toghon Temur. 
Muhammad Tughluq naturally felt obliged to reciprocate with an 
even more magnificent array of gifts. The list included 200 Hindy 
slaves, songstresses, and dancers, 15 pages, 100 horses, and 
wondrous quantities of choice textiles, robes, dishware, and swords. 

Ibn Battuta left Delhi at the head of his mission in late summer, 
probably 2 August 1341.* His companions included the 15 Chinese 
gentlemen, who were returning home, and two officials of the 
sultanate besides himself. One of them was Zahir al-Din al-Zanjani, 
a scholar of Persian origin. The other was a eunuch named Kafur, 
who held the title of shurbdar, or cupbearer, and had day-to-day 
responsibility for overseeing the slaves and the bullock carts laden 
with the imperial presents. Al-Tuzari was also along, as well as other 
unnamed individuals among Ibn Battuta’s personal friends, old com- 
rades, and concubines. Muhammad al-Harawi, one of the sultan’s 
amirs, led a troop of 1,000 horse to escort the embassy from Delhi to 
the coast. The plan of travel was to march southward along the 
government trunk road to Daulatabad, then make for the western 
coast at Cambay (Kinbaya), the chief port of Gujarat. From there 
the mission would take ship for Calicut on the Malabar coast of 
South India. At Calicut they would board ocean-going junks to carry 
them across the Bay of Bengal to China. The landward itinerary from 
Delhi to Cambay was hardly the most direct route possible, as 
Daulatabad lay some 240 miles southeast of that port. Sultan 
Muhammad may have given his envoy official business in 
Daulatabad that the Rihla fails to mention, or perhaps he instructed 
the caravan to make an appearance there as a symbolic show of 
Delhi's continuing authority in the Deccan. 

If Ibn Battuta had undertaken this mission eight or ten years 
earlier, that authority would have been relatively secure and the 
journey all the way to Gujarat accomplished in safety. By the 1340s, 
however, the conditions of travel, even under armed escort, had 
changed drastically. Seven years of famine, repeated rebellion, and 
disastrous government had left the rural areas of what remained of 
the empire more and more difficult to control. Hindu insurgency and 
brigandage had become endemic outside the walls of the garrison 
towns, even in the Ganges heartland. Traffic on the high roads 
connecting the major cities was even more susceptible to interference 
than when Ibn Battuta had his first encounter with Hindu dacoits on 
his way to Delhi in 1334. 

The embassy had left the capital only a few days when it ran into 

Malabar and the Maldives 215 

trouble and came near to losing tts leader. Arriving at Koil (mod- 
ern Aligarh), a city in the Doab plain about 75 miles southeast of 
Delhi, a report reached the company that a force of Hindu in- 
surgents was laying siege to the nearby town of Jalali. Riding 
immediately to the rescue, al-Harawi’s cavalry escort caught the 
rebels by surprise. Although outnumbered four to one, the troops 
made short bloody work of the assailants, killing, according to Ibn 
Battuta, all 4,000 of them and capturing their horses and weapons. 
The imperial force lost 78 men, including Kafur, the cupbearer. At 
this point Ibn Battuta decided that he should send a messenger to 
inform the sultan about what happened and ask him to dispatch a 
replacement for the unfortunate Kafur. In the meantime the mis- 
sion would wait in Koil for a reply from Delhi. Since the district 
was apparently in a state of alarm and Hindu bands continued to 
raid the outskirts of Jalali, al-Harawi and his men joined forces 
with the local commander to undertake counter-insurgency sweeps 
through the local countryside. 

Riding into the Doab one morning in the heat of August, Ibn 
Battuta and a party of his comrades intercepted a rebel band that 
was just then retreating after an attack on one of the villages near 
Jalali. The Muslims gave chase but in the confusion of the pursuit 
Ibn Battuta and five of his men became separated from their 
companions. Suddenly a force of Hindus on foot and horse sprang 
from a wood. The six men scattered and Ibn Battuta found himself 
alone. Ten of the assailants pursued him at full gallop across the 
fields, then all but three fell away. Twice he was forced to stop and 
dismount, first to pick a stone from his horse's hoof, then to 
recover one of his swords, which had bounced out of its scabbard. 
His pursuers closing in, he eluded them by driving away his mount 
and hiding at the bottom of a deep ditch. 

When his enemies had finally given up trying to find him, he 
started off on foot to find his way back to safety. Going only a 
short distance, he was confronted again, this time by 40 bowmen, 
who promptly robbed him of his remaining sword and everything 
else he had with him except his shirt, pants, and cloak. The 
brigands then led him to their camp and put him under guard. Ibn 
Battuta did not speak any Hindi, but he succeeded in communi- 
cating with two Indo—Muslims in the camp who knew some 
Persian, telling them a little about himself but wisely concealing 
his status as an officer of Delhi. The two men let him know that, 
whoever he was, he was certainly to be killed, and it soon became 

216 Malabar and the Maldives 

apparent that his three guards, one of them an old man, had been 
instructed to do the job whenever they were so disposed. 

The assassins, however, seemed to lack resolve. After keeping 
their prisoner in a cave throughout the night, they returned in the 
morning to the robber camp, which was by this time deserted. 
Here they sat throughout the day, the captors working up the 
nerve to do their deed, Ibn Battuta sweating in mortal fear that 
each breath was to be his last. Then at nightfall three of the bandits 
suddenly returned and demanded to know why the prisoner had 
not been dispatched. The guards had no satisfactory answer, but 
one of the young brigands, perhaps admitting the pointlessness of 
executing a man who had already given up his possessions, 
suggested that as far as he was concerned the foreigner could go 
free. Jumping at this change of events, Ibn Battuta offered the 
man his expensive tunic in thanks, accepted an old blue loincloth 
in return, and bolted into a nearby bamboo forest. 

Alive but alone again and completely lost in a fairly heavily 
populated district whose hostility toward representatives of 
Muhammad Tughluq was all too apparent, he wandered the 
countryside for six days, avoiding villages, sleeping under trees or 
in abandoned houses, and subsisting on well water and herbs. At 
one point he eluded a band of 50 armed Hindus by hiding all day in 
a cotton field. On the seventh day, exhausted and starving, he 
entered a village in desperation, but when he begged for some- 
thing to eat, one of the locals threatened him with a sword, 
searched him, and stole his shirt. 

Then on the eighth day salvation came. After having escaped 
from the Hindu village with nothing but his trousers, the fugitive 
found himself beside a deserted well. He was just cutting one of his 
boots into two pieces, after having lost its mate down the well 
while trying to draw water with it, when a dark complexioned man 
suddenly appeared, offered him some beans and rice, and revealed 
that he too was a Muslim. The man invited Ibn Battuta to 
accompany him and even insisted on carrying him on his back 
when the exhausted wanderer’s legs gave out. Reciting a verse 
from the Koran over and over as they plodded along, Ibn Battuta 
finally fell asleep. When he awoke, his mysterious benefactor had 
disappeared, but he found himself in a village with a government 
officer in residence who warmly took him in, fed him, and gave 
him a bath and a suit of clothes. 

Learning from his Muslim host that the village they were in was 

Malabar and the Maldives 217 

only six or seven miles from Koil, [bn Battuta immediately sent a 
message to his comrades. In a day or two a party of them arrived to 
collect their foot-weary ambassador, astonished and jubilant that 
he was still alive. He then learned that during his absence the 
sultan had sent an official named Sumbul to replace the dead Kafur 
and that the mission was to proceed on its way. 

I also learned that my companions had written to the sultan 
informing him what had befallen me and that they had regarded 
the journey as ill-omened on account of the fate which I and 
Kafur had met in the course of it and that they intended to 
return. But when I saw the sultan’s injunctions ordering us to 
prosecute the journey I pressed them to prosecute it and my 
resolution was made firm. 

Thus undaunted by his ordeal, he led his embassy on to 
Daulatabad without further incident. The caravan appears to have 
followed more or less the main government route to the erstwhile 
southern capital, a road fastidiously kept up to ensure rapid 
courier and military communication between Delhi and the De- 
ccan. From the fortress city of Gwalior on the southern edge of the 
Ganges plain, the company trekked southwesterly across the 
Malwa plateau to Ujjain, the chief commercial entrepdt on the 
direct route from Delhi to Cambay. From there they crossed the 
Vindhya Hills, descending the steep southern scarp near Dhar to 
the Narmada River, the traditional historic dividing line between 
the cultural worlds of North India and the Deccan. South of the 
Narmada they crossed the wooded Satpura Range, probably by 
way of the Burhanpur Gap, the famous pass through which the 
armies of the Turks had repeatedly invaded South India. The last 
stretch of the journey took them from the Tapti River through the 
richly cultivated tableland of northern Maharashtra _ to 

There the mission was the guest of Qutlugh Khan. He had been 
Muhammad Tughluq’s governor of the Deccan provinces since 
1335, commanding his territories from the spectacular citadel of 
Deogir set atop a granite, cone-shaped rock rising 800 feet above 
the surrounding plain. Defended by a perpendicular scarp 80 to 
120 feet high on all sides. the castle could be reached only by 
passageways and staircases hewn out of the solid rock. An outer 
wall two and a half miles around enclosed the city of Daulatabad, 

218 Malabar and the Maldives 

which lay to the south and east of the keep. Despite its aban- 
donment as the capital of the empire, the town appears from the 
Rihla’s brief description to have been prospering from trade and 
from the tax revenues of the densely populated Maharashtra 
countryside. Yet not much more than two years after Ibn Battuta’s 
visit, a band of army officers would rise in rebellion, seize the great 
fort, and in 1347 found another independent Muslim kingdom, the 
Bahmani. And so, as the Maghribi traveler made his way out of 
the Sultanate of Delhi, it progressively collapsed behind him. 

The embassy probably stayed in Daulatabad only a few days, 
then continued northwesterly through Maharashtra, across the 
Tapti and Narmada rivers again, and thence along the eastern 
lowland shore of the Gulf of Cambay into the region of Gujarat. 

The fair city of Cambay stood on the northern shore of the Mahi 
River estuary where it flows into the head of the gulf. Walking 
among the bazaars and imposing stone houses of the port, Ibn 
Battuta found himself for the first time in a decade in the familiar 
cultural world of the Arabian Sea. The sultanate had ruled 
Cambay since the early part of the century, but the soul of the city 
was more kindred to Muscat, Aden, or Mogadishu than to 
Daulatabad or Delhi. It was indeed one of the great emporia of the 
Indian Ocean. “Cambay is one of the most beautiful cities as 
regards the artistic architecture of its houses and the construction 
of its mosques,” Ibn Battuta recalls. “The reason is that the 
majority of its inhabitants are foreign merchants, who continually 
build there beautiful houses and wonderful mosques — an 
achievement in which they endeavor to surpass each other.” Many 
of these “foreign merchants” were transient visitors, men of South 
Arabian and Persian Gulf ports, who migrated in and out of 
Cambay with the rhythm of the monsoons. But others were men 
with Arab or Persian patronyms whose families had settled in the 
town generations, even centuries, earlier, intermarrying with 
Gujarati women and assimilating everyday customs of the Hindu 
hinterland. Ibn Battuta visited Cambay just at a time when these 
dark-skinned, white-shirted Gujarati traders were venturing 
abroad in increasing numbers, founding mercantile colonies as far 
away as Indonesia and creating a diaspora of commercial 
association that would continue on the ascendancy in the Indian 
Ocean until the time of the Portuguese.° 

The ambassador spent a few days in the town as the guest of the 
governor and some of the religious lights, then led his company 

Malabar and the Maldives 219 

back along the eastern shore of the gulf to the port of Gandhar 
(Qandahar) at the mouth of the Narmada. Owing to the 
shallowness of the upper gulf, Cambay could not accommodate 
sea-going ships, so it was normal practice for them to put in either 
at Gandhar or at another port, which lay directly across the gulf.’ 
Agents of the sultan had apparently made advance arrangements 
with the local ruler of Gandhar, a Hindu tributary, to provide the 
delegation with four ships for the voyage down the coast to 
Malabar. As usual Ibn Battuta has virtually nothing to tell us 
about the architecture of these vessels. Certainly they were all 
two-masted “dhows” with stitched hulls, the same general type of 
ships Ibn Battuta had sailed along the coasts of Africa and Arabia. 
Three of them were ordinary cargo ships, but large ones, since 
they had to have room for the Great Khan’s presents, including 
the 100 horses and 215 slaves and pages. The fourth vessel was a 
type of war galley. Ibn Battuta’s ship. one of the three 
merchantmen, carried a force of 100 soliders to defend the mission 
against the Hindu pirates who habitually lay in wait along the 
western coast. Fifty of the warriors were archers. The others were 
black spearmen and bowmen, representatives of a long tradition of 
African fighting men taking service on the larger trading ships of 
the Indian Ocean.* 

Embarking from Gandhar, the four ships put in briefly at two 
other gulf ports. Then, turning due south, the little fleet made for 
the Arabian Sea. If the time was about December, they ran briskly 
before the northeast monsoon under clear skies and a placid sea. 

When Ibn Battuta visited the East African coast more than a 
decade earlier, he had found a series of petty maritime 
principalities competing with one another for long-distance trade 
between the sea basin and the uplands of the interior. Along the 
west coast of India the political pattern was similar. From the 
southern frontier of Gujarat to Cape Comorin at the tip of the 
subcontinent, he counted twelve trading states strung out along 
the narrow coastal lowlands. The Turkish sultans may have 
claimed suzerainty over some of these little kingdoms. but the 
peaks and ridges of the Western Ghats, which ran the length of 
peninsular India 50 to 100 miles inland, effectively prevented 
Delhi from exerting direct authority on the coast south of Gujarat. 
excepting sporadic intervention in a few of the more northerly 
ports.” From Delhi or Daulatabad, imperial cavalry could reach 

220 Malabar and the Maldives 

the northerly coast, called the Konkan, only by squeezing their 
way through rugged woodland passes usually guarded by 
belligerent Hindu chieftains. The great ports of Malabar, on the 
southerly shore, were more easily accessible from the interior but 
much too far from the centers of Turkish power to make sustained 
military pressure feasible. No doubt Muhammad Tughlug pined to 
conquer the coastal territories, but in fact the commercial needs of 
the empire were better served by leaving the sea towns to carry on 
their business in peace. 

The summer monsoons, blowing up against the Ghats, emptied 
heavy rains on the coastal lowlands, producing a lush tropical 
economy startlingly different from that of the interior plateaus. In 
medieval times the maritime towns exported rice, coconuts, 
gemstones, indigo and other dyes, and finished textiles. Among 
the spice exports, black pepper was king in the overseas trade. The 
forests of the steep western slopes of the Ghats, the only region of 
dense woodland anywhere around the rim of the Arabian Sea, 
produced the teakwood with which most of the oceanic trading 
ships were built. The major ports all had busy shipbuilding in- 
dustries, and Indian teak was exported to the Persian Gulf, 
Arabia, and northeast Africa to meet the general needs of those 
wood-starved regions. 

The natural landfall for ships making the long hauls across the 
Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal was southwest India. The largest 
and richest west coast towns were in Malabar, partly because of 
their relatively broad agricultural hinterland, their pepper crop, 
and their links to the populous interior of South India, but also 
because they served as the main transshipment centers for goods 
moving between the western and eastern halves of the Indian 
Ocean. Trade from the China Seas westward across the Bay of 
Bengal was carried on mainly in Chinese junks. These great ships 
were structurally capable of sailing safely from one end of the 
Indian Ocean to the other, but the normal pattern, at least until 
the early fifteenth century, was for them to go only as far west as 
Malabar. There, goods in transshipment were carried in lateen- 
rigged vessels to all the countries of the Arabian Sea. Thus 
Malabar was the hinge on which turned the inter-regional sea- 
borne trade of virtually the entire Eastern Hemisphere. 

Almost all the transit trade of the west coast (as well as that of 
both Ceylon and the southeastern coast of India, called 
Coromandel) was in the hands of Muslims. The rulers of nearly all 

Malabar and the Maldives 221 

the maritime states, however, were Malayalam- or Tamil-speaking 
Hindus. The populations of the hinterlands were Hindu as well, 
or, in the case of Ceylon, Buddhist. Arab and Persian merchants 
had been settling on those shores since Abbasid times, but by the 
later medieval period most west coast Muslims were racially In- 
dian, notwithstanding some cherished strain linking them to the 
prestigious Arabo—Persian center. Moreover, the culture of the 
towns, like the ports of East Africa, represented a complex, 
long-simmering synthesizing of native and alien elements, that is, 
traits and practices responsive to the requirements of the Sacred 
Law inter-penetrating with local Hindu customs, styles, dress, and 
cuisine. The hindu rajas of the coastal states left their Muslim 
subjects to worship as they wished, indeed encouraged it, since the 
rulers’ power and wealth depended almost entirely on customs 
revenues and the profits of their personal transactions in the 
maritime trade. We may suppose that the government of these 
cities was nothing less than a working partnership between the 
rajas and the leading Muslim merchants. 

For three days out of the Gulf of Cambay Ibn Battuta’s four ships 
made good speed along the Konkan coast, the dark green wall and 
sheared-off summits of the Western Ghats looming off the port 
beam. Bypassing Chaul, Sandapur (Goa), and other busy ports 
which lay on little bays or the estuaries of rivers flowing from the 
mountains, the fleet finally put in at Honavar (Hinawr), a town on 
the stretch of coast known as North Kanara. 

Derelict in modern times, Honavar in the fourteenth century 
was a thriving port with a typical Indo—Muslim coastal culture, its 
children, according to Ibn Battuta, dutifully attending a choice of 
36 Koranic schools, its Muslim women wearing colorful saris and 
golden rings in their nostrils. Jamal al-Din Muhammad, the ruler 
of the town, was, exceptionally enough, a Muslim, though under 
vassalage to the Hindu king of the Hoysalas state, whose center 
was in the southwestern interior.'” Ibn Battuta describes him as 
one of “the best and most powerful rulers” on the coast. possessing 
a fleet of ships and a force of horsemen and infantry so impressive 
that he could command annual tribute from the ports of Malabar 
as “protection” against seaborne attack. In the three short days the 
mission rested up in Honavar and restocked the ships, Jamal al- 
Din féted his distinguished visitor in the correct and predictable 
ways and introduced him to the local notables. But more than that, 

222 Malabar and the Maldives 

a friendship of sorts seems to have been sparked between the two 
men. At least it was a relationship Ibn Battuta would be eager to 
draw on a few months later when he returned to the town under 
drastically different circumstances. 

South of Honavar along the Kanara and Malabar coasts, the 
towns became progressively larger and more affluent. This was 
black pepper country and the land where the commercial 
dominions of the dhow and the junk made their crucial con- 
nection. Perhaps because the sailing season to China was still a few 
months off and the urban scene along the south Kanara and 
Malabar shores notably worth investigating, the embassy cast 
anchor and enjoyed the local hospitality at eight different ports, 
including Mangalore (Manjurur) and Cannanore (Jurfattan).'' 

Then, about three weeks out of Honavar, the little convoy 
arrived off Calicut to a warm official reception. The dignitaries of 
the city, both Muslim and Hindu, came out to meet the mission, 
Ibn Battuta says, with “drums, trumpets, horns, and flags on their 
ships. We entered the harbor amid great ovation and pomp, the 
like of which I have not seen in these parts.” The ambassador and 
his associates were given houses as guests of the zamorin, or 
prince, of Calicut and settled in for three months of leisure, since 
no ships would embark for East Asia until March, that is, near the 
end of the northeast monsoon season.'* In the meantime the 
zamorin made advance arrangements for the delegation to travel 
to China on a large ocean-going junk and one smaller vessel (or 
possibly more) that would accompany it. The Chinese envoys, who 
had been travelling with Ibn Battuta up to this point, were to make 
plans to return home on a separate ship. 

Ibn Battuta saw 13 junks wintering at Calicut, their corpulent 
hulls and multiple soaring masts dwarfing even the largest 
lateen-rigged vessels in the harbor. These were the ocean liners of 
the medieval age, artifacts of the great technological leap forward 
achieved in China between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries. 
Not only Ibn Battuta, but other travelers of the time, including 
Marco Polo, made clear their preference for sailing on junks over 
the creaky, sewn-together ships of the Arabian Sea. The shell of a 
junk was built of double-superimposed timbers attached with iron 
nails to several transverse bulkheads, dividing the hull into a series 
of watertight compartments that prevented the ship from sinking 
even if it were pierced below the water line in more than one 
place. A large junk might step five masts or more. The lug-type 

Malabar and the Maldives 223 

fore-and-aft sails were aerodynamically more cfficient and far 
easier to maneuver than the lateen type. They were made of 
bamboo matting stiffened with battens, or laths, which gave them 
their characteristic ribbed appearance. Unlike lateen sails, they 
could be reefed and furled with ease by means of a complex 
arrangement of sheets. The tautness, variety, and adjustability of 
the sails permitted a junk to make headway under almost any wind 
condition. Medieval junks were all equipped with stern rudders, 
the efficient way of steering a ship that was becoming known in the 
Mediterranean world only near the end of the thirteenth century. 
Ibn Battuta was so impressed with Chinese ships that he even 
rouses himself in the Rihla to offer a word or two about their 
nautical design. He was most interested, naturally, in the comforts 
they offered traveling notables like himself. The dhows of the 
western sea were only partially decked or not decked at all, and if 
some vessels had a rudimentary cabin or two, most of the passen- 
gers were expected to brave the elements the whole time they were 
at sea. Owing to bulkhead construction, which distributed weight 
evenly on the hull, ocean-going junks could support as many as 
five decks, as well as numerous enclosed cabins for the con- 
venience of the more affluent passengers. Some of the rooms even 
had private lavatories, a convenience far superior to the little seat 
hooked over the side of a dhow. Fire-fighting equipment, steward 
service, lifeboats, and common rooms for the passengers added to 
the comfort and safety of a voyage across the eastern sea. Ibn 
Battuta, man of private pleasures that he was, informs us that 

a good cabin has a door which can be bolted by the occupant, 
who may take with him his female slaves and women. 
Sometimes it so happens that a passenger is in the aforesaid 
residential quarters and nobody on board knows of him until he 
is met On arriving at a town. 

He also claims that the crew of a sizable junk might number 
1,000 men, counting both sailors and fighting marines. He may 
exaggerate, but within tolerable limits since Odoric of Pordenone, 
the Latin monk who traveled through South Asia earlier in the 
century, reports that he sailed out of Malabar on a junk with 
“seven hundred souls, what with sailors and merchants.”!* Ibn 
Battuta says that in his time junks were built exclusively in the 
southern Chinese ports of Canton (Kuang-Chou) or Zaitun 

224 Malabar and the Maldives 

(Ch’uan-chou). Owing to the Yuan policy of encouraging foreign 
participation in the sea trade, however, the owners and Captains of 
the ships, as well as the big merchants, were more often than not 
Muslims of Indian, Arab, or Persian descent. 

Astonishing as they were in cargo capacity and technical 
efficiency, these “whales” of the sea, as the Chinese called them, 
could be simply too big and too rigid for their own safety if they 
chanced to blow into shallows or reef-infested waters. There was 
some truth in Ibn Battuta’s remark that “if a ship nailed together 
with iron nails collides with rocks, it would surely be wrecked; but 
a ship whose beams are sewn together with ropes is made wet and 
is not shattered.” 

And so he discovered as his grand embassy to China was 
suddenly aborted in tragedy off Calicut harbor. What exactly 
happened the Rihla does not make entirely clear. As the day for 
the mission to embark arrived, probably sometime in Feburary 
1342,'4 a minor difficulty arose over accommodations. Chinese 
merchants, it seems, had reserved in advance all the best cabins on 
the large junk the embassy was to board, and the Sultan of India’s 
ambassador was going to have to settle for a more modest room, 
one with no lavatory. Ibn Battuta had his luggage and entourage 
put aboard but then decided the following morning that the cabin 
was simply unsuitable and far too small. The ship’s agent, a Syrian 
gentleman, suggested that the best solution might be for the envoy 
and his personal retinue to travel on the kakam. This was a 
somewhat smaller junk-type vessel that would accompany the 
larger ship, but it had good cabins available.'? Ibn Battuta thought 
this compromise was all right and so ordered his servants, con- 
cubines, personal friends, and belongings to be transferred. How- 
ever, Zahir al-Din and Sumbul, the other officers of the mission, 
remained on the larger vessel along with the slaves, horses, and 
presents destined for Peking. Meanwhile Ibn Battuta spent the day 
in Calicut attending Friday prayer. 

Then that evening a storm came up. Calicut harbor was not a 
deep, sheltered bay but a shallow roadstead. Recognizing the 
danger of riding at anchor close to shore, the captains of the junk, 
the kakam, and a third large vessel quickly put out to sea. 
Throughout the night Ibn Battuta waited helplessly on the beach 
and the next morning watched in horror as the two larger ships 
went aground in the shallows, broke up, and sank. Some of the 
passengers and crew on one of the junks were saved, but no one 

Malabar and the Maldives 225 

survived on the vessel he himself was to have boarded the previous 
day. On Sunday morning the bodies of Zahir al-Din and Sumbul 
washed ashore, the one with his skull broken in, the other with an 
iron nail piercing his temples. The slaves, pages, and horses were 
all drowned, and the precious wares either sank or washed up on 
the beach, where the zamorin’s gendarmes struggled to prevent 
the townsfolk from making off with the loot. Meanwhile, the 
captain of the kakam steered his ship safely out to sea and, not 
wanting to risk entering the harbor again, sailed southward down 
the coast. On board were Ibn Battuta’s baggage, servants, and 
concubines, one of these women carrying her master’s child. 

Alone on the Calicut shore, the lofty ambassador found himself 
suddenly reduced to the status of a penniless fagih. He had 
nothing to his name, save his prayer rug, the clothes on his back, 
and ten dinars an old yogi had given him. But for all that, he was 
fortunate to be alive. And it seems he still had the company of al- 
Tuzari and perhaps one or two other companions. Even more 
hopeful, there was still a chance of catching up with the kakam. 
The vessel, he was told, was almost certain to put in at the port of 
Quilon (Kawlam) 180 miles down the coast before sailing away 
from India altogether. So, hiring a Muslim porter to carry his 
carpet for him, he made his way to Quilon, traveling this time by 
riverine craft that plied the lagoons and interconnecting canals 
paralleling the southern Malabar shore. 

After ten miserable days in the company of the porter, who 
turned out to be a quarrelsome drunkard, he arrived in the city, 
not to the applause of the local raja’s court, but to a modest 
reception in a Sufi hospice, the usual refuge of an anonymous 
wanderer. Much to his surprise his old associates, the Chinese 
envoys, turned up while he was there. They had left Calicut 
somewhat before the sea tragedy had occurred, but they had also 
barely escaped with their lives when their own ship ran aground. 
The Chinese merchants resident in Quilon helped them out with 
clothes and assistance and later sent them home on another junk. 
The forlorn ex-ambassador, however, waited in vain for his kakam 
to show up and after several hopless days in the Sufi lodge decided 
to move on. 

But where indeed was he to go? “I wanted to return from 
Quilon to the sultan,” he remembers, “in order to tell him what 
had happened to the gifts. But I feared that he would condemn 
me, saying ‘Why did you separate yourself from the presents?"”'° 

226 Malabar and the Maldives 

If the mission’s two other officials, together with the Slaves, 
horses, and magnificent wares all went to the bottom of the sea. 
why was the Maghribi so shiftless in his duty that he failed to g0 
down with them? Knowing well that his wish to travel in private 
comfort with his slave girls was hardly a convincing explanation for 
not boarding the junk, and perhaps imagining his head affixed to a 
pole or his skin stuffed with straw hanging from the wall of 
Jahanpanah palace, he concluded easily enough that, no, he would 
not return to Delhi. He did, however, need a patron to restore him 
to a position of dignity and perhaps give him a job while he waited 
for news of the kakam or figured out some new plan. The closest 
and most likely seigneur was Jamal al-Din Muhammad, the pious 
Sultan of Honavar and the only Muslim ruler on the southwestern 
coast of India. 

Returning to Calicut, he found there a fleet of ships belonging to 
Muhammad Tughlug himself. They were en route to the Persian 
Gulf to recruit more Arab notables for service in the sultanate. Ibn 
Battuta struck up an acquaintance with the chief of the expedition, 
a former chamberlain in the Delhi government, who advised him 
to stay away from the capital but invited him to accompany the 
fleet as far up the coast as Honavar. Ibn Battuta gladly accepted 
the offer and sailed northward out of Calicut sometime around 1 
April 1342.1” 

If he expected Jamal al-Din of Honavar to elevate him at once 
to a high office on the strength of the imperial rank he had held the 
first time he visited the town, he was to be a bit disappointed. 

He quartered me in a house where I had no servant and direc- 
ted me to say prayers with him. So I sat mostly in his mosque 
and used to read the Koran from beginning to end every day. 
Later on, I recited the whole Koran twice daily . . . I did this 
without a break for three months, of which I spent forty con- 
secutive days in devotional seclusion. 

While the Moroccan fagih quietly passed a steaming summer on 
the Kanara coast in a bout of spiritual renewal, Sultan Jamal al- 
Din busied himself plotting the violent overthrow of his neighbor, 
the raja of Sandapur. Wars between the little maritime states of 
the west coast do not appear to have occurred very often in 
medieval times. Conflict was terrible for trade, and in any case 
none of the petty princes had armies or fleets large enough to 

Malabar and the Maldives 227 

sustain control over long stretches of the coast for indefinite 
periods of time. Yet a fortuitous opportunity to seize a 
neighboring port and milk its customs revenues might be too 
tempting to pass up. As the Rihla explains it, an internal struggle 
had broken out within the ruling family of Sandapur, a fine port 
located on an island in the estuary of a river about 90 miles north 
of Honavar. (In 1510 Sandapur would become Goa, capital of 
Portugal’s seaborne empire in Asia.'*) A son of the raja of 
Sandapur, scheming to wrest the throne from his father, wrote a 
letter to Jamal al-Din, promising to embrace Islam if the sultan 
would intervene on his side in the quarrel. Once victory was 
achieved, the new raja would marry the sultan’s sister, sealing an 
alliance between the two towns. Forthwith, Jamal al-Din outfitted 
a war fleet of 52 ships, two of them built with open sterns to enable 
his cavalry to make a rapid amphibious assault on Sandapur beach. 

Weary of inactivity and perhaps hoping to ingratiate himself 
with his patron by some more vigorous show of homage, Ibn 
Battuta had the idea of offering his services to the expedition. He 
claims that Jamal al-Din was so pleased with his proposal that he 
put him in charge of the campaign, though we may presume the 
office was more or less honorific. Preparations complete, the fleet 
set sail from Honavar on 12 October 1342.'° 

On Monday evening we reached Sandapur and entered its creek 
and found the inhabitants ready for the fight. They had already 
set up catapults. So we spent the night near the town and when 
morning came drums were beaten, trumpets sounded and horns 
were blown, and the ships went forward. The inhabitants shot 
at them with the catapults, and I saw a stone hit some people 
standing near the sultan. The crews of the ships sprang into the 
water, shield and sword in hand . . . I myself leapt with all the 
rest into the water . . . We rushed forward sword in hand. The 
greater part of the heathens took refuge in the castle of their 
ruler. We set fire to it, whereupon they came out and we took 
them prisoner. The sultan pardoned them and returned them 
their wives and children . .. And he gave me a young female 
prisoner named Lemki whom I called Mubaraka. Her husband 
wished to ransom her but I refused. 

Having acquitted himself well in this day-long holy war and even 
acquired part of the living spoils, Ibn Battuta remained at 

228 Malabar and the Maldives 

Sandapur for about three months in the company of Jamal al-Din. 
who seems to have been in no hurry to turn the town over to his 
Hindu ally, the raja’s son. Then about the middle of January 
1343”? Ibn Battuta decided to take leave of his patron and travel 
back down the coast in search of information on the fate of the 
kakam. On this trip he visited once again most of the ports he had 
seen the previous year, including Calicut, and spent “a long time,” 
perhaps a few months, in Shaliyat (Shalia), a famous Malabar 
weaving town. 

Then, returning to Calicut, he came upon two of his own 
servants who had been aboard the kakam and had somehow made 
their way back to Malabar. The news was bad. The ship had sailed 
to the Bay of Bengal, apparently without stopping at Quilon, and 
after reaching Indonesia had been seized by an infidel ruler of 
Sumatra. The concubine who was carrying Ibn Battuta’s child had 
died, and the other slave girls, as well as his possessions, were in 
the hands of this king. The mystery of the kakam finally settled in 
more tragedy, he returned immediately to Sandapur, arriving 
there in June 1343.7! 

However, any expectation he had of taking up an official career 
in the service of Jamal al-Din soon ended in yet another disaster. 
Sometime in August the deposed raja of Sandapur, who had 
escaped at the time of the invasion, suddenly reappeared with a 
Hindu force, rallied the peasants of the hinterland, and laid siege 
to the town. Most of Jamal al-Din’s troops, apparently unaware of 
an impending attack, were scattered in the surrounding villages 
and could not get back into the city to defend it. Having attached 
himself to Jamal al-Din in victory, Ibn Battuta saw no reason to 
stick by him in defeat, a point of view in the best tradition of 
Muslim public men, for whom loyalty to one sultan or another was 
of no great importance. In the thick of the assault, he somehow 
managed to get past the siege line and headed down the coast 
again, perhaps this time by land. In a few weeks he reached 
Calicut, entering that city now for the fifth time.”* 

Sometime during the months following the Calicut tragedy, he 
decided to try to visit China on his own. His prospects for a career 
on the west coast of India were no longer encouraging, he could 
not return to Delhi, and he had no immediate urge to make 
another pilgrimage to Mecca. Moreover, he knew that he could 
find hospitality among the Muslim maritime communities all along 
the sea routes to the South China coast. He even had a potential 

Malabar and the Maldives 229 

entrée to the Yuan government through the 15 Chinese diplomats, 
who were presumably then on their way home. His plan would be 
to make a brief tour of the Maldive Islands (“of which I had heard 
a lot”), continue to Ceylon to see the famous religious shrine of 
Adam’s Peak, then cross over to the southeastern coast of India to 
visit the Sultanate of Ma’bar. whose ruler was married to a sister of 
Hurnasab, the ex-wife Ibn Battuta had left back in Delhi. From 
there he would go on to Bengal, Malaysia, and China. 

After staying in Calicut for an unspecified time, perhaps some 
months, he met up with a sea captain from Honavar named 
Ibrahim and took passage on his ship bound for Ceylon and 
Ma’bar by way of the Maldives.”* The idea of visiting this outlying 
tropical archipelago on his way to the Bay of Bengal was not such 
an erratic scheme as it might appear, even though the islands lay 
about 400 miles west and a bit south of Ceylon. Sea-going ships 
trading eastbound from the Arabian Sea could not sail through the 
Palk Strait that divided the subcontinent from Ceylon owing to the 
extremely shallow reef called Adam's Bridge that traversed the 
channel. Rather, they had to go around the southern tip of 
Ceylon. For traffic moving both east and west, the Maldive atolls 
were close enough to this route to be drawn into the international 
commerce between the western and the eastern seas. Shuttle trade 
between Malabar and the Maldives seems to have been very 
regular in medieval times. Moreover, the islands exported two 
commodities that were of major importance in the trans- 
hemispheric economy. One was coir, or coconut fiber rope, used 
to stitch together the hulls of the western ocean dhows. The other 
was the shells of the little marine gastropod called the cowrie, 
which were used as currency as far east as Malaysia and as far west 
as the African Sudan. 

The people of the Maldives (Dhibat al-Mahal) were a brown- 
skinned fishing and sea-trading folk. They spoke Divehi, a 
language closely related to Sinhalese. evidence of ancient sea- 
borne migrations from Ceylon. About the middle of the twelfth 
century they had been converted from Buddhism to Islam. In the 
Rihla Ibn Battuta recounts the legend, told even today by old men 
of the islands, of Abu I’Barakat, a pious Berber from the Maghrib 
who rid the land of a terrible demon (jinni) and brought the people 
to the faith of the Prophet.** Each month the fiend had arisen 
from the sea and demanded a young virgin to ravish and kill. 
When Abu I’Barakat arrived in the islands and heard about the 

230 Malabar and the Maldives 

situation, he offered to go to the idol house where the Sacrifice 
took place and substitute himself for the girl. He seated himself in 
the temple and recited the Koran through the night. As he ex- 
pected, the demon refused to approach him out of fear of the 
Sacred Word. When Abu I’Barakat repeated this feat a second 
time a month later, the king of the islands razed the infidel shrines 
and ordered that the new faith be propagated among his subjects. 
Behind the veil of this heroic myth may be discerned the coming 
and going of Muslim merchants in the Maldives from as early as 
Abbasid times and the incorporation of the islands into the com- 
mercial network of the western ocean. Since North African and 
Andalusian Muslims seem to have been more active in the India 
trade in the eleventh and twelfth centuries than they were later on, 
there was nothing implausible about a Berber turning up to intro- 
duce the faith.?° 

Approaching the Maldives from Malabar, Ibn Battuta may have 
blinked in wonder at the sight of tall coconut palms apparently 
growing directly out of the sea. He was to discover that the islands 
rise barely a few feet above the surface of the ocean and that not a 
single hill is to be found on any of them. Stretching 475 miles north 
to south like a string of white gems, the Maldives are divided into 
about twenty ring-shaped coral atolls. Each of these clusters of 
islands and tiny islets is grouped more or less around a central 
lagoon. With the help of a Maldivian pilot who knew his way 
through the dangerous reefs that surrounded the islands, Captain 
Ibrahim put ashore at Kinalos Island in the northerly atoll of 
Malosmadulu.”° As usual, the visiting fagih immediately found 
lodging with one of the literate men of the place. 

For all the tropical charm of the Maldives and their people, Ibn 
Battuta had no other intention than to play the tourist for a few 
weeks and get on with his planned itinerary. As soon as he arrived, 
however, he got fair warning that a different fate lay ahead. The 
islands were politically united, and had been since pre-Islamic 
times, under a hereditary king who ruled in a reasonably benign 
spirit in collaboration with his extended royal family and a small 
class of titled noblemen. The Maldives had no real towns, but the 
center of government was on the mile-long island of Male located 
about midway in the chain of atolls. At the time Ibn Battuta 
arrived, the monarch happened to be a woman, Rehendi Kabadi 
Kilege, called Khadija, the nineteenth in the line of Muslim rulers. 
Female succession to the throne was unusual in Maldivian history, 

Malabar and the Maldives 231 

and in fact Sultana Khadija’s administration was thoroughly 
dominated by her husband, the Grand Vizier Jamal al-Din (not 
the same man of course as the Sultan of Honavar). Aside from 
island governors and other secular offictals, the queen appointed 
Muslim judges and mosque dignitaries and expected them to up- 
hold the standards of the shari’a. 

However, the man who held the position of chief gadi at that 
time was not given much credit for ability. No sooner had Ibn 
Battuta set foot on Kinalos and revealed himself to be a scholar of 
refinement and worldly experience than one of the educated men 
there told him he had better not go to Male if he did not want the 
grand vizier to appoint him as judge and oblige him to stay on 
indefinitely. Ibn Battuta was no doubt better qualified for this job 
than he had been for his magistracy in Delhi. Not only was Arabic, 
rather than Persian, the language of jurisprudence and literate 
prestige in the islands, but the Maliki madhhab, Ibn Battuta’s own 
legal school, was practiced. The existence of a Maliki community 
in the Indian Ocean is odd, but if the men who introduced Islam to 
the Maldives were North Africans, they would have brought their 
Maliki learning with them. (In the sixteenth century the islanders 
would shift to the Shaf’i madhhab, which made more sense in the 
context of sustained maritime connections with Malabar and the 
other Muslim lands around the Arabian Sea.”’) 

Anchoring his ship off Kinalos Island probably some time in 
December 1343,** Captain Ibrahim hired a small lateen-rigged 
boat of the sort the Maldivians used in inter-island trade and set 
off for Male with Ibn Battuta and several unnamed companions 
aboard. As soon as they arrived, they went the short walk to the 
wooden, thatched-roof palace to be introduced to Queen Khadija 
and Grand Vizier Jamal al-Din. Captain Ibrahim, who had been in 
the islands before, guided the other visitors in the peculiarities of 
Maldivian ceremonial: 

When we arrived in the council-hall — that is, the dar — we sat 
down in the lobbies near the third entrance .. . Then came 
Captain Ibrahim. He brought ten garments, bowed in the direc- 
tion of the queen and threw one of the garments down. Then he 
bowed to the grand vizier and likewise threw another garment 
down; subsequently he threw the rest . . . Then they brought us 
betel and rose-water, which is a mark of honor with them. The 
grand vizier lodged us in a house and sent us a repast consisting 

232 Malabar and the Maldives 

of a large bowl of rice surrounded by dishes of salted meat 
fowl, quail, and fish. 

Ibn Battuta had learned by experience that Muslim rulers whose 
kingdoms lay in the outer periphery of the Dar al-Islam were 
always avid to attract the services of ’ulama with previous links to 
the great cities and colleges of the central lands. He had also 
learned that once a scholar developed a public reputation for pious 
learning, his royal benefactor might use more than simple 
persuasion to prevent him from moving somewhere else. In order 
to forestall any complications over his own timely departure, Ibn 
Battuta decided to say nothing to the Maldivians about his legal 
background and enlisted Captain Ibrahim to honor the secret. The 
sultans of Delhi had never had the slightest authority, symbolic or 
otherwise, in the Maldives, but the small-time nobility of the 
islands nevertheless looked upon the empire with fear and awe. 
Any former high official of the sultanate who turned up in the 
atolls would have to carry a heavy load of distinction and might 
even stir up a certain apprehension. 

For about the first ten days of his visit Ibn Battuta managed to 
preserve his secret, as he and his companions explored the coconut 
groves of the island and enjoyed the hospitality of the government. 
But then a ship arrived from Ceylon carrying a group of Arab and 
Persian Sufis. Some of them happened to know Ibn Battuta from 
his Delhi years and immediately let the cat out of the bag. The 
Moroccan visitor, the queen and her court were told, had been an 
important qadi in the service of the mighty Muhammad Tughluq. 
The grand vizier was delighted at the news. Here was a celebrity 
who should be specially honored and must not be allowed to 
escape the islands too easily or too soon! 

To his dismay, but also, the tone of the Rihla makes clear, to his 
vain satisfaction, Ibn Battuta was suddenly the center of attention. 
At first Jamal al-Din tried to flatter him into staying on Male with 
gifts and preferments. He invited him to the nightly feasts of 
Ramadan in the queen’s palace. He gave him a piece of land and 
offered to build him a house on it. He sent him slave girls, pearls, 
and golden jewelry. Ibn Battuta accepted all this fuss with grim 
courtesy, but he was in no mood to revise his travel plans, even 
less so when he fell seriously ill for some weeks, possibly with the 
malaria that was endemic in the islands.’” As soon as he recovered 
sufficiently to move about, he tried to hire passage on an outbound 

Malabar and the Maldives 233 

ship, but Jamal al-Din made it impossible for him by obstructing 
the financial arrangements. Finally he had to conclude that the 
grand vizier was going to keep him on Male whether he liked it or 
not. Under such circumstances as these, it was better to negotiate 
his fate voluntarily than to be coerced into service. Presenting 
himself before Jamal al-Din, he gave his word that he would 
remain in the islands indefinitely, making the condition, however, 
that he would not go about Male on foot and that the Maldivian 
custom of allowing only the vizier to appear publicly on horseback 
(the queen rode in a litter) would in his case have to be set aside. 

The brashness of this demand was the first sign that Ibn 
Battuta’s sojourn in the Maldives was to be unlike any of his other 
traveling adventures. His years in India reveal plainly that he had 
political ambition. But there he had been a relatively small fish in a 
large, shark-infested pond. Among the ingenuous Maldivians, 
however, his prestigious connections to the sultanate gave him a 
status of eminence out of all proportion to the power he had 
actually exercised in Delhi. Once he agreed to stay in the islands, 
he seems to have determined to capitalize on his reputation and 
throw himself into politics. To be sure, the upper-class factional 
quarrels of this remote equatorial paradise had something of a 
comic opera quality about them in contrast to the majestic affairs 
of the sultanate or the Mongol kingdoms. Nevertheless, Ibn 
Battuta became a very big man in the Maldives for a few fleeting 
months, and he is at pains to have the reader of the Rih/a under- 
stand that this was the case. Even though the account of his 
involvement is disjointed, incomplete, and ambiguous, he reveals 
more about his personal social and political relations there than he 
does in connection with any of his other experiences, including his 
years in Delhi. There is no reason to doubt that he became deeply 
enmeshed in the rivalries of the Maldivian nobility, even to the 
point where, if things had gone his way, he might have ended his 
traveling career there in a position of lasting power. 

In February 1344, probably less than two months after his 
arrival, he married a woman of noble status.*” She was the widow 
of Sultan Jalal al-Din "Umar, who was the father (by another 
marriage) and a predecessor of Queen Khadija. This noblewoman 
also had a daughter who was married to a son of the grand vizier. 
Marriage among the governing families of the Maldives was as 
much a political tool as it was in any other kingdom in that age. Ibn 
Battuta, like other scholars who circulated among the cities and 

234 Malabar and the Maldives 

princely courts of Islam, sought marriage as a way of gaining admission 
to local elite circles and securing a base of social and political support. 
By wedding this woman (whose name is never mentioned in the Rihla, 
though he says he found her society “delightful”), he allied himself to 
both the royal family and the household of the grand vizier. 

Jamal al-Din had in fact urged the marriage on him and as soonasit 
was consummated invited his new cousin to fill the office of chief judge 
of the realm. Ibn Battuta pleads rather coyly in the Rihla that “Jamal 
al-Din compelled me against my will to accept the gadi’s post,” but he 
hardly discouraged his own candidacy when he criticized the in- 
cumbent judge for being “absolutely no good at anything.” Ibn 
Battuta makes it plain that once he got the job he used the office to 
wield considerably more power over other men than he ever had in his 
opulent sinecure in Delhi: 

All sentences proceed from the qgadi, who is the most influential 
man with them, and his orders are carried out like those of the 
sultan or even more punctiliously. He sits on a carpet in the 
council-hall and has three islands, the income which he 
appropriates for his personal use according to an old custom. 

In the absence of any independent observation, we cannot know 
how much he may have inflated his power in the islands for the benefit 
of admiring readers of the Rihla. He claims, in any case, to have gone 
about his judicial practice in the same spirit of orthodox zeal that had 
prompted him to expose the errant bath operators in that Nile town of 
Upper Egypt 18 years earlier. “When I became gadi,” he reports 
triumphantly, “I strove with all my might to establish the rule of law,” 
implying that the Maldivian bumpkins had much to learn about 
rigorous canonical standards and that he was just the man to rid the 
kingdom of “bad customs.” Among his reforms, he ordered that any 
man who failed to attend Friday prayer was to be “whipped and 
publicly disgraced.” He strove to abolish the local custom that re- 
quired a divorced woman to stay in the house of her former husband 
until she married again; he had at least 25 men found guilty of this 
practice “whipped and paraded round the bazaars.” At least once he 
sentenced a thief to have his right hand severed, a standard shari'a 
judgment that nonetheless caused several Maldivians present in the 
council hall to faint dead away. In one matter, however, the populace 
refused to conform to his idea of scriptural propriety. Most of the 
women, he relates, 

Malabar and the Maldives 235 

wear only a waist-wrapper which covers them from their waist 
to the lowest part, but the remainder of their body remains 
uncovered. Thus they walk about in the bazaars and elsewhere. 
When I was appointed qadi there, I strove to put an end to this 
practice and commanded the women to wear clothes; but | 
could not get it done. I would not let a woman enter my court to 
make a plaint unless her body were covered; beyond this, 
however, I was unable to do anything. 

When the zealous magistrate was not hearing cases in the 
council chamber or ferreting out derelictions of Koranic duty, he 
was busy building up his network of political alliances with the 
chief families and making a high place for himself in the pecking 
order of power. Within a short time of his first marriage, he wed 
three more women, four being the most wives a man could have 
according to Islamic law. His second wife was the daughter of an 
important minister and great granddaughter of a previous sultan. 
His third was a widow of Queen Khadija's brother and immediate 
predecessor. His fourth was a step-daughter of “Abdallah ibn 
Muhammad al-Hazrami, a nobleman who had just been restored 
to a ministerial position after having spent a period of time in exile 
on one of the outer islands for some unnamed transgression 
against the state. “After I had become connected by marriage with 
the above-mentioned people.” Ibn Battuta tells us bluntly, “the 
vizier and the islanders feared me, for they felt themselves to be 

Despite the unity of Maldivian government, the political 
claustrophobia of tiny Male coupled with the fragmented 
geography of the kingdom encouraged both factional intrigues and 
dissidence.*' The Rihla makes it apparent that the grand vizier. 
the de facto ruler, did not have the whip hand over his nobility and 
could not fully control the actions of political cliques. Ibn Battuta’s 
recounting of the events that led to his precipitous departure from 
the islands is subjective and episodic and leaves the reader of the 
narrative straining to discern the deeper currents of the political 
drama. He leaves no doubt. however, that he had not been a 
figure in the royal court for very long before he began to make 
enemies. Vizier “Abdallah, the minister who had returned from 
temporary exile, seems to have regarded him as an arriviste and a 
threat to his own position of power. The two men got on badly 
from the start, clashing over symbolic matters of precedence and 

236 Malabar and the Maldives 

protocol that concealed a far more serious rivalry for influence in the 
kingdom. As Ibn Battuta explains it, and we will never know anvone 
else’s side of the story, “Abdallah and certain of his kinsmen and allies 
plotted to turn the grand vizier against his new gadi, and they finally 
succeeded. A nasty row broke out between Ibn Battuta and Jamal al- 
Din over a legal judgment involving a sordid affair between a slave and 
a royal concubine. The grand vizier accused Ibn Battuta of insub- 
ordination and called him before the ministers and military officers 
assembled in the palace. 

Usually I showed him the respect due to a ruler, but this time I did 
not. I said simply “salamu ‘alaikum.” Then I said to the bystanders, 
“You are my witnesses that I herewith renounce my post as gadi as | 
am not in a position to fulfill its duties.” The grand vizier then said 
something addressing me, and I rose up moving to a seat opposite 
him, and I retorted in sharp tones . . . Thereupon the grand vizier 
entered his house saying, “They say I am a ruler. But look! | 
summoned this man with a view to making him feel my wrath; far 
from this, he wreaks his own ire on me.” 

On the heels of this stormy confrontation, Ibn Battuta paid off his 
debts, packed up his luggage, divorced one of his wives (probably 
"Abdallah’s step-daughter), and hired a boat to take him to Captain 
Ibrahim’s ship, which was at that moment in the southern region of the 
atolls. Yet far from washing his hands of the Maldive government and 
sailing off in an offended huff, he reveals, tantalizingly and obscurely. 
that he was playing for bigger stakes than merely the independence of 
his authority as gadi. Describing his departure from Male, he writes in 
the Rihla, as if adding a forgotten detail, 

I made a compact with the vizier ‘Umar, the army commander. and 
with the vizier Hasan, the admiral, that I should go to Ma’bar, the 
king of which was the husband of my wife's [that is, Hurnasab’s] 
sister and return thence with troops so as to bring the Maldive 
islands under his sway, and that I should then exercise the power in 
his name.” Also I arranged that the hoisting of the white flags on 
the ships should be the signal and that as soon as they saw them they 
should revolt on the shore. 

Then he adds rather disingenuously, “Never had such an idea 
occurred to me until the said estrangement had broken out between 

Malabar and the Maldives 237 

the vizier and myself.” He also hints that Jamal al-Din had at least a 
suspicion of this astonishing plot, but the vizier’s own political position 
had apparently weakened so much that he could not risk arresting his 
gadi, Whatever Jamal al-Din’s fears may have been, the threat of an 
invasion was not entirely far-fetched, for the Chola empire of South 
India had conquered the islands in early medieval times.*? 

As it turned out, Ibn Battuta left Male without further incident and 
sailed in several days’ time to Fua Mulak (Muluk) island, which lay 
near the southern end of the archipelago just across the equator.” 
Here Captain Ibrahim’s ship awaited him. Ibn Battuta had sailed out 
of Male with three wives in his company, but he divorced them all in a 
short time. One of these women, the wife of his first Maldive marriage, 
fell seriously ill on the way to Fua Mulak, so he sent her back to Male. 
Another he restored to her father, who lived on Fua Mulak. He offers 
no explanation for his divorcing the third woman, though she was 
pregnant. He stayed on Fua Mulak for more than two months, and 
there he married, and presumably divorced, two more women. Quite 
apart from his political motives in taking a total of six wives during his 
sojourn in the islands, such transitory alliances reflected the custom of 
the country: 

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

Ibn Battuta made a brief trip back to Male in the company of 
Ibrahim in order to help the captain iron out a dispute he had with the 
inhabitants of Fua Mulak. He did not, however, leave the ship while it 
was anchored in Male harbor. Then, after touching briefly at Fua 
Mulak once again, they set sail northeastward for the coast of Ceylon. 
The time was late August 1344.°° 


1. The Book of Duarte Barbosa, trans, and ed. Mansel Longworth Dames, 2 vols. 
(London, 1918-21), vol. 2, p. 74. 

2. The Rihia is the sole record of this event. No evidence of the embassy has come to 
light in Chinese sources so far as I know, though Peter Jackson notes that a Yuan 
mission is known to have visited Egypt in 1342-43. “The Mongols and India 
(1221-1351), Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 1977, p. 222. The envoys probably 

238 Malabar and the Maldives 

arrived several months before IB left Delhi. On the dating of his departure see note 

3. Henry Yule identifies this town as Sambhal east of Delhi. Cathay and the 
Way Thither, 4 vols. (London, 1913-16), vol. 4, p. 18. Also MH, p. 150. 

4. IB states that he left Delhi on 17 Safar 743 A.H., that is, 22 July 1342 
Evidence suggests that IB did not remember the year correctly or that an error was 
made in copying the Rihla. A departure date of 17 Safar 742 (2 August 1341) makes 
more sense within the context of subsequent statements in the Rihla about 
chronology and itinerary. The fundamental problem with IB’s chronology for the 
travels in India, the Maldive Islands, and Ceylon is that he claims to have left the 
Maldives (following the first and longer of two visits) in the middle part of Rabi’ II 
745 (late August 1344), that is, a little more than two years after leaving Delhi. His 
own statements about traveling times and lengths of sojourns in particular places, 
however, indicate that about three years elapsed between his leaving Delhi and his 
first departure from the Maldives. For the period of travels between these two 
events, the Rih/a is not very helpful, since IB offers not one absolute year date. The 
Maldive departure date of 745, however, is probably accurate. In the space of a few 
months following that date, he arrived in the Sultanate of Ma’bar in the far 
southeastern corner of the subcontinent. There he witnessed and was involved in 
events surrounding the death of Sultan Ghiyath al-Din and the accession of Nasir 
al-Din. Numismatic evidence shows that this regnal change took place in 745 A.H. 
(The last coin of Ghiyath al-Din is dated 744; the first coin of Nasir al-Din is dated 
745.) S.A.Q. Husaini, “Sultanate of Ma’bar” in H. K. Sherwani and P.M. Joshi 
(eds.), History of Medieval Deccan, 2 vols. (Hyderabad, 1973-74), vol. 1, pp. 65, 
74. If IB’s Maldive departure date is accurate, at least for the year, then we may 
hypothesize that the Delhi date should be pushed back a year to make room for 
three years of travel. 

5. As it is set forth in the Rihla, IB’s itinerary from Delhi to Daulatabad is 
erratic and illogical. Part of the explanation is probably that some of the stages have 
been pfaced in incorrect order. For example, he states that he visited Dhar before 
Ujjain, when it was almost certainly the reverse. Furthermore, he may have visited 
some of the places mentioned during earlier excursions out of Delhi which he does 
not report and whose descriptive information is woven into the account of the trip 
to Daulatabad. He indicates, for example, that he had visited Gwalior at some 
earlier time, though nothing is said about the circumstances of such a trip (D&S, 
vol. 4, p. 33). IB offers almost no help in deducing the chronology of his journey 
through the interior of India. Mahdi Husain calculates that he arrived in 
Daulatabad on 3 November. A general estimate of late autumn seems reasonable, 
but this author’s precise town-to-town chronology for the entire range of IB’s 
travels in India, the Maldives, and Ceylon is delusive, for it is based almost entirely 
on informed guessing and inferential evidence such as “normal” traveling times 
from one place to another. MH, pp. Ixiv—lxvi. 

6. Gujaratis were well established in the East Indies in the fifteenth century and 
were probably arriving there in the fourteenth. M. A. P. Meilink-Roelofsz, “Trade 
and Islam in the Malay-Indonesian Archipelago Prior to the Arrival of the 
Europeans” in D.S. Richards (ed.), Islam and the Trade of Asia (Oxford, 1970), 
pp. 144-45. 

7. Duarte Barbosa, vol. 1, pp. 134, 136, 138. 

8. Simon Digby, “The Maritime Trade of India” in Tapan Raychaudhuri and 
Irfan Habib (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of India, 2 vols. (Cambridge, 
England, 1982), vol. 1, p. 152. 

9. P.M. Joshi, “Historical Geography of Medieval Deccan” in Sherwani and 
Joshi, Medieval Deccan, vol. 1, pp. 18, 20. 

10. IB states that the suzerain of Jamal al-Din was a ruler named Haryab, but 
historians have disagreed as to whether this individual is Ballala III of the Hoysalas 

Malabar and the Maldives 239 

or Harihara I of the Kingdom of Vijayanagar. See R.N. Saletore, “Haryab of Ibn 
Battuta and Harihara Nrpala,” Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society 31 (1940-41): 
384-406; also MH, p. 180n. 

11. The location and identity of these ports, some of which no longer exist, are 
investigated in Duarte Barbosa, vol. 1, pp. 185-236, vol. 3, pp. 1-92; Yule, Cathay, vol. 
4, pp. 72-79; and MH, pp. 178-88. 

12. According to the fifteenth-century navigator Ibn Majid, the best time for sailing 
from the west coast of India to the Bay of Bengal was around 11 April, or from mid 
March through April. G. R. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the 
Coming of the Portuguese (London, 1971), p. 377. 

13. Yule, Cathay, vol. 2, p. 131. 

14. Junks normally left the Malabar coast for China after mid March (see note 12). 
However, it seems likely that IB’s vessels were planning to stop over at Quilon, a major 
port further down the coast, before departing for the Bay of Bengal. Moreover, the 
subsequent chronological clues IB gives suggest that his departure from Calicut was not 
scheduled for any later than about | March (see note 19). 

15. IB does not describe this vessel. Joseph Needham suggests the name may be 
related to cocca, coque, or cog, which was a medieval ship of the Mediterranean and 
North Atlantic. Science and Civilization in China, vol. 4, part 3, Civil Engineering and 
Nautics (Cambridge, 1971), p. 469n. 

16. My translation. D&S, vol. 4, pp. 103-4. 

17. IB says that his second departure from Calicut took place “at the end of the 
season for traveling on the sea.” meaning the weeks before the southwest monsoon 
came up in full force. Although the Malabar ports did not close down altogether until 
June, [B almost certainly left Calicut no later than about 1 Apmil, since vessels bound for 
Arabia or the Persian Gulf had to reach their destinations before the monsoon reached 
full strength in those latitudes. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, p. 375. Therefore. the sinking 
of IB’s junk off Calicut must have taken place no later than about 1 March to make room 
for his tip to Quilon and back, which probably consumed at least 25 days. (He says it 
took him ten days to travel from Calicut to Quilon.) 

18. Yule (Cathay, vol. 4, pp. 64-66) identifies Sandapur with Goa, although the 
evidence is not conclusive. Duarte Barbosa, vol. 1, pp. 170-72. IB presents the only 
account of Jamal al-Din’s conquest of the city and its subsequent recovery by the raja. 

19. IB states that the ships left Honavar on Saturday and attacked Sandapur on the 
following Monday, or 13 Jumada I 743 A.H. (14 October 1342). 

20. IB declares that he stayed in Sandapur from 13 Jumada J until the middle part of 
Sha’ban, that is, about three months. 15 Sha’ban 743 corresponds to 13 January 1343. In 
connection with his first visit to Honavar, IB mentions that at some subsequent time he 
stayed with Jamal al-Din for eleven months (D&S, vol. 4, p. 70), but a sojourn of this 
length fits badly with the other meager chronological information IB provides con- 
cerning his India travels. 

21. He says he arrived there in late Muharram, which is the first month of the Muslim 
year; 28 Muharram, that is, one of the last days of the month, calculates as 22 June 1343. 

22. IB’s date for his flight from Sandapur when it was under seige is 2 Rabi’ IT. That 
date in 744 A.H. corresponds to 24 August 1343. In his initial description of the west 
coast in the Rihla, he implies that at some point he traveled along the road that 
paralleled the Kanara and Malabar coasts. This may have been the time, since escape 
from Sandapur by sea would likely have been more difficult than by land. 

23. IB says that he left Sandapur on 2 Rabi’ II, and he implies that he arrived in the 
Maldives shortly before the following Ramadan. The intervening time was four to five 
months, presumably divided between his journey from Sandapur to Calicut, his stay in 
the latter place, and his ten-day sea voyage (as he recalls it) to the Maldives. 

24. Clarence Maloney collected a version of the legend, very similar to IB’s story, in 
the mid-1970s. People of the Maldives (Madras, 1980), pp. 98-99. 

25. S.D. Goitein, “From Aden to India: Specimens of the Correspondence of India 

240 Malabar and the Maldives 

Traders of the Twelfth Century,” Journal of the Economic and Social Hist 
of the Orient 23 (1980): 43-66; “Letters and Documents on the India Trade in 
Medieval Times,” Islamic Culture 37 (1963): 188-205; “From the Mediterranean to 
India: Documents on the Trade to India, South Arabia and East Africa from the 
Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries,” Speculum 29 (1954): 181-97. 

26. IB’s Kannalus may be identified with Kinalos Island. The Voyage of Francois 
Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, trans. 
and ed. Albert Gray, 2 vols. (London, n.d.; reprint edn., New York, 1963), vol. 2 
p. 438. Francois Pyrard was a French sailor who spent five and a half years in the 
Maldives in the early seventeenth century and subsequently wrote a lively and 
detailed description of the customs and manners of their inhabitants. The edition 
cited here also includes edited translations of earlier reports on the Maldives, 
including IB’s narrative. 

27. Maloney, People of the Maldives, pp. 219, 233. 

28. IB implies that he reached the islands some weeks before Ramadan 744. 
That month began on 17 January 1344 (see note 23). 

29. IB and subsequent travelers to the islands speak of the “Maldivian fever,” 
which was almost certainly malaria. Maloney, People of the Maldives, p. 398. If IB 
became infected with malaria, he would probably have been seriously ill for a few 

30. He dates his first marriage in the Maldives to the month of Shawwal, which 
began on 16 February 1344. 

31. Maloney, People of the Maldives, pp. 191-96. 

32. Mahdi Husain’s translation reads “so as to bring back the Maldive islands 
under his sway” (MH, p. 214). “Bring back” is an accurate translation of the verbal 
noun farajju’i, but the islands had not previously been invaded or ruled by the 
Sultanate of Ma’bar. See D&S, vol. 4, p. 160. 

33. In the seventeenth century the King of Bengal would send a fleet of galleys 
to raid and sack the Maldives. Gray, Frangois Pyrard, vol. 1, pp. 310-20. 

34. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 465. 

35. Pyrard also remarks on the high frequency of marriage and divorce in the 
islands. Ibid., vol. 1, pp. 150-55. 

36. IB gives the date of his departure from the islands as mid Rabi’ II 745 A.H., 
15 Rabi’ II calculates as 26 August 1344. That would have been the late summer 
monsoon period and a plausible time to be sailing northeastward from the Mal- 
dives. Here my revised chronology, placing his departure from Delhi in 742 rather 
than 743, falls back into line with IB’s own dating. His departure from the Maldives 
in 745 accords well with the dating of the subsequent visit to Ma’bar (see note 4). IB 
mentions that he lived in the Maldives for a year and a half (D&S, vol. 4, p. 114), 
but this statement does not seem compatible with the other chronological data he 
provides. A stay of about eight months, from mid Sha’ban 744 to mid Rabi’ II 745, 
makes more sense. 


] l China 

I assure you that for one spice ship that goes to Alexandria 
or elsewhere to pick up pepper for export to Christendom, 
Zaiton is visited by a hundred . . . I can tell you further 
that the revenue accruing to the Great Khan from this city 
and port is something colossal.’ 

Marco Polo 

Ibn Battuta visited Ceylon (Sri Lanka) on his way to Ma’bar so 
that he might go on pilgrimage to the top of Adam’s Peak, the 
spectacular conical mountain that loomed over the southwestern 
interior of the island. “That exceeding high mountain hath a 
pinnacle of surpassing height, which, on account of the clouds, can 
rarely be seen,” wrote John de Marignolli, the Christian monk 
who passed through Ceylon just a few years after Ibn Battuta. 
“But God, pitying our tears, lighted it up one morning just before 
the sun rose, so that we beheld it glowing with the brightest 
flame”’ Ibn Battuta recalls that he first saw the peak from far out 
to sea, “rising up into the sky like a column of smoke.” The 
mountain was sacred to Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists alike, 
and pilgrims of all three faiths climbed together to the summit to 
behold a depression in the surface of the rock vaguely resembling 
the shape of an enormous foot. For Buddhists it is the footprint of 
Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. For Hindus it is a trace of the 
Great God Shiva, and for some Christians it belongs to St. 
Thomas. In Muslim tradition God cast Adam and Eve from the 
seventh heaven in disgrace, and when they tumbled to earth the 
man landed hard on the peak of the mountain, leaving an impress 
of his foot in the solid rock. He remained there for a thousand 
years atoning for his sins, until the Archangel Gabriel led him to 
Arabia, where Eve had fallen. The man and the woman met on 
the plain of "Arafat and later returned to Ceylon to propagate the 
human race. Adam was not only the first man but the first prophet 
of Islam as well, and it was to reverence him that Muslim pilgrims 
trekked to the Foot, as they still do today. 


242 China 

Arriving from the Maldives in the company of Captain Ibrahim, 
Ibn Battuta put ashore at a place he calls Battala, probably mod- 
ern Puttalam on the west central coast.* In the pattern of Muslim 
maritime settlement, Ceylon’s western coast was an extension of 
Malabar. Merchants of the Arabian Sea had operated from ports 
like Puttalam since Abbasid times, exporting rubies, pearls, areca 
nuts, and from about the fourteenth century large quantities of 
cinnamon. Puttalam lay within the domain of the Hindu kingdom 
of Jaffna, which at that time dominated the northern half of the 
island, prospering from the Indo—Ceylonese trade and the wealth 
of the pearl fisheries in the Gulf of Mannar. 

Ibn Battuta arrived in Puttalam to find the King of Jaffna, the 
Arya Chakravarti, temporarily in residence. Announcing himself a 
kinsman by marriage of the Sultan of Ma’bar (with whom Jaffna 
had good relations), he had no trouble getting himself introduced 
into the royal court. Since the Arya Chakravarti understood some 
Persian, Ibn Battuta regaled him for three days with stories of 
“kings and countries,” then politely requested patronage to secure 
guides and provisions for the long walk to Adam’s Peak. The king 
not only gave him all the supplies he needed but also a palanquin 
for his personal comfort plus the fellowship of 10 Brahmin priests, 
15 porters, 10 courtiers of the royal household, and 4 yogis. At this 
point Ibn Battuta’s personal suite appears to have consisted of al- 
Tuzari, a second Egyptian gentleman, and two slave girls. 

The party made the round trip up the mountain and back to 
Puttalam by a circular route through the southwestern quarter of 
the island, a journey facilitated by Ceylon’s superior network of 
high roads, stone bridges, and rest houses.* They first traveled due 
south along the palm-lined coast to the port of Chilaw (Bandar 
Salawat). There they turned southeastward into the interior, 
passed briefly through the territory of the Buddhist Sinhalese 
kingdom of Gampola, then climbed gradually upwards through 
the lush montane forests of the central highlands.” There were two 
tracks to the summit of the mountain, but custom instructed that a 
pilgrim would acquire divine merit only if he ascended by the more 
difficult route and came down by the easy one. The final ascent up 
the rocky cone was itself an act of religious faith, for the pilgrim 
had to haul himself grunting and sweating up a series of nearly 
vertical cliffs by means of little stirrups affixed to chains suspended 
from iron pegs. 

Making it to the top in one piece, Ibn Battuta and his comrades 

China 243 

camped for three days at a cave near the summit. Following 
tradition, he walked each morning and evening to the site of the 
Foot and joined the cluster of Hindus, Buddhists, and fellow 
Muslims, each group possessing its own notion of what holy event 
the imprint represented but sharing nonetheless a rare moment of 
transcendent brotherhood. He also beheld one of the most 
breathtaking scenic views anywhere in the world, a panorama of 
wooded hills rippling away from the base of the Peak to the golden 
band of the sea in the far distance. 

The party returned to the coast by a roundabout route south- 
ward to the port of Dondra (Dinawar), then up along the western 
shore. When they reached Puttalam again, Ibn Battuta found the 
ubiquitous Captain Ibrahim waiting to ferry him and his com- 
panions across the Gulf of Mannar to the shore of the subcontinent 
and the kingdom of Ma’bar. The stages of the trip to Adam’s Peak 
and back suggest that he may have put out from Puttalam in 

This was the transitional period between the two monsoons, a 
season when heavy squalls might come up in the gulf without 
warning. More than that, Ibn Battuta mentions twice in the Rihla 
that despite his long acquaintanceship with Ibrahim, he never 
really had much confidence in him as a sailor. Setting a course 
northeastward from Puttalam, the vessel had almost made it to the 
South Indian coast, when suddenly 

the wind became violent and the water rose so high that it was 
about to enter the ship, while we had no able captain with us. 
We then got near a rock, where the ship was on the point of 
being wrecked; afterwards we came into shallow water wherein 
the ship began to sink. Death stared us in the face and the 
passengers jettisoned all that they possessed and bade adieu to 
one another. 

Racing against the wind and waves, the crew managed to cut down 
the main mast and throw it overboard, then lash together a crude 
raft and lower it to the sea. Ibn Battuta got his two companions 
and his concubines down onto it, but there was no room left for 
him. Too poor a swimmer to jump into the water and hang onto 
the raft with a rope, he could only stick with the ship and hope for 
the best. The sailors who stayed behind tried vainly to tie together 
more floats, but darkness fell and the work had to be given up. 

244 China 

Throughout the night Ibn Battuta huddled terrified in the stern as the 
water rose around him. In the meantime his companions made it safely 
to shore and sought help from Tamil villagers, for in the morning a 
rescue party of boatmen suddenly appeared alongside the rapidly sink- 
ing dhow. The crew and remaining passengers were all taken to shore, 
apparently including Captain Ibrahim, though of him we hear no more. 

Reunited with his friends and slave women on a rural stretch of the 
southeastern coast, Ibn Battuta gladly accepted food and shelter from 
the Tamil country folk who had plucked him from the sea. He seems to 
have saved some of his personal belongings from the shipwreck, 
including mementos from various Sufi divines and a bag of pearls, 
rubies, and other gems given to him by the King of Jaffna. The party 
remained with the local Tamils while word was sent to Ghiyath al-Din, 
the Sultan of Ma’bar, that a brother-in-law of his, late of Delhi, had 
arrived on the coast in distressing circumstances. The sultan happened 
to be ona military tour not far away, and in three days’ time a company 
of horse and infantry arrived to conduct the visitors across the dry 
coastal lowlands to the royal camp. 

Ibn Battuta spent altogether about two months in Ma’bar, but it was 
not a period of his travels he recalls with any joy. More than a decade 
had passed since Jalal al-Din Ahsan Shah, the father of Ibn Battuta’s 
ex-wife, Hurnasab, had revolted against Muhammad Tughluq and 
founded an independent Muslim state held precariously together by a 
small, turbulent minority of Turko—Afghan fighting men. Jalal al-Din 
had died in 1338 or 1339 while Ibn Battuta was still in Delhi. His 
successor ruled less than two years before taking a Hindu arrow in the 
head. The third sultan was assassinated by his own commanders after 
only a few months in power. The fourth was Ghiyath al-Din. A former 
cavalryman under Muhammad Tughlugq and husband of Hurnasab’s 
sister, he had fought his way to the throne in 1340 or 1341. 

Since the entire Muslim population of Ma’bar was small, limited to 
the military aristocracy, coastal merchants, and a modest bureaucratic 
and religious corps, Ghiyath al-Din would likely have welcomed the 
former gadi of Delhi to his court whether the marriage connection 
existed or not. Beyond that, Ibn Battuta arrived with a fascinating 
proposal that Ghiyath al-Din was only too happy to entertain: 

I had an interview with the sultan in the course of which I broached 
the Maldive affair and proposed that he should send an expedition 
to those islands. He set about with determination to do so and 
specified the warships for that purpose. 

China 245 

The plan the two men devised was to have Ibn Battuta lead a naval 
invasion of the atolls and intimidate Queen Khadija into accepting 
an unequal alliance with the sultanate. Ghiyath al-Din would 
marry one of the queen’s sisters while men loyal to him, Ibn 
Battuta among them, would run the kingdom as a satellite of 
Ma’bar. The plot had only to await preparation of an attack fleet, 
which, the sultan’s naval chief reported, would take at least three 

Presumably the admiral set to work fitting out the warships, but 
the plan began to go awry almost as soon as it was hatched. From 
the outset, Ibn Battuta took a dislike to Ghiyath al-Din, whose 
troops went about the land rounding up Tamil villagers and indis- 
criminately impaling them on sharpened stakes, the sort of politi- 
cal atrocity absolutely forbidden to Muslim rulers by Koranic 
injunction. Ibn Battuta and his retinue spent some time in Pattan 
(Fattan), the main port of Ma’bar,” then traveled upcountry to 
Madurai, the capital of the sultanate and one of the major towns of 
southeastern India. There he found the population in the throes of 
an epidemic so lethal that “whoever caught infection died on the 
morrow, or the day after, and if not on the third day, then on the 
fourth.” He purchased a healthy slave girl in the city, but she died 
the following day. Ghiyath al-Din, who was already ill from taking 
a love potion containing iron filings, witnessed the loss of his 
mother and son to the plague. A week later he himself died.” Nasir 
al-Din, a nephew of the dead sultan and a soldier of apparently 
low origins, quickly seized the throne and got to the business of 
dismissing or murdering various political enemies. 

The new ruler was happy enough to retain the services of his 
predecessor’s brother-in-law and pressed him to carry on with the 
expedition. Ibn Battuta might at that point have been willing to 
move ahead, but he suddenly fell seriously ill himself, probably 
not with the disease that had killed so many in Madurai but from 
the malaria he had contracted in the Maldives. By the time he 
recovered he had lost all interest in the conspiracy, disliked 
Madurai intensely, and wanted only to get out of Ma’bar. He 
never explains why he had such a drastic change of heart, but he 
gives the impression that he had little confidence in Nasir al-Din 
and liked him even less than Ghiyath al-Din. Whatever the reason, 
he refused the sultan’s urgings to launch the war fleet and finally 
got permission to leave Ma‘bar with his little entourage. His 
Original plan of travel — before he got involved in Maldivian 

246 China 

politics — was to visit Ceylon and Ma’bar, then go directly on to 
Bengal. But if he was leaving from Pattan about December 1344, 
he would not have found any vessels sailing into the Bay of Bengal 
until the start of the summer winds in May." Ships were going in 
the other direction, however — westward around Ceylon to 
Malabar and Aden. If his immediate object was to flee the 
Sultanate of Ma’bar as fast as possible, then he and his com- 
panions would go wherever the monsoon blew.'! And so he re- 
turned once again to Quilon on the Malabar coast. 

His career at sixes and sevens, he stayed in Quilon for three 
months, still recovering from his illness. Then he decided to try his 
luck with his old patron Jamal al-Din of Honavar. The sultan 
might well have been less than delighted to see the man who had 
abandoned him so abruptly during the siege of Sandapur two and a 
half years earlier, but in any case the reunion was not to be. Ibn 
Battuta and his group took passage on a ship bound for Honavar, 
well enough aware that storms and shallows were not the only 
perils on the west Indian coast. Marco Polo had passed through 
the region about a half century earlier and described the danger 

You must know that from this kingdom of Melibar, and from 
another near it called Gozurat, there go forth every year more 
than a hundred corsair vessels on cruise . . . Their method is to 
join in fleets of 20 or 30 of these pirate vessels together, and 
then they form what they call a sea cordon, that is, they drop off 
till there is an interval of 5 or 6 miles between ship and ship, so 
that they cover something like a hundred miles of sea, and no 
merchant ship can escape them. For when any one corsair sights 
a vessel a signal is made by fire or smoke, and then the whole of 
them make for this, and seize the merchants and plunder them. 
After they have plundered them they let them go, saying: “Go 
along with you and get more gain, and that mayhap will fall to 
us also!” But now the merchants are aware of this, and go so 
well manned and armed, and with such great ships, that they 
don’t fear the corsairs. Still mishaps do befall them at times.” 

For Ibn Battuta and his luckless friends, the “mishap” occurred 
near a small island just south of Honavar.'* Caught in the corsair’s 
net, twelve ships suddenly converged on the lonely vessel and 
attacked at once. Clambering over the gunwales from all direc- 

China 247 

tions, the pirates quickly overpowered the hapless crew, and 
stripped the passengers of everything they had. “They seized the 
jewels and rubies which the king of Ceylon had given me,” Ibn 
Battuta remembers, “and robbed me of my clothes and provisions 
with which pious men and saints had favored me. They left nothing 
on my body except my trousers.”'* Then, with an encouraging 
word to their terrified victims to pass that way again sometime, the 
brigands politely dropped them all off on the nearby shore un- 

Dispossessed and humiliated once again, [bn Battuta did not 
walk the short distance up the Kanara coast to Honavar, probably 
concluding that it would be impolitic, if not thoroughly boorish, to 
appear before Jamal al-Din a second time in a state of destitution. 
Somehow he and his party managed to make their way back down 
the coast to Calicut — no details are given — where “one of the 
jurists sent me a garment, the qadi sent me a turban, and a certain 
merchant sent me another garment.” 

While recuperating in Calicut he learned through the port gossip 
that the other Jamal al-Din, the grand vizier of the Maldives, had 
died and that the pregnant woman Ibn Battuta had divorced had 
given birth to a son shortly after his departure the previous year.'” 
He also learned that his old nemesis, the vizier Abdallah, had 
married Queen Khadija and assumed the office of chief minister. 
By this time Ibn Battuta had given up any idea of returning to the 
islands at the head of the Ma’bar navy, but he did have an urge to 
claim his son, a right he had in Muslim law. Well knowing that 
"Abdallah could make considerable trouble for him if he turned 
up on Male again, especially if the Ma’bar conspiracy had become 
known, he decided nonetheless to chance a visit. Sailing from 
Calicut, presumably no later than May 1345, he reached the atolls 
in ten days.'° 

Landing first on Kinalos Island then sailing southward to Male, 
he found ’Abdallah reasonably well disposed toward him, though 
a bit suspicious. He dined with the vizier and was given lodgings 
near the royal palace, but he says nothing in the Rihla of renewing 
his political contacts. When his ex-wife learned that she was about 
to lose her son, probably for all time, she complained bitterly to 
"Abdallah, who was nevertheless disinclined to stand in the 
father’s way. The father, however, was a man with a long history 
of abandoning we may only guess how many sons and daughters in 
various parts of the Muslim world. After seeing the little boy and, 

248 China 

we might hope, responding to the pleas of his wretched mother, he 
“deemed it fit for him to continue with the islanders.” And SO, 
after staying in the Maldives only five days, he boarded a junk 
bound for Bengal. He was not to return again, much to the relief 
we may suppose, of all concerned. 

Sailing round the southern tip of Ceylon into the Bay of Bengal, 
Ibn Battuta was joining a surge of Muslim migration into the 
maritime lands of greater southeastern Asia. The fourteenth was a 
century of bright opportunities for any believer seeking career, 
fortune, or spiritual self-mastery out beyond the frontier of the 
Dar al-Islam, where the Sacred Law and the rightly guided society 
it embodied had yet to be introduced to benighted millions. It was 
the century when Islamic urban culture secured itself firmly in 
Bengal, when Muslim mercantile settlements took charge of the 
international trade through the Strait of Malacca, and when 
cosmopolitan Islam reached its zenith of infuence and prosperity 
in China. 

Arab and Iranian seamen of the eighth century had first intro- 
duced Islam in the Far East during bold, year-and-a-half trading 
voyages from the Persian Gulf to the South China coast and back 
again. Yet these missions were given up by the tenth century as the 
Abbasid state and the T’ang empire of China deteriorated 
simultaneously. The Arabo—Persian settlement at Canton virtually 
disappeared, and the voyages left hardly any Islamic impress on 
eastern Asia. Historians used to suppose that the cessation of 
these direct, long-distance links between the Middle East and 
China was evidence of a protracted “decline” of Muslim trade with 
the farther East. On the contrary, the long run of commercial 
developments between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries in- 
volved a more or less steady increase in the variety, and no doubt 
volume, of goods exchanged along the chain of southern seas, as 
well as proliferation of ports and local hinterlands incorporated 
into the inter-regional system. By the eleventh or twelfth centuries 
a Muslim network of trust, friendship, and social expectation ruled 
the commerce of the western Indian Ocean. Since the sea routes 
from there through the Bay of Bengal to the China Seas had since 
ancient times constituted a continuum of commercial exchange, it 
was almost inevitable that the network should push out along the 
shores north and east of Ceylon in search of new bases of 
operation. Sharing as they did an unusual esprit de corps and 

China 249 

monopolizing the routes leading to the markets of Africa, Persia, 
and the Mediterranean basin, upstart Muslim merchants had 
powerful advantages over Indian, Malay, or Chinese trading 
groups, who found themselves gradually superseded by or, more 
likely, coopted into the Muslim club. 

During the era of the two Sung dynasties (960-1279), China 
experienced spectacular economic growth. Agricultural and indus- 
trial output shot up, population soared, cities multiplied, and the 
internal network of roads and canals was vastly improved. A 
remarkable expansion of overseas trade accompanied these 
trends. Chinese nautical and naval technology was well in advance 
of the Arabian Sea tradition and could conceivably have been 
wielded to enforce a monopoly over the eastern sea routes. In fact, 
the Sung emperors embraced a dual policy. They encouraged 
Chinese merchants to trade directly to India (or in some isolated 
instances as far west as the Red Sea). But at the same time they 
invited foreign traders, notably Muslims, to establish, or in the 
case of Canton re-establish, settlements in the cities of South 

Moreover, Chinese overseas mercantile operations tended to be 
hampered by the Sung government's insistence on close regulation 
and control. By contrast, the alien Muslim trading groups were 
fluid, versatile, and unimpeded by any central bureaucratic auth- 
ority. They could therefore move goods across the Bay of Bengal 
and the South China Sea more speedily, more efficiently, and 
probably at lower cost than could the Chinese junk masters. Thus, 
the “commercial revolution” of Sung China stimulated the ex- 
pansion of Muslim shipping east of Malabar and the growth of 
busy, multinational settlkements in Ch’uan-chou (Zaitun, or 
Quanzhou), Canton, and other south coast ports. Muslim 
mercantile communities even sprang up in Hang-chou, the capital 
of the Southern Sung Dynasty (1127-1279), and other major towns 
along the interior land and water routes. Indeed, a significant 
proportion of Chinese merchants in the international trade appear 
to have converted to Islam, improving, as it were, their credit 

The Mongol invasion of China and overthrow of the Sung only 
reinforced these trends. The Yuan dynasty was the only one of the 
four great Mongol khanates whose rulers never converted to 
Islam. Nevertheless, the khans of the early Yuan period, dis- 
trusting, as well they might have, the loyalty and commitment of 

250 China 

the sullen, hyper-civilized class of Chinese scholar-bureaucrats, 
brought in numerous foreigners of diverse origins and religions 
and placed them in responsible, even powerful, positions of state. 
These men depended completely on their Mongol masters to pro- 
tect them and promote their careers and were expected to give 
unquestioning loyalty in return. The influence of foreign cadres 
reached its peak in the reign of Khubilai Khan (1260-94), when 
hundreds of Muslims of Central Asian or Middle Eastern origin 
(not to mention a few European adventurers such as Maffeo Polo 
and his son Marco) held jobs as tax-collectors, finance officers, 
craftsmen, and architects. 

The Yuan “open door” policy on foreign recruitment, combined 
with their enthusiastic promotion of pan-Eurasian trade, attracted 
Muslim merchants into China’s vast, largely unexploited market as 
never before. They came not only to the China Sea ports and the 
cities of the populous south, but also across Inner Asia and 
through the gates of the Great Wall to found settlements in the 
northern towns, including even Korea. The largest communities 
were in Ch’uan-chou and Canton on the southern coast. These 
groups largely governed the internal affairs of their own city 
quarters, and Muslim merchant associations, called ortakh, even 
took loans from the Yuan government to capitalize their foreign 
trade enterprises. Mosques, hospitals, khanqahs, and bazaars rose 
up in the Muslim neighborhoods of Ch’uan-chou and Canton, and 
gadis were appointed to adjudicate the Sacred Law in civil and 
business affairs. '” 

Following Khubilai’s death in 1294, the appointment of fore- 
igners to official posts trailed off as the Yuan emperors lost touch 
with the stout ways of the steppe, took up the habits of traditional 
Chinese potentates, and gradually brought the Confucian 
scholar-gentry back into government. The Sinicization of the 
dynasty, which was especially pronounced after 1328, does not 
seem to have much affected Muslim trading enterprise in the 
cities, which continued to thrive until the collapse of the Mongol 
regime in 1368. Until that time, a Muslim might travel the main 
roads and canals of China, finding in the major towns little clusters 
of co-believers always eager to offer hospitality and to hear news 
from the west. After 1368, however, resurgent Chinese rule under 
the Ming dynasty brought a severe native reaction against foreign 
influences, and the alien Muslim settlements quickly withered 

China 251 

The growth of Muslim commercial settlements in China in the 
Mongol Age was mirrored in similar developments along the 
coasts of Southeast Asia. The strategic link in the trade between 
India and China was the Strait of Malacca, connecting the Bay of 
Bengal with the South China Sea. Like the Malabar coast, the 
strait was a hinge in the monsoonal sailing system. Vessels crossing 
the Bay of Bengal eastbound on the summer monsoon could not 
normally reach China before the opposing northeast wind set in. 
Therefore they would winter in a port along the strait before 
continuing around the Malay Peninsula and across the South 
China Sea in April or May. Climatic reality encouraged India- 
based merchants to sell their goods in the strait towns, then return 
directly to Malabar on the winter wind. China shippers followed 
the same seasonal pattern of travel, only in reverse. 

By the thirteenth century local Malay rulers of the strait, men 
who practiced Hinduism or a combination of Hindu—Buddhist 
devotions, were avidly encouraging Muslim traders to settle in 
their ports owing to the obvious fiscal advantages of tying them- 
selves securely into the southern seas’ commercial network. 
Wherever such communities sprouted, their members felt im- 
pelled to order their collective lives in accord with the demands of 
the shari’a to the extent the authorities permitted. Thus a call went 
out for scribes, judges, Koranic teachers, mosque Officials, 
craftsmen, and, since business was good, more merchants. In time, 
the Muslim population, with its universalist claims and _ its 
cosmopolitan connections, became large, rich, and prestigious 
enough to win over members of the Malay elite and ultimately to 
impress, intimidate, or manipulate the princely court into official 
conversion. This event in turn set off a new round of immigration 
from abroad, as enterprising, footloose men responded to what 
Marshal Hodgson calls the “drawing power” of new Muslim com- 
munities. '® 

This process was only just beginning in Southeast Asia when Ibn 
Battuta came through. A Malay prince, ruler of the port of 
Samudra on the northwestern coast of Sumatra, converted to 
Islam sometime in the late thirteenth century, and his is the 
earliest Islamicized state in the region historians have been able to 
discover.'” Elsewhere in the Eastern Archipelago, that is, in the 
countries bordering the Java Sea and the “spice islands” further off 
to the east, Islam was still largely unknown in the first half of the 
fourteenth century. The subsequent three hundred years would be 

252 China 

the crucial period of quiet, persistent conversion, ultimately trans- 
forming Indonesia into an overwhelmingly Muslim country. 

From the eleventh century, when the high age of Arab 
geographical writing had almost run its course, down to the end of 
the Islamic Middle Period, the Rihla stands alone as an eye- 
witness Muslim travel account of Eastern Asia. Yet the story of 
Ibn Battuta’s journey to China must be told briefly and in a spirit 
of uneasy skepticism. If we take his word for the itinerary he 
followed, insofar as we can make sense of it, this was the longest 
more or less uninterrupted trip of his career, spanning somewhere 
between 11,000 and 12,000 miles of travel by land and sea. Yet his 
narrative of the entire tour from the Maldives to Bengal, Sumatra, 
China as far north as Peking, and back to Malabar occupies less 
than 6 percent of the Rih/a text. And as both a descriptive account 
and a record of personal experience of what alleges to be a bold, 
arduous journey far beyond the frontiers of the Dar al-Islam, it is 
the least satisfying and most problematic section of the entire 

The itinerary is vague, possibly disordered, and sometimes 
baffling. Chronological information, except for what can be in- 
ferred here and there, is almost altogether lacking. Descriptions of 
places, events, and things observed are often muddled or patently 
inaccurate. The sort of precise personal witnessing that lends 
credibility to so much of the narrative, while not altogether 
lacking, is suspiciously spare. The fuzziness and obscurity of the 
story stands out uneasily against the rich, vivid, even introspective 
accounts of the years in India and the Maldives. Indeed, the 
deficiencies of this part of the book give the impression that Ibn 
Battuta remembered the details of his much earlier travels in 
Persia, Africa, or Anatolia better than he did the Far Eastern trip, 
which occurred less than a decade before the Rihla was composed. 
Moreover, an estimation of the probable starting date of the 
journey (that is, his second departure from the Maldives) and his 
own recollection of the month when he returned to Malabar 
suggest that he made the entire journey from the Maldives to 
Peking in the far north of China and all the way back to South 
India again in the space of about twenty months, including several 
leisurely rest stops. Since we can safely eliminate the possibility of 
his traveling by jet plane or hydrofoil, such a pace seems incon- 
ceivable, and if not that, then at least pointless. All of these 

China 253 

difficulties have led some scholars to doubt that Ibn Battuta really 
traveled to China or even anywhere east of Ceylon, contending 
that this part of the Rihla may be a fabrication and the descriptive 
information it contains based entirely on hearsay.*” 

No one, however, has made a completely convincing case that 
Ibn Battuta did not go to East Asia, at least as far as the ports of 
South China. The riddle of the journey probably defies solution 
since the Rihla, we must remind ourselves, is a work of literature, 
a survey of the Muslim world of the fourteenth century in narrative 
form, not a travel diary composed along the road. We have no way 
of knowing the precise relationship between Ibn Battuta’s real life 
experience and the account of it contained in the fragile manu- 
scripts that have come down to us from his time. Moreover, the 
narrative of the China trip is by no means a collection of abstract 
reports or improbable tales. For all its sketchiness and ambiguity, 
it is still a story of countries and cities visited, events experienced, 
people talked to, and aspects of everyday life observed. And so, 
honoring Ibn Battuta with the benefit of the doubt, we follow him, 
albeit warily, to Bengal and beyond. 

Instead of sailing directly from the Maldives to the Strait of 
Malacca on some pepper ship out of Malabar, Ibn Battuta decided 
first to visit Bengal. He probably had no trouble finding a vessel to 
take him there since the islanders carried on regular trade with 
that region, importing quantities of rice from the Ganges Delta, 
paid for in cowrie shells.”! 

Like the Deccan, Bengal in the thirteenth and early fourteenth 
centuries was a frontier of Turkish arms and Persian-style Islamic 
culture emanating from the Indo—Gangetic plain. But much unlike 
the central plateau, Bengal was a heavily populated, water-soaked 
garden of immense fertility. In the later thirteenth century the 
region was annexed to the Sultanate of Delhi. As Muslim gov- 
ernors and garrisons occupied the important delta towns, im- 
migrants streamed in from the northwest, making Bengal the 
eastward overland terminus for the class of skilled and literate 
refugees and their descendants who had introduced Arabo- 
Persian civilization to India. By Ibn Battuta’s time, a number of 
Bengali cities had madrasas and important Sufi lodges, and the 
conversion of Hindu or Buddhist peasant folk that would prove so 
successful in subsequent centuries was already getting under way. 

The sultans of Delhi, however, found it exasperatingly difficult 

254 China 

to hold the mastery of their eastern frontier. Unlike the northern 
plains, Bengal was extremely unaccommodating to the operations 
of cavalry. Jungles and mountains obstructed the routes in from 
the capital, and rivers were numerous and unfordable. Con- 
sequently, the local Turkish lords, who built up riverine navies to 
ensure their own purely regional power, repeatedly rebelled 
against Delhi. Muhammad Tughluq succeeded in placing gov- 
ernors over his delta provinces early in his reign, but when the 
pretense of his vast subcontinental empire became exposed, 
Bengal was one of the first provinces to bolt. In 1338, the eastern 
half of the region broke away when Muhammad’s governor died, 
prompting an obscure Turkish officer named Fakr al-Din Mubarak 
Shah to seize the main chance and proclaim a kingdom of his own. 
Two years later West Bengal seceded under similar circumstances. 

Ibn Battuta seems to have wanted to visit the delta in the 
summer of 1345 mainly to seek the blessing of Shah Jalal. He was a 
celebrated holy warrior who, in the year our traveler was born, 
participated in the Muslim takeover of Sylhet, a town and district 
in the northeastern corner of the delta.*? Under normal circum- 
stances, Ibn Battuta would also have had himself presented at the 
princely court of Fakr al-Din, whose capital was at Sonargaon, a 
city about half way along the route from the coast to Sylhet. In this 
case, however, Fakr al-Din’s dissidence was too recent and his 
own identification with Muhammad Tughlug too well known to 
make such an introduction advisable. Consequently, he decided to 
steer clear of royal interviews and make a quick trip up to Sylhet as 
anonymously as possible. 

He probably disembarked at the busy eastern port of 
Chittagong, a city overflowing with agricultural goods transported 
by river craft down through the maze of delta channels to the 
coast.** He notes in the Rih/a that foreigners liked to call Bengal 
“a hell crammed with good things.” The noxious, humid vapours 
exuded from the delta’s marshes and riverbanks made for an 
oppressive climate, but food was abundant and remarkably cheap. 
To prove his point, he even offers in the Rihla a list of prices for 
rice, meat, fowl, sugar, oil, cotton, and slaves. Not to pass up a 
bargain himself, he purchased an “extremely beautiful” slave girl 
in Chittagong. One of his comrades acquired a young boy for “a 
couple of gold dinars.” 

He tells us nothing very lucid about the itinerary or time 
schedule of his trip from Chittagong to Sylhet, but he very likely 

China 255 

traveled by boat northward along the Meghna River valley, a lush, 
watery, rice-growing country leading to the Assam Plateau and the 
Tibetan Himalayas beyond.** He seems to have had a party of 
companions, but they are more phantom-like than ever. Al- 
Tuzari was apparently with him when he visited Ma’bar, but he is 
never mentioned after that and indeed we learn parenthetically in 
an earlier part of the Rih/a that the man died in India.”° 

Shah Jalal of Sylhet, whose tomb is still a local pilgrimage 
center, was renowned in medieval India for awesome miracles, 
prognostications, and the feat of dying at the age of 150.°° One 
day, the Rihla reports, the old shaykh, who had no previous 
knowledge of Ibn Battuta, told his disciples that a traveler from 
the Maghrib was about to arrive and that they should go out to 
meet him. This they did, intercepting the visitor two days’ distance 
from the khangqah. The story gives Ibn Battuta a convenient entrée 
to remind his readers of his own singular accomplishments as a 

When I visited him he rose to receive me and embraced me. He 
enquired of me about my country and journeys, of which I gave 
him an account. He said to me, “You are a traveler of Arabia.” 
His disciples who were then present said, “O lord, he is also a 
traveler of the non-Arab countries.” “Traveler of the non-Arab 
countries!” rejoined the shaykh, “Treat him, then, with favor.” 
Therefore they took me to the hospice and entertained me for 
three days. 

Returning southward along the Meghna River past “water 
wheels, gardens, and villages such as those along the banks of the 
Nile in Egypt,” he reached Sonargaon (not far from modern 
Dacca), the capital of Sultan Fakr al-Din. Without dallying long or 
identifying himself at the royal residence, he bought passage on a 
commercial junk departing down the river and went directly on to 

The route of his voyage to the Strait of Malacca, which would 
probably have taken place in the fall or winter of 1345-46, is an 
annoying puzzle since this part of the Rih/a is murky and possibly 
disarranged. The ship made one stop at a place he calls Barah 
Nagar, which may have been a small Indo—Chinese tribal state 
along the western coast of Burma.’ The ship’s company presented 
gifts to the local chief (who appeared dressed in a goatskin and 

256 China 

Map 10: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in Southeast Asia and China, 

YUAN te 

’ Hang-bhou 
Riv er { 
ty Puehou 
we CoH Ch'uan-chou = ( 
wy \e 
¥ = 
Chittagong 3s <= 
ys & 
Barah Nagar 
”) . SOUTH Q 
BAY p 

eesecacseene Doubtful Journey © 

O 200 400 600 800 1000 Km. 

0 200 = 400 600 Mi. 

China 257 

riding an elephant), then did a bit of trading and sailed away. A 
second stop was made at a port called Qaqula (Kakula, or 
Qaqulla), a lair of pirates. It may have been located somewhere 
along the Tenasserim coast on the western side of the Malay 
Peninsula.2® Here Ibn Battuta visited the walled town, accepted 
the hospitality of the infidel Malay ruler for three days, and had 
the grisly treat of watching one of the prince’s subjects decapitate 
himself as a show of affection for his sovereign! 

Continuing south along the Malay coast and into the mouth of 
the strait, the junk put in at the Sumatran port of Samudra, a 
transshipping town located on one of the rivers flowing down from 
the wild mountains of the northwestern interior.”’ In a political 
sense Samudra was the last outpost of the Dar al-Islam. Though 
other towns down along the Sumatran coast had thriving com- 
mercial settlements, no sovereign Muslim states are known to have 
existed anywhere east of Samudra before the mid fourteenth 

Al-Malik al-Zahir (or Ahmad), the prince of the place and third 
in a line of Muslim rulers extending back some years before 
1297,°° warmly entertained Ibn Battuta and his companions in his 
wooden-walled town, which was a few miles upriver from the port 
settlement. Except for the mosque, the Friday prayer ritual, the 
foreign Muslims attending at court, and the fact that the sultan 
enjoyed lively discussion on points of Islamic law with a small 
cadre of legal scholars, the palace of Samudra followed custom 
and ritual not much different from any of the Hindu—Buddhist 
states of Malaya or the Archipelago.*' Getting into the spirit of 
things, Ibn Battuta exchanged his under-breeches for a loincloth, 
and before appearing at court, donned a rich set of garments in the 
local fashion. His first official host was a ranking military officer, 
whom, it turned out, he already knew. The man had traveled to 
Delhi some years earlier on a diplomatic mission for Samudra. 
Later, the newcomer was presented to al-Malik al-Zahir, who 
invited him to sit on his left at royal meals and plied him with 
questions about his travels and the affairs of Delhi. 

Ibn Battuta recalls that he spent only two weeks in Samudra, but 
it may have been longer than that since he did not leave for China 
until about April 1346, that is, when the southwest monsoon 
started and ships bound for Ch’uan-chou or Canton normally left 
the strait.*? In any event, he departed in style. Al-Malik al-Zahir 
honored his learned guest by outfitting and provisioning a junk for 

258 China 

him and even sending along one of his courtiers to provide pood 
company at shipboard meals. 

The normal sailing time from Sumatra to the South China coast was 
about 40 days,’ but Ibn Battuta remembers that the trip took 
something short of four months. He accounts for the longer time by 
describing two stops at ports along the way, possibly on the coasts of 
eastern Malaya, Champa, or Tonkin. Untortunately, the Rihla’s 
description of these places is so murky and, in the case of one of them, 
of such doubtful authenticity that their location remains a puzzle.*4 

Ibn Battuta arrived on the coast of China during the last peaceful 
years of Mongol rule. Signs were growing of the violent popular 
uprisings against the Yuan that would begin in a few years, but in 1346 
the country was still unified and prosperous. On the throne was 
Toghon Temur. He had come to power in 1333 after an unsettling 
period of murderous succession fights within the royal family. Turning 
his back on the Mongolian steppe, he ruled in the style of a traditional 
Confucian emperor and cultivated reasonably amiable relations with 
the Chinese elite. 

Ibn Battuta praises China as vast and bounteous, noting the quality 
of its silk and porcelain, the excellence of its plums and watermelons, 
the enormous size of its chickens, and the advantages of its paper 
money. He says that “China is the safest and most agreeable country in 
the world for the traveler. You can travel all alone across the land for 
nine months without fear, even if you are carrying much wealth.”** On 
the other hand, he admits to experiencing the worst culture shock of 
his traveling career, unable to accept or understand much of what he 
witnessed, like a member of some American tour group, hopping 
through Asia from one Hilton and air-conditioned bus to another. 

China was beautiful, but it did not please me. On the contrary, | 
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.*° 

Through the cultural lens of a Maliki schoolman, he saw the Chinese 
as heathens, worse indeed than the Christians in their rejection of the 
Almighty Creator and every single one of the prophets. More 
shocking than that, they were also a people supremely confident that 

China 259 

the Moroccan traveler’s own ideas of God and the universe were 
not worthy of serious discussion. If we allow the assumption that 
he did in fact visit China, we should be tolerant of his failure to 
learn much about Chinese culture or to report much of what he 
had learned in the Rihla. It was, after all, a book about the 
triumphant expansion of the Dar al-Islam, not about civilizations 
still befogged in idolatry. 

Even his account of his own itinerary through China is vague, 
brief, and uncharacteristically superficial. Although he claims to 
have traveled something close to 3,500 miles, mostly along China’s 
extensive river and canal system, he mentions visiting only six 
different cities and what he says about them is mostly cither 
conventional or inaccurate.*’ Only his encounters with 
acquaintances old or new seem to ring true. After landing at the 
great port of Ch’uan-chou on the coast of Fukien (Fujian) pro- 
vince, he had the good fortune, as he certainly hoped he would, to 
meet up with one of the Chinese envoys who had accompanied 
him from Delhi to Calicut and who had made it back to China 
ahead of him. This gentleman willingly introduced him to the 
Yuan chief of customs in Ch’uan-chou, who assigned him a com- 
fortable house. Ibn Battuta told this official that he had come to 
China as the ambassador of the sultan of India. and a letter to this 
effect was duly sent off to the emperor in Peking. Since 
Muhammad Tughluq’s gifts to Toghon Temur were lying at the 
bottom of the sea off Calicut, one wonders just how Ibn Battuta, 
suddenly wandering in with none of the retinue or accoutrements 
of an official diplomat, established his credibility. In any case, the 
emperor was to decide whether the man should be told to proceed 
to the capital. 

In the meantime the visitor met the Muslim worthies of Ch’uan- 
chou and even ran into a man named Sharif al-Din al-Tabrizi, one 
of the merchants who had loaned him money when he was first 
setting himself up in Delhi. He also made a brief trip 300 miles 
down the coast to the port of Canton (Kuang-chou), where he 
lodged for two weeks with one of the rich traders. 

Soon after he returned to Ch’uan-chou, he received word that 
he was indeed to go onto Peking as the guest of the emperor. He 
relates that he traveled by river boat, but he mentions only two 
place names between Ch’uan-chou and Hang-chou (Khansa, or 
Hangzhou), cities almost 400 miles apart as the crow flies. It would 
have been logical for him to follow the coastline northward, but we 

260 China 

can only guess at the route he took. He made one stop at a city he 
calls Qanjanfu, which may have been the port of Fu-choy 
(Fuzhou).*® Here he had the remarkable pleasure of meeting a 
fellow Moroccan. The man was a young scholar named al-Bushri 
who had come originally from Ceuta, a city only 40 miles from 
Tangier. He had left home to travel to the eastern lands in the 
company of an uncle. Ibn Battuta in fact had already made a slight 
acquaintance with him in Delhi. 

I had spoken of him to the sultan of India, who gave him three 
thousand dinars and invited him to stay at his court, but he 
refused, as he was set on going to China, where he prospered 
exceedingly and acquired enormous wealth. He told me that he 
had about fifty white slaves and as many slave-girls, and pre- 
sented me with two of each, along with many other gifts.*? 

Al-Bushri accompanied his compatriot for four days out of 
Qanjanfu, then sent him on his way north to Hang-chou. 

Former capital of the Southern Sung empire, Hang-chou may 
well have been the largest city in the world in the fourteenth 
century.*’ Ibn Battuta declares that it was indeed the biggest place 
he had ever seen and that its foreign Muslim population was large 
and thriving. He speaks of residing in the Muslim quarter with a 
family of Egyptian origin, then later meeting the Yuan governor in 
the palace and enjoying banquets, canal rides, and performances 
of magic. Yet his description of Hang-chou is cursory, blurred, and 
defective, as though he had been told it was the greatest city on 
earth but could not convey in the Rihla any concrete or convincing 
images of what such a place was like.*! 

He claims to have continued on from Hang-chou to Peking (a 
distance of about 700 miles) by way of the Grand Canal, which the 
Mongol rulers had completed earlier in the century to link the two 
cities. This section of the Rihla, however, is so strange and so 
deficient in historical accuracy that it seems highly unlikely he 
traveled anywhere north of Hang-chou, if that far, or that he ever 
completed his checkered diplomatic mission to Toghon Temur.” 
Indeed, his own dating clues lead us to infer that his entire tour of 
China was jammed into the summer and early autumn of 1346. 
Unless a full year has mysteriously dropped out of the chronology, 
the journey to Peking must be apocryphal. However deep into 
China he actually went, he recounts that he returned to Ch’uan- 

China 261 

chou by retracing his route through Hang-chou and Qanjanfu and 
that he arrived on the south coast to find a junk belonging to the 
Sultan of Samudra ready to embark for the Strait of Malacca. 

Setting sail from the port on the first rush of the fall monsoon of 
1346, he was, if he did not quite know it at the time, on his way 
home again. Within a little over three years he would be walking 
the steep streets of Tangier and telling his wondrous tales among 
the learned men of Fez. 


1. The Travels of Marco Polo, trans. and with an introduction by Ronald Latham 
(New York, 1958), p. 237. 

2. Henry Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither, 4 vols. (London, 1913-16), vol. 3, 

: 3. S. Pathmanathan, The Kingdom of Jaffna (Colombo, 1978), p. 235; MH. p. 

4. William Geiger, Culture of Ceylon in Mediaeval Times (Wiesbaden, 1960), 
pp. 105-08. 

5. IB states that he visited a place he identifies as Kunakar, capital of the king 
called Kunwar. He does not say that he met this ruler and indeed reveals that, 
about the time he passed through, the lords of the realm rose against the man and 
installed his son on the throne in his place. Mahdi Husain (MH, p. 219n) identifies 
Kunakar with Kurunegala, but more recent studies suggest it was either the city of 
Ratnapura, which lay south of Adam's Peak, or Gampola, the Sinhalese capital, 
which was more or less on the way from Puttalam to the mountain. C. W. Nicholas 
and S. Paranavitana, A Concise History of Cevlon (Colombo. 1961). p. 296: 
Pathmanathan, Kingdom of Jaffna, p. 240. IB’s Kunwar was probably not the 
Sinhalese king but a well-known chief minister who was exercising power in the 
ruler’s name. Nicholas and Paranavitana, History of Ceylon, p. 296; Pathman- 
athan, Kingdom of Jaffna, p. 238. The Sinhalese state had been a large and 
powerful one in earlier medieval times. but by the fourteenth century it had 
declined precipitously and would be invaded by Jaffna about 1359. 

6. IB offers no chronological information on his journey through Ceylon. By 
his own reckoning he left the Maldives in August. Mahdi Husain (MH, pp. Ixviii- 
Ixix) estimates a stay on the island of about two months, which seems reasonable. 

7. IB says the admiral reported that no voyage could be made to the islands for 
three months. This might be taken to mean that the summer monsoon was in full 
strength, making the expedition risky from a navigational point of view. But unless 
our chronological scheme is hopelessly off track, IB arrived in Ma‘bar in the fall, 
that is, near the start of the northeast monsoon and the best time to sail for the 

8. IB’s Pattan has not been identified, but Yule (Cathay, vol. 4, p. 35) suggests 
that it stood somewhere on the Palk Strait leading into the Bay of Bengal. H. A. R. 
Gibb suggests Kaveripattanam or Negapatam in the Kaveri River delta. [bn 
Battuta: Travels in Asia and Africa (London, 1929), pp. 365-66n. Large vessels 
leaving this port for the Maldives would have had to circumnavigate Ceylon owing 
to the blocking reefs of Adam’s Bridge. 

9. IB gives no clue about the pathology of this epidemic, but he does not link it 
specifically to plague. which he witnessed later in Syria. The assertion of some 

262 China 

historians that the Black Death passed through India on its way to the Middle East and 
Europe on the grounds that IB witnessed it in Madurai is not justified. Michael W. Dols 
The Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton, N.J., 1977), p. 377. 

10. G.R. Tibbetts, Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Coming of the 
Portuguese (London, 1971), p. 377. 

11. Ships would very likely have been leaving the Ma’bar coast in December for 
voyages to Malabar and on to South Arabia. The West Coast of India Pilot, 1\th edn. 
(London, 1975), p. 24; Tibbetts, Arab Navigation, p. 375. Such a departure time fits in 
well with my suggested reconstruction of the chronology. 

12. The Book of Ser Marco Polo, trans. and ed. Henry Yule, 2 vols., 3rd edn., rev. 
Henri Cordier (London, 1929), vol. 2, p. 389. 

13. Yule (Cathay, vol. 4, p. 35) identifies this place with Pigeon Island. 

14. At several other places in the Rihia IB refers to gifts and souvenirs he lost in this 
holdup, including a set of tomb inscriptions he had copied when he passed through 
Bukhara in Central Asia. 

15. IB states that his son was about two years old when he saw him in the Maldives. 
But if the boy was born shortly after his father left the islands the first time (in August 
1344), he would have been less than a year old at the time of the second visit. See note 
16. Perhaps a lapse of memory is the explanation here. 

16. Following the monsoon pattern, IB must have left Calicut no later than May. 
Calicut harbor would have been closed in June and July, and if he waited until the end of 
the summer to go to the Maldives, he would not have found ships at that season sailing 
from there to Bengal. 

17. Morris Rossabi, “The Muslims in the Early Yuan Dynasty” in John D. Langlois, 
Jr., China under Mongol Rule (Princeton, N.J., 1981), pp. 274-77; Howard D. Smith, 
“Zaitun’s Five Centuries of Sino-Foreign Trade,” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 
pts. 3 and 4 (1958): 165-77. 

18. Marshall G. S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1974), vol. 2, p. 

19. A.H. Hill, “The Coming of Islam to North Sumatra,” Journal of Southeast Asian 
History 4 (1963): 6-21. 

20. The most adamant skeptic is Gabriel Ferrand, Relations de voyages et textes 
géographiques arabes, persans et turks relatifs a l’Extréme Orient du VIII au XVIII 
siécles, 2 vols. (Paris, 1913-14). He finds IB’s itinerary through Southeast Asia and 
China “absurd or unrealizable” (vol. 2, p. 429) and concludes that IB “never went to 
Indochina and invented the journey out of whole cloth; or else either Ibn Juzayy or 
copyists of manuscripts of the narrative modified the text to the point where it is devoid 
of any exactitude” (vol. 2, pp. 432-33). Yule, who had published the most detailed 
annotation of the China trip, accepts IB’s veracity in general but points out numerous 
flaws and puzzles in this section of the Rih/a that must raise genuine doubts. Cathay, vol. 
4, pp. 50-51 and passim. Gibb believes IB went to China, observing that to reject its 
veracity raises more problems with the text than otherwise. Travels in Asia and Africa, 
pp. 13-14. More recently, Peter Jackson has argued that IB’s sojourn in China is “highly 
suspect,” emphasizing Yule’s observations that (1) the mosque IB claims to have seen at 
Canton in 1346 burned down in 1343 and was not rebuilt until 1349-51, and (2) his 
account of political events in Peking and North China during his visit there in 1347 bears 
almost no resemblance to what we know from numerous other sources. “The Mongols 
and India (1221-1351),” Ph.D. diss., Cambridge University, 1977, p. 221. 

21. The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, and 
Moluccas and Brazil, trans. and ed. Albert Gray, 2 vols. (London, n.d. (Hakluyt 
Society); reprint edn., New York, 19637), vol. 1, pp. 237-42; MH, p. 201. 

22. N.K. Bhattasali, Coins and Chronology of the Early Independent Sultans of 
Bengal (Cambridge, England, 1922; reprint edn., New Delhi, 1976), pp. 150-54. 

23. IB identifies the place of his debarkation as Sudkawan. Several historians have 
taken sides on the issue of whether this toponym corresponds to Chittagong, today an 

China 263 

important city in southeastern Bangladesh, or Satgaon, a medieval commercial 
center in the western delta region north of modern Calcutta. The proponents of 
Chittagong are Muhammad Abdur Rahim, Social and Cultural History of Bengal 
(Karachi, 1963), pp. 12-14; Bhattasali, Coins and Chronology, pp. 145-49; Gibb, 
Travels in Asia and Africa, p. 366n, MH, p. 235n; and Yule, Cathay, vol. 4, p. 82n. 
The advocates of Satgaon are Jadunath Sarkar (ed.), The History of Bengal, 2 vols. 
(Dacca, 1948), vol. 2, p. 100; fbn Batutah’s Account of Bengal, trans. Harinath De, 
and ed. P.N. Ghosh (Calcutta, 1978), app. 1, pp. 1-4; Ferrand, Relations de 
voyages, pp. 434-35; and Henri Cordier, editor of 3rd edn. of Yule’s Cathay, vol. 4, 
p. 82n. Without laying out the several semantic and geographical arguments ad- 
vanced on both sides, I find the case for Chittagong the more convincing, especially 
in the context of IB’s subsequent movements through Bengal. 

24. IB states that he went to see Shah Jalal in the mountains of Kamaru, that is, 
Kamrup in Assam. Sylhet, however, is on the edge of the delta region just south of 
the hills of Assam. IB does not mention Sylhet by name, but Shah Jalal is known to 
have resided there. Yule, Cathay, vol. 4, pp. 151-52. Mahdi Husain (MH, p. 237n) 
suggests that IB made a long looping tour up the Brahmaputra River through 
central Assam, then southward to Sylhet. But there is nothing in IB’s account of his 
personal experiences indicating he went any further north than Sylhet. 

25. In connection with his befriending al-Tuzari in Cairo, IB states that the man 
“continued to accompany me for many years, until we quitted the land of India, 
when he died at Sandabur.” Gb, vol. 2, p. 415. However, IB says nothing of al- 
Tuzari in the account of his experiences at Sandapur. and the man was apparently 
still in his suite later in Ma’bar. It is conceivable that IB made a subsequent visit to 
Sandapur that he never mentions in the Rih/a and left al-Tuzari there; or else al- 
Tuzari went there on his own when JB left India on his way to China. 

26. IB calls the man he visited Shaykh Jalal al-Din al-Tabrizi, but he appears to 
have confused the saint of this name, a divine of the Suhrawardi order who died 
about 1225, with Shah Jalal, the Muslim conqueror of Sylhet. Abdul Karim, Social 
History of the Muslims of Bengal (Dacca, 1959), pp. 91-101; Abdur Rahim, Social 
and Cultural History of Bengal, pp. 85-103; Bhattasali, Coins and Chronology, pp. 
149-54. This mistake might raise questions about the authenticity of IB’s journey 
into the interior of Bengal, except that Bengalis themselves commonly confuse 
these two holy men and even use “Shah Jalal” as a generic term for any powerful 
saint. Personal communication from Richard Eaton, University of Arizona. 

27. G.R. Tibbetts, A Study of the Arabic Texts Containing Material on South- 
East Asia (Leiden, 1979), p. 97; Yule, Cathay, vol. 4, pp. 93-94n. 

28. The identification of Qaqula is a puzzle. IB places his visit there after his 
stopover in Sumatra and identifies the place with Mul-Java, which in some Arabic 
texts means the island of Java. None of the principal commentators, however, are 
convinced that IB actually visited Java. Cordier (Yule, Cathay, vol. 4, p. 157n) 
believes Qaqula to be located on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, that is, 
along IB’s route from the Strait of Malacca to China. Tibbetts (Arabic Texts, pp. 
97-98) makes an interesting case for placing Qaqula on the western, or Tenasserim, 
coast of Malaya. He suggests that the description of it may be displaced in the Rihla 
and that IB probably stopped there on his way from Burma to Samudra (northwest 

29. IB calls the island of Sumatra “Java,” which was common medieval usage. 
Marco Polo calls Sumatra “Java the Less.” Paul Pelliot, Notes on Marco Polo, 2 
vols. (reprint edn, Paris, 1959-63), vol. 2, pp. 757-58; Yule, Cathay, pp. 94-95. 
The commercial center, known as Samudra, whose exact medieval site is not 
certain, later gave its name to the entire island. Kenneth R. Hall, “Trade and 
Statecraft in the Western Archipelago at the Dawn of the European Age,” Journal 
of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 54 (1981): 30-31, Hill, “North 
Sumatra,” pp. 7-12. 

264 China 

30. Hill, “North Sumatra,” pp. 13-15. 

31. Kenneth R. Hall, “The Coming of Islam to the Archipelago: A 
Re-Assessment” in Karl L. Hutterer (ed.), Economic Exchange and Social Inter. 
action in Southeast Asia (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1977), p. 226. 

32. IB implies in the Rihla that he left at the start of the southwest monsoon. as 
Défrémery and Sanguinetti (D&S, vol. 4, p. 239) note parenthetically. 

33. Teobaldo Filesi, China and Africa in the Middle Ages, trans. D.L. Morisen 
(London, 1972), p. 15. 

34. One of the stops mentioned is Qaqula. See note 28. The other is a port called 
Kaylukari (Cailoucary) in the country of Tawalisi. IB’s description of his visit to the 
female governor of the city (and daughter of the king) reads as though it were a 
pastiche of legends, misplaced anecdotes, and garbled geography. The people of 
this realm look like Turks, IB says, and the king is the equal of the emperor of 
China, against whom he conducts successful naval campaigns. The governor- 
princess, who happens to have the same name as one of the wives of Ozbeg, Khan 
of Kipchak, speaks Turkish, writes Arabic characters skillfully, but is not a Muslim! 
She also commands a force of female mounted archers! Yule (Cathay, vol. 4, pp. 
157-60) develops a lengthy, unconvincing argument to suggest that Tawalisi is a 
kingdom in the Sulu Archipelago, the most southerly island group of the 
Philippines. Défrémery and Sanguinetti (D&S, vol. 4, p. 248) put forward Tonkin 
or the Celebes without explanation. Yamamato Tatsuro argues for Champa, i.e., 
southeastern Indochina. “Tawalisi Described by Ibn Battuta,” Memoirs of the 
Research Department of the Toyo Bunko, no. 8 (1936), pp. 93-133. Tibbetts 
(Arabic Texts, p. 98) favors Indochina. Assuming that IB traveled the normal route 
from the Strait of Malacca to South China and did not visit Java, then intermediary 
stops along the Malayan or Indochinese coast would not have been out of the 
ordinary. The description of Tawalisi, however, does seem embellished with infor- 
mation pulled from other contexts. Legends and tales about a mysterious “kingdom 
of women” or “island of women” appear in Arabic, as well as European and 
Chinese, medieval literature. Pelliot, Notes on Marco Polo, vol. 2, pp. 671-725. 

35. D&S, vol. 4, p. 267. 

36. D&S, vol. 4, pp. 282-83. 

37. Because of the language barrier, IB would certainly have had difficulty 
remembering, or even recording in notes, numerous Chinese place names. When 
he and Ibn Juzayy composed the Rihla, we may suppose they had at hand a library 
of standard Arab geographical and travel works and used them to help IB refresh 
his memory about particular places, including the spelling of toponyms. Such 
reference works, however, had little to say about China, obliging him to rely on his 
own recollections or notes (if there were any) when mentioning strange Chinese 
place names to his collaborator. 

38. Gibb (Travels in Asia and Africa, p. 371n) makes a tentative case for 
Qanjanfu being Fu-chou. Yule (Cathay, vol. 4, pp. 126-27n) argues that the place 
may be identified with Kien Ch’ang Fu in the interior province of Kiang’si 
(Juangxi). But, as Gibb points out, a route from Ch’uan-chou to Hang-chou by 
way of Kiang’si would have been roundabout and very unlikely. 

39. Gibb, Travels in Asia and Africa, p. 292. Gibb notes (p. 14) that IB would 
never have told of such an encounter if he had not really traveled to China, since 
the citizens of Ceuta might well have confirmed the story through the family of al- 
Bushri at some later time. Also see Chapter 13 on IB’s meeting al-Bushri’s brother 
in southern Morocco in 1353. 

40. Jacques Gernet, Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion 
1250-1276, trans. H.M. Wright (Stanford, Calif., 1970), pp. 27-31. 

41. Yule (Cathay, vol. 4, p. 130) notes that “there are several very questionable 
statements in Ibn Batuta’s account of the great city.” 

42. Aside from some descriptive incongruities, IB’s account of his visit to Peking 

China 265 

is made barely credible by his assertion that he witnessed the funeral of the Yuan 
emperor, who, he says, had died in battle attempting to quell a revolt led by a rival 
member of the royal house. There is no doubt at all, however, that Toghon Temur 
reigned straight through from 1333 to 1368. Yule (Cathay. vol. 4, p. 142) can find 
no “indication of any circumstance occurring about this time that could have made 
the foundation of such a story,” though IB’s description of Mongol funereal ritual is 
generally accurate (p. 143). Jackson (“Mongols and India *, p. 221) thinks the story 
may be “a very garbled version” of a succession conflict that had taken place in 
China in 1328-29, when IB was far away in Arabia and Africa. 

12 Home 

Civilization both in the East and the West was visited bya 
destructive plague which devastated nations and caused 
populations to vanish. It swallowed up many of the good 
things of civilization and wiped them out . . . Civilization 
decreased with the decrease of mankind. Cities and 
buildings were laid waste, roads and way signs were 
obliterated, settlements and mansions became empty, 
dynasties and tribes grew weak. The entire inhabited 
world changed. ' 

Ibn Khaldun 

Sometime in Ramadan 747 A.H. (December 1346 or January 
1347) Ibn Battuta arrived back in Quilon on the south Malabar 
coast. He had sailed all the way through from Chu’an-chou to 
India on a single winter’s monsoon, changing ships at Samudra in 
the Malacca Strait and making a return visit of a few weeks to the 
court of Sultan al-Malik al-Zahir. Once in Quilon he lodged with 
the qadi until the Breaking of the Fast, then traveled on up the 
coast to Calicut. 

Here he had another argument with himself over the advisability 
of returning to North India, throwing himself on the mercy of 
Muhammad Tughlug, and perhaps recovering his judicial 
sinecure. Such a plan might be brash enough to work in the short 
run. Yet quite apart from the probability that his appearance 
before the royal Person would be swiftly followed by his ex- 
ecution, anyone in Malabar could have warned him that the 
Tughlug empire was in a more advanced state of deterioration 
than when he had left India and that Delhi in 1346 was hardly an 
auspicious place to rebuild a career in public service. And so, 
repudiating once and for all the attractions of that extraordinary 
city, he decided not to travel north. (Muhammad Tughluq had in 
fact left Delhi the previous year on one of his frantic campaigns. 
He would never return again, perishing of an illness on the banks 
of the Indus in 1351 while obsessively chasing down his last rebel. 


Map II: Ibn Battuta’s Return Itinerary from China to North Africa, 1346—49 


3 a 

Ch’uan-chou 0 

268 Home 

His successor, Firuz Tughluq, would inherit only a modest North 
Indian state and be obliged to share the subcontinent with a 
patchwork of upstart Muslim and Hindu kingdoms.) 

When Ibn Battuta had first angered Muhammad Tughlug back 
in 1340 over the Shihab al-Din affair, he had thought then of 
making the hajj again, if only as a credible excuse for getting out of 
the sultanate. Now, in the absence of any further prospects for a 
career in India, Mecca seemed more than ever a sensible des- 

The season for westbound voyages from Malabar was coming to 
an end, but he managed to secure passage on a ship embarking for 
Zafar (Dhofar), the South Arabian port he had visited 18 years 
earlier in connection with his trip to East Africa. He has nothing to 
say about his spring voyage across the open expanse of the 
Arabian Sea except that the trip took a normal 28 days and that he 
reached Zafar in Muharram 748, that is, sometime after 13 April 
1347. Possibly because the next hajj season was almost a year away 
or because he would have had to wait in tedious Zafar until 
September to get a westbound ship to Aden, he decided to make a 
grand looping tour through Persia, Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, 
violating once again his quixotic oath never to travel by the same 
road twice. 

From Zafar he sailed on a coasting vessel that was running 
before the early summer monsoon up to the Gulf of Oman and the 
Strait of Hurmuz. Arrived at Hurmuz city, he found the elderly 
Arab ruler of that great emporium locked in a naval war with two 
of his nephews for control of the family domain, which included all 
the key ports of the strait. The fighting had severely disrupted the 
India trade, and the country was gripped by famine. Ibn Battuta 
stayed there for about two weeks but had only one brief meeting 
with the old sultan, who was preoccupied fitting out his war 

The political and economic troubles [bn Battuta found at the 
mouth of the Persian Gulf were echoes of the violent disin- 
tegration of the IIkhanid state, which had occurred twelve years 
earlier when he was just beginning his career in Delhi. For 
three-quarters of a century the successors of the Mongol con- 
queror Hulegu had held greater Persia precariously together, but 
the finances of the IIkhanate rested on an agricultural and urban 
recovery that was too limp to ensure firm, confident central rule 
over the long term. When the young king Abu Sa’id died suddenly 

Home 269 

in 1335 while on campaign in the Caucasus against the Golden Horde, 
he left a government debilitated by chronic frontier wars and a throne 
with no obvious successor groomed to mount it. On the instant, an 
omnivorous mix of Mongol and Turkish commanders leapt into the 
political void, violently challenging one another for control of the 
land. By the time Ibn Battuta returned to the region, the great 
kingdom had been superseded by a cluster of states, ruled by parvenu 
military dynasties. Thus the Khanate of the Ikhans was the first of the 
four Tatar empires to run its course, heralding the last days of the 
Mongol Age. 

Apparently having little urge to discover what any of these petty 
regimes might offer him, Ibn Battuta hurried through Persia, making 
his only important stopover at Shiraz. Traveling north to Isfahan, then 
westward over the Zagros Mountain passes to Basra, he retraced his 
journey of 1327 up the valley of the Euphrates. In January 1348 
(Shawwal 748) he made a brief stop in Baghdad. From there he 
continued along the valley beyond ’Anah, then crossed the Syrian 
desert on the camel route through Palmyra (Tadmor). He reached 
Damascus, second capital of the Mamluk Sultanate, some time in the 
late winter of 1348. 

The first time he had visited Damascus in 1326, he had married a 
woman of Moroccan ongin. But he divorced her when he set out for 
Mecca, terminating a union that lasted hardly more than a few weeks. 
Much later in India he learned that after the separation the woman had 
given birth to a son. Feeling some responsibility for the boy, if not for 
the mother, he had sent his ex-wife's father, who lived not in Syria but 
in Morocco, a gift of 40 gold dinars. presumably through the good 
offices of a westbound merchant. Now arrived in Damascus again, he 
soon learned that the son he had never seen had died about 1336 at the 
age of ten. 

More unhappy news followed. a Moroccan jurist who was affiliated 
with one of the Damascene colleges informed him that his father had 
passed away in Tangier some 15 years earlier. His mother, as far as the 
man knew, was still alive and well. 

After resting in Damascus for several weeks, he decided about the 
end of March to make a trip up to Aleppo (Haleb), the second ranking 
city of industry and commerce in Syria and the seat of Mamluk 
administration on the northern frontier. This journey was to be one of 
his leisurely diversions, an itinerary to occupy a few months before it 
was time to travel toward Mecca. Yet even as he rode north, the 
catastrophe of the fourteenth century descended on Syria behind him.* 

270 Home 

While Ibn Battuta was enjoying the company of the ‘ulama of 
Aleppo in June 1348, travelers reaching the city from the south 
reported that a virulent disease had been raging at Gaza on the 
Egyptian frontier and that more than a thousand people had been 
dying from it every day. Buboes, or inflamed swellings, appeared 
in the groin, armpits, or neck of the afflicted, and this irruption 
was typically accompanied by nausea, pain in the head, stomach, 
and limbs, insomnia, and delirium. If a victim began to spit blood 
and experience pneumonic symptoms, he usually died within 

Amid rumors of this lethal darkness advancing into Syria, Ibn 
Battuta decided to return south. He got as far as the town of Homs 
when he suddenly found himself engulfed in the epidemic, 300 
people dying the day he arrived there. Continuing on to Damacus, 
he reached the great oasis in July to find that the plague had 
already struck. The death toll had risen to 2,000 a day, the 
population was reeling in shock, and the mundane routines of the 
city had come to a halt. 

The people fasted for three successive days, the last of which 
was a Thursday. At the end of this period the amirs, sharifs, 
gadis, doctors of the Law, and all other classes of the people in 
their several degrees, assembled in the Great mosque, until it 
was filled to overflowing with them, and spent Thursday night 
there in prayers and liturgies and supplications. Then, after 
performing the dawn prayer . . ., they all went out together on 
foot carrying Korans in their hands — the amirs too barefooted. 
The entire population of the city joined in the exodus, male and 
female, small and large, the Jews went out with their book of 
the law and the Christians with their Gospel, their women and 
children with them; the whole concourse of them in tears and 
humble supplications, imploring the favor of God through His 
Books and His Prophets.” 

At the same time that Ibn Battuta had been sailing westward from 
China to his expectant reunion with the Islamic heartland, so the 
Black Death, the greatest pandemic disaster since the sixth 
century, was making its terrible way across the Central Asian 
grasslands to the shores of the Black Sea. Plague was endemic 
among ground-burrowing rodent populations of the Inner Asian 
steppe. It was transmitted from animals to humans by the bite ofa 

Home 271 

common species of flea. Hatching and living in the fur of plague- 
afflicted rats, infected fleas found their way to sacks of grain and 
other foodstuffs or to clothing. The plague appears to have started 
among pastoral folk of East Central Asia, spreading outward from 
there along the trade routes both southwest and west, beginning 
about 1331. Lurking among the merchandise in commercial wagon 
trains or the storerooms of caravansaries, fleas carried the bacillus 
Yersinia pestis to the bloodstream of humans. The bubonic type of 
plague, which produced buboes on the body, could be spread only 
by infected fleas and their rodent hosts. However, pneumonic 
plague, the deadlier form of the disease, was transmitted directly 
from one human to another. As the pestilence broke out in one 
oasis or khan after another, survivors hurried onto the next place 
along the trail, thereby unwittingly carrying the disease 
throughout the commercial network of the steppe. The same 
Mongol law and order that made possible a century of intense 
human interchange between China and the Atlantic coast now 
quickened the progress of the plague bacillus across Eurasia. The 
Black Death was the grimly ironic price the world paid for the 
trans-hemispheric unity of the Pax Mongolica. 

In China, where the Great Wall was no defense whatsoever 
against the advance of such an invader, major outbreaks of plague 
occurred in 1353 and 1354, producing massive mortality and 
economic disruption and probably contributing to the collapse of 
the Yuan dynasty 14 years later. In the west the disease advanced 
through the Kipchak Khanate to the Black Sea, where it struck the 
Genoese colony at Kaffa in 1346. From there Italian ships carried 
infected rats and fleas amongst cargoes of grain, timber, and furs 
southward to Constantinople, then on to Venice and Genoa. The 
epidemic appeared about simultaneously in Sicily and Egypt in the 
autumn of 1347. The Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi tells the ghastly 
tale of a trading ship, probably from the Black Sea, arriving one 
day in Alexandria harbor. Out of a total company of 332, all but 40 
sailors, 4 merchants, and 1 slave had succumbed to the plague at 
sea. And all who had survived the voyage presently died in the 

In the calamitous year of 1348 ships of death coursed westward 
throughout the Mediterranean basin, inflicting their grim lading 
on one port after another. From the ports, mule trains and camel 
caravans transmitted the disease to the interior regions of Europe, 
northern Africa, and the Middle East. Paris and Bordeaux, 

272 Home 

Barcelona and Valencia, Tunis and Cairo, Damascus and Aleppo 
all suffered massive plague mortality in the spring and summer of 
1348. By the following year the contagion was moving up the 
valley of the Nile and crossing the English Channel to the British 
Isles. By the end of 1350, when the first assault of the disease was 
playing itself out, Europe may have lost as much as one-third of its 
population. Mortality rates in the Islamic lands were probably 
comparable. Cairo’s pre-plague population of perhaps half a 
million may have been reduced by 200,000. The population of 
Damascus may have diminished from 80,000 to less than 50,000,’ 

The Black Death struck the cities and towns of Islam with the 
suddenness and surprise of a Mongol attack. The usual patterns of 
quotidian life were abandoned, and communities gave themselves 
to prayers of supplication and to the overwhelming task of 
washing, shrouding, and burying the proliferating dead. Funeral 
processions moved through the streets in a never-ending parade of 
grief. Stocks of coffins and burial garments ran out, and 
gravediggers who managed to survive commanded exorbitant fees 
for their work. Mosques closed when all the officials and 
caretakers died. Many who fled the plague in vain hope of evading 
it fell dead along the road with their horses and camels. A scholar 
witnessing the scene in Egypt writes of “these dead who are laid 
out on the highway like an ambush for others.”® 

Both Muslims and Christians struggled to fit this unprecedented 
disaster into a framework of spiritual meaning. Christian doctrine 
invited the conclusion that the sins of mankind had accumulated to 
the point where God was obliged to teach his creation a lesson it 
would never forget. Amid the horrors of the plague, many be- 
lieved the lesson was to be the final one, the end of the world. A 
mood of impending apocalypse seized Europe, producing 
obsessive preoccupation with images of death, furious 
self-flagellating movements to expiate sins, and massacres of Jews, 
the traditional target of hostility and fear. In Islam, by contrast, no 
doctrine of original sin pervaded theology. All events affecting the 
community of believers were to be understood as the continuing 
revealing of God’s will. Despite social trauma in the midst of the 
plague, Muslims mostly accepted it as a manifestation of God’s 
unknowable plan for His creation. Mass public supplications to 
God to lift the scourge probably occurred in most cities and towns 
of the Middle East, but expiation crusades, messianism, OF 
persecution of minorities were not in evidence. 

Home 273 

Neither Muslims nor Christians in that age had the faintest 
notion of the medical pathology of the disease, which was not 
discovered until the late nineteenth century. In both Europe and 
the Islamic world the epidemic was generally attributed to a 
miasma, that is, a corruption of the air. Some authorities linked it 
to a polluted wind, a mysterious “impoisoned blast” blowing out of 
Central Asia or from the open sea.” Prophylactic advice 
abounded. Muslims were recommended to live in fresh air, 
sprinkle one’s house with rose water and vinegar, sit as motionless 
as possible, and eat plenty of pickled onions and fresh fruit. Those 
who fell victim to the disease were advised to have their blood 
drawn, apply egg yolk to the plague buboes, wear magical 
amulets, or have their sick bed strewn with fresh flowers. Above 
all, God’s creatures were urged to spend their nights in the mosque 
and beg divine mercy. 

Ibn Battuta says nothing of any personal measures he may have 
taken to keep from falling ill, but he left Damascus sometime after 
July 1348 in good health, even as the pestilence raged around him. 
He does not seem to have taken to the road to escape the plague 
but only to continue on his way to Mecca by way of Egypt, where 
the sickness was as bad as it was in Syria, if not worse. Traveling 
southward into Palestine through one depopulated village after 
another, their water wheels idle and their fields abandoned, he 
arrived at Jerusalem to find that the contagion had abated there. 
In fact, the preacher of the grand mosque invited him to a feast in 
fulfillment of an oath to give special thanks to God as soon as a day 
passed on which no one perished. 

Joining up with two gentlemen of North African origin, Ibn 
Battuta continued on in their company through Judaea to Gaza, 
which he found mostly deserted in the wake of the Death. Indeed 
the population of the entire Nile Delta region was declining 
drastically in the fall months of 1348, when the plague was at its 
worst.'° The travelers passed through Alexandria, where the 
epidemic may have first entered Egypt in the fall of 1347, to learn 
that there the daily mortality rate was finally subsiding. 

In Cairo, however, the toll was still rising. Urban land and 
property were being abandoned precipitately, commerce and in- 
dustry became paralyzed, and, in the words of one chronicler, “the 
deaths had increased until it had emptied the streets.”'! The 
Mamluk Sultan al-Hasan fled from Cairo to a country estate in 

274 Home 

September and stayed away from his capital for three months. !2 
The royal officer corps, living in close quarters in the Citadel and 
refusing to leave Cairo for fear of losing their power and rank to 
rival Mamluks, sustained such a high rate of die-off that the army 
and administration of the sultanate fell into a state of disorder and 
diminished capacity lasting several decades.!* 

Ibn Battuta probably stayed in the ravaged city no more than a 
few days, then continued on up the Nile. Now, happily, he moved 
ahead of the plague, which did not strike Upper Egypt until about 
February 1349.'* Crossing the Red Sea from ’Aydhab to Jidda as 
he had done in the reverse direction 18 years earlier, he performed 
the ceremony of the tawaf around the Holy Ka’ba on 16 November 
1348 (22 Sha’ban 749), praising God that he had so far been 
spared. He remained in Mecca for more than four months as the 
guest of the Maliki imam, awaiting the hajj of 749. He relates 
nothing about plague in the city, though other historical sources 
report that it raged there during the pilgrimage season, introduced 
by the caravans from Egypt or Syria.'° 

Since returning from India, Ibn Battuta’s wish had been to stand 
before the Holy House one more time. Now that he had done it, 
he may have had no further plans in particular. For the time being 
at least, he decided to go back to Cairo (by a route through 
Medina, Jerusalem, and the Sinai). The Mamluk capital was 
hardly the city he had known in 1326. Aside from the ruin and 
wastage of the plague (which abated only after January 1349), the 
quality of leadership over the Mamluk state had badly de- 
teriorated since the death of al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un in 
1341. Over the ensuing decade that great builder was succeeded by 
four different sons and grandsons, all of whom were lusterless or 
infantile pawns of one quarreling military faction or another. 

Perhaps the bleak scene in Cairo quickened the journeyer’s 
resolve to return at last to his native land. He was 45 years old, he 
had been abroad for 24 years, and, so far as he knew, his aged 
mother was alive and still living in Tangier. In his absence Fez, the 
capital of the Marinid dynasty, had blossomed into the premier 
city of Maliki religious and legal studies in western Islam. As a 
former gadi of the Sultanate of Delhi, he should, if he wished, 
have no trouble securing a government post either in Fez or some 
other Moroccan town. And, ironically enough, Morocco was one 
of the few corners of the Islamic world he had not yet explored. In 
the end, however, sentiment and nothing else may have impelled 

Home 275 

him to head for that beautiful land of the Far West: “I was moved 
{to go back] by memories of my homeland, affection for my family 
and dear friends, who drew me toward my land, which, in my 
opinion, was better than any other country.”'® 

Leaving Egypt for the last time on a small vessel belonging to a 
mariner from Tunis, Ibn Battuta sailed along the Cyrenaican and 
Tripolitanian coasts to the port of Gabés (Kabis) on the south 
Ifriqiyan mainland where he passed the feast of the Prophet’s 
birthday on 31 May 1349 (12 Rabi’ I 750) in the company of the 
local notables. Continuing up the coast by sea, he joined a party of 
bedouin traveling overland to Tunis, a city then under the com- 
mand of the Amir of the Muslims and Defender of the Faith Abu 
l’Hasan, Sultan of Morocco. 

A quarter of a century earlier Ibn Battuta had traveled across 
the Eastern Maghrib in conditions of military turmoil. Now it 
might have appeared to him that little had changed. The Arab 
tribes of the Ifriqiyan plains were up in arms, and Tunis lay under 
siege. Yet the pattern of North African power politics had altered 
drastically in his absence. By going abroad for so long he had 
missed most of the reign of Abu Hasan (1331-51), the most 
illustrious of the Marinid kings. Called the Black Sultan because of 
the dark visage he inherited from his Ethiopian slave mother, Abu 
!’'Hasan was more than any of his predecessors impassioned by the 
old Almohad vision of a vast Islamic state embracing the entire 
western Mediterranean basin. In 1333 he recaptured Gibraltar 
from King Alfonso XI of Castile and during the ensuing four years 
seized most of the important towns of the "Abd al-Wadid kingdom 
of the central Maghrib, including Tlemcen, the capital. In 1340 he 
sent 44 war galleys into the Strait of Gibraltar to inflict a 
calamitous defeat on the Castilian fleet. Six months later he 
launched an invasion of Spain in alliance with the Sultanate of 
Granada. This time, however, a combined army of heavily 
armored knights from Castile, Aragon, and Portugal routed his 
forces near the Rio Salado. 

The Battle of Rio Salado ended once and for all any serious 
Muslim hopes of reversing the Christian reconquista. Indeed, Abu 
"Hasan may have been so fearful that the Spanish crusade would 
now advance on Africa that he redoubled his efforts to bring the 
entire Maghrib and its resources in commerce and manpower 
under his control. Taking advantage of a succession crisis within 

276 Home 

the ruling Hafsid family, he invaded Ifriqiya by land and sea in 
September 1347 and drove the Hasfids from Tunis. 

The Marinid seizure of Tunis was a remarkable feat of military 
leadership. Yet Abu l’Hasan’s army was now operating almost 900 
miles from Fez, and the Ifriqiyan population remained implacably 
hostile to his occupation. In the spring of 1348 he ventured to firm 
up his authority over the plains south of the capital, but an alliance 
of bedouin tribes met his forces near Kairouan and beat them so 
badly that he was forced to retreat to Tunis by sea in utter 
humiliation. As if his human detractors were not troublesome 
enough, his Ifriqiyan campaign coincided with the arrival of the 
Black Death. According to the historian Jbn Khaldun, the plague 
so debilitated his army in the field that it “settled the affair” at the 
Battle of Kairouan.'!’ When he fell back on Tunis, he found the 
contagion ravaging the city and killing off his courtiers and offi- 
cials. Abu ’Inan, the sultan’s son and governor of the central 
Maghrib, heard reports that his father had died at Kairouan. 
Fearing rebellion in Morocco, he had himself proclaimed sultan at 
Tlemcen in June 1348 and quickly marched on Fez. 

When Ibn Battuta arrived in Tunis just one year later, the 
Marinid dream of Mediterranean empire was for the time being 
dead. Abu I’Hasan was still there, but bottled up within the Hafsid 
palace and doing nothing to repel the bedouin forces which com- 
manded the countryside beyond the city walls. A large number of 
Moroccan scholars had accompanied the sultan to Ifriqiya, and Ibn 
Battuta found lodging with one of them, apparently a cousin of 
his. He had at least two audiences with his hapless sovereign, 
giving him the usual information about the countries he had 

Ibn Battuta stayed in Tunis for about a month, then decided to 
continue on to Morocco despite the agitated state of political 
affairs all across the Maghrib. He left Ifriqiya on a Catalan vessel, 
hardly a surprising choice since in the mid fourteenth century the 
merchants and ship masters of Barcelona dominated trade on the 
sea routes between Spain and the Sicilian Channel. The ship was 
bound for Tenés on the Algerian coast but on the way put in at 
Cagliari at the southern end of the island of Sardinia.'* 

The Kingdom of Aragon-Catalonia ruled the coastal regions of 
Sardinia, giving Ibn Battuta an opportunity to set foot on Latin 
Christian soil, the only time he would do so in his traveling career. 
The visit, however, was brief and disagreeable. He left the ship to 

Home 277 

Map 12: Ibn Battuta’s Itinerary in North Africa, Spain and 
West Africa, 1349-54 



Bir al-Ksaib 


Mali’s Capital 

400 600 

278 Home 

visit a marketplace inside a chateau-fort in the vicinity of the port. 
But then he was informed that some piratical residents of the 
island had in mind to pursue his vessel after it embarked in order 
to seize the Muslim passengers and presumably hold them for 
ransom. Swearing that he would fast for two consecutive months if 
the Almighty saved him from these sea rovers, he reboarded his 
ship, which, as it happened, continued on its way without incident. 
After ten days at sea, he reached Tenés. 

From here he traveled overland to Tlemcen, which was then 
under the authority of the rebellious Abu ‘Inan. Here he joined 
two men of Tangierian origin and continued westward in their 
company. In the wild hills near the modern day Algero—Moroccan 
border the little party had a close brush with a band of high- 
waymen, but they passed on safely to Taza. the little hillside city 
commanding the high road to Fez. Apparently meeting up with 
more travelers from Tangier, Ibn Battuta learned that the Black 
Death had carried off his elderly mother only several months 
earlier. Had she heard in her last days, perhaps from pilgrims 
returning from the hajj of 749, that her long-departed son had 
been seen in Mecca and might finally be coming home? 

When Ibn Battuta left Morocco in 1325, he may well have in- 
tended at the time to return in two or three years to pursue 
advanced legal studies in Fez. Under the patronage of the Marinid 
sultans, the city had come to rival Tunis as the premier North 
African center of Maliki jurisprudence and Arab letters. The war 
captains of the Banu Marin had rudely seized power in Morocco in 
1248 without possessing any religious ideology to justify their 
authority. Consequently, they moved quickly to assert their dis- 
tinctive legitimacy by distancing themselves from the idiosyncratic 
theological doctrines of the Almohads. They moved the dynastic 
capital from Marrakech to Fez and invited learned exponents of 
Malikism, whose views had been suppressed during the Almohad 
century, to take up residence in the city, revitalize orthodox Maliki 
education, and serve the administrative and judicial needs of the 
new government. 

When the Banu Marin came to power, Fez was already an 
important Almohad military center and a busy commercial 
junction linking the trans-Maghrib road with the caravan routes 
that brought West African gold and ivory to the ports of the 
Mediterranean. Nestled saucer-like in a lovely valley between the 

Home 279 

southern spurs of the Rif and the central plain, Fez had an 
abundant water supply and a rich agricultural hinterland which 
animated a profusion of craft industries. 

Physically, ancient Fez occupied a remarkably small territory, 
its growing population of merchants, artisans, civil officials, 
scholars, laborers, and transients crammed within the circular 
walls that enclosed the valley. Then in 1276 Abu Yusuf Ya’qub, 
the second Marinid sultan, built a new urban foundation, called 
Fez Jdid, or New Fez, to serve as the military and administrative 
center of the dynasty. Set on a plateau above the old city and 
enclosed within high double walls, Fez Jdid, like the Mamluk 
citadel of Cairo, rose up as a conspicuous, fear-inspiring symbol of 
Marinid power and permanence. It was the exclusive sanctuary of 
the sultan, his high officials, his accountants and secretaries, and 
selected units of the royal army. 

Fez Jdid nonetheless remained dependent on the teeming, 
labyrinthine city in the valley below, not only for its food and 
luxuries, but also for many of the literate men who managed the 
bureaus of state. As champions of Maliki orthodoxy, the early 
Marinids sponsored the founding of madrasas on the organ- 
izational and curricular pattern of the great colleges of the Middle 
East. Abu Yusuf built the first college sometime before 1285. 
Sultans Abu Sa’id and Abu I’Hasan founded five more, employing 
the most talented Moroccan and Andalusian craftsmen to produce 
buildings of exquisite decorative beauty. Abu IHasan also 
founded madrasas in several other Moroccan cities, including 
Tangier. The colleges of Fez soon attracted the flower of erudition 
from all across the Maghrib, as well as from Muslim Granada. 
Some of these luminaries divided their time between the madrasas 
in the depths of the old city and the ministries of Fez Jdid. Others 
came mainly to teach, thereby attracting to the colleges increasing 
numbers of bright young men, several hundred of them by the mid 
fourteenth century, to undertake advanced studies in the religious 

Sufi ideas were only just beginning to penetrate higher 
education in Fez at the mid point of the fourteenth century. The 
more rigorous leaders of the Maliki elite opposed any teachings 
not firmly grounded in scriptural orthodoxy. The Marinids dis- 
played respect for the most celebrated saints of western Islam, but 
they distrusted the potential political influence of the Sufi holy 
men who were becoming so popular among the Berber folk of the 

280 Home 

countryside. Yet despite the resistance of both the government 
and the conservative religious establishment to the teachings of a 
movement they could not satisfactorily control, the Sufi precepts 
of love, divine grace, and spiritual fulfillment were already by the 
middle of the century warming the chill corridors of Maliki for- 
malism. An unknown Tangierian scholar just back from the East 
could expect at least the more liberal-minded within the learned 
circles of Fez to take a keen interest in his stories of personal 
meetings with the great mystics of the age. 

Ibn Battuta arrived in Fez on 8 November 1349 to find the city in 
a state of uncertainty and suspense over the fate of the empire. !? 
The usurper Abu ’Inan was the son of a Christian slave woman and 
as slender and fair as his father was corpulent and black. He had 
occupied Fez for more than a year and had made himself master of 
Morocco. Like his father, he was a pious, cultivated man, given to 
holding regular study sessions with the leading divines and jurists 
and to writing belles-lettres and poetry. The elite of Old Fez 
accommodated to his regime readily enough, but the fact re- 
mained that for the moment there were two sultans and no one 
knew when or if Abu |’Hasan might appear before the walls of Fez 
at the head of his army. The usual course for the cosmopolitan 
professional man in such circumstances was to submit to 
whomever happened to be occupying the royal audience chamber 
at the time. 

Ibn Battuta, having just come from making obeisance to Abu 
Hasan in Tunis, now presented himself at the great palace of Fez 
Jdid to stand before his “illustrious master” Abu ’Inan. He appar- 
ently did not get an opportunity to address the sultan, but a vizier 
named Abu Ziyan ibn Wadrar offered him gifts and questioned 
him about Egypt, a country the minister had visited. Ibn Battuta 
decided not to stay in Fez for very long, however, since he was 
anxious to return to Tangier. Given the precarious political situ- 
ation in the capital, it was probably prudent, in any case, to go 

Arrived in his natal town some time during the fasting month of 
Ramadan, he tells us only that he visited his mother’s grave.*” He 
does not mention his deceased father, suggesting that the man may 
have died in some other place. Nor does he describe joyous 
reunions with brothers, sisters, cousins, or old friends. Indeed, the 
fourteenth-century reader of the Rihla would find too much of that 
sort of information tedious and irrelevant. Yet we can imagine a 

Home 28} 

homecoming of warm recognition and nights spent in the central 
mosque or the houses of kinsmen, sharing tales of Muhammad 
Tughlug and Ozbeg Khan and of those glorious days in the pre- 
cinct of the Holy House. 

Restless again after only a few days among the haunts of his 
childhood, Ibn Battuta decided to make the short trip overland to 
Ceuta (Sabta), which in that age was the queen city of the Strait of 
Gibraltar. Endowed with a fine sheltered harbor and superb 
natural defenses, Ceuta was the headquarters of the Marinid navy 
and the chief Moroccan terminus of the West African gold trade. 
The town was set on a tongue of land jutting eastward into the 
Mediterranean. The eastern half of this little peninsula was 
dominated by the heights of Mount Hacho (Jabal al-Musa). From 
its summit lookouts had a commanding view of the strait and the 
Iberian shore beyond.?! 

When Ibn Battuta walked through Ceuta’s western gate, he was 
in a sense already arriving in Muslim Spain. Located a mere 14 
miles from Europe but separated from its own Moroccan hinter- 
land by a chain of mountains, the city was culturally a prolongation 
of Andalusia. Its leading official and scholarly families had 
centuries-old ties to the great Muslim intellectual centers of Spain, 
and as the Christian reconquista progressed in the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries, it was the chief port of entry for skilled and 
educated refugees fleeing into Africa. From the point of view of a 
lettered man, Ceuta’s mellow Andalusian sophistication made it a 
much more interesting place than Tangier. So it is not surprising 
that Ibn Battuta spent “several months” there, undoubtedly 
frequenting the new college Abu !’Hasan had built and perhaps 
making acquaintance with the al-Bushri family, whose scholar 
kinsman he had met a few years earlier in China. He was, unfor- 
tunately, ill during much of his visit. The plague was still raging in 
the region of the strait, but he says nothing about contracting the 
bubonic type (from which many did recover). More likely he was 
suffering from yet another bout of malaria. 

At the time he arrived in Ceuta, the city was intently following 
reports from Gibraltar, 22 miles across the strait. In the previous 
July Alfonso XI of Castile, taking advantage of the Marinid civil 
crisis and Abu I’Hasan’s absence in Ifriqiya, had laid stege to the 
Rock and its mighty fortifications. Since the loss of Algeciras to 
Castile in 1344, Gibraltar remained the only port on the northern 
shore of the strait still in Muslim hands. If Alfonso breached its 

282 Home 

walls, the immediate consequence would be to cut the main 
military supply route, not only to the few towns the Moroccans stil] 
held in Iberia, but also to their ally, the Nasrid Sultan of Granada. 
More than that, the loss of Gibraltar would give Castile and its 
Christian allies such a naval advantage in the strait that both 
Tangier and Ceuta would be under a greater danger of invasion 
than ever before. 

Either in Tangier or Ceuta, Ibn Battuta learned that volunteers 
were urgently wanted to aid the Moroccan army in the defense of 
Gibraltar. Recovering from his illness in Ceuta and thanking God 
for it, he decided to respond to the call. He had taken up arms a 
time or two in his career, and he was certainly susceptible to the 
high esteem Islam paid to those who served spontaneously in the 
jihad. He set sail for the Rock on a small Moroccan vessel in 
March or April 1350.7* By this time, however, the immediate 
military crisis had completely dissipated. During the months of the 
Castilian siege, the Black Death had made war on both armies 
with scrupulous impartiality. On 26 March 1350, it took the life of 
King Alfonso, distinguishing him as the only monarch of Christian 
Europe to die in the epidemic of mid century.*° The loss of their 
valiant warrior king obliged the Castilian forces to abandon the 
siege, leaving the promontory and the isthmus of Gibraltar under 
Muslim control, a state of affairs that would endure, as it turned 
out, for another 112 years. 

Whether to his disgruntlement or relief, Ibn Battuta was dis- 
charged of any military duty when he arrived in Gibraltar port and 
so was free to see the sights. He made a thorough inspection of the 
promontory and its ramparts, climbing up to the Calahorra, a 
massive stone tower Abu |’Hasan had constructed at the summit of 
the citadel to serve as the pivot of the town’s defenses. The qgadi of 
Gibraltar accompanied him on his tour and hosted him in his 
house on one of the streets of the town, which lay up against the 
western face of the Rock. “I desired to be, until the end of my life, 
among those who guarded and defended this place,” Ibn Battuta 
recalls in the Rihla with perhaps a hint of bravado. But since at the 
moment there was no serious defending to be done, he was soon 
on the road again, crossing the sandy neck of land that linked 
Gibraltar to the highlands of Andalusia. He mentions no com- 
panions and may well have been traveling with only a servant or 

With the withdrawal of the Christian siege, it was relatively safe 

Home _ 283 

for Muslim travelers to venture along the overland routes to 
Granada. This Ibn Battuta now proposed to do, probably with the 
hope of adding the Nasrid sultan Abu !’Hajjaj Yusuf ibn Isma’il to 
the list of Muslim rulers who had invited him to their table. The 
direct route from Gibraltar to Granada City ran along the 
Mediterranean coast to Malaga. Typically, he decided to go a 
different way, traveling northward through the rich vineyards and 
fruit orchards of the Rio Guadiaro valley, then up into the forests 
of the Sierra de Ronda. The city of Ronda, which occupied a 
spectacular site straddling the deep gorge of the Tajo River, was 
still a possession of the Marinids in 1350. Ibn Battuta may have 
gone there partly to see a paternal first cousin of his, who was the 
gadi of the town. After five days he returned to the coast again by 
the treacherous mountain road over the Sierra Bermeja to the 
little port of Marbella. 

Here he made the acquaintance of twelve men who were just 
then setting out for Malaga along the coast road through Suhayl 
(Fuengirola), a fortress at the western frontier of the Nasrid 
kingdom. He intended to join up with them, but for some unex- 
plained reason they left Marbella without him. He found another 
party of travelers, however, and was soon on his way. 

Moving eastward along the narrow plain between the sea and 
the Sierra de Mijas, Ibn Battuta had a mind at one point to ride 
out ahead of his companions. All along this shore the Nasrid 
sultans, and other Muslim rulers before them, had constructed 
stone watchtowers at regular intervals to guard against coastal 
raiders and to survey the movements of foreign navies. As he was 
nearing one of these towers, he suddenly came upon a dead horse 
lying by the side of the road. Suspicious of trouble but moving 
along a little further, he came upon another horse recently slain. 
Then, hearing shouts behind him, he returned to his fellows to find 
them in the company of the Nasrid commander of Suhayl fort. The 
twelve horsemen who had left Ibn Battuta behind in Marbella, it 
seemed, had run into a band of Christian corsairs. The marauders 
had approached the coast in four galleys. Finding no one on guard 
at the watchtower to sound the alarm, a party of them had gone 
ashore and ambushed the first travelers who happened by. One of 
the horsemen had been murdered and one escaped. The remaining 
ten had been taken prisoner to be held for ransom. Thanking God 
for delivering him from infidel pirates for the second time in his 
life, Ibn Battuta accepted the invitation of the commander of 

284 Home 

Suhayl to spend the night in the castle. The next day the officer 
escorted the travelers safely on to Malaga, chief port of the Nasrid 

Entering the city’s central mosque, a magnificent building 
whose interior court bloomed with orange trees, Ibn Battuta found 
the ‘ulama and other notables of the town gathered to collect 
ransom money for the captured men, who were no doubt citizens 
of Malaga. He told the assembled group his story of having barely 
escaped death or capture himself. They were all astonished at his 
good fortune, and the qadi and preacher both gave him 
hospitality. If he ever learned how the negotiations with the 
pirates turned out, he does not report it. 

From Malaga he continued eastward to Velez Malaga (Ballish), 
then turned into the mountains. He passed through Alhama, a 
town famous for its hot spring baths, then continued on northeast- 
ward to the Vega, the upper valley of the Genil River, whose 
fertile highland plain sustained Granada City’s 50,000 in- 

Two decades earlier Ibn Battuta had visited Christian Byzantium 
at a time of military retreat before the triumphant Turks. Yet in 
the same period Constantinople was the scene of brilliant 
erudition in Greek science and philosophy, as if to make a final, 
defiant statement of a thousand years of creativity before 
surrendering to an ineluctable fate. At the opposite end of the 
Mediterranean the Sultanate of Granada was displaying a similar 
contradiction of trends. Like the three kingdoms of the Maghrib, 
the Nasrid state had been founded in the aftermath of the 
Almohad collapse. By 1248 it was, with the exception of the 
enclaves the Marinids held on the coast, the only remaining 
stronghold of Muslim power in Iberia. Pressed into its 
mountainous corner of the peninsula by Castile and 
Aragon — Catalonia, Granada struggled to survive by building up 
its frontier defenses and pursuing a policy of pragmatic diplomacy 
with Christian and Muslim neighbours alike. 

The Sultanate had a population of perhaps a million people in 
the fourteenth century,” a fervently Muslim population ready to 
defend valley by valley what remained of its Iberian patrimony. 
Inescapably, time was on the side of the Christian states. But while 
Granada endured, its people dedicated themselves, perhaps con- 
sciously so, to the mission of summing up six centuries of 

Home 285 

Andalusian civilization. The Nasrid cultural achievement was not 
intellectually or aesthetically innovative. Rather it was a final 
exquisite reaffirmation of the literary and artistic heritage of 
Islamic Spain. 

Demonstrating once again his remarkable ability to visit Muslim 
kingdoms at their efflorescent best, Ibn Battuta saw Granada in 
the reign of Abu I’Hajjaj Yusuf, or Yusuf ] (1333-54). Together 
with his successor Muhammad V (1354-59, 1369-91), Yusuf was 
the most successful ruler in a dynastic line of 23 largely undistin- 
guished men. Following the débacle of the Battle of Rio Salado, in 
which Granada had fought on the side of the Marinids, Yusuf 
succeeded in arranging what proved to be long-term military 
truces with both Castile and Aragon. Free for the time being from 
the threat of invasion, he and his circle of brilliant ministers and 
secretaries devoted themselves to perpetuating Andalusia’s 
legendary tradition of urbane learning and taste. It was Yusuf (and 
later Muhammad) who constructed the most beautiful courtyards 
and portals of the Alhambra, “the red fort” which stands on a spur 
of the Sierra Nevada overlooking the city of Granada and the 
fertile valley of the Genil River beyond. The Alhambra was the 
seat of Nasrid government and court life. From the outside it was a 
forbidding, mysterious complex of stone ramparts, but within a 
buoyant, gossamer composition of exquisitely decorated halls and 
courts, juxtaposed one to another in a symphony of light, shadow, 
and flowing water. “The peculiar charm of this old dreamy 
palace,” Washington Irving wrote in the nineteenth century, “is its 
power of calling up vague reveries and picturings of the past, and 
thus clothing naked realities with the illusions of the memory and 
the imagination.”” 

Ibn Battuta may have presented himself at the palace as soon as he 
arrived in Granada. But he had no audience with Yusuf I. The 
sultan, it seemed, was ill and not disposed to receive learned 
visitors from Morocco. The visitor, to his consternation, never did 
get to meet Yusuf during his brief sojourn in the city. He does not 
say in the Rihla whether he ever went inside the Alhambra and in 
fact omits any mention of it. The twentieth-century tourist 1s so 
amazed by those splendorous rooms and courts that Ibn Battuta’s 
failure to take the slightest note of them seems puzzling. Yet the 
Alhambra is the only Islamic palace of that age to survive down to 
our own time in all its ornamental delicacy. Ibn Battuta had seen 

286 Home 

the royal mansions of far bigger and richer kingdoms than the 
Nasrid state, and to his eyes and his world the Alhambra may not 
have seemed so special as it does to us. 

He was not on the other hand totally ignored by the royal 
family. When his arrival in Granada was made known to the 
authorities, as it routinely would be, the sultan’s mother sent him a 
purse of gold coins, which he found “very useful” for meeting his 
expenses. He spent part of his time as the guest of various Maliki 
notables and the rest visiting a number of Sufi lodges in the 
Granadine suburbs or the nearby countryside. He even notes that 
little bands of mendicant Sufis from as far away as Anatolia, 
Persia, India, and Samarkand were settled in the town. 

It was in the home of Abu I|’Kasim ibn ’Asim., one of Granada’s 
eminent jurists, that he made what later proved to be the most 
fateful acquaintance of his life. Over a period of two days and a 
night he sat amongst a group of Andalusian gentlemen in Abu 
I’Kasim’s lovely garden, recounting scenes and episodes of his 
travels abroad. One of the men present was Abu ‘Abdallah 
Muhammad ibn Juzayy, a 28- or 29-year-old ’alim who held a 
secretarial post in the Nasrid government. He was one of three 
sons of a noted Granadine jurist and poet who had been killed at 
the Battle of Rio Salado. The young Ibn Juzayy carried on the 
family’s distinguished literary tradition, writing poetry and com- 
posing respectable works in philology, history, and law.”’ 

Absorbed by Ibn Battuta’s stories and the sheer breadth of his 
travels, Ibn Juzayy meticulously copied down the names of famous 
doctors and shaykhs the journeyer had met over the previous 
quarter of a century. Since Ibn Battuta did not stay in Granada 
very long, his acquaintance with Ibn Juzayy was probably fleeting. 
But in another two and a half years the young secretary, in the 
pattern of roving Andalusian scholars, would leave Granada to 
take up service with Sultan Abu "Inan in Fez. He would be there 
when Ibn Battuta returned from the far side of the Sahara Desert, 
ready to accept the sultan’s assignment to set down in proper 
literary form the complete record of the Tangierian’s remarkable 

Sometime around the end of 1350 Ibn Battuta returned to Ceuta. 
For the next several months he journeyed about his homeland, 
spending a few months in the Atlantic port of Asilah, visiting Salé 
briefly, then riding south across the coastal plains to Marrakech, 

Home 287 

late capital of the Almohads. The shift of political power to Fez, 
and probably the havoc of the Black Death, had caused 
Marrakech to fall into a dilapidated state, worse, he recalls, than 
Baghdad. Finding no reason to remain in those surroundings for 
long, he returned north to the coast and from there to Fez. 

In the meantime the drama of the Marinid kings had come to its 
denouement in the triumph of Abu ’Inan. Late in 1349 Abu 
Hasan had abandoned Tunis and returned to Morocco, de- 
termined to reckon with his mutinous son. Reaching Marrakech 
with a small force of exhausted followers, he had attempted to 
erect a rival government. But in May 1350 Abu ‘Inan defeated his 
forces outside the city, then pursued him southward into a valley 
of the High Atlas. Trapped and powerless, the old sultan held out 
through the ensuing winter, then made formal abdication in favor 
of his son. When he died of illness and despair in his mountain 
refuge later in the spring of 1351, Abu ’Inan carried his body to the 
city of Rabat and had it buried with all the honors of state in the 
royal necropolis of the dynasty. 

These events occurred while Ibn Battuta was traveling about 
Spain and northern Morocco. When he arrived in Fez the second 
time, probably in the early fall of 1351, Abu ‘Inan was ruling 
unrivaled a tranquil Morocco, plotting a new invasion of the 
eastern Maghrib, and busily constructing the grandest madrasa 
Fez had yet seen. It was an auspicious moment for Ibn Battuta to 
settle down, enter the Maliki judiciary, and reflect on his years 
abroad. Yet there were a few Muslim kings he still had not seen, 
among them Mansa Sulayman, Emperor of Mali, whose capital lay 
due south 1,500 miles across the most fearsome wilderness on 


1. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, 2nd edn., trans. F. Rosenthal, 3 vols. 
(Princeton, N.J., 1967), vol. 1, p. 64. 

2. IB’s reckoning of time spent between Chu’an-chou and Quilon either at sea 
or in the port of Samudra adds up to 222 days, or almost seven and a half months. 
Yet if he left China at the start of the fall monsoon in September and arrived at 
Quilon, as he states in Ramadan 747 (the month began on 16 December 1346), the 
trip took no longer than about four and a half months. It was indeed feasible, as 
Arab seamen had demonstrated in Abbasid times, to sail from the South China 
coast to Malabar in a single monsoon season. George Hourani, Arab Seafaring tn 
the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early Medieval Times (Princeton, N.J., 1951), p. 
75. We must assume either that IB failed accurately to remember time spent 

288 Home 

between stages of the journey or possibly that part of the text is a later addition 
IB’s description of his voyage from Chu’an-chou to Samudra includes an oddly 
vague report of his ship being lost at sea for 42 days and an uncharacteristically 
credulous account of a close call with a rukh, a giant bird of Hindu legend. Henry 
Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither, 4 vols. (London, 1913-16). vol. 4, p. 146. 

3. In the Rihla IB links the civil war in Hurmuz and his meeting there with 
Sultan Qutb al-Din Tahamtan with his brief visit there in 1329 (1331). These events 
clearly occurred, however, in 1347. Jean Aubin, “Les Princes d’Ormuz du XII le au 
XVe siécle,” Journal Asiatique 241 (1953): 102-08; Hr, pp. 447-48; Gb, vol. 2, pp. 
402-03. See also Chapter 6, note 41. 

4. He says that he stayed in Damascus until the end of 748 A.H. The last day of 
that year was 31 March 1348. The precise itinerary of IB’s travels through greater 
Syria at this time is uncertain. Altogether, he traveled through some parts of Syria, 
Lebanon, and Palestine at least four different times during his career, in 1326, 1330 
(1332), 1348, and 1350. The descriptions of numerous cities, towns, and castles he 
claims to have visited, however, are largely grouped into the account of his 1326 
journey, whose chronology does not admit of such an extended, complicated tour. 
See Chapter 3, note 26. Therefore, a confident sorting out of the several itineraries 
through this region is hardly possible. The several dates he gives for his travels in 
Syria, Egypt, and Arabia in 1348 (748-749 A.H.), however, are generally 
corroborated by independent contemporary reports on the spatial transmission of 
the Black Death. 

5. Gb, vol. 1, pp. 143-44. 

6. Michael W. Dols, The Black Death in the Middle East (Princeton, N.J., 
1977), p. 69. 

7. Ibid., pp. 215, 219. 

8. Ibid., pp. 238 and 236-54 passim. 

9. Ibid., p. 96. 

10. Ibid., pp. 154, 155, 160, 161. 

11. Ibn al-Furat quoted in ibid., p. 277. 

12. Ibid., p. 173. 

13. David Ayalon, “The Plague and its Effects upon the Mamluk Army,” Journal 
of the Royal Asiatic Society (1946): 67-73; and Dols, Black Death, pp. 185-92. 

14. Dols, Black Death, p. 161. 

1S. Ibid., p. 63. 

16. D&S, vol. 4, p. 326. 

17. Quoted in Dols, Black Death, p. 64. 

18. IB does not mention the name of the port he visited, but there is no real 
doubt that it was Cagliari. Monteil shares this opinion. D&S, vol. 4, p. 481. 

19. IB says that he reached Fez on a Friday near the end of Sha’ban 750. D&S 
calculate this date as 8 November 1349. The last Friday in Sha’ban of that year, 
however, was 6 November. 

20. Chronological clues regarding the length of his subsequent visit to Ceuta and 
the date of his departure for Spain suggest that if he was in Fez in Sha’ban 750, as 
he says, he probably went on to Tangier early in the following month of Ramadan. 

21. Derek Latham, “The Strategic Position and Defence of Ceuta in the Later 
Muslim Period,” /slamic Quarterly 15 (1971): 195. 

22. IB states that he reached Gibraltar shortly after the death of Alfonso XI. 
That event occurred on 26 March 1350. 

23. Robert S. Gottfried, The Black Death (New York, 1983), p. 51. 

24. Rachel Arié, L’Espagne musulmane au temps des Nasrides, 1232-1492 (Paris, 
1973), p. 339. 

25. Derek W. Lomax, The Reconquest of Spain (London, 1978), p. 162. 

26. Washington Irving, The Alhambra (New York, 1926), p. 71. 

27. “Ibn Djuzayy,” El, vol. 3, p. 756. 

Home 289 

28. IB offers no specific dates for the period between his arrival in Fez in 
November 1349 and his departure from southern Morocco to West Afnca on 18 
February 1352. Therefore, the chronology of his movements from city to city in 
Andalusia and Morocco during that period is indeterminate. 

13 Mali 

The people of Mali outnumbered the peoples of the Sudan 
in their neighborhood and dominated the whole 

region . . . Their authority became mighty and all the 
peoples of the Sudan stood in awe of them.! 

Ibn Khaldun 

When Ibn Battuta visited Cairo in 1326 on his way to his first hajj, 
the population was undoubtedly still talking about the ex- 
traordinary pilgrim who had passed through the city two years 
earlier. Mansa Musa, ruler of the West African empire of Mali, 
had arrived at the Nile in the summer of 1324 after having crossed 
the Sahara Desert with a retinue of officials, wives, soldiers, and 
slaves numbering in the thousands and a train of one hundred 
camels loaded with unworked gold. A handsome young king of 
piety and noble bearing, he had created a minor sensation among 
Cairo’s protocol-conscious officials by refusing to kiss the ground 
before the Mamluk sultan, al-Nasir Muhammad. Yet he “flooded 
Cairo with his benefactions,” writes the historian al-Umari, and 
“performed many acts of charity and kindness.” 

Having come so far from their distant grassland kingdom, the 
emperor and his gold-heavy entourage spent freely and indis- 
criminately in the Cairo bazaars. like prosperous and naive tourists 
from some American prairie state. “The Cairenes,” says al-Umari, 
“made incalculable profits out of him and his suite in buying and 
selling and giving and taking. They exchanged gold until they 
depressed its value in Egypt and caused its price to fall.” 

Musa was not the first mansa (king, sultan) of Mali to go on 
pilgrimage to Mecca, but none before had made such a dazzling 
display of pomp and riches. The Egyptian chroniclers wrote about 
the event and its disturbing short-term effects on the Cairene gold 
market well into the next century. In the history of medieval West 
Africa no single incident has been more celebrated. Indeed the 
hajj of Mansa Musa sums up Mali'’s important place among the 
kingdoms of Africa and Asia in Ibn Battuta’s time. 


Mali 29) 

The unworked gold which the mansa showered on Cairo came 
from three major alluvial deposits in West Africa. The mines of 
the bilad al-sudan, or simply the Sudan, as the Arab geographers 
called the steppe and savanna region south of the Sahara, had 
been known to the Mediterranean world since Phoenician times. 
But it was only the introduction of the dromedary to North Africa 
about the second century A.D. that made feasible in terms of costs 
and risks regular caravan trade from one rim of the Western 
Sahara to the other. The one-humped camel is a difficult and 
disagreeable animal, but he could carry a load of 125-150 
kilograms, go without water ten days or more, and travel faster 
than any other available beast of burden. When Islam reached the 
Western Maghrib in the seventh century, Berber-speaking 
merchants were already running camel caravans to commercial 
settlements on the far side of the desert. 

The founding of the Arab Empire and later the High Caliphate 
created an ever-growing demand in the Islamic heartland for West 
African gold to make coins and finery. This demand impelled 
Muslim merchants and cameliers of the Maghrib and the North 
Sahara to organize trans-desert business and transport operations 
to an unprecedented level of sophistication. About the same time, 
the Kingdom of Ghana emerged in the steppe region of West 
Africa known as the Sahel (Sahal), the transitional climatic zone 
between the southern desert and the savanna lands. The 
appearance of Ghana as an imperial state was undoubtedly linked 
to the gold trade, which encouraged the rise of military leaders 
aggressive enough to seize monopolistic authority over the com- 
mercial routes and settlements leading from the gold fields deep in 
the Sudan to the “ports” at the edge of the desert where the North 
African caravans arrived. The empire declined in the eleventh 
century, perhaps in connection with a prolonged drought, and 
eventually withered away. 

Yet the pattern of imperial state-building in the Sudan con- 
tinued with the rise of Mali early in the thirteenth century. The 
founders of this kingdom were Malinke-speaking people whose 
homeland was the region between the upper valleys of the Senegal 
and the Niger Rivers. This region was in the heart of the savanna 
and much nearer to the two gold-bearing areas, known as Bambuk 
and Bure, than the center of Ghana had been. The early kings of 
Mali, members of a chiefly clan of the Malinke known as the 
Keita, succeeded in taking control of territory between the gold 

292 Mali 

fields and the Sahel, thereby positioning themselves to exact 
tribute in gold from the producing populations. In this way the 
cycle of expansion began. The gold revenues of the mansas 
permitted heavier expenditures on the army, which was comprised 
mainly of infantry bowmen and armored cavalry. As the royal 
forces were deployed across the fertile grasslands both east and 
west, greater numbers of farming and herding folk were subdued 
and taxed, expanding the wealth and military energies of the state 
even more. 

In the course of the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, 
the mansas extended their domains westward to the Atlantic coast, 
eastward past the great bend of the Niger, and northward to the 
commercial towns scattered along the Saharan fringe, building an 
empire that incorporated many non-Malinke peoples. By 
achieving political domination over a band of steppe and savanna 
some 1,200 miles long at the peak of the empire, they effectively 
controlled and taxed the north-south flow of commerce across the 
Western Sudan. 

Indeed, Mali’s high age from the mid thirteenth to the mid 
fourteenth century corresponded to the period when Europe was 
exchanging silver for gold as its principal currency, prompting 
Italian and Catalan merchants to offer higher and higher prices for 
the little bags of dust and nuggets that were transported across the 
Sahara and over the Atlas Mountains to Ceuta and other North 
African ports. The rising European demand for gold, added to the 
perennial market in the Islamic states, stimulated more gold pro- 
duction in the Sudan, to the enormous fiscal advantage of Mali. In 
the later medieval period overall, West Africa may have been 
producing almost two-thirds of the world’s gold supply.’ 

In addition to gold, north-bound caravans carried numerous 
products originating either in the grasslands or the tropical forests 
— ivory, ostrich feathers, kola nuts, ambergris, hides, and slaves. 
In return for these goods the southbound trade brought many 
products from North Africa and the Mediterranean basin: textiles, 
copper, silver, books, paper, swords, iron ware, perfumes. 
jewelry, spices, wheat, and dried fruits. Horses, which did not 
prosper in the deep savanna country owing to the lethal bite of the 
tsetse fly, were imported from the Maghrib to meet the needs of 
the Malian cavalry. Cowrie shells were used as a form of currency 
in the Sudan, as they were in India. As Ibn Battuta attests, they 
were harvested exclusively in the Maldive Islands, then exported 

Mali 293 

to West Africa by way of Egypt and the Maghrib ports. The single 
most precious commodity imported to the Sudan was salt, a food 
essential to the human body that West Africa was unable to 
produce in sufficient quantity to meet demand. Salt came from 
mines in the Sahara and was transported southward in the form of 
giant slabs, two to a camel. 

In the fourteenth century that section of the West Africa-to- 
Europe commercial exchange system extending from the northern 
edge of the rain forest to the Mediterranean coast was entirely in 
the hands of Muslims. Indeed from a global perspective the 
trans-Saharan trade routes were north-south branch lines of the 
hemispheric Muslim network that extended right across northern 
Africa and Asia to the ports of the South China Sea. As early as 
the ninth century, Berber-speaking merchants settled in com- 
mercial centers in the Sahel belt, where they acted as hosts and 
business agents for fellow Muslims who organized caravans in the 
corresponding entrepdts along the northern rim of the desert. In 
the time of Ghana, Muslim neighborhoods rose up in the major 
towns where merchants of North African Berber or Arab origin 
were permitted by royal authority to govern their internal affairs 
according to the standards of the Sacred Law, just as they were 
beginning to do among non-Muslim peoples in the Indian Ocean 

These expatriate merchants did not organize the trade directly 
to the gold fields or to the towns deep in the savanna. That stretch 
of the network remained under the control of professional 
Sudanese traders. Most of them were of the Soninke and, later, 
Malinke culture groups. These men were among the first West 
Africans to convert to Islam, thereby linking themselves into the 
brotherhood of shared norms and trust that encouraged order and 
routine along the trans-Saharan system. 

As in India and Southeast Asia, the founding of new Mushm 
trading communities created an immediate demand for literate 
cadres to organize and superintend Islamic worship, education, 
and law. From the beginning of Islamic expansion into West 
Africa, Maghribi men of learning were accompanying the 
merchant caravans across the desert to settle in the towns of the 
Sahel. These towns became centers of Islamic education south of 
the Sahara, which over the course of time gave rise to a class of 
Muslims grounded in the “normative” traditions of piety and 
scholarship as preached and practiced in North Aftica. In the 

294 Mali 

period of the Mali empire the communities of ‘ulama in the 
Sahelian towns included families of both Arabo-Berber and 
Sudanese origin, the latter mainly Malinke or Soninke. Deeper in 
the Sudan, learned families of purely West African origin pre- 

Sudanese chiefs and petty kings are known to have converted to 
Islam as early as the tenth or eleventh centuries. Whatever purely 
religious feelings may have motivated such men individually, con- 
version enhanced their esteem among Muslim merchants, the 
economically most powerful group in the land, and potentially tied 
them into a much wider commercial and diplomatic world than 
they had known before. The origins of Islam among the Malinke 
are obscure. In their tradition the founder of the empire was 
Sunjaata (or Mari-Jaata), a larger-than-life homeric figure of the 
early thirteenth century who rose from physical adversity and exile 
to rid his homeland of an alien tyrant, then rebuilt the Malinke 
capital and ruled from it for 25 years. The reign of Sunjaata is only 
vaguely associated with Islam, but at some point in the thirteenth 
century his successors made it the official religion of state, an act 
certainly linked to the growing importance of the Muslim 
mercantile communities which inhabited the main towns along the 
trans-savanna routes. 

Yet the military and political success of the mansas also de- 
pended on the continuing allegiance and cooperation of the mass 
of their subjects — farming, fishing, and herding people who for 
the most part adhered to ancient animistic beliefs and rituals, not 
Islam. Unlike the sultans of Delhi, the mansas had not come to 
power as foreign invaders, prepared to organize a state as formally 
Islamic as they pleased. The legitimacy of their authority rested to 
a large extent on satisfying traditional Malinke expectations in 
their public conventions and ceremonies. Consequently, they were 
obliged to walk a narrow line between their urban Muslim sub- 
jects, who wanted them to behave up to the public standards of 
their Marinid or Mamluk counterparts, and the vast majority of 
the tax- and tribute-paying population, which took no notice of 
Maliki law or proper procedures at Friday prayer. 

The character of official ritual and administration as more or 
less Islamic probably depended on the ruler’s perception of the 
relative importance of his Muslim and non-Muslim subjects from 
one period to the next. Mansa Musa was naturally a great favorite 
of Muslim opinion, both in Mali and the wider Islamic world. His 

Mali 295 

prestige resulted not only from his sensational pilgrimage, but 
also, writes al-Umari, because 

he built ordinary and cathedral mosques and minarets, and 
established the Friday observances, and prayers in con- 
gregation, and the muezzin’s call. He brought jurists of the 
Malikite school to his country and there continued as sultan of 
the Muslims and became a student of religious sciences.° 

Yet Mansa Musa also reigned during a period when relations with 
the Muslim merchants and with the states of North Africa were 
particularly important owing to the strong market for gold. 

This expansive period in the trans-Saharan trade continued into 
the reign of Musa’s brother Sulayman, who came to the throne 
about 1341. Sulayman came close to matching his brother’s rep- 
utation for Islamic leadership and piety. Moreover, he ruled Mali 
in prosperity and peace. He was the sort of king from whom Ibn 
Battuta had come to expect an honorable and large-hearted re- 

Sometime in the autumn of 1351 Ibn Battuta set out from Fez to 
visit Mali. He says nothing in the Rihla to explain why he felt 
impelled to cross the Sahara Desert. We may suppose he had the 
usual private plans to seek favor from yet another Muslim court. 
Obsessive traveler that he was, he may even have been urged on 
by the knowledge that the Sudan was the one important corner of 
the Dar al-Islam he had not yet seen.° 

Some modern historians have suggested that Sultan Abu ’Inan 
appointed him as a state envoy to the emperor. Both Mansa Musa 
and Mansa Sulayman had initiated diplomatic exchanges with Abu 
Hasan, Abu ’Inan’s father. Becuase of the Marinid campaign to 
conquer all of North Africa and thereby control the northern 
termini of the trans-Saharan trade from the Atlantic to Ifriqiya, 
the rulers of Mali had abundant reason to cultivate good relations 
with their northern neighbor. Abu ’Inan certainly knew that Ibn 
Battuta was making the journey and expected him to report in 
detail upon his return to Fez. Yet there is no convincing evidence 
that this Tangierian fagih, who was little known in Morocco’s 
official circles, had anything like the ambassadorial status he had 
enjoyed (with such disastrous results) under Muhammad 

296 Mali 

Traveling due south from Fez across the ranges of the Middle 
and High Atlas Mountains, he arrived in Sijilmasa, the 
pre-eminent desert port of the Western Maghrib, after a journey 
of eight or nine days. Sijilmasa lay in the midst of an immense 
oasis called Tafilalt, the last important outpost of sedentary life at 
the northern edge of the void. Today nothing remains of the city 
except an agglomeration of unremarkable ruins strewn among the 
palm groves. In the fourteenth century it was, according to al- 
Umari, a place “of imposing palaces, high buildings, and tall 
gates.”® Tafilalt’s rich agriculture, fed by a river flowing down out 
of the Atlas 50 miles to the north, supported the urban population, 
including a large resident community of Berber and Arab 
merchants. From the perspective of Mali, Sijilmasa was the chief 
northern terminus of the trans-Saharan gold caravans. Here the 
products of the savanna and forest were off-loaded, stored in 
warehouses, and finally carried by camel, mule and donkey trains 
over the mountains to Fez, Marrakesh, Tlemcen, and the 
Mediterranean ports. 

Ibn Battuta spent about four months in Sijilmasa, waiting for the 
winter season, when the big caravans set out for Walata, their 
destination at the far side of the desert. During this time he pur- 
chased camels of his own and fattened them up. When he was in 
Ceuta some months earlier, he may have become acquainted with 
the al-Bushri family, whose kinsman he had met in China. For he 
lodged during his entire stay in Sijilmasa with one Muhammad al- 
Bushni, a legal scholar and brother of the al-Bushri of Qanjanfu. 
“How far apart they are,” he remarks blandly in the Rihla. 

In February 1352 (beginning of Muharram 753) he set out from 
Tafilalt with a caravan of “merchants of Sijilmasa and others.” The 
leader was a fellow of the Masufa Berbers, a herding people of the 
Western Sahara who appear to have had something close to a 
monopoly on the supply of guards, guides, and drivers on the 
entire route between Tafilalt and the Sahel. The twelfth-century 
geographer al-Idrisi describes the normal routines for traveling 
safely across “the empty waste” that yawned for a thousand miles 
south of Sijilmasa: 

They load their camels at late dawn, and march until the sun has 
risen, its light has become bright in the air, and the heat on the 
ground has become severe. Then they put their loads down, 
hobble their camels, unfasten their baggage and stretch awnings 

Mali 297 

to give some shade from the scorching heat and the hot winds of 
midday ... When the sun begins to decline and sink in the 
west, they set off. They march for the rest of the day, and keep 
going until nightfall, when they encamp at whatever place they 
have reached... Thus the traveling of the merchants who 
enter the country of the Sudan is according to this pattern. They 
do not deviate from it, because the sun kills with its heat those 
who run the risk of marching at midday.” 

Twenty-five days out of Sijilmasa the caravan reached the 
settlement of Taghaza, the main salt-mining center of the Western 
Sahara. The paradox of Taghaza was the grim, treeless desolation 
of the place set against its extreme importance to the entire inter- 
regional commercial system. All the southbound caravans took on 
loads of slab salt, since no product was in greater demand in the 
Sudan. “This is a village with nothing good about it,” Ibn Battuta 
complains. “It is the most fly-ridden of places.” Then he goes on to 
speak of the enormous amounts of gold that changed hands there. 

The caravan stayed in the village for ten days, giving him an 
opportunity to watch wretched slaves belonging to Masufa pro- 
prietors dig slabs out of the open mine and tie them against the 
sides of the dromedaries. He also had the curious experience of 
sleeping in a house and praying in a mosque made entirely of salt 
blocks, except for the camel-skin roofs. The water of Taghaza was 
brackish, and every bit of food for the laborers, except for camel 
meat, had to be brought in from either Morocco or Mali. More 
than a century and a half later the Granada-born traveler Leo 
Africanus would visit Taghaza and find conditions little changed: 

Neither haue the said diggers of salt any victuals but such as the 
merchants bring vnto them: for they are distant from all in- 
habited places, almost twentie daies iourney, insomuch that 
oftentimes they perish for lacke of foode, whenas the merchants 
come not in due time vnto them: Moreouer the southeast winde 
doth so often blind them, that they cannot liue here without 
great perill.'° 

Between Taghaza and Walata lay the most dangerous stretch of 
the journey, almost 500 miles of sand desert where the average 
annual rainfull is a scant five to ten millimeters and where only one 
watering point exists, a place called Bir al-Ksaib (Tasarahla)."' If 

298 Mali 

rain fell at all in the region, it usually came in late winter.'? [bn 
Battuta and his fellows were, according to his chronology, 
traveling south from Taghaza sometime in March. Fortunately, 
the rain had come that year, leaving pools of water here and there 
along the track, enough in fact for the caravaners to wash out their 
clothes. Yet there was danger enough in this wilderness for all 

In those days we used to go on ahead of the caravan and 
whenever we found a place suitable for grazing we pastured the 
beasts there. This we continued to do till a man named Ibn Ziri 
became lost in the desert. After that we neither went on ahead 
nor lagged behind. Strife and the exchange of insults had taken 
place between Ibn Ziri and his maternal cousin, named Ibn 
"Adi, so that he fell behind the caravan and lost the way, and 
when the people encamped there was no news of him. 

Arriving safely at Bir al-Ksaib minus Ibn Ziri, the caravan stopped 
for three days to rest and to repair and fill the water skins before 
navigating the trek across the vast sand desert called Mreyye, the 
final and most dangerous stage of the trip. Keeping to the usual 
procedure, the company hired a Masufa scout called the takshif, 
whose job it was to go on ahead of the caravan to Walata. If he did 
not lose his way among the dunes, or run out of water, or fall prey 
to the demons which Ibn Battuta tells us haunted those wastes, he 
would alert the people of the town to the caravan’s approach. A 
group of Walatans would then be sent four days’ journey north to 
meet the caravan with fresh water. 

The Masufa takshif earned the 100 mithqals of gold the 
caravaners paid him, for on the seventh night out of Bir al-Ksaib 
they saw the lights of the Walata relief party. A few days later, 
sometime in the latter part of April 1352 (beginning of Rabi’ I 
753), they reached the sweltering little town. Its mud brick houses 
lay along the slope of a barren hill, a scattering of palm trees in a 
little wadi below. The site was bleak, but as the main southern 
terminus of the camel trains the town nonetheless supported a 
population of two or three thousand.'* It ranked as a provincial 
capital of Mali and had an important community of educated men 
of Berber and Sudanese origin. 

By a letter entrusted to the takshif Ibn Battuta had arranged to 
rent a house through the good offices of a “respectable” Moroccan 

Mali 299 

trader named Ibn Badda’, who resided in the town. Yet as soon as 
he arrived, he found cause to regret having come at all. Walata 
was the most northerly center under the jurisdiction of the mansa. 
Following custom, the members of the caravan went immediately 
to pay their respects to the farba, or governor. They found him 
seated on a carpet under a portico, surrounded by lancers, 
bowmen, and warriors of the Masufa. Though he sat very close to 
the visitors, he addressed them not directly but through a 
spokesman. In Mali this was proper ceremonial procedure 
symbolizing the sacred character of the mansa, in whose name the 
farba held his authority. Ibn Battuta, however, thought the gov- 
ernor’s behavior a shocking display of bad manners, misinterpre- 
ting it as a show of contempt for the visiting “white men.”’* Later, 
the newcomers all went to receive hospitality from one of the 
governor’s Officials. The welcome turned out to be a bow! of millet 
with a little honey and yogurt. 

I said to them: “Was it to this that the black man invited us?” 
They said: “Yes, for them this is a great banquet.” Then I know 
for certain that no good was to be expected from them and I 
wished to depart. 

He soon got the better of his urge to retreat back to Morocco, but 
the inclination of the Sudanese to combine Islamic practice with 
regional custom was no end of irritation to him. His prejudice, if 
he were to try to explain it, had nothing directly to do with race. It 
was a matter of the failure of the Malians to conduct themselves 
according to the normative standards that pious Muslims from 
North African cities might expect of virtuous officers of state.Such 
standards did not include rulers speaking to fellow believers 
through ritual heralds or entertaining visiting ‘ulama with small 
dishes of warm porridge. 

The incident, unfortunately, was to be only the first of many 
occasions when Ibn Battuta, the sophisticated Maliki jurist, would 
find the Sudanese coming up short in their attention to moral and 
legal niceties. He admits that the scholars of Walata treated him 
warmly during his sojourn in the town, but he found their failure 
to subscribe to what he regarded as the civilized rules of sexual 
segregation even worse than the practices of the Central Asian 
Turks. On one occasion he appeared at the house of the gadi to 
find him seated in casual conversation with a young and beautiful 

300 Mali 

woman. That a woman should be present in the reception room of 
a Muslim’s house when a male guest arrived was bad enough. But 
the judge’s explanation, that it was all right to come in because the 
woman was his “friend,” made the visitor recoil in shock. On 
another occasion Ibn Battuta paid a call to a Masufa scholar and 
found this worthy’s wife chatting with a strange man in the 
courtyard. When he expressed profound disapproval of such 
goings-on, the scholar replied insouciantly that “the association of 
women with men is agreeable to us and a part of good conduct, to 
which no suspicion attaches. They are not like the women of your 
country.” Unpersuaded, Ibn Battuta left the house at once and 
never came back. “He invited me several times,” he tells us, “but I 
did not accept.” 

He stayed in Walata several weeks, then started out for the 
capital of Mali in the company of three companions and a Masufa 
guide. He remarks that he did not need to travel in a caravan 
because “neither traveler there nor dweller has anything to fear 
from thief or usurper” owing to Mansa Sulayman’s firm gov- 
ernment. Nor did he have to carry a large stock of supplies. As he 
moved southward from the Sahelian steppe into the grassy plains, 
giant baobab trees rising stalk-like on the horizon, he encountered 
village after village of Sudanese farming folk. In them he and his 
comrades offered glass beads and pieces of Taghaza salt in return 
for millet, rice, milk, chickens, and other local staples. After two 
weeks or more on the road by way of Zaghari (which may be 
identified with the Sokolo area in modern Mali), he reached the 
left bank of the Niger River at a place he names Karsakhu.'? He 
calls the river the Nile (Nil), following the mistaken notion of 
medieval Muslim geographers that that great river had its source in 
West Africa. Whatever his error, the crocodiles here were as 
dangerous as the ones he had seen in Egypt: 

One day I had gone to the Nil to accomplish a need when one of 
the Sudan came and stood between me and the river. I was 
amazed at his ill manners and lack of modesty and mentioned 
this to somebody, who said: “He did that only because he 
feared for you on account of the crocodile, so he placed himself 
between you and it.” 

The traveler’s precise route from Walata to the Malian capital is a 
puzzle because we do not know for certain where the town was. 

Mali 301 

The Rihla gives neither a name to the place nor a very useful 
topographical description of it. The chief seat of royal power may 
have changed location from one period to another, indeed more 
than one “capital” may have existed at the same time. Some 
modern scholars identify the site, at least at that time in Mali’s 
history, with the village of Niani, located south of the Niger in the 
modern Republic of Guinea. But the town may also have lain 
north of the river somewhere east of Bamako.'° About ten miles 
from his destination Ibn Battuta crossed what he calls the Sansara 
River on a ferry (he never mentions crossing the Niger). If the 
capital is to be identified with Niani, that river would have been 
the Sankarani, a southern tributary of the Niger. 

The seat of Mansa Sulayman was a sprawling, unwalled town set 
in a “verdant and hilly” country.'’ The sultan had several enclosed 
palaces there. Mansa Musa had built one under the direction of 
Abu Ishaq al-Sahili, an Andalusian architect and poet who had 
accompanied him home from the hajj. Al-Sahili surfaced the 
building with plaster, an innovation in the Sudan, and “covered it 
with colored patterns so that it turned out to be the most elegant of 
buildings.”’® Surrounding the palaces and mosques were the res- 
idences of the citizenry, mud-walled houses roofed with domes of 
timber and reed.’” 

Ibn Battuta arrived in the town on 28 July 1352 (14 Jumada | 
753) and went immediately to the quarter where the resident 
merchants and scholars of Maghribi origin lived. He had written to 
the community in advance of his arrival, probably from Walata, 
and was relieved to learn that his letter had been received and a 
house made ready for him to occupy. Within a day, he made the 
acquaintance of the qadi, a Sudanese, as well as the other 
members of the Muslim notability. He was also introduced to the 
mansa’s “interpreter,” or griot, a man named Dugha. This official 
was a Sudanese of special social caste who performed a multiplicity 
of important state functions: master of state ceremonies, royal 
bard and praise singer, herald, confidant, counsellor, and keeper 
of the oral traditions of the Keita dynasty. 

Ibn Battuta no doubt expected to see the king promptly, but ten 
days after his arrival he fell grievously sick after eating some yams 
or similar root that may not have been cooked long enough to 
remove the poison from its skin.*? He fainted away during the 
dawn prayer, and one of the five men who had shared the meal 
with him subsequently died. Ibn Battuta drank a purgative con- 

302 Mali 

coction to induce vomiting, but he remained so ill for two months 
that he could not rouse himself to make an appearance at court. 

He finally recovered just in time to attend a public memorial 
feast for the deposed and deceased Moroccan sultan Abu I’Hasan, 
with whom Mali had had amicable diplomatic relations. The cere- 
monies of the mansa’s public sitting were not unlike the pageants 
the traveler had witnessed in dozens of Muslim courts, but 
elements of traditional Malinke chieftaincy were in evidence to be 

[The sultan] has a lofty pavilion, of which the door is inside his 
house, where he sits for 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 . . . Dugha the interpreter stands at the gate of the 
council-place wearing fine garments of silk brocade and other 
materials, and on his head a turban with fringes which they have 
a novel way of winding . . . The troops, governors, young men, 
slaves, the Masufa, and others sit outside the council-place in a 
broad street where there are trees . . . Inside the council-place 
beneath the arches a man is standing. Anyone who wishes to 
address the sultan addresses Dugha and Dugha addresses that 
man standing and that man standing addresses the sultan. 

If one of them addresses the sultan and the latter replies he 
uncovers the clothes from his back and sprinkles dust on his 
head and back, like one washing himself with water. I used to 
marvel how their eyes did not become blinded. 

The gadi and other scholars brought Ibn Battuta forward and 
presented him to the gold-turbaned monarch seated on his dais 
under a silken dome. There was nothing particularly special about 
a Moroccan fagih passing through the kingdom and this first 
meeting was perfunctory. Later, when Ibn Battuta had returned to 
his house, one of the scholars called to tell him that the sultan had 
sent along the requisite welcoming gift. 

I got up, thinking that it would be robes of honor and money, 
but behold! it was three loaves of bread and a piece of beet fried 
in gharti [shea butter] and a gourd containing yoghurt. When I 

Mali 303 

saw it I laughed, and was long astonished at their feeble in- 
tellect and their respect for mean things. 

To make matters worse he spent almost another two months 
attending court before the sultan paid any further attention to him. 
Finally, on the advice of Dugha, he made an appeal to Sulayman, 
brashly raising the issue of the mansa’s prestige among the Muslim 
rulers of the world: 

I have journeyed to the countries of the world and met their 
kings. I have been four months in your country without your 
giving me a reception gift or anything else. What shall I say of 
you in the presence of other sultans? 

In all probability Sulayman could not have cared less what this 
wandering jurist said of him. At first he sublimely disavowed 
having even known that Ibn Battuta was in the town. But when his 
notables reminded him that he had received the Moroccan a few 
months earlier and “sent him some food,” the mansa offered him a 
house and an allowance in gold. Notwithstanding the sultan’s 
desultory effort to put things right, Ibn Battuta never got over the 
indifferent treatment he received, concluding in the Rihla that 
Sulayman “is a miserly king from whom no great donation is to be 
expected” and that Mansa Musa by contrast had been “generous 
and virtuous.” 

Ibn Battuta ended a sojourn of a little more than eight months in 
the capital in a state of ambivalence over the qualities of Malian 
culture. On the one hand he respected Sulayman’s just and stable 
government and the earnest devotion of the Muslim population to 
their mosque prayers and Koranic studies. “They place fetters on 
their children if there appears on their part a failure to memorize 
the Koran,” he reports approvingly, “and they are not undone 
until they memorize it.” On the other hand he reproached the 
Sudanese severely for practices obviously based in Malinke 
tradition but, from his point of view, either profane or ridiculous 
when set against the model of the nightly guided Islamic state: 
female slaves and servants who went stark naked into the court for 
all to see; subjects who groveled before the sultan, beating the 
ground with their elbows and throwing dust and ashes over their 
heads; royal poets who romped about in feathers and bird masks. 
Ibn Battuta seems indeed to be harsher on the Malians than he 

304 Mali 

does on other societies of the Islamic periphery where behavior 
rooted in local tradition, but contrary to his scriptural and legal 
standards, colored religious and social practice. We may sense in 
his reportage a certain embarrassment that a kingdom whose Islam 
was so profoundly influenced by his own homeland and its Maliki 
doctors was not doing a better job keeping to the straight and 

Ibn Battuta left Sulayman’s court on 27 February 1353 (22 
Muharram 754), traveling by camel in the company of a merchant. 
Since the location of the capital is uncertain, his itinerary away 
from it is equally problematic. If he had a general plan of travel, it 
seems to have been to explore the provinces of Mali further down 
the Niger. He mentions that in the ensuing days he crossed, not 
the great river itself, but a tributary channel, which might be 
identified with the “canal du Sahel,” a northerly flood branch 
located east of the modern Malian town of Ségou.”! From there he 
followed a northeasterly route, keeping well to the west of the 
river, then rejoining it again somewhere not far upstream from 

In the Rihla Ibn Battuta expresses no particular wonder at that 
legendary “city of gold.” In fact the rise of Timbuktu as a trans- 
Saharan terminus and capital of Islamic learning came mainly in 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In the mid fourteenth 
century, when Ibn Battuta passed through, the town was only 
beginning to flower. It had a population of about 10,000 and a 
Malian governor, who had been installed when Mansa Musa 
visited the town on his return from the Hijaz.?* It almost certainly 
had a sizable community of Maghribi and Sudanese scholars. 
According to tradition, Mansa Musa had commissioned an im- 
pressive grand mosque.° Yet until later in the century Timbuktu 
was junior to Walata as a trade and intellectual center. Ibn Battuta 
found nothing there to detain him for long and was soon on his 
way down the Niger. 

At Kabara, Timbuktu’s “port” on the river four miles south of 
the city, he abandoned his dromedary and boarded a small boat, a 
type of canoe (“carved out of a single piece of wood”) that is still 
used in the region today.2* From Kabara the Niger flows due 
eastward for about 180 miles through the flat Sahelian steppe. 
“Each night,” he reports, “we stayed in a village and bought what 
we were in need of in the way of wheat and butter for salt, spices 

Mali 305 

and glass trinkets.” At one village he celebrated the Prophet's 
Birthday (12 Rabi’ I 754 or 17 April 1353) in the company of the 
local commander, whose generosity the Rihla praises so effusively 
that the tacit negative comparison to Mansa Sulayman is not lost 
on the reader. The officer not only entertained his visitor warmly 
but even gave him a slave boy as a gift. The lad accompanied Ibn 
Battuta back across the Sahara and remained with him for some 

Continuing down river, the traveler spent about a month in Gao 
(Kawkaw), a thriving commercial city at the eastern extremity of 
Mali’s political orbit. Then, having by this time crossed a large part 
of the empire from west to east and visited most of the towns with 
important Muslim populations, he decided to make for home. Gao 
paralleled Walata and Timbuktu as a terminus of trans-Saharan 
trade, but with relatively more important route connections to 
Ifriqiya and Egypt. Ibn Battuta found “a big caravan” departing 
from Gao for Ghadamés (Ghadamis), a major stop in the northern 
desert about 450 miles due south of Tunis. He had no plans to go 
to Ghadamés, but it made sense for him to accompany the convoy 
as far east as the oasis of Takedda (Azelik), which lay to the 
southwest of the Saharan highland region called Air.?> From there 
he could expect to intercept a caravan en route to Sijilmasa from 
the central Sudan (the region corresponding to the northern part 
of modern Nigeria). 

His journey to Takedda was disagreeable. In Gao he purchased 
a riding camel, as well as a she-camel to carry his provisions. But 
the sweltering desert summer was approaching, and after only one 
stage on the trail the she-camel collapsed. Other travelers among 
the company agreed to help transport Ibn Battuta’s belongings, 
but further on he fell sick, this time “because of the extreme heat 
and a surplus of bile.” Stumbling on to Takedda, he found a house 
in which to recuperate as well as a welcoming community of 
resident Moroccans. 

Like Taghaza, Takedda was a grim spot in the desert important 
for its mine, in this case copper. Unlike Taghaza, the town was 
also a junction of trade routes and consequently a place of some 
slight urbanity. Ibn Battuta reports: 

The people of Takedda have no occupation but trade. They 
travel each year to Egypt and import some of everything which 
is there in the way of fine cloth and other things. Its people are 

306 Mali 

comfortable and well off and are proud of the number of male 
and female slaves which they have. 

Recovering from his illness, he thought of buying “an educated 
slave girl” for himself. The effort brought nothing but trouble, not 
least for the unfortunate young women involved. First, the gadi of 
the town got one of the other notables to sell the traveler a girl of 
his own for a quantity of gold. Then the man decided he had made 
a mistake and asked to buy her back. Ibn Battuta agreed on 
condition that a replacement be found. Another Moroccan in the 
caravan, a man named ’Ali ’Aghyul, had a woman he was ready to 
sell. But Ibn Battuta and this fellow had already had a personal 
row. On the journey to Takedda, ’Ali ’Aghyul had not only 
refused to help carry the load from Ibn Battuta’s dead camel but 
even denied a drink of water to his countryman’s slave boy. 
Nevertheless Ibn Battuta went through with the deal, this girl 
“being better than the first one.” But then 

this Moroccan regretted having sold the slave and wished to 
revoke the bargain. He importuned me to do so, but I declined 
to do anything but reward him for his evil acts. He almost went 
mad and died of grief. But I let him off afterwards. 

Some time following this shabby incident, a slave messenger 
arrived in a caravan from Sijilmasa carrying an order from Sultan 
Abu "Inan that the fagih should return immediately to Fez. Ibn 
Battuta offers no explanation why the sultan should have kept 
such close track of his movements south of the Sahara. It seems 
likely that Abu ’Inan was anxious to have a report from him on 
political and commercial conditions in Mali, matters so important 
to the health of the Marinid state.”° 

Ibn Battuta left Takadda on 11 September 1353 (11 Sha’ban 
754) in the company of a large caravan transporting 600 black 
female slaves to Morocco. These unfortunates had probably 
started out from the savanna lands southeast of Takedda, regions 
which, in the absence of gold deposits, engaged more extensively 
in slave commerce than did Mali.?’ Once arrived in Sijilmasa or 
Fez, the women would be sold into service as domestics, con- 
cubines, or servants of the royal court. 

The caravan trekked northward through 18 days of “wilderness 
without habitation” to a point north of Air (possibly Assiou or In 

Mali 307 

Azaoua,”® where the route leading to Ghadamés forked off from 
the road to Sijilmasa. From there the convoy skirted the western 
side of the Ahaggar (Hoggar, or Hukkar) Mountains of the central 
desert. Here they passed through the territory of veiled Berber 
nomads who, Ibn Battuta informs us, were “good for nothing. . . 
We encountered one of their chief men who held up the caravan 
until he was paid an impost of cloth and other things.” 

Now veering gradually to the northwest, the company eventually 
reached the great north Saharan oasis complex of Tuwat (Touat). 
Ibn Battuta mentions only one stopping place in this region (Buda), 
then tells us simply that they continued on to Sijilmasa. He stayed 
there no more than about two weeks, then continued on over the 
High Atlas in the dead of winter. “I have seen difficult roads and 
much snow in Bukhara, Samarkand, Khurasan and the land of the 
Turks, but I never saw a road more difficult than that.” Somewhere 
along that frigid highway he halted to celebrate the Feast of 
Sacrifice, 6 January 1354. 

Then I departed and reached the capital Fez, capital of our Lord 
the Commander of the Faithful, may God support him, and 
kissed his noble hand, and deemed myself fortunate to see his 
blessed face. J remained in the shelter of his beneficence after my 
long travels, may God... thank him for the great benefits 
which he bestowed on me and his ample benignity. 

Indeed Abu ‘Inan could afford to be amply benign, for his reign had 
just about reached its high point when Ibn Battuta returned to the 
capital. Morocco was generally at peace, and the sultan was even 
planning for the day when he would best his father at conquering 
Ifriqiya and unifying North Africa once and for all. If the Black 
Death had temporarily deflated Fez’s productiveness in craft and 
industry, the city was still the center of the intellectual universe west 
of Cairo. Among the stars of saintliness and erudition gathered 
there, Ibn Battuta might expect to shine for a moment or two on the 
strength of the stories he had to tell. 


1. Abu Zayd ’Abd al-Rahman Ibn Khaldun, Kitab al-'Ibar, in L&H, pp. 333-34. 
2. Ibn Fad! Allah al-Umari, Masalik al-absar fi mamalik al-amsar, in L&H, pp. 

308 Mali 

3. Al-Umari, L&H, pp. 270-71. 

4. Andrew M. Watson, “Back to Gold and Silver,” Economic History Review 20 
(1967): 30-31; Nehemia Levtzion, Ancient Ghana and Mali (London, 1973), pp. 

5. Al-Umari, L&H, p. 261. 

6. The Rihia is the only existing eye-witness testimony on the Mali empire and 
therefore a precious historical source. 

7. The commentaries are divided on the question of IB’s purpose in going to the 
Sudan. The issue hinges on the translation of the phrase bi-rasm al-safar in the 
Arabic text. One version has it: “I took leave of our Master (may God uphold him). I 
departed with orders to accomplish a journey to the land of the Sudan.” R. Mauny er 
al., Textes et documents relatifs a I’histoire de l'Afrique: extraits tirés des voyages d’Ibn 
Battuta (Dakar, 1966),p. 35. Levtzion and Hopkins (L&H, p. 414), however, believe 
that this translation “seems to read too much into the text.” They prefer “and set of 
with the purpose of traveling to the land of the Sudan.” Both D&S (vol. 4, p. 376) and 
H&K (p. 22) give similar meaning to their translation of the phrase. Levtzion (Ghana 
and Mali, p. 216) states that IB was “on a private visit to the Sudan” but that Abu 
*Inan knew of his movements. When IB was at Takadda in the southern Sahara, the 
sultan sent a messenger telling him to return to Fez. I agree with Levtzion. If IB were 
on an official mission to Mali, we might expect him to make a good deal of it in the 
Rihla or at least refer to it in connection with his appearance at the Mali court. 

8. Al-Umari, L&H, p. 275. 

9. Abu ’Abd Allah al-Idrisi, Nuzhat al-mushtag fi ikhtirag al-afaq, L&H, p. 118. 

10. Leo Africanus, The History and Description of Africa, trans. Robert Pery, ed. 
Robert Brown, 3 vols. (New York, 1896), vol. 3, pp. 800-01. 

11. Mauny et al. (Textes et Documents, p. 38) identify IB’s Tasarahla with Bir al- 

12. Mauny etal., Textes et documents, p. 37. 

13. Raymond Mauny, Tableau géographique de I’ Quest Africain au Moyen Age 
d’aprés les sources écrites, la tradition et l’archéologie (Amsterdam, 1967), p. 485. 

14. H&K, p. 70n. 

15. J.O. Hunwick identifies Zaghari with the Sokolo region and Karsakhu with a 
point on the Niger south of there. “The Mid-Fourteenth century capital of Mali,” 
Journal of African History 14 (1973): 199-200. Other hypotheses on this stretch of 
IB’s itinerary are offered by Claude Meillassoux, “L’itinéraire d'Ibn Battuta de 
Walata a Malli,” Journal of African History 13 (1972): 389-95; and Mauny et al., 
Textes et documents, pp. 46-47. 

16. Textual, linguistic, and archaeological evidence have all been marshalled to 
find the fourteenth century capital of Mali. Recent discussions, which also review the 
earlier literature on the problem, are Wladyslaw Filipowiak, Etudes archéologiques 
sur la capitale médiévale du Mali, trans. Zofia Slawskaj (Szczecin, 1979); Hunwick, 
“Mid-Fourteenth Century Capital,” pp. 195-206; and Meillassoux, “L’itinéraire 
d’Ibn Battuta,’ pp. 389-95. Hunwick hypothesizes that IB did not visit Niani but a 
place north of the Niger, pointing out that the traveler never mentions crossing the 

17. Al-Umari, L&H, p. 263. 

18. Ibn Khaldun, L&H, p. 335. 

19. Al-Umari, L&H, pp. 262-63. 

20. H&K, p. 72n. 

21. Hunwick, “Mid-Fourteenth Century Capital,” p. 203. 

22. Elias N. Saad, Social History of Timbuktu: the Role of Muslim Scholars and 
Notables, 1400-1900 (Cambridge, England, 1983), pp. 11,27. 

23. Levtzion, Ghana and Mali, p. 201; Mauny, Tableau géographique, pp. 114- 
15; and Saad, Social History of Timbuktu, pp. 36-37. 

24. Maunyetal., Textes et documents. p.71. 

Mali 309 

25. Mauny (Tableau gedgraphique, pp. 139-40) identifies IB‘s Takadda with 
Azelik. Most other commentators agree. 

26. Jean Devisse presumes that IB was on a mission for Abu ‘Inan and 
speculates that the sultan wanted up-to-date intelligence out of fear that the gold 
trade was being increasingly diverted towards Egypt. “Routes de commerce et 
échanges en Afrique Occidentale en relation avec la Méditerranée,” Revue 
d'Histoire Economique et Sociale 50 (1972): 373. 

27. Levtzion, Ghana and Mali, pp. 174-76. 

28. Mauny et al. (Textes et documents, p. 79) identify IB's watering place with 
one or the other of these points. L&H (p. 418n) are doubtful but offer no 

] A The Rihla 

I have indeed — praise be to God — attained my desire 
in this world, which was to travel through the earth, and I 
have attained in this respect what no other person has 
attained to my knowledge. ! 

Ibn Battuta 

We know only in a very general way what happened to Ibn Battuta 
after he returned to Fez in 1354. Sultan Abu ‘Inan certainly 
listened to his report on Mali and no doubt wanted to hear about 
his traveling career, the political highlights in particular. After the 
interview Ibn Battuta might have expected to slip quietly out of 
public notice, perhaps to seek a judicial appointment elsewhere in 
Morocco. Yet the king was sufficiently impressed by this genial 
and sharp-witted fagih that he ordered him to stay in Fez for the 
time being and prepare a narrative of his experiences for the 
pleasure of the royal court. 

Since Ibn Battuta was no belle-lettrist, Ibn Juzayy, the young 
secretary he had met briefly in Granada three years earlier, was 
commissioned by the sultan to shape the Tangierian’s story into a 
proper oeuvre conforming to the literary standards of a rihla: an 
account of travels centering upon a journey (or journeys) to 
Mecca. Ibn Juzayy had fallen out of favor with his former 
employer Yusuf I of Granada and left his service to accept a post 
in Fez not long before Ibn Battuta’s return there from Mali. He 
already had a reputation for his poetry, his prose writings in 
philology, history, and law, and his fine calligraphic style.* He 
seems to have come to his assignment with enthusiasm and may 
well have developed a warm friendship with the journeyer. 

The two of them probably met together regularly for about two 
years from shortly after Ibn Battuta’s arrival in Fez until De- 
cember 1355, when the redaction of the narrative was finished 
under the florid formal title, “A Gift to the Observers Concerning 
the Curiosities of the Cities and the Marvels Encountered in 
Travels.” The work sessions likely took place in different places: in 


The Rihla 311 

the older man’s house or the younger’s, in the gardens or halls of 
Fez Jdid, in the shady arcades of mosques. Ibn Juzayy admits that 
what he wrote was only an abridgment of all that his collaborator 
told him or had written out for him in notes. There is no direct 
evidence that Ibn Battuta ever read the completed manuscript or 
checked it for errors. Mistakes in the phonetic spelling of various 
foreign words suggest that he did not.* Ibn Juzayy may have 
continued to revise and refine the book after his interviews with 
the traveler were completed. In any case, the connection between 
the two men ended in 1356 or 1357 when Ibn Juzayy, not yet 37 
years old, died of causes unknown.4 

In his brief introduction to the Rihla, Ibn Juzayy explains pre- 
cisely what the sultan had ordered Ibn Battuta to do: 

he should 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. Accordingly, he dictated upon these 
subjects a narrative which gave entertainment to the mind and 
delight to the ears and eyes. 

This is a concise statement of the general subject matter of Ibn 
Battuta’s interviews with Ibn Juzayy, although he ranged over 
almost every conceivable aspect of fourteenth-century life from 
cuisine, botany, and marriage practices to dynastic history and the 
price of chickens. As he spoke or fed Ibn Juzayy notes, he wove 
his descriptive observations haphazardly into the account of his 
own experience. Ibn Juzayy, moreover, interjected rhetorical odds 
and ends into the manuscript here and there, including a bit of 
verse. But generally he stayed true to the structure of Ibn Battuta’s 
verbal recounting. Consequently, the autobiography, the personal 
adventure, remains at the heart of the book, revealing the 
traveler’s gregarious, high-spirited, pushy, impetuous, pious, ing- 
ratiating personality through the account of the life he lived. The 
plan of the Rihla was very different from the organization of that 
other famous travel narrative of the medieval age, the Book of 
Marco Polo. The Venetian’s work is divided into two parts, the 
first a brief summary of his traveling career, the second, which 
makes up most of the account, a systematic, didactic presentation 
of information about China and other lands east of Europe. All in 

312 The Rihla 

all, the book remains, in vivid contrast to the Rihla, “a treatise of 
empirical geography,” revealing almost nothing about Marco’s 

There is no doubt, on the other hand, that in telling so much 
about himself, Ibn Battuta aimed to project a definite persona: the 
pious, erudite, Maliki gentleman, though one with a Sufi’s 
sensitivity and reverence. It seems equally clear that as he told Ibn 
Juzayy his story, he tended, as perhaps most of us would in his 
place, to exaggerate his competence as a man of learning and his 
social status among the kings and princes who entertained him, as 
well as the importance of the judicial positions he held. Perhaps 
we can discern in the thread of puffery that runs through the Rihla 
a discomforting self-awareness of the limits of his education and 
commitment to the rigorous academic life. There is no evidence 
that he ever spent much time in serious study once he left Tangier 
at the age of 21. To the learned jurisconsults and gadis of the great 
cities of Islam, who toiled years on end reading and memorizing 
the important texts of their legal school, Ibn Battuta’s deficiencies 
would have been plain to see. Ibn Juzayy introduces him with 
gusto as “the learned doctor of law.” But another scholar, a 
celebrated Andalusian judge named Abu I’Barakat al-Balafigi, 
had also met the traveler in Granada and duly sized him up. His 
observation, reported in the brief article on Ibn Battuta in Ibn al- 
Khatib’s fourteenth-century compilation of notable biographies, 
was that the man may have traveled widely but he possessed only 
“a modest share of the sciences.”° Or as another translator puts 
the passage, “He had not too much of what it takes.”’ He could 
never have landed a high judicial post in a city like Cairo or 
Damascus (except perhaps in the aftermath of the Black Death, 
when a large part of the civilian elite was dead). But he did thrive 
out on the peripheries of Islam where Muslim princes, badly 
needing experts in the shari’a and the prestige that came with 
enforcing it, were less particular about honoring and employing 
individuals with only “a modest share of the sciences.” In that 
sense, Ibn Battuta belongs to a large class of lettered but not 
accomplished men who, for want of serious career possibilities in 
the central cities, gravitated out to the expanding Islamic frontiers, 
where a Muslim name, a reasonable education, and a large 
ambition could see a man to a respectable job, even to riches and 

If Ibn Battuta never became a master of his legal profession, he 

The Rihla 313 

nonetheless possessed an extraordinary memory of the places he 
had visited and the things he had seen. It seems highly unlikely 
that when he got down to work with Ibn Juzayy he had extensive 
travel notes or journals at hand. He never mentions in the Rihla 
that he took notes, with the single exception of a remark that some 
tomb inscriptions he jotted down in Bukhara were one of the items 
he lost in the pirate attack off the coast of India.’ If he had other 
notes with him at that time (1345), they would also have been lost. 
In any case, a reading of the Rihla does not suggest that he had a 
foggier memory of people, places, and events for the period of his 
career antedating 1345 than for the time after. On the other hand, 
he appears to have written out a rough version of his life and 
observations, perhaps after he returned to Fez, since near the end 
of the Rihla Ibn Juzayy refers to the work as his own “abridgment” 
of the “writing” or “notations” (taqgyid) of the traveler.'” From 
time to time in the narrative Ibn Battuta admits candidly that he 
simply cannot remember the name of a particular person or town. 
But he also misremembered numerous facts. He gets names and 
dates wrong occasionally, he reports certain contemporary or 
historical events inaccurately, he mixes up now and again the 
order of his itinerary. Yet too close attention to his errors can 
distract from the astonishing accuracy of the Rihla on the whole, as 
both a historical document and a record of experience. 

To conclude that Ibn Battuta did not rely on notes during his 
interviews with Ibn Juzayy is not to say that the two of them had 
no “research” aids at all. In Muslim historical and geographical 
writing of that age, authors commonly drew upon the works of 
earlier authorities to flesh out their essays, sometimes explicitly 
crediting such authorities and sometimes not. Islamic literary 
theory regarded what we would call plagiarism with a wide latitude 
of tolerance. It was not considered improper to quote from or 
paraphrase other writers without citing them, even where the ideas 
or information such writers contributed might be partially or 
wholly disguised.'! Ibn Juzayy may have had a substantial library 
of geographical and travel literature of his own. In any case, Fez 
had become such an important center of learning that the libraries 
of its leading intellectuals, as well as that of the Karawiyin 
mosque, which was founded about 1350, would have provided the 
two men with a wealth of source material if they needed it.!? 

It is perfectly plain that Ibn Juzayy copied outright numerous 
long passages from the Rihla of Ibn Jubayr, the twelfth-century 

314 The Rihla 

Andalusian traveler who wrote the most elegant of the medieval 
Muslim travel books. These passages pertain to Ibn Battuta’s 
descriptions of Damascus, Mecca, Medina, and some other places 
in the Middle East. It seems likely that where Ibn Battuta could 
not remember very well certain places he visited, or where Ibn 
Jubayr’s description was, from a literary point of view, as good as 
anything Ibn Juzayy could produce, then deference might be made 
to this learned predecessor.'? Modern scholars have suggested, 
though not generally proven, that Ibn Juzayy paraphrased from 
other earlier geographical books as well.'4 

In his introduction to the Rihla, Ibn Juzayy declares that his 
intention was to write down the story just as Ibn Battuta told it: 

I have rendered the sense of the narrative... in language 
which adequately expresses the purposes he had in mind and 
sets forth clearly the ends which he had in view. Frequently I 
have reported his words in his own phrasing, without omitting 
either root or branch. 

Yet Ibn Juzayy had been commissioned not simply to transcribe 
mechanically Ibn Battuta’s reminiscences but to undertake 
appropriate “pruning and polishing” of his associate’s verbatim 
reports so as to produce a coherent, graceful work of literature in 
the high tradition of the rihla genre. In the interests of literary 
symmetry and taste, therefore, the raw record of the traveler’s 
experience had to be reshaped to some extent. For one thing, the 
itinerary over the entire 29 years was exceedingly complicated. Ibn 
Battuta visited a number of cities or regions two or more times, 
and his routes crisscrossed, backtracked, and overlapped. Con- 
sequently, Ibn Juzayy found it desirable to group the descriptions 
of certain places within the context of Ibn Battuta’s first visit 
there — and to do it without much heed to the precise details of 
his movements. The result is a more smoothly flowing narrative 
but a vexatious snarl of problems for any modern scholar trying to 
figure out exactly where Ibn Battuta went and when.’° 

Even more troublesome for the historian is [bn Battuta’s re- 
counting of visits to at least a few places that in fact he probably 
never saw. Ibn Juzayy meant the Rihla to be at the broadest level a 
survey of the Muslim world of the fourteenth century. Ibn Battuta 
had not gone absolutely everywhere in that world. Yet Ibn Juzayy 
probably thought that for the sake of literary integrity almost 

The Rihla 315 

every place in Eurasia and Africa having an important Muslim 
population should be mentioned within the framework of the 
traveler’s first-person experience, even though in a few cases that 
experience might not be genuine. Ibn Battuta describes, albeit 
rather lamely and self-consciously, a trip up the Volga River to 
visit the Muslim community of Bulghar, a trip he almost certainly 
did not make.'© Modern commentators have also cast doubts on 
the authenticity of his journeys to China and Byzantium, as well as 
to parts of Khurasan, Yemen, Anatolia, and East Africa, though 
scholarly opinion is very much divided on these questions.’’ Even 
if small parts of the Rihla are fabricated, we can never know for 
sure how to parcel out the blame. It is conceivable that Ibn Juzayy 
added certain passages without Ibn Battuta even knowing that he 
did. Nor can we discount the meddlings of later copyists. 

If the authenticity of the Rihla has generally stood up well under 
modern scrutiny, Ibn Battuta was by no means let off easily in his 
own time. By an extraordinary piece of historical coincidence, 
*Abd al-Rahman ibn Khaldun, the Tunisian historian and 
philosopher who came to tower over the Muslim intellectual world 
in the later medieval age, arrived in Fez in 1354 to join the circle of 
scholars around Sultan Abu ’Inan. Ibn Khaldun had been a young 
government officer in Tunis when Abu I’Hasan’s army occupied 
that city. He was impressed by the erudition of the Moroccan 
scholars in the sultan’s suite and, having lost both his parents in the 
Black Death, decided to leave home to pursue advanced studies in 
Fez. There is no evidence that he ever made Ibn Battuta’s 
acquaintance. But in The Muqaddimah, his great work of history 
and sociology completed in 1377, he makes a brief and utterly 
incidental remark about a certain “shaykh from Tangier” who 
turned up in Fez after traveling widely in the Muslim world. “He 
used to tell about experiences he had had on his travels,” Ibn 
Khaldun reports, “and about the remarkable things he had seen in 
the different realms. He spoke mostly about the ruler of India. He 
reported things about him that his listeners considered strange.” 
Ibn Khaldun then repeats some of Ibn Battuta’s stories about 
Muhammad Tughlug: his provisioning the famine-stricken people 
of Delhi out of his own income and his practice of having gold 
coins showered upon his subjects from the backs of elephants. Ibn 
Khaldun also notes that Ibn Battuta held a judgeship in the 
sultanate. But then he goes on to remark darkly that the 
Tangierian “told other similar stories, and people in the dynasty 

316 The Rthla 

(in oMical positions) whispered to each other that he must be a 

Abu I’Barakat al-Balafiqi, the Andalusian scholar who had met 
Ibn Battuta in Granada and was later to express a low opinion of 
his scholarship, also resided in Fez about this time and knew Ibn 
Khaldun.!? According to Ibn al-Khatib, author of the 
fourteenth-century biographical notice on Ibn Battuta, al-Balafigi 
said that people considered the traveler “purely and simply a 
liar.”*° Why such skepticism among the intelligentsia of Fez? 
Perhaps it was a reflection of their casual contempt for Ibn 
Battuta’s pedestrian erudition. Or it might simply have been the 
incredulous parochialism of Far Western Muslims who had them- 
selves never traveled very far from home. 

Indeed Ibn Khaldun continues in The Mugaddimah: 

One day I met the Sultan’s famous vizier, Faris ibn Wadrar. I 
talked to him about this matter and intimated to him that I did 
not believe that man’s stories, because people in the dynasty 
were in general inclined to consider him a liar. Whereupon the 
vizier Faris said to me: “Be careful not to reject such infor- 
mation about the condition of dynasties, because you have not 
seen such things yourself.”*' 

Moreover Muhammad ibn Marzuk, a famous scholar of Tlemcen 
who was occupying a government post in Fez when the Rihla was 
being composed, also expressed an opinion on Ibn Battuta, which 
found its way into Ibn Hajar’s fifteenth-century biographical 
notice. According to Ibn Hajar, Ibn Marzuk cleared the traveler of 
al-Balafiqi’s charge of lying and even declared, “I know of no 
person who has journeyed through so many lands as [he did] on his 
travels, and he was withal generous and welldoing.”” 

If Ibn Battuta stirred up courtly gossip for a few months with his 
exotic tales, he seems to have attracted no more attention in Fez 
after his work with Ibn Juzayy was completed. All that we know of 
his later life is that, according to Ibn Hajar’s brief sketch, he held 
“the office of gadi in some town or other.”*° He probably lived in 
the modestly comfortable style of a provincial official, and, since 
he was not yet 50 years old when he ended his travels, he very 
likely married again and sired more children, little half brothers 
and sisters of the offspring growing up all across the Eastern 

The Rihla 317 

As for the Rihla, very little is known of its history from the 
fourteenth to the nineteenth century. In contrast to Marco Polo’s 
book, which was widely circulated and acclaimed in Europe in the 
later Middle Ages, the Rihla appears to have had a very modest 
impact on the Muslim world until modern times. There is no 
evidence of its being widely quoted or used as a source in Muslim 
historical or geographical works written after 1355. To be sure, 
copies of either the entire work or abridgments of it circulated 
among educated households in Morocco and the other North 
African countries. The Rihla was also known in the Western 
Sudan in the seventeenth century and in Egypt in the eighteenth, 
at least in the form of abridgments.** Whether it turned up in 
libraries in Muslim regions anywhere east of the Nile is anyone’s 
guess. Only in the mid nineteenth century, half a millennium after 
it was written, did the narrative began to receive the international 
attention it so profoundly deserved. The credit for that 
achievement, ironically enough, fell to scholars of Christian 
Europe, the one populous region of Eurasia Ibn Battuta had never 
bothered to visit. 

‘If the great journeyer attained no literary glory in his own time, 
he nevertheless had good reason to review his long career with 
satisfaction. He had seen and borne witness to the best that the 
fourteenth century had to offer, three decades of relative pros- 
perity and political calm in the Afro-Eurasian world. The second 
half of the century was to be drastically different. It was in Barbara 
Tuchman’s phrase the “calamitous” half of the century, a time of 
social disturbance and economic regression that seemed to afflict 
almost the entire hemisphere.2” The troubles of the age were 
almost certainly associated with the great pandemic, not only the 
Black Death itself but the multiple recurrences of pestilence that 
followed decade after decade on into the fifteenth century. The 
Black Death killed untold millions, but the repeated outbreaks of 
plague prevented agrarian populations in Europe and the Middle 
East, and probably in India and China as well, from recovering to 
pre-plague levels. 

The result was chronically depressed productivity, a condition 
that grievously affected many kingdoms of the hemisphere just 
about the time Ibn Battuta ended his travels. With the exception 
of a few regions where real political vigor was in evidence (the 
rising Ottoman Empire, Ming China after 1368, Vijayanagar in 
southern India), almost every state he had visited either dis- 

318 The Rihla 

appeared (the Yuan dynasty in China, the Ilkhanids in Persia), 
rapidly deteriorated (the Delhi Sultanate, Byzantium), or ex- 
perienced dynastic strife, rebellion, or social upheaval (the 
Khanates of Kipchak and Chagatay, the Mamluk Sultanate, Mali, 
Granada). Latin Europe, which he had not visited, experienced 
equally sorry times, with its deep economic recession, Hundred 
Years War, Papal Schism, and succession of peasant uprisings. 

In his own homeland he lived out his last years amid the 
violent, anarchic disintegration of the Marinid state. Sultan Abu 
*Inan invaded Ifriqiya and occupied Tunis in the fall of 1357, but 
he was forced to withdraw within two months. The following year 
he fell sick and was finally strangled by a rebellious vizier. No 
Marinid king succeeded in restoring order and unity to the 
country during the next century. 

Perhaps safe in his remote judgeship from the turmoil of those 
times, the aging globetrotter could look back over a quarter 
century whose strong kingdoms, thriving hemispheric trade, and 
cosmopolitan cities had given him so many opportunities for 
adventure and fortune. And despite the spreading darkness of 
the later century, his confidence in the continuing triumph of 
Islam was doubtless undiminished. He would not have been 
specially impressed to know that, as the fifteenth century 
approached, Muslim merchants, preachers, soldiers, and 
peripatetic scholars like himself still carried on the work of 
implanting Islam and its treasury of values and institutions in 
Southeast Asia, East and West Africa, India, and Southeastern 
Europe. Even as the bellicose Portuguese prepared their attack 
on Ceuta and the age of European power began, Islam as both a 
living faith and a model of civilized life continued to spread into 
new regions of the earth. 

Ibn Battuta died in 1368 or 1369 (700 A.H.).7° Where his grave 
lies, no one knows for sure. The tourist guides of Tangier are 
pleased to take foreign visitors to see a modest tomb that 
allegedly houses the mortal remains of the traveler. But the site 
has no inscription and its genuineness is open to question. A 
more vital memorial to him is the bn Battouta, the big ferry boat 
that shuttles people and their automobiles across the Strait of 
Gibraltar. From the kasba high above the city, you can see it 
steam out of the harbor, carrying young Moroccan scholars to 
their law schools in Paris and Bordeaux. 

The Rihla 319 

1. Gb, vol. 2, p. 282. 
2. “Ibn Djuzayy,” EI,, vol. 3, p. 756; D&S, vol. 1, p. xxi. 
3. H.A.R. Gibb, /bn Battuta: Travels in Asia and Africa (London, 1929), p. 12. 
4. “Ibn Djuzayy,” EI,, vol. 3, p. 756. 
5. Leonardo Olschki, Marco Polo’s Asia: An Introduction to his Description of 

the World Called Il Milione (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1960) p. 12. 

6. This is Gibb’s translation (Gb, vol. 1, p. ix) of the passage as it appears in Ibn 
Hajar al-Ascalani’s fifteenth-century biographical dictionary Al-Durar al-Kamina. 
The Arabic text and French translation of Ibn al-Khatib’s notice, upon which Ibn 
Hajar’s is partially based, is found in E. Levi-Provengal, “Le Voyage d’Ibn Battuta 
dans le royaume de Grenade (1350)” in Mélanges offerts a William Marcais (Paris, 
1950), pp. 213, 223. Ibn al-Khatib quotes Abu I’Barakat as saying he met IB in 
Granada in the garden of Abu I’Kasim ibn Asim. IB confirms this meeting (D&S, 
vol. 4, p. 371). On Abu I|-Barakat al-Balafigi, see Soledad Gibert, “Abu-l-Barakat 
al-Balafiqi, Qadi, Historiador y Poeta,” Al-Andalus 28 (1963): p. 381-424. 

7. H&K, p. 5. 

8. On the migration of Muslim literate cadres to the fringe areas of Islam, see 
Marshall G.S. Hodgson, The Venture of Islam, 3 vols. (Chicago, 1974), vol. 2, pp. 

9. D&S, vol. 3, p. 28. 

10. D&S, vol. 4, p. 449. Major commentators are divided on the question of IB’s 
notes. Gibb, Hrbek, and Défrémery and Sanguinetti believe he did not use travel 
notes when he worked with Ibn Juzayy. Gibb, Travels in Asia and Africa, p. 12; Hr, 
pp. 413-14; D&S, vol. 1, p. ix. Mahdi Husain thinks he did. MH, p. xviin. 

11. See John Wansbrough, “Africa and the Arab Geographers” in D. Dalby 
(ed.), Language and History in Africa (London, 1970), pp. 89-101. 

12. On the founding of the Karawiyin library, J. Berque, “Ville et université: 
pete sur histoire de l’école de Fés,” Revue Historique de Droit Francais et 

tranger (1949): 72. On the practice of learned men making their libraries available 
to other scholars, George Makdisi, The Rise of Colleges: Institutions of Learning in 
Islam and the West (Edinburgh, 1981). pp. 24-27. 

13. J.N. Mattock, “Ibn Battuta’s Use of Ibn Jubayr’s Rikia” in R. Peters (ed.), 
Proceedings of the Ninth Congress of the Union Européene des Arabisants et 
Islamisants (Leiden, 1981), pp. 209-18; and “The Travel Writings of Ibn Jubair and 
Ibn Batuta,” Glasgow Oriental Society Transactions 21 (1965-66): 35—46. 

14. On the Rihla’s possible debts to al-Bakri, Ibn Fadlan, al-’Umari, and other 
Muslim authors see Herman F. Janssens, /bn Batouta, “Le Voyageur de I|’Islam” 
(Brussels, 1948), pp. 108-09; Stephen Janicsek, “Ibn Battuta’s Journey to Bulghar: 
Is it a Fabrication?” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (October 1929): 794; 
Mattock, “Ibn Battuta’s Use of Ibn Jubayr’s Rihla,” pp. 210, 217; L&H, pp. 280- 

15. See particularly Chapter 3, note 26. 

16. See Chapter 8, note 12. 

17. See various footnotes pertaining to the chronology and itinerary of trips to 
these areas. 

18. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, trans. and ed. Franz Rosenthal, 3 vols. 
(Princeton, N.J., 1958), vol. 1, pp. 369-70. 

19. Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah, vol. 1, p. xl. 

20. Ibn al-Khatib, quoted in Levi-Provengal, “Le Voyage d’Ibn Battuta,” p. 213. 

21. Ibn Khaldun, The Mugaddimah, vol. 1, pp. 370-71. 

22. Gb, vol. 1, pp. ix-x. On Ibn Marzuk see “Ibn Marzuk,” El), vol. 3, pp. 865— 

320 The Rihla 

23. Gb, vol. 1, p. x. 

24. "Abd al-Rahman ibn ’Abd Allah al-Sa’di, Tarikh es-Soudan, trans. O. 
Houdas (Paris, 1964), pp. 15-16; D&S, vol. 1, pp. xiii-xvi. 

25. Barbara W. Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century 
(New York, 1978). 

26. Ibn Hajar’s biography quoted in Gb, vol. 1, pp. ix-x. 


‘alim (pl. ’ulama) 

"Id al-Adha 
"Id al-Fitr 





Member or leader of an urban men’s 
association, or fityan. 

A person learned in the Islamic sciences 
A military commander or ruler. 

Quality of divine grace 

A specialist in Islamic law; a jurist. 
Jurisprudence, the science of Islamic law. 
Urban association of men devoted to 
Muslim religious and social ideals. 

A fighter in holy war against unbelievers. 
Traditions of the words or actions of the 
Prophet Muhammad; one of the major 
sources of Islamic law. 

The pilgrimage to Mecca. 

The restricted women’s quarters of a 
house or palace. 

Feast of the Sacrifice celebrated on the 
10th of Dhu 1-Hijja; part of the rites of the 
Muslim pilgrimage. 

Feast of Breaking of the Fast celebrated 
on the 1st of Shawwal to mark the end of 
Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. 
The state of ritual purity associated with 
the rites of the pilgrimage in Mecca; the 
simple white garments worn by males 
during the pilgrimage. 

Certificate authenticating the holder’s 
mastery of an Islamic text; conveys the 
right to teach the text to others. 

Leader of prayer in mosques; for Shi’a 
Muslims the divinely ordained ruler of the 
Muslim community. 

War against unbelievers to defend or ex- 
pand Islam. 

The sacred, cube-shaped building in Mecca. 


322 Glossary 









Shi'a (Shi’ism) 



A mercantile warehouse or hostel for 
merchants and other travelers; also in 
Turkish and Mongol usage a chief or 

A school of law in Sunni Islam. The four 
major schools are the Hanafi, the 
Hanbali, the Maliki, and the Shafi’i. 

A school or college teaching the Islamic 
sciences, especially law. 

The lands of North Africa, corresponding 
to modern Morocco, Algeria, and 

One of the four madhhabs, or schools of 
law; predominant in North Africa. 

A military slave; a member of the 
Turkish-speaking cavalry elite that ruled 
Egypt and Syria under the Mamluk 

A Muslim judge. 

The ninth month of the lunar year, which 
Muslims devote to fasting during daylight 

Travel; a type of Islamic literature con- 
cerned with travels, particularly for study 
and pilgrimage. 

Islamic law. 

A descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. 
A title of respect, as for a tribal chief, 
learned man, or leader of a Sufi brother- 

Muslims who take the view that the 
Caliph ’Ali and his descendants are the 
rightful rulers of the Muslim community. 
The Shi’ia are divided into several 
minority sects within Islam. An adherent 
of one of these sects is a Shi’l. 

Islamic mysticism. A Sufi is a Muslim 
mystic and usually a member of an Islamic 
religious order. 

The majority sect in Islam whose 
members follow one of the four major 


’ulama (sing. ’alim) 

Glossary 323 

madhhabs, or schools of law. Sunni 
Muslims are differentiated from followers 
of Shi’i Islam. 

The ritual of walking around the Ka’ba in 
Mecca seven times. 

Persons learned in the Islamic sciences. 
A Sufi religious center or hospice. In 
eastern Islam, Khanqa. 


Works on Ibn Battuta and his Rihla 

This list excludes a number of general works on the history of 
geography or travel that contain summary descriptions of Ibn 
Battuta’s career. It also excludes partial translations of the Rihla that 
subsequently appeared as part of larger published works. 

Abdur Rahim. “Six Hundred Years After — in the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta in 
Andalusia.” Peshawar University Review 51 (1973): 1-21 

Beckingham, Charles F. “From Tangier to China — 14th Century.” Hemisphere: An 
Asian-Australian Magazine, 8 August 1978, pp. 26-31 

—— “Ibn Battuta in Sind.” In Sind through the Centuries: Proceedings of an Inter- 
national Seminar, Karachi 1975. Edited by Hamida Khuhro. Karachi, 1981. pp. 139- 

— “In Search of Ibn Battuta.” Asian Affairs 8 (1977): 263-77. 

Bhatnagar, R. “Madhyadesh in the Rehla of Ibn Battuta.” Saugar University Journal 4 
(1955-56): 97-109 

Bousquet, G.H. “Ibn Battuta et les institutions musulmanes.” Studia Islamica 24 
(1966): 81-106 

Carim, Fuad. Maco Polo ve Ibn Batuta. Istanbul, 1966 

Chelhod, Joesph. “Ibn Battuta, Ethnologue.” Revue de [Occident Musulman et de la 
Méditerranée 25 (1978): 5-24 

Chittick, H. Neville. “Ibn Battuta and East Africa.” Journal de la Société des 
Africanistes 38 (1968): 239-41 

Cuogq, J.M. Recueil des sources arabes concernant l'Afrique occidentale du Ville au 
XVie siécle. Paris, 1975 

De, Harinath (trans.), and Ghosh, P.N. (ed.). /bn Batutah’s Account of Bengal. 
Calcutta, 1978 

Défrémery, C., and Sanguinetti, B. R. (trans. and eds.). Voyages d'Ibn Battuta. 4 vols. 
Panis, 1853-58; reprint edn., edited by Vincent Monteil. Paris, 1979 

Dulaurier, Edouard. “Description de l’archipel d’Asie, par Ibn Bathoutha.” Journal 
Asiatique, 4th ser. , 9 (1874): 93-134, 218-59 

Fanjul, Serafin. “Elementos folkloricos en la Rihla de Ibn Battuta.” Revista del Instituto 
Egipico de Estudios Islamicos en Madrid 21 (1981-82): 153-79 

~—— and Arbés, Federico (trans. and eds.). /bn Battuta a través del Islam. Madrid, 1981 

Ferrand, Gabriel. Relations de voyages et textes géographiques arabes, persans, et turks 
relatif al’ Extréme-Orient du VIII au XVIII siécles. 2 vols. Paris, 1913-14. See vol. 2, 
pp. 426-58 

Freeman-Grenville, G.S. P. “Ibn Batuta’s Visit to East Africa, 1332 A.D.: A Trans- 
lation.” Uganda Journal 19 (1955): 1-6 

Gabnieli, Francesco (trans. and ed.). / viaggi di Ibn Battuta. Florence, 1961 

Gibb, H. A. R. (trans. and ed.). /bn Battuta: Travels in Asia and Africa. London, 1929, 
reprint edn. , 1983 


326 Bibliography 

—— “Notes sur les voyages d'Ibn Battuta en Asie Mineure et en Russie.” Etudes 
d'orientalisme dediées a la memoire de Lévi-Provencal. 2 vols. Paris. 1962. vol. 1, 
pp. 125-33 

—— The Travels of Ibn Battuta A.D. 1325-1354, Translated with Revisions and 
Notes from the Arabic Text Edited by C. Défrémery and B. R. Sanguinetti. 3 vols. 
Cambridge for the Hakluyt Society, 1958, 1961, 1971 

Gies, Frances Carney. “To Travel the Earth.” Aramco World Magazine 
(January-February 1978): 18-27 

Haig, M. R. “Ibnu Batuta in Sindh.“ Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 19 (1887): 

Hamdun, Said. and King, Noel (trans. and eds.). /bn Battuta in Black Africa. 
London, 1975 

Hasan, Mehdi. “The Rihla of Ibn Battuta.” Proceedings of the Second Indian 
Historical Congress 2 (1938): 278-85 

Hrbek, Ivan. “The Chronology of Ibn Battuta’s Travels.” Archiv Orientalni 30 
(1962): 409-86 

Husain, Agha Mahdi. “Dates and Precis of Ibn Battuta’s Travels with Ob- 
servations.” Sind University Research Journal, Arts Series: Humanities and Social 
Sciences 7 (1968): 95-108 

—— “Ibn Battuta and His Rehla in New Light.” Sind University Research Journal, 
Arts Series: Humanities and Social Sciences 6 (1967): 25-32 

—— “Ibn Battuta, His Life and Work.” Indo-Iranica 7 (1954): 6-13 

—— “Manuscripts of Ibn Battuta’s Reh/la in Paris and Ibn Juzayy.” Journal and 
Proceedings of the Asiatic Societv of Bengal 20 (1954): 49-53 

—— (trans. and ed.). The Rehla of Ibn Battuta. Baroda, India, 1976 

—— “Studies in the Tuhfatunnuzzar of Ibn Battuta and Ibn Juzayy.“ Journal of the 
Asiatic Society of Bangladesh 23 (1978): 18-49 

Ibn Battuta. Rihla Ibn Batuta. Beirut, 1964 

—— Rihla Ibn Battuta. 2 vols. Cairo, 1964 

Ibn Hajar al-’Asqalani. A/l-Durar al-Kamina fi A'yan al-’Mia al-Thamina. 4 vols. 
Hyderabad, 1929-31. See vol. 3, pp. 480-81 for biographical notice on Ibn 

Izzeddin, Mehmed. “Ibn Battouta et la topographie byzantine.” Actes du VI 
Congres Internationale des Etudes Byzantines. 2 vols. Paris, 1951, vol. 2, pp. 

Janicsek, Stephen. “Ibn Battuta’s Journey to Bulghar: Is it a Fabrication?” Journal 
of the Royal Asiatic Society (October, 1929): 791-800 

Janssens, Herman F. /bn Batouta, “Le Voyageur de I'Islam.” Brussels, 1948 

Khan, Abdul Majed. “The Historicity of Ibn Batuta Re. Sham-Suddin Firuz Shah, 
the So-Called Balbani King of Bengal.” /ndian Historical Quarterly 18 (1942): 

King, Noel. “Reading between the Lines of Ibn Battuta for the History of Religion 
in Black Africa.” Milla wa-milla 19 (1979): 26-33 

Lee, Samuel (trans. and ed.). The Travels of [bn Batuta. London, 1929 

Leva, A. Enrico. “Ibn Batuta nell’ Africa Nera.” Africa 16: (1961): 169-77 

Lévi-Procengal, E. “Le voyage d'Ibn Battuta dans le royaume de Grenade (1350).” 
Mélanges offerts a William Marcais. Paris, 1950, pp. 205-24 

Markwart, J. “Ein arabischer Bericht tiber die arktischen (uralischen) Lander aus 
dem 10 Jahrhundert.” Ungaarische Jahrbticher 4 (1924): 261-334 

Mattock, J.N. “Ibn Battuta’s Use of Ibn Jubayr’s Rih/a.” In Proceedings of the 
Ninth Congress of the Union Européene des Arabisants et Islamisants. Edited by 
R. Peters. Leiden, 1981, pp. 209-18 

“The Travel Writings of Ibn Jubair and Ibn Batuta.” Glasgow Oriental Society 
Transactions 21 (1965-66): 35—46 

Mauny. R., Monteil, V., Djenidi, A., Robert, S.. and Devisse, J. Textes et 

Bibliography 327 

documents relatifs a lhistoire d'Afrique: extraits tirés des voyages d'lbn 
Battuta. Dakar, 1966 

Meillassoux, C. “L‘itinéraire d'Ibn Battuta de Walata a Malli.” Journal of African 
History 13 (1972): 389-95 

Miquel, André. “Ibn Battuta, trente années de voyages de Pekin au Niger.” Les 
Africains \ (1977): 117-40 

—— “L’'Islam d‘Ibn Battuta.” Bulletin d'Etudes Orientales 30 (1978): 75-83 

Mirza, M. Wahid. “Khusrau and Ibn Battuta, a Comparative Study.” In Professor 
Muhammad Shafi’ Presentation Volume. Lahore, 1955, pp. 171-80 

Mollat, Michel. “Ibn Batoutah et la mer.” Travaux et Jours 18 (1966): 53-70 

Monteil. Vincent. “ Introduction aux voyages d‘Ibn Battuta (1325-53). Bulletin de 
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Moraes, G.M. “Haryab of Ibn Batuta.” Journal of the Bombay Branch of the 
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Morris, J. “Ibn Batuta: The Travels and the Man.” Ur (1980): 23-27 

N’Diaye, Aissatou. “Sur la transcription des vocables africains par Ibn Bath- 
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Journal of Semitic Studies 29 (1984): 131-40 

Norris, H.T. “Ibn Battutah’s Andalusian Journey.” Geographical Journal 125 
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Quiros Rodriquez, C. “B. Batuta: un viajero tangerino sel siglo XIV.” Archivos del 
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Rashid, Abdur. “India and Pakistan in the Fourteenth Century as Described by 
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Rawlinson, H.G. “The Traveller of Islam.” /slarmic Culture 5 (1931): 29-37 

Saletore, R. N. “Haryab of Ibn Battuta and Harthara Nrpala.” Quarterly Journal of 
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Seco de Lucena, Luis. “De toponimia granadina: Sobre el vije de Ibn Battuta al 
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Slane, M.G. (trans.). “Woyage dans le Soudan.” Journal Asiatique, 4th ser., 1 
(1843): 181-246 

Sobret, J. “Les Frontiéres chez Ibn Battuta.” In Actes du 8¢me Congres de l'Union 
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Stewig, R. “Versuch einer Auswertung der Reisebeschreibung von Ibn Battuta 
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Von Mzik, Hans (trans. and ed.). Die Reise des Arabers Ibn Batuta durch Indien 
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Yamamoto, T. “On Tawalisi as Described by Ibn Battuta.” Mernoirs of the Re- 
search Department of the Toyo Bunko 8 (1936): 93-133 

Yule, Henry. Cathay and the Way Thither. 4 vols. London. 1913-16. See vol. 4, pp. 

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Pipes, Daniel. Slave Soldiers and Islam. New Haven, Conn., 1981 

Polo, Marco. The Book of Ser Marco Polo. Translated and edited by Henry Yule. 
3rd edn., 2 vols. London, 1929 

Richard, J. “European Voyages in the Indian Ocean and the Caspian Sea 
(12th-15th Centuries).” /ran 6 (1968): 45-52 

Richards, D.S. (ed.). [slam and the Trade of Asia. Philadelphia, 1970 

Richards, J.F. (ed.). Precious Metals in the Later Medieval and Early Modern 
Worlds. Durham, N.C., 1983 

Saunders, J.J. The History of the Mongol Conquests. London, 1971 

Schacht, Joseph. An Introduction to Islamic Law. Oxford, 1964 

Seymour, M.C. Mandeville’s Travels. Oxford, 1967 

Spuler, Bertold. History of the Mongols. Berkeley and Los Angeles. 1972 

—— The Mongols in History. Translated by G. Wheeler. New York, 1971 

—— The Muslim World. Vol. 2: The Mongol Period. Translated by F.R.C. 
Bagley. Leiden, 1960 

Terrasse, H. Histoire du Maroc. 2 vols. Casablanca, 1949-50 

Trimingham, J. Spencer. The Sufi Orders in Islam. Oxford, 1971 

Tritton, A.S. Materials on Muslim Education in the Middle Ages. London, 1957 

Tuchman, Barbara W. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century. New 
York, 1978 

’Umari, Ibn Fadl Allah al-. L’Afrique moins I’ Egypte (Masalik al-absar fi mamalik 
al amsar). Translated and edited by Maruice Gaudfroy-Demombynes. Paris, 

Unger, Richard W. The Ship in the Medieval Economy. London, 1980 

Westermarck, Edward. Ritual and Belief in Morocco. 2 vols. London, 1926 

Chapter 1: Tangier 

Brown, Kenneth L. People of Salé: Tradition and Change in a Moroccan City, 
1830-1930. Cambridge, Mass., 1976 

Caille, J. “Les Marseillais 4 Ceuta au XIIIe siécle.” In Mélanges d'histoire et 
d'archéologie de l’occident musulman. Vol. 2: Hommage a Georges Marcais. 
Algiers, 1957, pp. 21-31 

Dufourcq, Charles-Emmanuel. “Berbérie et Iberie médiévales: un probléme de 
rupture.” Revue Historique 92 (1968): 293-324 

—— ‘La Question de Ceuta au XIJJe siécle.” Hespéris 41 (1955): 67-127 

—— L’Espagne catalane et le Maghrib aux XIlle et XIVe siécles. Paris, 1966 

—— “Méditerranée et Maghreb du XIIle au XVIe siécles.” Revue d'histoire et du 
Civilization du Maghreb 3 (1967): 75-87 

Eickelman, Dale F. Knowledge and Power in Morocco: The Education of a 
Twentieth Century Notable. Princeton, N.J., 1985 

Ibn Abi Zar. Roudh el-Kartas: Histoire des souverains du Maghreb et annales de la 
ville de Fez. Translated by Auguste Beaumier. Paris, 1860 

Krueger, Hilmar C. “Genoese Trade with Northwest Africa in the Twelfth 
Century.” Speculum 8 (1933): 377-95 

Lane, Frederic C. Venice, a Maritime Republic. Baltimore, 1973 

330 Bibliography 

Latham, Derek. “Towns and Cities of Barbary — the Andalusian Influence.” 
Islamic Quarterly 16 (1972): 189-204 

Lévi-Provengal, E. “Un nouvel text d'histoire merinide: le Musnad d’Ibn Marzuk.” 
Hespéris 5 (1925): 1-82 

Lewis, Archibald R. “Northern European Sea Power and the Straits of Gibraltar, 
1031-1350 A.D.” In Order and Innovation in the Middle Ages: Essays in Honor 
of Joseph R. Strayer. Edited by William C. Jordan. Princeton, N.J., 1976, pp. 

Mackeen, A. M. “The Early History of Sufism in the Maghrib Prior to al-Shadhili.” 
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Mascarello, Anna. “Quelques aspects des activités italiennes dans le Maghreb 
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Michaux-Bellaire, Edouard. Villes et tribus du Maroc: Tanger et sa zone. Paris, 
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Nasiri, al-Slawi al-. “Kitab al-Istiqsa li-Akhbar duwal al-Maghrib al-Aksa.” Trans- 
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Robson, J. A. “The Catalan Fleet and Moorish Sea-power (1337-1344).” English 
Historical Review 74 (1959): 386-408 

Salmon, Geroges. “Essai sur l"histoire politique de Nord Marocain.” Archives 
Marocains 2 (1904): 1-100 

Thoden, Rudolf. Abu /-Hasan Ali: Merinidenpolitik zwischen Nordafrika und 
Spanien in den Jahren 710-52 AH/1310-52. Freiburg, 1973 

Chapter 2: The Maghrib 

Brunschvig, Robert. La Berbérie orientale sous les Hafsides des origines a la fin du 
XVe siécle. 2 vols. Paris, 1940 and 1947 

— “Quelques remarques historiques sur les Médersas de Tunisie.” Revue 
Tunisienne 6 (1931): 261-85 

Canard, M. “Les relations entre les Merinides et Les Mamlouks au XIVe siécle.” 
Annales de l'Institut d’Etudes Orientales 5 (1939): 41-81 

Cherbonneau, A. “Notice et extraits du voyage d’El-Abdary 4a travers l'Afrique 
septentrionale au VIle de I'Hégire.” Journal Asiatique, Sth ser., 4 (1854): 144-76 

Daoulatli, A. Tunis sous les Hafsides. Tunis, 1976 

Demeerseman, A. “Un type de lettré tunisien du X1Ve siécle.” Revue de [Institut 
des Belles Lettres Arabes 22 (1959): 261-86 

Dufourcq. Charles-Emannuel. “Les activités politiques et économiques des 
Catalans en Tunisie et en Algerie orientale du 1262 4 1377.” Bulletin de la real 
academia de buenas letras de Barcelona 19 (1947): |-96 

Epalza, Miguel de, and Petit, Ramon. Recueil d'études sur les Moriscos andalous en 
Tunisie. Madrid, 1972 

Idris, H. R. “De la realité de la catastrophe hilalienne.” Annales, E.S.C. 23 (1968): 

Lacoste, Yves. [bn Khaldoun: naissance de l'histoire passé du tiers-monde. Paris, 

Latham, Derek. “Towards a Study of Andalusian Immigration and its Place in 
Tunisian History.” Les cahiers de Tunisie 5 (1957): 203-52 

Lawless, Richard I., and Blake, Gerald H. Tlemcen: Continuity and Change in an 
Algerian Islamic Town. London, 1976 

Poncet, J. “Le mythe de la ‘catastrophe’ hilalienne.” Annales, E.S.C. 22 (1967): 

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Soyous, A. E. Le Commerce des Européens a Tunis depuis le XIle siécle jusqu'a la 
fin du XVIle siécle. Paris, 1929 

Talbi, Mohamed. “Les contacts culturels entre I'Ifriqiya hafside (1230-1569) et le 
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Thomassy, Raymond. “Des caravanes de |’Afrique septentrionale.” Bulletin de la 
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Tijani, Abdallah al-. “Voyage du Scheikh et-Tidjani dans la Regence de Tunis.” 
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ser., 1 (1853): 101-68 

Chapter 3: The Mamluks 

Abu-Lughod, Janet. Cairo: 1001 Years of the City Victorious. Princeton, N.J., 1971 

Adams, William Y. Nubia: Corridor to Africa. Princeton, N.J., 1977 

’Ankawi, "Abdullah. “The Pilgrimage to Mecca in Mamluk Times.” Arabian 
Studies 1 (1974): 146-70 

Ayalon, David. “Aspects of the Mamluk Phenomenon.” Der Islam. Part 1, 53 
(1976): 196-225; Part II, 54 (1977): 1-32 

—— “The European-Asiatic Steppe: A Major Reservoir of Power for the Islamic 
World.” Acts of the 25th Congress of Orientalists 2: 47-52. Moscow, 1960 

— Gunpowder and Firearms in the Mamluk Kingdom. London, 1956 

—— The Muslim City and the Mamluk Military Aristocracy. Jerusalem, 1967 

Clerget, Marcel. La Caire: étude de géographie urbaine et d'histoire economique. 2 
vols. Cairo, 1934 

Cougat, J. “Les routes d’Aidhab.” Bulletin de l'Institut Francais d’Archéologie 
Orientale 8 (1908): 135-43 

Creswell, K. A.C. The Muslim Architecture of Egypt, 2 vols. Oxford, 1952, (1959) 

Darrag, Ahmad. L’Egypte sous le regne de Barsbay, 825-41/]422-38. Damascus, 

Dodge, Bayard. Al-Azhar: A Millennium of Muslim Learning. Washington, D.C., 

Dopp, P. H. “Le Caire vu par les voyageurs occidentaux du Moyen Age.” Bulletin 
de la Société Royale de Géographie d’ Egypte 23 (1950): 117-49 

Dussaud, Rene. Topographie historique de la Syrie antique et médiévale. Paris, 1927 

Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Maurice. Le Syrie a l’époque des Mamelouks. Paris, 

Gilbert, Joan E. “The ‘Ulama of Medieval Damascus and the International World 
of Islamic Scholarship.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Berkeley, 

Grant, C.P. The Syrian Desert: Caravans, Travel and Exploration. London, 1937 

Hasan, Yusuf Fadl. The Arabs and the Sudan from the Seventh to the Early 
Sixteenth Centuries. Edinburgh, 1967 

Hitti, Philip K. History of Syria. 2nd edn. New York, 1957 

Humphreys, R.S. “The Emergence of the Mamluk Army.” Studia Islamica 45 
(1977): 46 (1977): 147-82 

Jomier, Jacques. Le Mahmal et le caravane égyptienne des pélérins de la Mecque. 
Cairo, 1953 

Lane-Poole, Stanley. The Story of Cairo. London, 1902 

Lapidus, I.M. Muslim Cities in the Later Middle Ages. Cambridge, Mass., 1967 

Le Strange, Guy. Palestine under the Moslems. Beirut, 1965 

Maqrizi, al-. Histoire des Sultans Mamlouks de | ‘Egypte. Translated by M. 
Quatremere. Paris, 1937 

Marmardji. A.S. Textes géographiques arabes sur la Palestine. Paris, 1951 

332 Bibliography 

Muir, William. The Mameluke or Slave Dynasty of Egypt, 1260-1517. London, 

Murray, G. W. “’Aidhab.” The Geographical Journal 68 (1926): 235-40 

Paul, A. A History of the Beja Tribes of the Sudan. Cambridge, England, 1954 

Petry, Carl F. The Civilian Elite of Cairo in the Later Middle Ages. Princeton, N.J., 

Popper, William. Egypt and Syria under the Circassian Sultans, 1382-1486. 
Berkeley, 1955 and 1957 

Raymond, André, “La population du Caire de Maqrizi a la Description de I’ Egypt.” 
Bulletin d’ Etudes Orientales 28 (1975): 201-15 

Rogers, J. M. “Evidence for Mamluk—Mongol Relations, 1260-1360.” In Colloque 
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Sauvaget, Jean. “Esquisse d’une histoire de la ville de Damas.” Revue des Etudes 
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—— La poste aux chevaux dans l’empire des Mamelouks. Paris, 1941 

Semeonis, Symon. The Journey of Symon Semeonis from Ireland to the Holy Land. 
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Staffa, Susan Jane. Conquest and Fusion: The Social Evolution of Cairo, A.D. 
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Suchem, Ludolph von. Ludolph von Suchem’s Description of the Holy Land and of 
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Trimingham, J. Spencer. Islam in the Sudan. London, 1965 

Wiet, Gaston. Cairo: City of Art and Commerce. Norman, Okla., 1964 

—— “Les communications en Egypte au Moyen Age.” L’Egypte Contemporaine 24 
(1933): 241-64 

Ziadeh, Nicloa A. Damascus under the Mamluks. Norman, Okla., 1964 

—— Urban Life in Syria under the Early Mamluks. Beirut, 1953 

Chapter 4: Mecca 

Amin, Mohamed. Pilgrimage to Mecca. London, 1978 

Bey, Ali. The Travels of Ali Bey. 2 vols. Philadelphia, 1816 

Bidwell, Robin L. Travellers in Arabia. New York, 1976 

Burckhardt, John Lewis. Travels in Arabia. 2 vols. London, 1829; reprint edn., 
London, 1968 

Burton, Richard Francis. Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to El-Medinah and 
Meccah. 2 vols. Reprint edn., New York, 1964 

Frescobaldi, Gucci and Sigoli. Visit to the Holy Places of Egypt, Sinai, Palestine, 
and Syria in 1384. Translated and edited by Theophilus Bellorini and Eugene 
Hoade. Jerusalem, 1948 

Gaudefroy-Demombynes, M. Le Pélérinage a la Mekke. Paris, 1923 

Gaury, Gerald de. Rulers of Mecca. London, 1951 

Hogarth, D.C. Arabia. Oxford, 1922 

Hurgronje, C. Snouck. Mecca in the Latter Part of the Nineteenth Century. Trans- 
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Kamal, Ahmad. The Sacred Journey. London, 1961 

Long, David Edwin. The Hajj Today: A Survey of the Contemporary Pilgrimage to 
Mekkah. Albany, New York. 

Musil, Alois. Arabia Deserta, a Topographical Itinerary. New York, 1927 

—— The Northern Hegaz. New York, 1926 

Rutter, Eldon. The Holy Cities of Arabia. 2 vols. London, 1928 

Varthema, Ludovico di. The Travels of Ludovico di Varthema. Translated by John 
W. Jones. London, 1863 

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Chapter 5: Persia and Iraq 

Arberry, A.J. Shiraz. Norman, Okla., 1960 

Barthold, W. An Historical Geography of Iran. Translated by Svat Soucek and 
edited with an introduction by C. E. Bosworth. Princeton, N.J., 1984 

Boyle, J. A. (ed.). Cambridge History of Iran. Vol. 5: The Saljug and Mongol 
Periods. Cambridge, England, 1968 

Browne, Edward G. A Literary History of Persia. 4 vols. Cambridge. England, 

—— A Year amongst the Persians. London, 1893 

Bulliet, Richard W. The Patricians of Nishapur. Cambridge, Mass., 1972 

Dawson, Christopher. The Mongol Missions. London, 1955 

Juvaini. The History of the World Conqueror. Translated by John Andrew Boyle. 2 
vols. Cambridge, Mass., 1958 

Lambton, A.K.S. Islamic Society in Persia. London, 1954 

— Landlord and Peasant in Persia. London, 1953 

Le Strange, Guy. Baghdad during the Abbasid Caliphate. Oxford, 1924 

—— The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate. Cambridge. England, 1905; 2nd edn.., 
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—— Mesopotamia and Persia under the Mongols in the Fourteenth Century A.D.: 
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Lewis, Bernard. “The Mongols, the Turks and the Mulsim Polity.” Transactions of 
the Royal Historical Society, Sth ser. (1968): 49-68 

Minorsky, Vladimir. The Turks, Iran and the Caucasus in the Middle Ages. 
London, 1978 

Morgan, D.O. “The Mongol Armies in Persia.” Der Islam 56 (1979): 81-96 

Mustawfi, Hamd-Allah. The Geographical Part of the “Nuzhat al-Qulub.” Trans- 
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— Tarikh-i-Guzidah. Translated by M.J. Gantin. Paris. 1903 

Rashid al-Din. The Successors of Genghis Khan. Translated by John A. Boyle. 
New York, 1971 

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Economic and Social History of the Orient 18 (1975): 271-99 

Spuler, B. Die Mongolen in Iran. 2nd edn. Bertin, 1955 

Thesiger, Wilfred. The Marsh Arabs. London, 1964 

Wiet, Gaston. Baghdad: Metropolis of the Abbasid Caliphate. Norman, Okla., 

Wilber, Donald N. The Architecture of Islamic Iran: The Il Khanid Period. Reprint 
edn., Leiden, 1980 

Chapter 6: The Arabian Sea 

Allen, James de Vere. “Swahili Culture and the Nature of East Coast Settlement.” 
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Ashtor, E. “The Karimi Merchants.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1956): 

Aubin, J. “Les Princes d'Ormuz du XIITe au XVe siécle.” Journal Asiatique 241 
(1953): 77-138 

Chelhod, J. “Introduction 4 histoire sociale et urbaine de Zabid.” Arabica 25 
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Chittick, Neville. Kilwa: An Islamic Trading City on the East African Coast. 2 vols. 
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—— “Shirazi Colonization of East Africa.” Journal of African History 6 (1965): 

334 Bibliography 

Faroughy, Abbas. The Bahrein Islands, 750-1951. New York, 1951 

Fischel, Walter J. “The Spice Trade in Mamluk Egypt.” Journal of the Economic 
and Social History of the Orient | (1958): 157-74 

Freeman-Grenville, G.S.P. The East African Coast: Select Documents from the 
First to the Earlier Nineteenth Century. Oxford. 1962 

—- The Medieval History of the Tanganyika Coast. Oxford, 1962 

Garlake, Peter S. The Early Islamic Architecture of the East African Coast. 
London, 1966 

Goitein, S.D. “From Aden to India: Specimens of the Correspondence of India 
Traders of the Twelfth Century.” Journal of the Economic and Social History of 
the Orient 23 (1980): 43-66 

—— “From the Mediterranean to India: Documents on the Trade to India, South 
Arabia, and East Africa from the Eleventh to the Twelfth Centuries.” Speculum 
29 (1954): 181-97 

“Letters and Documents on the India Trade in Medieval Times.” /slamic 

Culture 37 (1963): 188-205 

“New Light on the Beginnings of the Karim Merchants.” Journal of the 
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Guest, R. “Zufar in the Middle Ages.” /slamic Culture 9 (1935): 402-10 

Hornell, J. “Classification of Arab Sea Craft.” Mariner's Mirror 28 (1942): 11-40 

Hourani, George. Arab Seafaring in the Indian Ocean in Ancient and Early 
Medieval Times. Princeton, N.J., 1951 

Howarth, David. Dhows. London, 1977 

Huntingford, G.W.B. (trans. and ed.). The Periplus of the Erythraean Sea. 
London, 1980 

Ibn Rusta. Kitab al-A'lak al Nafisa. Edited by J. de Goeje. Leiden, 1892 

Kammerer, A. La Mer Rouge. 4 vols. Cairo, 1929-35 

Khazrejiyy. al-. The Pearl Strings: A History of the Resuliyy Dynasty of Yemen. 5 
vols. Translated by J. W. Redhouse. Leiden. 1906-18 

Kirk, William. “The NE Monsoon and Some Aspects of African History.” Journal 
of African History 3 (1962): 263-67 

Kirkman, J.S. Monuments and Men on the East African Coast. London, 1964 

Labib, S. “Les marchands Karimis en Orient et sur |’Ocean Indien.” In Sociétés et 
compagnies de commerce en Orient et dans |'Océan Indien. Actes du 8éme 
colloque international d'histoire maritime. Paris, 1970, pp. 209-14 

Lewcock, R. B. “Islamic Towns and Buildings in East Africa.” Storia della Citta 7 
(1978): 49-53 

—— and Smith, G.R. “Three Medieval Mosques in the Yemen.” Oriental Art 20 
(1974): 75-86, 192-203 

Lewis, Archibald. “Maritime Skills in the Indian Ocean, 1368-1500." Journal of the 
Economic and Social History of the Orient 16 (1973): 238-64 

Martin, B.G. “Arab Migration to East Africa in Medieval Times.” /nternational 
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Moreland, W.H. “The Ships of the Arabian Sea about A.D. 1500.” Journal of the 
Royal Asiatic Society 1 (1939): 63-74, 173-92 

Persian Gulf Pilot. 11th edn. London, 1967 

Playfair, R.L. A History of Arabia Felix or Yemen. Bombay, 1859; reprint edn., 
London, 1970 

Pouwels, Randall. L. “The Medieval Foundations of East African Islam.” nter- 
national Journal of African Historical Studies 11 (1978): 201-22, 393-409 

Prins, A.H.J. “The Persian Gulf Dhows: New Notes on the Classification of Mid- 
Eastern Sea-Craft.” Persica 6 (1972-74): 157-65 

Razik. History of the Imams and Seyyids of Oman. Translated by George P. 
Badger. London, 1871 

Red Sea and Gulf of Aden Pilot. 11th edn. London, 1967 

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Saad, Elias. “Kilwa Dynastic Historiography.” History in Africa 6 (1979): 177-207 

Serjeant, R.B. “The Dhows of Aden.” Geographical Journal 14 (1942): 296-301 

—— “Maritime Customary Law in the Indian Ocean.” In Sociétés et compagnies de 
commerce en Orient et dans l'Océan Indien, Paris, 1970, pp. 195-207 

— “The Ports of Aden and Shihr (Medieval Period).” Recueils de la Société Jean 
Bodin 32 (1974): 207-24 

—— The Portuguese off the South Arabia Coast. Oxford, 1963 

Teixeira, Pedro. Travels. Translated by W.F. Sinclair. London, 1902 

Tibbetts, G.R. Arab Navigation in the Indian Ocean before the Coming of the 
Portuguese. London, 1971 

Toussaint, Auguste. Histoire de l’'Océan Indien. Paris, 1961 

Trimingham, J. Spencer. /slam in East Africa. Oxford, 1964 

Tritton, A.S. The Rise of the Imams of Sanaa. Madras, 1925 

Villiers, Alan. Sons of Sinbad. London, 1940 

The West Coast of India Pilot. \1th edn. London, 1975 

Wiet, Gaston. “Les marchands d'Epices sous les sultans mamelouks.” Cahiers 
d’Histoire Egyptienne 7 (1952): 81-147 

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—— “The Origins of the Omani State.” In The Arabian Peninsula: Society and 
Politics. Edited by Derek Hopwood. London, 1972, pp. 67-88 

Williamson, Andrew. “Hurmuz and the Trade of the Gulf in the 14th and 15th 
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Wilson, Arnold T. The Persian Gulf: An Historical Sketch from the Earliest Times 
to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century. Oxford, 1928; reprint edn., London, 

Chapter 7: Anatolia 

Aflaki. Managib al-’Arifin: les saints des derviches tourneurs. 2 vols. Translated by 
C. Huart. Paris, 1918-22 

Akurgal, Ekrem (ed.). The Art and Architecture of Turkey. Oxford, 1980 

Beldiceanu-Steinherr, Irene. Recherches sur les actes des regnes des Sultans Osman, 
Orkhan et Murad I. Monachii, 1967 

Bergeret, J. “Konya. Archéologia 96 (July, 1976): 30-37 

Boase, T.S.R. (ed.). The Cilician Kingdom of Armenia. Edinburgh, 1978 

Brown, John P. The Dervishes, or Oriental Spiritualism. London, 1868; reprint 
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Bryer, Anthony A.M. The Empire of Trebizond and the Pontos. London, 1980 

Byrne, E.H. Genoese Shipping in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries. 
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Cahen, Claude. Pre-Ottoman Turkey. London, 1968 

Cook, M.A. (ed.). A History of the Ottoman Empire to 1730. Cambridge, Eng- 
land, 1976 

Gabriel, Albert. Une capitale turque, Brousse. 2 vols. Paris, 1958 

Hasluck, F. W. Christianity and Islam under the Sultans. 2 vols. Oxford, 1929 

Inalcik, Halil. The Ottoman Empire: The Classical Age, 1300-1600. Translated by 
Norman Itzkowitz and Colin Imber. London, 1973 

Karpat, K.H. (ed.). The Ottoman State and its Place in World History. Leiden, 

336 Bibliography 

Koprulu, M.F. Les origines de l'empire ottoman. Paris, 1935; reprint edn., 
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Lemerle, P. L’Emirat d’Aydin, Byzance et l’Occident. Paris, 1957 

Lindner, Rudi Paul. Nomads and Ottomans in Medieval Anatolia. Indiana University 
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Lloyd, Seton, and Rice, D. S. Alanya (Ala’iyya). London, 1958 

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Murray’s Handbook for Travellers in Asia Minor. Edited by Charles Wilson. London, 

Pitcher, Donald Edgar (ed.). An Historical Geography of the Ottoman Empire. Leiden, 
1972 : 

Shaw, Stanford J. History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey. 2 vols. Vol. 1: 
Empire of the Gazis: The Rise of the Ottoman Empire, 1280-1808. Cambridge, 
England, 1977 

Vryonis, Speros, Jr. The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of 
Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century. Berkeley and Los 
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Wittek, P. Das Fiirstentum Mentesche. Reprint edn., Amsterdam, 1967 

—— “Le Sultan of Rum.” Annuaire de I’ Institut de Philologie et d’ Histoire Orientales et 
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Zachariadou, Elizabeth A. Trade and Crusade: Venetian Crete and the Emirates of 
Menteshe and Aydin (1300-1415). Venice, 1983 

Chapter 8: The Steppe 

Balard, M. “Notes sur l’activité maritime des Genois de Caffa a la fin du XI Ile siécle.” 
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Barthold, W. Histoire des Turcs d’Asie Centrale. Paris, 1945 

—— Turkestan down to the Mongol Invasion. 3rd edn. London, 1968 

Bosworth, Clifford Edward. The Medieval History of Iran, Afghanistan and Central 
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Bratianu, Gheorghe Ivan. La Mer Noire des origines a la conquéte ottomane. Monachii, 

—— Recherches sur le commerce genois dans la Mer Noire au XI Ile siécle. Paris, 1929 

Chambers, James. The Devil's Horsemen: The Mongol Invasion of Europe. Translated 
by Guy Le Strange. London, 1928 

Clavijo, Ruy Gonzales de. Clavijo: Embassy to Tamerlane, 1403-06. London, 1979 

Dupree, Louis. Afghanistan. Princeton, N.J., 1980 

Ebersolt, J. Constantinople byzantine et les voyageurs du Levant. Paris, 1918 

Fisher, Alan. The Crimean Tatars. Stanford, 1978 

Gregkov, B. D. and Iakubovskij, A. J. La Horde d’Or. Translated by F. Thuret. Pans, 

Hambly, Gavin. Central Asia. London, 1969 

Humlum, J. La géographie de l'Afghanistan. Copenhagen, 1959 

Izzeddin, Mehmed. “Quelques voyageurs musulmans 4 Constantinople au Moyen 
Age.” Orient 9 (1965): 75-106 

Jackson, Peter. “The Dissolution of the Mongol Empire.” Central Asiatic Journal 22 
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Krader, Lawrence. Peoples of Central Asia. 3rd edn. Indiana University Publications: 
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Meeker, Michael E. “The Black Sea Turks: Some Aspects of their Ethnic and Cultural 
Background.” /nternational Journal of Middle East Studies 2 (1971): 318-45 

Nemtseva, N. B. “The Ongins and Architectural Development of the Shah-i Zinde.” 
Translated by J. M. Rogers and Adil Yasin. /ran 15 (1977): 51-73 

Nicol, D. M. The Last Centuries of Byzantium, !126]—1453. London, 1972 

Oliver, E. E. “The Chaghatai Mughals.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 20 (1888): 

Ostrogorsky, George. History of the Byzantine State. 2nd edn. Translated by Joan 
Hussey. Oxford, 1968 

Pelliot, Paul. Notes sur l'histoire de la Horde d’Or. Paris, 1949 

Poliak, A. N. “Le caractére colonial de l'état mamlouk dans ses rapports avec la Horde 
d’Or.” Revue d’ Etudes Islamiques 9 (1935): 231-48 

Riasanovsky, A. A History of Russia. 3rd edn. Oxford, 1977 

Rockhill, William Woodville (trans. and ed.). The Journey of William of Rubruck to the 
Eastern Parts of the World. London, 1900 

Rogers, J. M. “Summary of Soviet Research on the Khanate of the Golden Horde.” 
Unpublished paper, 1980? 

Sinor, Denis. Jnner Asia And its Contacts with Medieval Europe. London, 1977 

—— Introduction al étude de I’ Eurasie Centrale. Wiesbaden, 1963 

Smith, J.M., Jr. The History of the Sarbadar Dynasty, 1336-138] A.D. The Hague, 

Spuler, B. Die Goldene Horde. Leipzig, 1943 

Vernadsky, G. The Mongols and Russia. New Haven, Conn. , 1953 

Wilber, Donald N. Afghanistan. 2nd edn. New Haven, Conn., 1962 

Chapter 9: Delhi 

Ahmad, Aziz. An Intellectual History of Islam in India. Edinburgh, 1969 

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—— Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment. Oxford, 1964 

— “The Sufi and the Sultan in Pre-Mughal Muslim India.” Der Islam 38 (1962): 142- 

Ahmad, Magbul. Indo-Arab Relations. Bombay, 1969 

Ashraf, K. M. Life and Conditions of the People of Hindustan. 2nd edn., New Delhi, 

Ballhatchet, Kenneth, and Harmison, John. The City in South Asia. London, 1980 

Barani, Ziya al-Din. The Political Theory of the Delhi Sultanate. Translated and edited 
by Mohammed Habib and Afsar Umar Salim Khan. Allahabad, n.d. 

Basham, A. L. (ed.). A Cultural History of India. Oxford, 1975 

Chand, Tara. Influence of Islam on Indian Culture. Allahabad. 1936 

Day, U.N. Some Aspects of Medieval Indian History. New Delhi, 1971 

Digby, Simon. “Muhammad bin Tughluq’s Last Years in Kathiawar and his Invasions of 
Thattha.” Hamdard Islamicus 2 (1979): 79-88 

—— War-horse and Elephant in the Delhi Sultanate: A Study of Military Supplies. 
Oxford, 1971 

Elliot, H.M. and Dowson, John. The History of India as Told by its Own Historians. 31 
vols. Vol. 3: The Muhammadan Period. Allahabad, 1952-59 

Habib, Irfan. “Economic History of the Delhi Sultanate, An Essay in Interpretation. 
Indian Historical Review 4 (1978): 287-303 

Habibullah, A. B.M. The Foundation of Muslim Rule in India. 2nd edn., Allahabad, 

338 Bibliography 

Haig, Wolseley (ed.). The Cambridge History of India. Vol. 3: Turks and Afghans. New 
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—— “Five Questions in the History of the Tughluq Dynasty of Dilhi.” Journal of the 
Royal Asiatic Society (1922): 319-72 

Hardy, Peter. Historians of Medieval India. London, 1960 

Husain, Mahdi Agha. Le gouvernement du sultanat de Delhi. Paris, 1936 

— Tughluq Dynasty. Calcutta, 1963 

Ikram, Sheikh Mohamad. Muslim Rule in India and Pakistan. 2nd edn., Lahore, 1966 

Imperial Gazetteer of India. 26 vols. Oxford, 1907 

Jackson, Peter. “The Mongols and the Delhi Sultanate in the Reign of Muhammad 
Tughlug (1325-51).” Central Asiatic Journal 19 (1975): 118-57 

—— “The Mongols and India (1221-1351).” Ph.D. dissertation, Cambridge University, 
1977 : 

Khan, M.S. “An Undiscovered Arabic Source of the History of Sultan Muhammad bin 
Tughlag.” Islamic Culture 53 (1979): 187-205 

Lal, K. S. History of the Khaljis, A. D. 1290-1320. 2nd edn. London, 1967 

Lambrick, H. T. Sind: A General Introduction. Hyderabad, 1964 

Lehmann, Fnitz. “Architecture of the Early Sultanate Period and the Nature of the 
Muslim State in India.” Indica 15 (1978): 13-31 

Little, D. P. “Did Ibn Taymiyya Have a Screw Loose?” Studia Islamica 41 (1975): 39- 

Majumdar, R. C. (ed.). The History and Culture of the Indian People. Vol. 6: The Delhi 
Sultanate. Bombay, 1960 

Mujeeb, Mohammad. The Indian Muslims. Montreal, 1967 

— Islamic Influence on Indian Society. Meerut, India, 1972 

Nizami, K. A. Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India in the Thirteenth Century. 
Aligarh, 1961 

—— Studies in Medieval Indian History and Culture. Allahabad, 1966 

Nath, R. History of Sultanate Architecture, New Delhi, 1978 

Rothermund, Dietmar (ed.). /slam in Southern Asia. Wiesbaden, 1975 

Schimmel, Annemarie. [slam in India and Pakistan. Leiden, 1982 

Schwartzberg, J. E. A Historical Atlas of South Asia. Chicago, 1978 

Singh, Attar (ed.). Socio-Cultural Impact of Islam on India. Chandigarh, 1976 

Stow, A. M. “The Road between Delhi and Multan.” Journal of the Punjab Historical 
Society 3 (1914-15): 26-37 

*Uman, Ibn Fadl Allah al-. A Fourteenth Century Arab Account of India under Sultan 
Muhammad bin Tughlugq. Translated and edited by Iqtidar Husain Siddiqi and Zazi 
Mohammad Ahmad. Aligarh, 1971 

Chapter 10: Malabar and the Maldives 

Barbosa, Duarte. The Book of Duarte Barbosa. 2 vols. Edited by Mansel Longworth 
Dames. London, 1918-21 

Bell, H.C. P. Maldive Islands. Colombo, 1882 

Carswell, J. “China and Islam in the Maldive Islands.” Transactions of the Oriental 
Ceramic Society 41 (1975—77): 121-97 

—— “Mosques and Tombs in the Maldive Islands.” Art and Archaeology Research 
Papers 9 (1976): 26-30 

Chaube, J. History of the Gujarat Kingdom. New Delhi, 1973 

Cheriau, A. “The Genesis of Islam in Malabar.” Indica 6 (1969): 13-20 

Derrett, J., and Duncan, M. The Hoysalas: A Medieval Indian Royal Family. Oxford, 

Eaton, R.M. Sufis of Bijapur, 1300-1700: Social Roles of Sufis in Medival India. 
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Bibliography 339 

Forbes, A., and Fanzia, Ali. “Republic of 100 Islands.” Geographical Magazine 50 
(1978): 264-68 

Krishnaswanni Aiyangar, S. South India and her Muhammadan Invaders. London, 

Maloney, Clarence. People of the Maldives. Madras, 1980 

Misra, S. C. The Rise of Muslim Power in Gujarat. New York, 1963 

Moreland, W. H. “The Shahbandar in the Eastern Seas.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic 
Society (1920): 517-33 

Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilization in China. Multivol. Vol. 4, Part 3: Civil 
Engineering and Nautics. Cambridge, 1954-; this volume, 1971 

Pyrard, Frangois. The Voyage of Francois Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the 
Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil. Translated and edited by Albert Gray. 2 vols. 
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Raychaudhuri, Tapan, and Habib, Irfan (eds.). The Cambridge Economic History of 
India. 2 vols. Cambridge, England, 1982 

Sastri, Nilakanta K. A. Foreign Notices of South India. Madras, 1939 

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Sherwani, H. K. and Joshi, P. M. (eds.). History of Medieval Deccan, 1295-1724. 2 vols. 
Hyderabad, 1973-74 

Venkata Ramanayya, N. The Early Muslim Expansion in South India. Madras, 1942 

Chapter 11: China 

Abdur Rahim, Muhammad. Social and Cultural History of Bengal. Karachi, 1963 

Andaya, Barbara Watson and Leonard Y. A History of Malaysia. New York, 1982 

Bhattasali, N. K. Coins and Chronology of the Early Independent Sultans of Bengal. 
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Chang, Kuei-sheng. “The Maritime Scene in China at the Dawn of the Great European 
Discoveries.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 94 (1974): 347-57 

Coedes, G. The Indianized States of Southeast Asia. Translated by Susan Brown 
Cowing. Edited by Walter F. Vella. Honolulu, 1968 

Cordier, Henri. Histoire générale de la Chine. 4 vols. Paris, 1920 

Dardess, J. W. Conquerors and Confucians: Aspects of Political Change in Late Yuan 
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Elvin, Mark. The Pattern of the Chinese Past. Stanford, Calif., 1973 

Filesi, Teobaldo. China and Africa in the Middle Ages. Translated by David L. Morisen. 
London, 1972 

Geiger, Wilhelm. Culture of Ceylon in Mediaeval Times. Wiesbaden, 1960 

Gernet, Jacques. Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion 1250-1276. 
Translated by H. M. Wnght. Stanford, Calif. , 1970 

Hall, D. G. E. A History of South-East Asia. 4th edn. New York, 1981 

Hall, Kenneth R. “Trade and Statecraft in the Western Archipelago at the Dawn of the 
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—— and Whitmore, John K. The Origins of Southeast Asian Statecraft. Ann Arbor, 
Mich., 1976 

Hill, A.H. “The Coming of Islam to North Sumatra.” Journal of Southeast Asian 
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Hutterer, Karl L. (ed.). Economic Exchange and Social Interaction in Southeast Asia. 
Ann Arbor, Mich., 1977 

Jack-Hinton, Colin (ed.). Papers on Early South-East Asian History. Singapore, 1964 

Johns, A. H. “From Coastal Settlement to Islamic School and City: Islamization in 
Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and Java.” Hamdard Islarnicus 4 (1981): 3-28 

340 Bibliography 

— “Islam in Southeast Asia: Reflections and New Directions.” Indonesia 19 
(1975): 33-55 

Karim, Abdul. Social History of the Muslims in Bengal. Dacca, 1959 

Langlois, John D. (ed.). China under Mongol Rule. Princeton, N.J., 1981 

Lo, Jung-pang. “The Emergence of China as a Sea Power during the Late Sung and 
Early Yuan Periods.” Far Eastern Quarterley 14 (1954-55): 489-503 

—— “Maritime Commerce and its Relation to the Sung Navy.” Journal of the 
Economic and Social History of the Orient 12 (1969): 57-101 

Ma Huan. Ying-yai Sheng-lan: The Over-all Survey of the Ocean’s Shores. Trans- 
lated and edited by J. V.G. Mills. London, 1970 

Nichols, C. W., and Paranavitana, S. A Concise History of Ceylon. Colombo, 1961 

Pathmanathan, S. The Kingdom of Jaffna. Colombo, 1978 

Raghavan, M.D. India in Ceylonese History, Society and Culture. 2nd edn. 
Bombay, 1969 

Ray, H.C., and Paranavitana, S. History of Ceylon. Colombo, 1959 

Ricklefs, M.C. History of Indonesia. Bloomington, Ind., 1981 

Rossabi, Morris (ed.). China among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and its 
Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1983 

Sarkar, Jadunath (ed.). The History of Bengal. 2 vols. Vol. 2: Muslim Period 
1200-1757. Dacca, 1948 

Schurmann, Herbert Franz. Economic Structure of the Yuan Dynasty. Cambridge, 
Mass., 1956 

Sirisena, W.M. Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia: Political, Religious and Cultural 
Relations from A.D. 1000 to 1500. Leiden, 1978 

Smith, D. Howard. “Zaitun’s Five Centuries of Sino-foreign Trade.” Journal of the 
Royal Asiatic Society, 1958, parts 3 and 4, pp. 165-77 

Tibbetts, G.R. A Study of the Arabic Texts Containing Material on South-East 
Asia. Leiden, 1979 

Wheatley, P. The Golden Khersonese: Studies in the Historical Geography of the 
Malay Peninsula before A.D. 1500 Kuala Lumpur, 1961 

Chapter 12: Home 

Arié, Rachel. L’Espagne musulmane au temps des Nasrides (1232-1492). Paris, 

Ayalon, David. “The Plague and its Effects upon the Mamluk Army.” Journal of 
the Royal Asiatic Society (1946): 67-73 

Benchekroun, M.B.A. La vie intellectuelle marocaine sous les Merinides et les 
Wattasides. Rabat, 1974 

Berque, Jacques. “Ville et université: apercu sur l'histoire de l’école de Fes.” 
Revue Historique de Droit Frangais et Etranger (1949): 64-117 

Blachére, R. “Quelques détails sur la vie privée du sultan merinide Abu I-’Hasan.” 
In Memorial Henri Basset. Paris, 1928, pp. 83-89 

Dols, Michael W. The Black Death in the Middle East. Princeton, N.J., 1977 

Gibert, Soledad. “Abu-l-Barakat al-Balafiqi, Qadi, Historiador y Poeta.” Al- 
Andalus 28 (1963): 381-424 

Gottfried, Robert S. The Black Death: Natural and Human Disaster in Medieval 
Europe. New York, 1983 

Grabar, Oleg. The Alhambra. Cambridge, Mass., 1978 

Irving, Washington. The Alhambra. Edited by F.H. Law, New York, 1926 

Ladero Quesada, Miguel Angel. Granada: historia de un pais islamico (1232-1571). 
2nd edn. Madrid, 1979 

Latham, Derek. “The Later ’Azafids.” Revue de I’Occident Musulman et de la 
Méditerranée 15-16 (1973): 109-25 

Bibliography 341 

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Islamic Quarterly 15 (1971): 189-204 

Le Tourneau, Roger. Fés avant le Protectorat. Casablanca. 1949 

— Fez in the Age of the Marinides. Norman, Okla., 1961 

Lévi-Provengal, E. Histoire de l’Espagne musulman. New edn.. 3 vols. Paris, 1950 

Lomax, Derek W. The Reconquest of Spain. London, 1978 

Mackay, Angus. Spain in the Middle Ages: From Frontier to Empire, 1000-1500. 
London, 1977 

McNeill, William H. Plagues and Peoples. Garden City, N.Y., 1976 

Prémare, A.L. de. Maghreb et Andalousie au XIVe siécle: notes de voyage d'un 
Andalou au Maroc, 1344-1345. Lyon, 1981 

Sauvaget, Jean. Alep. Paris, 1941 

Shatzmiller, Maya. “Les premiers Merinides et le milieu religieux de Fes: 
introduction de médersas.” Studia Islamica 34 (1976): 109-18 

Terrasse, Charles. Médersas du Maroc. Paris, 1927 

Terrasse, H. “Le royaume nasride dans la vie de l‘Espagne du Moyen Age: 
indications et problemes.” Mélanges offerts a Marcel Bataillon. Bordeaux, 1963, 
pp. 253-60 

Torres Balbas, L. “Gibraltar: Ilave y guarda del reino de Espana.” Al-Andalus 7 
(1942): 168-216 

Verlinden, Charles. “Le grande peste de 1348 en Espagne.” Revue Belge de 
Philologie et d’Histoire 17 (1938): 103-46 

Ziegler, Philip. The Black Death. New York, 1969 

Chapter 13: Mali 

Bovill, E.W. The Golden Trade of the Moors. London, 1968 

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Delafosse, Maurice. Haut-Senegal—Niger. 3 vols. Paris, 1919; reprint edn., 1972 

—— “Le Gana et le Mali et ‘emplacement de leurs capitales.” Bulletin du Comité 
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—— Etudes archéologiques sur la capitale médiévale du Mali. Translated by Zofia 
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342 Bibliography 

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Monteil. Charles. Les Empires du Mali. Paris, 1968 

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Terrasse, Henri. “Note sur les ruines de Sijilmasa.” Revue Africaine 368-69 (1936): 

Trimingham, J. Spencer. A History of Islam in West Africa. Oxford, 1962 

Wansbrough, John. “Africa and the Arab Geographers.” In Language and History 
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Page numbers in italics refer to maps. 

Abadan 82,93 
Abbasid Caliphate 9, 47, 117 
‘Abd al-Wadid sultanate 15, 16, 28, 
31-2, 34, 275 
al--Abdari, Abu Muhammad 32-3 
Abohar 82, 184,195 
Abraham 56 
Abu al-Tayyib 32-3, 35, 36 
Abu Bakr, Abu Yahya, suftan 33-4, 
35, 37 
Abu Bakr, caliph 68 
Abu Bakr, shaykh of 
Mogadishu 125-6 
Abu'Inan, sultan 
and Abu I’Hasan 276, 278, 287 
and Ibn Battuta 3, 295, 306, 307, 
308n7, 309n26, 310 
character of 280 
death of 318 
Abu l’Barakat 229-30 
Abu !’Fath, Rukn al-Din 193-4 
Abu l’Hasan, sultan 275, 276, 279, 287 
Abu I’Mawahid Hasan see Ibn 
Sulayman, al-Hasan 
Abu Sa’id, Iikhan 86-7, 98-9, 100, 
101, 268-9 
Abu Sa’‘id, sultan 31,279 
Abu Tashfin, sultan 31-2, 34 
Abu Yusuf Ya’qub, sultan 16, 279 
Acre 107, 139 
Adam and Eve 241 
Adam’s Bridge 229 
Adam’s Peak 184, 229, 241, 242-3 
Aden 2, 107, 110, 111, 113, 118, 
Aden, Gulf of 119 
Aegean Sea 151 
Afghanistan 139, 178 
*Aghyul, ‘Ali (traveler) 306 
Ahaggar mountains 307 
Ahsan Shah, Jalal al-Din, sultan 203, 
205, 207, 244 
’Ain al-Mulk, rebellion of 206-7 
Air 277, 305, 306 
Ajlun 42, 58 
akhis 146, 
see also fityan 

Akhmim 42 
Akko see Acre 
Akkridur see Egridur 
Aksaray /38 
*Ala al-Din mosque 147 
Ala al-Din Muhammad 98, 100, 101 
al-Andalus see Andalusia 
Alanya 107, 138, 139, 140, 144-5 
*Alaya see Alanya 
Alburz mountains 84 
Aleppo 267, 269, 270 
Alexandna 28, 41, 42, 43, 267, 273 
Alfonso XI, king 275, 280, 282 
Algeciras 14, 16 
Algeria 4 
Algiers 28, 32,277 
Alhama 284 
Alhambra 285, 286 
Aligarh see Koil 
*Ali ibn Abi Talib, caliph 
‘alim 21 
see also 'ulama 
Almohads 14-15, 35-6 
alms giving 35 
Alughu, khan 177 
Amasiya see Amasya 
Amasya /38, 149 
caravan leader 38 
military commander 47 
amic al-hajj 66, 67, 89 
amirs, of Turkish Anatolia 143-4 
Amroha /84, 204 
Amu Darya River 175, 174 
*Anah 267, 269 
society and culture 140-4 
see also Turks 
Andalusia 14-15 
Muslim emigrants from 25, 37-8 
Andarab River 178 
Andronicus II, emperor 171, 172, 
Andronicus III, emperor 169, 171-2 
Annaba see Buna 
Antalya 138, 139, 145 
Aqaba (town) 55 

344 Index 

Aqaba, gulf of 42, 67 
Arabia 82 

see also Mecca, Medina, Yemen 
Arabian Sea 107, 184 
Arabic language 20, 88, 144, 231 
Arab nomads 8-9, 32, 34, 39, 52 
Arafat, plain of 70, 76-7, 241 
Aragon see Aragon-Catalonia 
Aragon-Catalonia 16, 276 
Aral Sea 175 
arid belt, historical importance of 8 
Armenia, Armenians 140, 148, 149 
Arya Chakravarti (king) 242 
Arz al-Rum see Erzurum 
Arzanjan see Erzincan 
Ashgelon 107, 139 
Asia Minor see Anatolia 
Asilah 277, 286 
Asir 112 
Assiou 277, 306 
Astrakhan 138, 169, 170, 173, 175 
Aswan 52 
Asyut 42 
atabeq 94 
Atlantic Ocean 14 

trade on Moroccan coast of 17-18 
Awliya, Nizam al-Din 207-8 
Ayas 139, 148 
Aya Soluk 138, 151 
Aybek,Qutb al-Din, sultan 183, 

*Aydhab 42, 51,52, 53-4, 107, 110, 
111, 137, 274 

commercial importance of 43, 53 
Aydin, amirate of 143, 151, 153 
Azak 138, 166, 167 
Azelik see Takadda 
Azerbaijan 84, 100, 140 
Azov see Azak 
Azov, seaof 138, 163 

Bab al-Mandeb, strait of 107, 111, 
113, 119 

Babylon 2, 9, 41, 82, 97-8, 107, 267, 

Bahmani sultanate 218 

Bahrain 132 

Bahri Mamluks see Mamluk sultanate 

al-Balafiqi, Abu ’Barakat 312, 316 

Balikesir 138, 151 

Balkh 175, 176 

Ballish see Velez Malaga 

Bamako 301 

Bambuk 291 

Bandar-e-Ma’shur see Machul 

Bandar Salawat see Chilaw 
bandits and pirates 
in Strait of Gibraltar 16-17 
inIndia 195-6, 215-16, 246-7 
in Morocco 278 
in Spain 283-4 
Bantu-speaking people 124 
Banu Hanifa 132 
Banu Hilal 34 
see also Arab nomads 
Banu Marin see Marinid sultanate 
Banu Nabhan 131, 136n40 
al-Baqi’ 69 
Barah Nagar 255-6 
baraka 23, 24, 58, 125 
Baran, Zia al-Din 192, 202, 204, 207 
Barcelona 17,276 
Basra 82, 91, 92~3, 269 
Battala see Puttalam 
Batu, khan 161 
Bengal, Bay of 184, 256 
Bayalun, princess 169-70, 172, 176 
Bayn al-Qasrayn 46 
Bayt al-Fagih 107, 114 
Beirut 107, 139 
Beja (people) 52, 54, 112 
Beja (town) 28 
Bengal 207, 248, 253-4 
Berbers 32, 33, 34, 38 
and Marinid dynasty 15 
and Sufism 23-4 
see also Lawata Berbers 
Berganma 138, 151 
Berke, khan 167 
Bethlehem 42, 56 
Biba 42 
Bibliothéque Nationale 4 
Bichaqchi, Akhi 148 
Bijaya 28, 31, 33-4 
bilad al-sudan see Mali, Sudan 
Bir al—Ksaib 277, 297, 298 
Birgi 138, 149, 151, 153 
Bish Dagh 138, 167 
Bistam 175, 177 
Black Death 
and epidemic in India 261-2n9 
causes and treatment 272-3 
in Ifriqiya 276 
in Spain 282 
origins and spread of 270-3 
social effects of 272 
see also plague 
Black Sea 138, 162, 163 
Bone see Buna 

Booksellers, madrasa of the 37 
Borneo 256 
Bosphorus 169, 171 
Bougie see Bijaya 
bubonic plague see Black Death, 
Buda 277, 307 
Buddhism, Buddhists 86, 213, 241, 
Bukhara 174, 175 
al-Bukhari 61 
Bulgaria, kingdom of 169 
Bulghar 2, 161, 175, 179-80n12, 315 
Buna 28, 35 
Burckhardt, John 4, 76 
Burdur 138, 147 
Bure 291 
Burgomadzhary see Machar 
Burhan al-Din 43-4 
Burhanpur Gap 184, 217 
Burma 255-6 
Bursa 138, 151, 152, 153 
Burton, Richard 73 
al-Bushri family 260, 281, 296 
al-Bushri, Muhammad see Al-Bushri 
Byzantine empire 
and Khanate of Kipchak 169 
and Turkish expansion 140-4, 151 
decline of 172 
see also Anatolia, Turks 

Cagliari 276-7 
architecture of 49-50 
Black Death in 272, 273-4 
maps 2, 28, 42, 107, 267 
population of 45, 62n7 
society and economy 45-6, 49 
see also Mamluk sultanate 
Calahora 282 
Calicut 2, 184, 214, 222-8 passim, 
247, 266, 267 
Caliphate, High see Abbasid 
Caliphs, mosque of the 98 
Cambay 2, 184, 214, 218-19 
Cambay, Gulf of 218, 219 
camels 291 
canal du Sahal 304 
Cannanore 184, 222 
Canton 223, 248, 249, 250, 256, 259 
Cape Comorin 219 
of hajj pilgrims: from 

Index 345 

Damascus 54, 65-7; from 
Egypt 51, 54-5; from North 
Africa 27, 29-30, 38; from 
Yemen 66; of Iraq 66, 88-9, 91; 
organization of 38, 66 
trans-Saharan 291, 292-3 
caravanserais see khans 
Caria 151 
Caspian Sea 82, 175 
Castile, kingdom of 16, 281-2, 284 
Catalans 17, 18, 176 
Catalonia see Aragon-Catalonia 
Caucasus mountains 167 
intellectual life of 281 
maps 14, 28,277 
political importance of 16, 281, 282 
trade of 16, 17, 18, 281, 292 
Ceylon 229, 241-2 
Chagatay, khanate of 160, 175, 186 
Chagatay, son of Genghis Khan 177 
Champa 258 
Charikar 175, 178 
Chaul 1/84, 221 
Chelif River 28, 32 
Chilaw 184, 242 
China, Chinese 
envoys to India 213, 214, 222, 225, 
in Persia 88 
see also Yuan dynasty 
Chishti brotherhood 194, 207, 208 
Chittagong 2, 184, 254, 256, 262- 
Choban family 105n30 
Chola empire 237 
Christianity, Christians 
in Anatolia 140, 141, 150 
in Crimea 160 
in Persia 86 : 
Ch’uan-chou 2, 224, 249, 250, 256, 
259, 260-1, 267 
Cilicia 141 
Citidel, of Cairo 47 
Cizre 82, 102 
Collection of Histories 87 
colleges see madrasas 
Constantine 28, 33, 34-5 
Constantinople 2, 138, 169, 170, 
Cordova 15 
defined 7 
in Islamic society 7, 116-18 
in IIkhanid Persia 87-8 

346 Index 

cowrie shells 229, 292-3 
Crimea 161 

Crusade, fourth 143 
Cyprus 139, 140 
Cyrenaica 28, 38, 39 

Dacca 255 
dallal 123 
Darmanhur 42, 44 
as center of learning 61 
great mosque of 60, 61 
Mamluk capital in Syria 54, 59-60 
maps 2, 42, 267 
Mongol attack on 49 
society and economy 58-60 
trade of 54, 59 
Damietta 42, 44 
Danube river /38 
Dar al-Islam 
defined 6-7 
Muslim allegiance to 11 
Daulatabad 196, 205, 214, 217-18 
capitol of sultanate 190-1 
map 184 
Deccan 185, 196, 205, 217 
Défrémery, C. 4 
Delhi, sultanate of 
and west coast of India 219-20 
government of 185, 193, 197 
international relations of 188-9 
lavish spending tn 202 
map 184 
origins of 183 
rebellions against 203, 205, 206-7, 
214, 254 
rule in Bengal 2534 
Delhi (city) 
as center of Muslim culture 186-7 
architecture of 187-8 
capital of sultanate 182, 185 
maps 2, 184, 267 
Denizli 150 
Deogir see Daulatabad 
Dhar /84, 217 
Dhibat al-Mahal see Maldive islands 
dhikr 91 
Dhofar see Zafar 
dhow see ships 
Dhu I-Hulaifa 42, 69 
Dinawar see Dondra 
Divehi 229 
Djerba island 28, 38 
Dneiper river /38, 170 
Doab 190, 196 

Dome of the Rock 57 

Dondra /84, 243 

Don river /38, 166, 170 

Dugha, official in Mali 301, 302, 303 

East African coast, society and 
economy of 123-8 
Eastern Hemisphere, as subject of 
history see intercommunicating 
Eastern Maghrib see Ifriqiya 
Ecumene, Atro-Eurasian see 
intercommunicating zone 
education, Islamic 
curriculum 20, 51 
in Morocco 19-20 
in Mecca 108-9 
memorization in 20 
Egridir /38, 147, 149, 150 
ancient ruins of 63n15 
Black Death in 271 
see also Cairo, Mamluk sultanate 
Egypt, upper 51,52 
Ephesus seeAya Suluk 
Erzincan 138, 149 
Erzurum 1/38, 139, 147, 149 
Ethiopia 122 
Euphrates river 82, 97, 107, 269 
Europe, Black Death in 271-2, 273 

Faid, map 82 
Famagusta 139 
faqih, defined 19 
farha(governor) 299 
Fars 13! 
Fatima, daughter of Muhammad 68 
Fatimid dynasty 46, 50 
Fattan see Pattan 
Feast of the Sacrifice 78, 129 
as center of learning 25, 274, 278, 
founding of 15 
maps 2, 28, 277 
Marinid capital 278-9 
society and economy 278-9 
Fez Jdid (New Fez) 279, 280 
fityan associations 146-7, 148-9, 150, 
fiqh 21 
see also legal schools, shari'a 
forty days, as conventional 
figure 156n2 
Frescobaldi (Italian traveler) 65 

Fua Mulak island 237 

see also Maldive islands 
Fu-chou see Qanjanfu 
Fuengirola see Suhayl 
Fujian see Fukien province 
Fukien province 259 
fundug see khan 
Fustat 46 
futuwwa 146 

see also fityan associations 
Fuzhou see Qanjanfu 

Gabés 28, 38, 267, 275 
Gabriel, angel 57, 241 
Galata 171 
Galilee 55,58 
Gallipoli 152 
Gampola 242, 261n5 
Gandhar 1/84, 219 
Gao 305 
Ganges river 183, 184, 205 
Gaykhatu, khan 88 
Gaza 42, 55, 267, 270, 273 
Genghis Khan 81, 83, 86, 186 
see also Mongols 
Genil river 284 
Genoa, Genoese 17, 18, 139, 162-3, 
164, 271 
Ghadamés 277, 305 
Ghana 291, 293 
al-Ghari, Kamal al-Din 
‘Abdallah 209 
Ghassana see Bayt al-Fagih 
Ghazan, ilkhan 84, 86, 87, 100-1 
ghazis 142, 157n18, 182 
see also Turks 
Ghazna /75, 178, 184 
Ghaznavid dynasty 183 
Ghiyath al-Din, sultan 244, 245 
Ghurid dynasty 183 
al-Ghuta 59 
Gibb, Sir Hamilton 4 
Gibraltar, strait of, historical 
importance of 13-14 
Gibraltar (city) 14, 16, 273, 277, 281-2 
Goa see Sandapur 
Golan Heights 58 
gold, of African Sudan 291, 292 
Golden Horde 161 
see alsoKipchak, khanate of 
Golden Horn 171 
Goynuk 154 
Granada, kingdom of see Nasrid 
Granada (city) 2, 28, 277, 284, 285-6 

Index 347 

Grand Canal 260 

Grand Kabylie mountains 33 

Great Swamp 91, 92 

Grecks see Byzantine empire; 
Christianity, Christians, in 

griot 301 

Guardafui, Cape see Ras Asir 

Guinea, republic of 301 

Gujarat 109, 214, 218 

Gumushane /38, 149 

Guptaempire 186 

Gwalior /84, 212n24, 217 

Hacho, Mount 281 

hadith, defined 20 

Hafsid sultanate 15, 16, 28, 31, 33-4, 

Hagia Sophia 171 

Hajar mountains 131 

hajj 27, 109 

rites of 76-9, 80n14 
see also caravans 

al-Hajj (title) 76, 79 

hajjis 78,89 

Hakluyt Society 4 

Haleb see Aleppo 

Hali /07, 112 

al-Hallaniyah /07, 129 

Hamadan 82, 100 

Hamid, amirate of 147, 149 

hammam 94 

Hanafi legal school see legal schools 

Hanbali legal school see legal schools 

Hang-chou 2, 184, 249, 260 

Hangzhou see Hang-chou 

Haram, in Mecca 70-1, 72-3, 75-6, 

al-Harawi, Muhammad 214, 215 

Harun al-Rashid, caliph 89 

al-Hasa 132 

Hasan, son of ’Ali 66, 90 

al-Hasan, sultan 273-4 

al-Hasani, Abu Muhammad 
‘Abdallah 53, 54 

al-Hawih, Pehlewan Muhammad 89, 

Hazar Sutun see Thousand Pillars, 
Hall of the 

al-Hazrami, ‘Abdallah ibn Muhammad, 
vizier 235-6, 247 

Hebron 55,56 

Herat 42, 175, 177 

Hijaz, Hijaz mountains 67, 68, 70 

Hijaz railway 67 

348 Index 

al-Hilla 82, 97 
Hinawr see Honavar 
Hindu Kush 139, 177-8, 186 
influence on Islamic art 187 
in revolt against sultanate 215 
on west coast of India 221 
under Muslim rule 185-6, 188, 197 
Hiw 53, 54 
Hodgson, Marshall 7~8, 117, 251 
Hoggar mountains see Ahaggar 
Holy Land see Judaea, Palestine 
Holy Sepulchre, church of the 56 
Homs 267, 270 
Honavar 184, 221-2, 226-7, 246, 247 
Honein 32 
Hoysalas kingdom 221 
Hu see Hiw 
Huang Ho 256 
al-Hufuf 107 
see also al-Hasa 
Hukkar mountains see Ahaggar 
Hulegu, ilkhan 84, 85, 87, 97, 167, 
Hurmuz (city) 2, 107, 131, 136n41, 
267, 268 
Hurmuz sultanate 130 
Hurnasab, wife of Ibn Battuta 207, 
229, 244 
Husayn, Qutb al-Din 94-5 
Husayn, son of’Ali 66,90 
Husuni Kubwa 127, 128 

Ibadis 71, 136n40 
Iberia, Iberian peninsula 14 
Christian conquest of 14-15, 38 
Ibn ’Asim, Abul’Kasim 286 
Ibn al-Athir 83 
Ibn al-Khatib 312, 316 
Ibn al-Rifa’i, Ahmad 91 
Ibn Battouta(boat) 318 
Ibn Battuta, Abu ‘Abdallah 
academic and legal studies 21-2, 
61-2, 312 
adminstration of tomb 203, 204 
allegiance to Dar al-Islam 12 
and Muhammad Tughluq 3, 198, 
199, 202-3, 207-10 
and plot to conquer Maldive 
islands 235-7, 244-5, 247 
and Sufism 5—6, 11, 23-4, 57-8, 
91-2, 93, 209 

appointed envoy to China 209-10, 
213-14, 259 

arrested in Delhi 208-9 

attitude toward Jews 153 

attitude toward people of the 
Sudan 299-300, 3034 

attitude toward Shi’a 90-1 

captured by bandits 215-17 

character and personality 21, 22-3, 
89, 101, 153 

children of 176, 195, 247-8, 269 

compared to Marco Polo 5-6 

Constantinople journey 170-2 

early life andeducation 19-25 

East Africa journey 118-19, 122-8 

expenditures inIndia 194—5, 201, 
202-3, 203-4 

family of 19, 269, 278, 280, 283 

illnesses of 33,35, 61-2, 103, 232, 
245, 246, 281, 301-2, 305 

in Anatolia 144-56 

in Arabia and Yemen 66-79, 110-16, 
128-32, 137 

in Bengal 253-5 

inCeylon 241-3 

in Chagatay khanate 177-8 

in China 252-3, 258-61 

income and gifts received 35, 44, 
106, 154, 197-8, 199, 244 

in Delhi 196-210 

inEgypt 39, 40, 41-S1, 137, 273, 274 

in Ifriqiya 36-8, 275, 276 

in Iraq and Persia 88-103, 131-2, 

in Kipchak khanate 162-70, 173-7 

in Ma’bar sultanate 207, 244-6 

in Maldive islands 299-37, 247-8 

in Mali (Sudan) 299-305 

in Mecca 74-9, 106-9, 274 

innorthern India 192-210, 214-19, 

in Southeast Asia 255-8, 266, 268 

in Spain 282-6 

in Syria and Palestine 55-8, 60-2, 65, 
139, 269-70, 273 

in west coastal India 222-9, 246-7, 

journey across North Africa 30-40 

journeys across Sahara desert 295-9, 

languages of 20, 199-200 

later life anddeath 318 

marriages 39, 44, 62, 207, 233-4, 
235, 237, 247, 269 

miles traveled 3, 12n2 

return to Morocco 278, 280-2, 286- 
7, 307, 310-16 
service as gadi 39, 199-200, 204-5, 
slaves and concubines of 154, 176, 
227, 228, 254, 305, 306 
summary of life 1-3 
see also Rihla 
Ibn Hajar 316 
Ibn Jubayr 53, 63n28, 76, 102, 313-14, 
quoted 59, 71, 72-3, 97, 110, 111 
Ibn Juzayy, Abu ’Abdallah 
collaboration with Ibn Battuta 3-4, 
286, 310-15 passim 
scholarship of 286, 310 
Tbn Khafif, Abu ’Abdallah 96 
Ibn Khaldun, ’Abd al-Rahman 51, 
276, 316-17 
Ibn Majid, Ahmad 135n22 
Ibn Mansur, ’Ali 176 
Tbn Marzuk, Muhammad 316 
Ibn Mustafa, ’Abd al-Rahman 57 
Tbn Sulayman, al-Hasan, sultan 127, 
Ibn Taymiyya 210n4 
Ibn "Ujayl, Ahmad 114 
Ibn Wadrar, Abu Ziyan, vizier 280 
Ibn Zin 298 
Ibrahim, ship’s captain 229-44 passim 
Ibyar 42, 44 
‘Id al-Adha see Feast of the Sacrifice 
‘Id al-Fitr 37, 150, 169 
Idfu 42, 52, 107 
Idhaj 82,94 
al-Idrisi, 296-7 
Ifriqiya 15, 28, 36 
ihram (garment and state of 
sanctity) 69-70, 75, 78 
ijaza (certificate) 61,62 
Ilkhan, defined 84 
Ilkhans, khanate of the 84-8 
Chinese influence on 88 
conversion to Islam 86 
disintegration ot 268-9 
map 82 
rule in Anatolia 141-2 
wars of 167, 174 
prayer leader 60, 62 
shi’a leader 90, 113 
In Azaoua 277, 306-7 
Ince Minare, madrasa 147 
India, west coast, society and trade 
of 219-21 

Index 349 

see also Bengal; Dethi, sultanate of: 
Ma‘bar sultanate 
Indian Ocean 2, 267 
Indo-Muslims 188 
Indonesia 252 
Indus river 175, 184, 192, 193 
intercommunicating zone, defined 8 
Iran see Persia 
Irano-Semitic region 116, 117 
Iraq 82 
see also Baghdad, Iikhans, khanate 
of the 
Iraq al-Ajami 93 
Irtisch river 177 
Isaac 56 
Isfahan 2, 82, 93-5, 107, 267, 269 
and Black Death 272-3 
beginnings of 8-9 
egalitarianism in 10-11 
expansion of: in Africa 124-5, 
293-5; in Anatolia 141; in China 
and Southeast Asia 248-50, 
251-2, 257; in India 186-9, 221, 
248, 253; in Indian Ocean 
region 116-18; in Kipchak 
khanate 161-2; in Maldive 
islands 229-30, 231 
western historical view of 9 
see also Shi'ism 
Izeh see Idhaj 
Izmir /38, 151 
Izmit 152 
Iznik /38, 143, 151, 153 

Jabal al-Musa see Hacho, Mount 

Jabal Sabr 114 

Jacob 56 

Jaffna, kingdom 242 

Jahanpanah 188, 196 

Jains 190 

Jalali 215 

jJalba 110 

Jam 175, 177 

Jamal al-Din Muhammad, 
sultan 221-2, 226-8. 231-7 
passim, 246, 247 

Jamboli /38, 171 

Jandarids, amirate of the 156 

Jarun (Jirun) 131 

Java 256 

Jaxartes river see Syr Darya river 

Jazira 102 

Jazirat al-Maghrib 29 

Jazirat ibn "Umar see Cizre 

350 Index 

Jerusalem 42, 55, 56-7, 107, 267, 273 

Jibal 93 

Jibla see Jubla 

Jidda 42, 51, 102, 110, 111, 267, 274 

Jihad 142 

Joseph 56 

Jubla 107, 114 

Judaea 55, 273 

judge see qadi 

junks, Chinese see ships 

Jurfattan see Cannanore 

jurists see faqgih; legal schools; 
scholars, Muslim 

Juvaini, “Ata Malik 

Ka'ba 57, 66, 70, 72-3, 76 
Kabara 304 
Kabis see Gabés 
Kabul 1/75, 178, 184 
Kaffa 138, 163-4, 271 
Kafur, sultanate official 214, 215 
Kainuk see Goynuk 
Kairouan, battle of 276 
kakam 224, 225, 228 

see also ships 
Kakula see Qaqula 
Kanara 222 
Kanauj 184, 205, 206 
Karakorum 2 
Karaman /38, 145 
Karasi, amirate of 143, 151, 152 
Karawiyin mosque 313 
Karbala 82, 97 
Karsakhu 277, 300 
Kashmir 190 
Kastamonu /38, 155, 156 
Kawkaw see Gao 
Kawlam see Quilon 
Kaylukari 264n34 
Kayseri 138, 141 
Kazarun 82, 96 
Keita clan 291 
Kenya 126 
Kerch 138, 163 
Kerman 83 
Kermanshah 8&2, 100 
Khadija, queen 230-5 passim, 245 
al-Khalil see Hebron 
Khalil, Malikischolar 106 
Khalji, Ala al-Din 185, 188 
Khalji dynasty 185 
al-Khammar, ’Aziz 204-5 
khan (caravansary) 46, 55, 148 
khanqa 187 

see also zawiya 

Khansa see Hang-chou 
khatun 98, 168 
Khawak pass /75, 178 
Khidr, Indian scholar 129-30, 131 
khirga 57,94 
Khubilai Khan 250 
Khun /07, 131 
Khunju Pal see Khunj 
Khurasan 81-2, 84, 177, 180-1n23 
Khwaja Jahan 197, 206 
Khwarizm 8, 160, 174, 176, 177 
Khyber pass 181n25, 184 
Kil’a Ray Pithora 187, 197 
Kilwa 2, 107, 126-8 
Kinalos island 230, 231, 247 
see also Maldive islands 
Kinbaya see Cambay 
Kipchak, khanate of /38, 160-2, 169, 
al-Kiswa (village) 67 
kiswa (Ka’ba covering) 42, 66, 73 
Koil 184, 215 
Konkan 220, 221 
Konya 138, 139, 140, 141, 144, 147 
Koran 19, 60-1 
Korea 250 
Kose Dagh, battle of 141 
Kuang-chou see Canton 
Kubbat al-Skhra see Dome of the Rock 
Kufa 68, 82, 89, 97 
Kumariver 138 
Kumish see Gumushane 
Kunakar 216n5 
Kuria Muria islands 129 
Kuzey Anadolou Daghlari see Pontic 

Ladhiq 138, 150 
Ladiqiya see Latakia 
Lahari 184, 193 
Lahore 183 
Lajazzo see Ayas 
Lar 107, 131 
Laranda see Karaman 
Las Navas de Tolosa, battle of 15 
Latakia 107, 137, 139 
lateen sail 120-1 
law, Islamic see shari’a, legal schools 
Lawata 19 
Lee, Samuel 4 
legal schools 
Hanafi 22, 187, 200 
Hanbali 22 
Maliki: in Damascus 60; in 

Egypt 43; in India 200; in 
Maldive islands 231; in North 
Africa 22, 37, 278, 279, 280 
Shafi’i 22, 43, 50, 77, 113, 125, 187, 


Leo Africanus 297 

Levantine coast 139 

Libya 38-9 

Little Armenia 141, 148 

Little Kabylie mountains 33, 34 

liwan 50 

Luristan 93 

Lurs 94 

Luxor 42 

Ma’an 42, 67 
Ma’bar sultanate 203, 205, 229, 244 
Manzikert, battle of 140 
al-Machar 138, 167 
Machul 82, 94, 97 
McNeill, William 7-8 
Madagascar 107 
madhhak see legal schools 
madrasas 19, 26n9, 37, 50-1, 60, 279 
architecture of 50-1 
origin and spread of 50 
Madurai 184, 203, 205, 245 
kingdoms of 15-16 
pilgrimage and trade routes of 27, 

mahalla 98,99 
Maharashtra 217, 218 
Mahdali dynasty 126, 127 
mahmal 66 
Mahtuli 171 
Majd al-Din 96 
Majorca 17, 18 
el-Mahalla el-Kubra 42 
al-Makhdumah Jahan 194, 197 
Malabar 214, 220, 222 
Malacca, strait of 251, 256 
Malaga 277, 284 
Malamir see Idhaj 
Malaya 258 
Malayalam 221 
Malay states 251, 257 
Maldive islands 
geography of 229, 230 
government of 230, 231 
map 184 
society and economy 229-30 
Male 184, 230, 231, 237, 247 
army and government 292 

Index 351 

ceremonies of mansas 302-3 
location of capital 301, 308n6 
map 277 
religious policies of mansas 294 
rise of 291-2 
sex relations in 299-300 
see also mansas 
al-Malik al-Zahir, sultan 257-8, 266 
Malik ibn ‘Anas 22, 69 
Maliki legal school see legal schools 
Malinke 291, 293, 294 
Malosmadulu atoll 230 
see also Maldive islands 
mamluks, defined 47 
Mamluk sultanate 
and Christian pilgrims 
and Yemen 113 
government of 46-8, 55 
in upper Egypt 52, 54 
maps 28, 42 
origin and rise of 41-2, 47-8 
overlordship in Arabia 66 
plague mortality of ruling class 
rivalries within 48-9 
supervision of hajj 65-6 
Mangalore 184, 222 
Manisa /38, 151 
Manjurur see Mangalore 
Mannar, gulf of 243 
mansas 290 
see also Mali; Musa, Mansa; 
Sulayman, Mansa 
al-Maqrizi 271 
Marbella 283 
Mardin 82, 102 
Mari-Jaata see Sunjaata 
Marinid sultanate 15, 16, 31, 275, 
276, 278 
compared to Mamluks 47 
Maristan 49-50 
Marmara, sea of 138 
Marrakech 277, 286-7 
Marseille 17, 18 
al-Marwa 74 

. Mashhad ’Ali see al-Najaf 

Masira /07, 129 
Masufa Berbers 296, 298, 299 
Mawarannahr see Transoxiana 
Mawj-Darya, ’Alial-Din 194 
Mecca 2, 27, 42, 66, 70-2, 82, 107, 

see also hajj 
Medina 2, 42, 57, 66, 68-9, 82, 267 
Mediterranean Sea 

352 Index 

climate compared to Indian 
Ocean 118 
trade on 17-18 
Medjerda river 35 
Meghna river /84, 255 
Mehmed, amir 151, 153 
Mekong river 256 
Menteshe, amirate of 143, 151, 153 
European: in Black Sea 162-3; in 
Eastern Mediterranean 139; in 
North Africa 17-18, 36; in 
Persia 100 
Muslim: expansion of 10; in 
African Sudan 291, 293; in Bay 
of Bengal and China Seas 248- 
§2; in China 249-50; in Indian 
Ocean region 116-18, 218, 220, 
Mercy, mount of 70,77 
Mesopotamia 90 
see also IlIkhans, khanate of the 
Michael III, emperor 170 
Middle Period, defined 9 
migration, of literate Muslims 10-11 
Milas 138, 153 
Miliana 28, 32 
Mina 77, 78 
Ming dynasty 250 
Minya 42, 52 
Misr see Fustat 
Miuss river 138, 166 
Mogadishu 2, 107, 123-4, 125-6 
Mombasa /07, 126 
Indian government policy on 190 
paper 88 
and Islamic expansion 11 
conquests of 8;in Anatolia 141-2; 
in Persia 81-4; in Russia and 
Eastern Europe 161; in 
Transoxiana 174 
raids in India 186 
rule in China 249-50 
wars with Mamluks 41-2 
see also Chagatay, khanate of; 
Ilkhans, khanate of the: 
Kipchak, khanate of; Yuan 
monsoon winds 117-18, 118, 119, 
121, 251 
Morocco 14 
see also Marinid sultanate 
Mosul 82, 102 

Mozambique channel 118 

Mreyye 298 

Mubarak Shah, Fakr al-Din, 
sultan 203, 254, 255 

Mudurnu /38, 154, 155 

muezzin 60, 66 

Muhammad 9, 57, 68, 73 

Muhammad V, king 285 

muhtasib 66 

mujawic 106, 109 

Multan /84, 193-4 

Mugqaddimah, The 315, 316 

see also Ibn Khaldun 

Musa, mansa 290-1, 294-5, 304 

musalla 37 

Muscat 1/07, 130 

Muslim rulers, duties of 189 

Mustansiriya, madrasa 98 

Mustawfi, Hamd Allah 84, 95 

Muturni see Mudurnu 

al-Muwaffaq, Sufi lodge 75 

Muzaffariya, madrasa 133n4 

Muzaffariya, mosque 115 

Muzdalifah 77-8 

Nablus 42, 58 

Nafud desert 89 

al-Nafzawi, Abu ’Abdallah 32, 36 

al-Najaf 82, 89-90, 91 

Nakhshab /75 

Narmada river 184,217, 218, 219 

Nasir al-Din, sultan 245 

al-Nasir Muhammad ibn Qala’un, 
sultan 48-9, 60, 274 

Nasrid sultanate 15, 28, 30, 283, 

Nazwa 107, 131, 136n40 

Nejd plateau 89 

Nestorian Christians 86 

New Saray 2, 160, 173, 175, 180n21 

Niani 301 

Nicaea see Iznik 

Nicomedia see Izmit 152 

Niger river 277, 291, 300, 304-5 

Nile, Blue /07 

Nile delta 44 

Nile river, trade of 28, 41, 42, 43, 44, 
§1-2, 54, 107 

Nishapur 175, 177 

Nizamiya, madrasa 98 

Nizwa see Nazwa 

nomads 8 

see also Arab nomads, Mongols, 


North Africa see Maghrib 

Nur al-Din ’Ali, Malik Mujahid, 
sultan 113, 115 

Odoric of Pordenone 223 
Ogedei, khan 186 
Old Saray 161 

see also New Saray 
Oljeitu, ilkhan 86, 87, 96, 101 
Oman 131, 136n40 
Oman, Gulf of 107 
Oran 32 
ordu 161 
Orkhan, sultan 151, 152-3, 169 
ortakh 250 
Osman, sultan 143, 152 
Osmanlis see Ottomans 
Ottoman state 143, 151-3 
Ozbeg, khan 159, 167, 168, 169, 170, 

reign of 160, 161-2 

Palestine 55 
Palk strait 229 
Palmyra 267, 269 
Panjshir valley 178 
Pattan 184, 245, 246 
Pax Mongolica 11 
Peking 2, 252, 256, 259, 260, 264- 
5n42, 267 
Pemba island /07, 126 
Pergamom see Berganma 
effects of Mongol conquest on 81-8 
see also Ilkhans, khanate of the 
Persian gulf maps 82, 107 
Persian language 88, 187 
cultural influence: in Anatolia 144, 
147; in India 187, 188 
in China 88 
migration to India of 186, 187 
Pharos island 41, 43 
Phrygia 151 
pilgrimage see caravans, hajj 
pirates see bandits and pirates 
Pisa 17, 18 
plague 270-1, 317 
see also Black Death 
Polo, Maffeo 250 
Polo, Marco 102, 139, 148, 222, 246, 
book by 311-12 
compared to Ibn Battuta 5-6 
Pompey’s pillar 43 
Pontic mountains 149 

Index 353 

Provengals 17 

Punjab 182, 195 
Puttalam /84, 242, 243 
Pyatigorsk see Bish Dagh 
Pyrard, Francois 240n26 


defined 19 

of caravan 38, 66 
qadi al-qudat 199 
al-Qahirah see Cairo 
Qais 107, 132 
Qala’un, Sayf al-Din, sultan 49 
Qalhat 107, 129, 130-1 
Qandahar see Gandhar 
Qanjanfu 256, 260, 296 
Qaqula 256, 257, 263n28 
al-Qatif 107, 131, 132 
Qatya 42, 55 
Qena 42 
Qinnawj see Kanau) 
al-Qiram 138, 159, 164-5 
Qiwan al-Din, Khudhawand- 

Zada 194, 195 

Quanzhou see Ch’uan-chou 
Quilon /84, 225-6, 246, 266, 267 
qumizz 166-7 
Qunduz 178 
qurqura 139 
Qus 42, 52, 54 
Qutb Minar 188 
Qutlugh Khan 217 

Rabigh 42, 70 
Rafidi 90 
rafiq 137 
rajas 221 
Ramadan 37,61 . 
Ramhormoz 82, 94 
Ramiz see Ramhormoz 
Ras Abu Shagara /07, 111 
Ras al-Hadd 107, 129 
Ras Asir /07, 119, 123 
Ras Dawa’‘ir see Ras Abu Shagara 
Rashid al-Din,Fazlullah 87, 88 
Rasulid sultanate 113, 115 
see also Yemen 
Ratnapura 261n5 
Ravi river 193 
reconquista see Iberia 
Red Sea 42, 82, 107, 110-11 
Red Sea Hills 52 
Rehendi Kabadi Kilege see Khadija, 
Rif mountains 24, 30 

354 Index 

Rifa’i brotherhood 57 
rihia (genre of literature) 
defined 3, 30 
of al-Abdari 32-3 
of Ibn Jubayr 313-14 
Rihla, of Ibn Battuta 
authenticity of 63, 313-14, 315-16 

chronology and itinerary problems: 

Anatolia 157n13; China 252-3, 
262n20; Constantinople 180n17; 
Egypt and Syria 62n4, 63n26, 
156n3, 288n4; India 211n9, 
238n4, 238n5; journey to 
Bulghar 179-80n12; journey to 
East Africa 134n12; journey to 
India 132-3n2, 181n25, 181- 
2n26; Khurasan 180—1n23; 
Yemen 134n17 
composing of 310-17 
contents described 4, 5 
descriptions: of China 258-9, 260; 
of Delhi 196; of India 210n3 
domestic and marital affairs in 39 
historical value of 5 
history of 4, 317 
maritime technology in 121-2 
notes for 264n37, 313 
organization of 4, 311-12, 314 
translations of 4-5 
see also Ibn Battuta, Ibn Juzayy 
Rio Guadiaro 283 
Rio Salado, battle of 275, 285 
Riyadh 132 
Rock of Zion 57 
Ronda 25, 277, 283 
Rosetta branch, of the Nile 44 
Rubruck, William of 165, 166 
rukh 288n2 
Rumi, Jalal al-Din 147 
Russia, Mongol rule of 160 
Russian Orthodox Church 162 
Rusticello, of Pisa 5 

Sabta see Ceuta 
sadaga 35 

Sa’di 96 

al-Safa 74 

Safi 17 

Sahel 291, 293 
al-Sahili, Abu Ishaq 301 
St. Thomas 241 
Sakarya river 138, 154 
Saladin 50 

Salé 17,277, 286 

salt, trade in 293, 297 

Samannud 42, 44 
Samarkand 2, 175, 177 
sambugq 93, 137 
Samudra 2, 251, 256, 263n29, 266, 
sSamum 67 
San’a 107, 113, 115, 134n17 
Sandapur 221, 226, 227-8 
raja of 226-7, 228 
map 184 
Sankarani river see Sansara river 
Sanguinetti, B.R. 4 
Sansara river 301 
al-Sara’ see New Saray, Old Saray 
Saray see New Saray, Old Saray 
Saraychik 1/75 
Sardinia 276-7 
Sargadwari 205, 206 
Sarju river 184, 204 
Sartiz, Imad al-Mulk 211n9 
Sarukhan, amirate of 143, 151 
Satgaon see Chittagong 
Satpura range 217 
sa’y 74,76 
sayyids see sharifs 
scholars, Muslim 
in Anatolia 144 
in Damascus 60 
in Delhi sultanate 191, 200 
in Egypt 48, 50, 51 
in Mecca 108-9 
in Persia 85 
in Sudan 293-4 
migrations of 10-11, 191, 312 
Ségou 304 
Sehwan 184, 209 
Seljukids see Seljuks, of Anatolia 
Seljiks, Great 10, 140 
see also Turks 
Seljuks, of Anatolia 140-1, 142, 148 
Semeonis, Symon 43, 44, 55 
Senegal river 291 
Serbia, kingdom of 169 
Seville 15 
Sfax 28, 38, 39 
Shafi’i legal school see legal schools 
Shagara 107 
Shah, Jalal 254, 255, 263n26 
Shalia see Shaliyat 
Shaliyat 184, 228 
Shari'a 7,21, 116, 117, 187 
see also legal schools; scholars, 
Sharif Ibrahim 207 
Sharifs 53, 110 

in East Africa 125 
of Mecca and Medina 66 
Shatt al-’Arab 82, 93 
shaykh 23 
Shi’a see Shi’ism 
Shihab al-Din 207-8, 209 
Shi’ism, 86, 90-1 
Chinese junks 200, 222-4 
of Arabian Sea 120-2, 219 
of Mediterranean 139 
of Red Sea 110-11 
see also jalba, sambuq 
Shiraz 82, 83, 95—6, 267, 269 
Shiva 214 
shurhdar 214 
Shushtar 82, 94 
Sicilian channel 36, 276 
Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) 241 
Sierra Bermeja 283 
Sierra de Mijas 283 
Sierra de Ronda 283 
Sijilmasa 277, 296, 307 
Sinai peninsula 49, 137 
Sinhalese 229, 242 
Sind 193, 209, 211n9 
Sinjar 82, 102 
Sinope 138, 159, 162, 163 
Siraf 107, 132 
Siri 188 
Sirte see Surt 39 
Sitt Zahida 102 
Sivas 138, 139, 148 
Slave dynasty 183, 185, 186 
Smyrna see Izmir 
Socotra island 107 
Sofala 107, 127 
Sohar 107, 130, 131 
Sokolo 300 
Soldaia see Sudak 
Solomon, temple of 57 
Somali, Somalia 123, 126 
Sonargaon 184, 254, 255 
Soninke 293, 294 
Souman river 33 
Sousse 28, 38 
South China Sea 256 
Sri Lanka see Ceylon 
states, educated Muslims’ view of 11 
Stavropol plateau 167 
Suakin 107, 112 
Subedei 161 
Suchem, Ludolph von 59 
sudak /38, 164 
Sudan 36 

Index 355 

see also Mali 
Sudkawan see Chittagong 
Suez Canal 55 
Suez, Gulf of 42 
Sufis, Sufism 11,91, 286 
growth of 23-4, 58, 279-80 
Suhay! 283, 284 
Suhrawardiya brotherhood 94, 193-4 
Sulayman, mansa 295, 302-3 
Sulayman mountains 178, 186 
Sultan Daghlari mountains 147 
Sultaniya 82, 87,98, 100, 101 
Sumatra 251, 256 
see also Samudra 
Sumbul, sultanate official 217, 224, 
Sumra revolt 211n9 
Sunisa 138, 149 
Sunjaata 294 
Sunni Islam 21, 86-7 
Sunusa see Sunisa 
Sur 107, 129 
Surt 28, 39 
Swahili 123 
Sylhet 184, 254, 255 
Syr Darya river 174, 175 
Syria 41, 42, 269, 270 
see also Damascus 

Takedda 277, 305-6 

Tabriz 2, 82, 83, 87, 100-1, 138, 139 

al-Tabrizi, Jalal al-Din see Shah Jalal 

al-Tabrizi, Sharif al-Din 259 

Tabuk 42, 67 

Tadmor see Palmyra 269 

Tafilalt 296 

Taghaza 277, 297 

Taghnibirdi 99 

Ta’izz 107, 113, 144-15 

Tajo river 283 

takshif 298 

Tamattu’ 80n14 

Tamils 203, 221, 244 

Tana see Azak 

T’ang empire 248 

Tangier 2, 13-14, 16-17, 18-19, 28, 
277, 280 

Tanja see Tangier 

Tankiz, Saif al-Din 60 

Taptiriver 184, 217,218 

taqyid 313 

Tarifa /4, 16 

Tarmashinn, khan 177, 186 

Tasarahla see Bir al-Ksaib 

Tashkent 125 

356 Index 

Tatars see Mongols 
Taurus mountains 139, 140 
tawaf 73, 76, 78 
Tawalisi 264n34 
Taza 277, 278 
Teke 145 
Tenasserim coast 257 
Tenés 276, 277 
Thousand pillars, hall of the 197, 199 
Thrace 152, 171, 172 
Tigris-Euphrates basin 91, 104n13 
Tigris river 82, 93,97, 102, 107 
Timbuktu 2, 277, 304 
Tirmidh 175, 176-7, 194 
Tlemcen 28, 31, 34, 275, 277, 278 
Toghon Temur, emperor 213, 214, 
258, 260 
tombs, as religious institutions 204 
Tonkin 258 
Touat see Tuwat 
trade, European see merchants 
trade, Muslim 122, 127 
see also merchants, ships 
Transoxiana 174 
of Europeans 44, 55-6 
of Muslims 10-11, 24-5, 30 
see also Ibn Battuta; merchants; 
scholars, Muslim 
Trebizond 138, 141 
Tripoli 28, 38, 39 
Tripolitania 28, 38 
Tuchman, Barbara 317 
Tughluq, Firuz 268 
Tuchluq, Ghiyas al-Din 185, 188 
Tughluq, Muhammad 
and China 213-14 
and Mongols 186, 192 
and religious scholars 200 
brutality of 191-2, 201, 206-7, 208 
character of 188-9, 198 
conquests of 185-6 
death of 266 
employment of foreigners 137, 
178-9, 191, 199 
hunting expeditions of 201-2 
patronage of 188, 192, 194-5, 198 
rebellions against 203, 205, 206-7, 
scheme to move capital 190-1, 196 
unorthodox policies of 189-92, 
Tughluqabad 188 
Tughlugid dynasty 185-6 
Tuluktemur 164-5, 166, 167 

Tunis 2, 28, 34, 35—6, 267, 275, 276, 
Turcomans 140, 142, 171 
see also Turks 
Turkey see Anatolia 
Turkmens see Turcomans 
Turks 47-8, 83-4, 85 
conquests: of Anatolia 140-4; of 
India 183-6 
Tus 175,177 
Tustar see Shustar 
Tuwat 277, 307 
al-Tuzani, al-Hajj ‘Abdallah 139, 
144, 147, 153, 162, 176, 195, 225, 
242, 255, 263n25 

Ubulla canal 93 
Uigur 85 
Ujjain 184, 217 
Ukrainian steppe 160, 161 
‘ulama 21, 108 
see also scholars, Muslim 
‘Umar, caliph 68 
‘Umar, Jalal al-Din, sultan 233 
al-Umani, Ibn Fadl Allah 187, 290, 
295, 296 
umma 10 
Umm ‘Ubaida 91 
‘umra 76 
Ural river 175 
Urganj see Urgench 
Urgench 174, 175 
Urmiya, lake 82, 100 
Ustyurt plateau 176 

Valencia 15 

Vega 284 

Velez Malaga 284 

Venice, Venetians 2, 17, 162-3, 271 
Vindhya hills 217 

Vivaldi brothers 18 

Volga river 138, 162, 175 

wagons in central Asia 165-6 
Walata 277, 296, 298, 299, 300, 304 
wali 23 
Wagisa 82, 89 
Wasit 82, 91,92 
West Africa 4 

see also Mali, Sudan 
Western Ghats mountains 220, 221 
Western wall 56 
women, in Mongol and Turkish 

society 168 
see also Ibn Battuta 

al-Yamama 107, 132 
Yambol see Jamboli 
Yamuna river 183, 184, 188 
Yangtze river 256 
Yaznik see Iznik 
Yemen, 112-13 

see also Rasulid sultanate 
Yersinia pestis 271 

see also Black Death, plague 
Yuan dynasty 213, 250, 256, 258, 271 
yurt 165 
Yusuf ibn Isma’il, Abu l’Hajjaj 

(Yusuf I), sultan 283, 285, 310 

Zabid 107, 112, 114 
Zaccar hills 32 
Zafar 2, 107, 128, 267, 268, 

Index 357 

Zaghari 277, 300 

Zagros mountains 94, 96, 100, 269 

Zaitun see Ch’uan-chou 

Zambezi river 107 

zamorin 222 

Zamzam, wellof 74 

Zanj, land of 126 

al-Zanjani, Zahir al-Din 214, 224, 

Zanzibar island /07, 119, 126 

zawiya 23 

Zaydis 71, 113, 114 

Zeila 107, 122, 123 

Zimbabwe 127 

Zubayda 89 

al-Zubaydi, Abu ‘Abdallah 32-3, 35,