Ibn Battuta, the greatest traveler in the Islamic world

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Ibn Battuta is without a shadow of a doubt the greatest travelers that history has ever seen, able to go from Morocco to the distant lands of China and Indonesia. A 29 year long crossing, able to make him discover some of the most incredible wonders ever seen by a single human being.

The 3 pilgrimages

Ibn Battuta was born in 1304 a Tangier from a family Berber of jurists; after having passed learning the notions of Islamic law in Mecca and having returned to his native land, in 1325 the young Moroccan will leave for his first trip, determined to return to the holy city as a pilgrim. After hurrying through the Maghreb countries, in the first months of 1326 he finally arrived in Egypt, a country from which he was literally fascinated and in which he spent several weeks before resuming the road to the Hijaz. Due to some ongoing riots, however, he was unable to cross the Red Sea and this forced him to choose a land route through Palestine, Syria and Jordan. Just in Damascus the pilgrim will spend Ramadan, managing to fulfill his “mission” in September 1326.

Ibn Battuta

After a month spent in Mecca, however, he ardently desired to explore Mesopotamia, for this reason in November of the same year, he reached Iraq, where he also had the opportunity to visit the city of Najaf, the burial place of Ali ibn Talib. Once in Baghdad he will take the road to Persia, visiting Esfahan, then returned to the South visiting Shiraz and will then head north towards Tabriz, before returning to today’s Kurdistan and heading once again towards Mecca After performing his second Hajj, he went first to Jeddah and then to Yemen, the place from which he will head for Africa. Here he will observe the wonderful coasts of Somalia, Kenya and Tanzania, before heading to Oman and making his third pilgrimage.

15 years in Asia

After yet another spiritual journey, Ibn Battuta set the goal of entering the service of the Sultan of Delhi, a man known for his incredible wealth and power, unmatched in the Islamic world of that period. To do so, however, he first decided to see all the other countries he had not yet explored, then heading first to Anatolia, then to the Crimea and finally to Astrakhan, on the Volga River (today’s Russia). Here he was fought over whether to go further north in the steppes but, due to the fame of a desolate and mysterious place, he decided to change his itinerary, seizing the opportunity that fate put before him. Öz Beg Khan’s wife, Princess Bayalun, had just received permission to return to her hometown of Constantinople to give birth, the perfect opportunity to set foot outside Dar al Islam.


After a month in the city he will resume his direct journey to India, crossing the Silk Road and finally reaching the Indus River on September 12, 1333, being immediately hired as a qadi (judge) for 6 years. After such a long stop, however, the desire to leave was made stronger and stronger, seizing the opportunity given him by the arrival of a Chinese embassy. He was in charge of escorting guests to their kingdoms, but the attack of some bandits pushed him to change course, heading first to Gujarat, then to Calicut, Maldives, to then leave for Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Once he arrived in the city of Chittagong he decided to resume his initial journey, but not before having visited Sumatra, the extreme border of dar al Islam, and ascended through the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. In 1345 he finally arrived in China, becoming the first narrator to mention the legendary wall; at this point, however, he began to miss his homeland and for this reason in 1346 he would organize his return trip to Morocco.

Across the Sahara

In 1348 he arrived in Damascus, where he learned of his father’s death 15 years earlier, and in 1349 he finally returned to Tangier, after 25 years on the road. However, he will rest only a few days to leave for Andalusia, en route in 1351 for the Sahara. In fact, he had always been curious to observe the wealth of the kingdom of Mali, taking the opportunity of his stay in Morocco for a last look.

During the latter crossing he was in fact ordered by the Moroccan sultan to return home, and for this, he returned definitively to Morocco at the beginning of 1354. Here, by order of the same ruler, he will dictate all his adventures to the historian Ibn Juzayy, going off only in 1369, after having traveled over 117,500 km and having visited the whole Islamic world.

Ready to travel?

Ibn Battuta

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