13th century procession to Mecca

Between 1330 and 1333, Ibn Battuta took the long route on the Silk Road between the Middle East and India by traveling through modern-day Turkey, Iran, Russia, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Mecca, Ibn Battuta heard stories about India and was told that Muslim scholars received generous stipends in Delhi. Having had enough of sea travel he made his was east overland. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Before this leg of his trip Ibn Battuta had traveled extensively around Iraq, Iran, and southern Russia as he made his way to Mecca and Constantinople. A.S. Chughtai wrote: “Ibn Battuta travelled through Algiers, Tunis, Egypt, Palestine and Syria to Mecca. After visiting Iraq, Shiraz and Mesopotamia he once more returned to perform the Hajj at Mecca and remained there for three years. Then travelling to Jeddah he went to Yemen by sea, visited Aden andset sail for Mombasa, East Africa. After going up to Kulwa he came back to Oman and repeated pilgrimage to Mecca in 1332 C.E. via Hormuz, Siraf, Bahrain and Yamama. Subsequently he set out with the purpose of going to India, but on reaching Jeddah, he appears to have changed his mind (due perhaps to the unavailability of a ship bound for India), and revisited Cairo, Palestine and Syria, thereafter arriving at Aleya (Asia Minor) by sea and travelled across Anatolia and Sinope. He then crossed the Black Sea and after long wanderings he reached Constantinople through Southern Ukraine.[Source: A.S. Chughtai, Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com *||*]

The Byzantine princess Ibn Battuta traveled with to Constantinople decided to stay for some time with her father in Constantinople and resume her Christian practices, but gave permission to Ibn Battuta and her escorts to return home to the Uzbeg Khan. Ibn Battuta set off again for the steppe of the Golden Horde. He returned to the steppe kingdom of Uzbeg Khan, from where he traveled eastward, deeper into Central Asia and then to India, Java, and China.

After leaving Constantinople, on his journey across Central Asia to India, In Battuta “visited Khurasan through Khawarism (Khiva) and having visited all the important cities such as Bukhara, Balkh, Herat, Tus, Mashhad and Nishapur, he crossed the Hindukush mountains via the 13,000 ft Khawak Pass into Afghanistan and passing through Ghani and Kabul entered India. After visiting Lahri (near modern Karachi), Sukkur, Multan, Sirsa and Hansi, he reached Delhi. For several years Ibn Battuta enjoyed the patronage of Sultan Mohammad Tughlaq, and was later sent as Sultan's envoy to China. *||*

Good Websites and Sources on the Silk Road: Silk Road Seattle washington.edu/silkroad ; Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Silk Road Atlas depts.washington.edu ; Old World Trade Routes ciolek.com ; Travel Photos studyrussian.com ; Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Project silkroadproject.org ; Silk Road Society travelthesilkroad.org ; Silk Road Travelers silk-road.com ; International Dunhuang Project idp.bl.uk ; Camel Trains in the Desert chinavista.com ; Ancient China Life Ancient China Life ; Marco Polo: Wikipedia Marco Polo Wikipedia ; Marco Polo Odyssesy nationalgeographic.com ; Open Directory Project dmoz.org ; Works by Marco Polo gutenberg.org ; Internet Movie Database imdb.com ; Marco Polo and his Travels silk-road.com ; Zheng He and Early Chinese Exploration : Wikipedia Chinese Exploration Wikipedia ; Le Monde Diplomatique mondediplo.com ; Zheng He muslimheritage.com ; Zheng He Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Gavin Menzies’s 1421 1421.tv ; Asia Recipe asiarecipe.com ; First Europeans in Asia Wikipedia ; Matteo Ricci faculty.fairfield.edu

Books on Ibn Battuta "Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354", translated by H.A.R. Gibb, edited by Sir E Denison Ross and Eileen Power (Broadway Travellers Routledge & Kegan Paul Fifth Impression, 1963); : “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354" translated and edited by ed. H. A. R. Gibb (London: Broadway House, 1929); “Travels with a Tangerine: A Journey in the Footnotes of Ibn Battutah” by Tim Mackintosh-Smith (Welcome Rain Publishers, 2001). Battuta’s journal is available in Arabic under the title “The Precious Gift of Lookers Into the Marvels of Cities and Wonders of Travel.” Books on Marco Polo and the Silk Road The Travels of Marco by Marco Polo; The Silk Road (Odyssey Guides); Marco Polo: A Photographer's Journey by Mike Yamashita (White Star, 2002); “Life along the Silk Road” by Whitfield, Susan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); “The Silk Route: Trade, Travel, War and Faith” by Susan Whitfield, with Ursula Sims-Williams, eds. (London: British Library, 2004); “The Camel and the Wheel” by Richard Bulliet (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975); “Marco Polo's Asia,” by Leonardo Olschki (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960). When China Ruled the Seas by Louise Levathes. Books on 18th and 19th Century European Explorers of Western China: The Question of Hu by Jonathan Spence and Foreign Devils on the Silk Road by Peter Hopkirk. You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com; “The Book of Ser Marco Polo: The Venetian Concerning Kingdoms and Marvels of the East’ by Marco Polo and Rustichello of Pisa, translated and edited by Colonel Sir Henry Yule, Volumes 1 and 2 (London: John Murray, 1903) are part of the public domain and can be read online at Project Gutenberg. Television show: Silk Road 2005, a 10-episode production by China's CCTV and Japan's NHK, with music by Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. The original series was shown in 1980s.

Ibn Battuta in Iraq and Persia (Iran) in 1326

On November 17, 1326, following a month spent in Mecca, Ibn Battuta joined a large caravan of pilgrims returning to Iraq across the Arabian Peninsula.The group headed north to Medina and then, travelling at night, turned northeast across the Najd plateau to Najaf, on a journey that lasted about two weeks. In Najaf, he visited the mausoleum of Ali, the Fourth Caliph. [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org *-* ]

Then, instead of continuing on to Baghdad with the caravan, Ibn Battuta started a six-month detour that took him into Persia. From Najaf, he journeyed to Wasit, then followed the river Tigris south to Basra. His next destination was the town of Esfahan across the Zagros Mountains in Persia. He then headed south to Shiraz, a large, flourishing city spared the destruction wrought by Mongol invaders on many more northerly towns. Finally, he returned across the mountains to Baghdad, arriving there in June 1327. Parts of the city were still ruined from the damage inflicted by Hulago Khan's invading army in 1258.*-*

In Baghdad, he found Abu Sa'id, the last Mongol ruler of the unified Ilkhanate, leaving the city and heading north with a large retinue. Ibn Battuta joined the royal caravan for a while, then turned north on the Silk Road to Tabriz, the first major city in the region to open its gates to the Mongols and by then an important trading centre as most of its nearby rivals had been razed by the Mongol invaders. *-*

Ibn Battuta left again for Baghdad, probably in July, but first took an excursion northwards along the river Tigris. He visited Mosul, where he was the guest of the Ilkhanate governor, and then the towns of Cizre (Jazirat ibn 'Umar) and Mardin in modern-day Turkey. At a hermitage on a mountain near Sinjar, he met a Kurdish mystic who gave him some silver coins. Once back in Mosul, he joined a "feeder" caravan of pilgrims heading south to Baghdad, where they would meet up with the main caravan that crossed the Arabian Desert to Mecca. Ill with diarrhoea, he arrived in the city weak and exhausted for his second hajj.” *-*

Ibn Battuta's route in the Middle East and North Africa

Ibn Battuta on the Caravan to Basra

On the caravan route to Basra from Mecca and Medina, Ibn Battuta wrote: “Three days' march through this district brought us to the town of Wasit. Its inhabitants are among the best people in Iraq--indeed, the very vest of them without qualification. All the Iraqis who wish to learn how to recite the Koran come here, and our caravan contained a number of students who had come for that purpose. [Source: pp. 86-87. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“After visiting ar-Rifai's tomb I returned to Wasit and found that the caravan had already started, but overtook them on the way, and accompanied them to Basra. As we approached the city I had remarked at a distance of some two miles from it a lofty building resembling a fortress. I asked about it and was told that it was the mosque of 'Ali. Basra was in former times a city so vast that this mosque stood in the centre of the town, whereas now it is two miles outside it. Two miles beyond it again is the old wall that encircled the town, so that it stands midway between the old wall and the present city. \~\

“Basra is one of the metropolitan cities of Iraq and no place on earth excels it in quantity of palm-groves. The current price of dates in its market is fourteen pounds to an Iraqi dirham, which is one-third of a nuqra. The qadi sent me a hamper of dates that a man could scarcely carry; I sold them and received nine dirhams, and three of those were taken by the porter for carrying the basket from the house to the market. \~\

“The inhabitants of Basra possess many excellent qualities; they are affable to strangers and give them their due, so that no stranger ever feels lonely amongst them. They hold the Friday service in the mosque of 'Ali mentioned above, but for the rest of the week it is closed. I was present once at the Friday service in this mosque and when the preacher rose to deliver his discourse he committed many gross errors of grammar. In astonishment at this I spoke of it to the qadi and this is what he said to me: "In this town there is not a man left who knows anything of the science of grammar." Here is a lesson for those who will reflect on it--Magnified be He who changes all things! This Basra, in whose people the mastery of grammar reached its height, from whose soil sprang its trunk and its branches, amongst whose inhabitants is numbered the leader whose primacy is undisputed--the preacher in this town cannot deliver a discourse without breaking its rules!” \~\

Bagdad in the 19th century

Ibn Battuta Goes to Baghdad

Ibn Battuta visited An Najaf and Basra in Iraq. He crossed the Shatt al Arab, a waterway between modern-day Iraq and Iran, taking a meandering route to Isfahan in Iran before heading to Bagdad. Ibn Battuta entered Baghdad about a century after it was invaded by the Mongols. In his manuscript he quoted a famous poet: "Death’s messenger has risen against the city...along her river war ignites." [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Ibn Battuta wrote: “At Basra I embarked in a sumbuq, that is a small boat, for Ubulla, which lies ten miles distant. One travels between a constant succession of orchards and palm-groves both to right and left, with merchants sitting in the shade of the trees selling bread, fish, dates, milk and fruit. Ubulla was formerly a large town, frequented by merchants from India and Firs, but it fell into decay and is now a village. [Source: pp. 99-101, “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“Thence we travelled to Baghdad, the Abode of Peace and Capital of Islam. Here there are two bridges like that at Hilla on which the people promenade night and day, both men and women. The town has eleven cathedral mosques, eight on the right bank and three on the left, together with very many other mosques and madrasas, only the latter are all in ruins. \~\

“The baths at Baghdad are numerous and excellently constructed, most of them being painted with pitch, which has the appearance of black marble. This pitch is brought from a spring between Kufa and Basra, from which it flows continually. It gathers at the sides of the spring like clay and is shovelled up and brought to Baghdad. Each establishment has a large number of private bathrooms, every one of which has also a wash-basin in the corner, with two taps supplying hot and cold water. Every bather is given three towels, one to wear round his waist when he goes in, another to wear round his waist when he comes out, and the third to dry himself with. In no town other than Baghdad have I seen all this elaborate arrangement, though some other towns approach it in this respect. \~\

“The western part of Baghdad was the earliest to be built, but it is now for the most part in ruins. In spite of that there remain in it still thirteen quarters, each like a city in itself and possessing two or three baths. The hospital (maristan) is a vast ruined edifice, of which only vestiges remain. The eastern part has an abundance of bazaars, the largest of which is called the Tuesday bazaar. On this side there are no fruit trees, but all the fruit is brought from the western side, where there are orchards and gardens.” \~\

Ibn Battuta Travels to Tabriz in Persia

Tabriz in the 16th century

Ibn Battuta wrote: “I left Baghdad with the mahalla of Sultan Abu Sa'id, on purpose to see the way in which the king's marches are conducted, and travelled with it for ten days, thereafter accompanying one of the amirs to the town of Tabriz. We reached the town after ten days' travelling, and encamped outside it in a place called ash-Sham. Here there is a fine hospice, where travellers are supplied with food, consisting of bread, meat, rice cooked in butter, and sweetmeats. [Source: pp. 101-102.“Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“The next morning I entered the town and we came to a great bazaar, called the Ghazan bazaar, one of the finest bazaars I have seen the world over. Every trade is grouped separately in it. I passed through the jewellers' bazaar, and my eyes were dazzled by the varieties of precious stones that I beheld. They were displayed by beautiful slaves wearing rich garments with a waist-sash of silk, who stood in front of the merchants, exhibiting the jewels to the wives of the Turks, while the women were buying them in large quantities and trying to outdo one another. As a result of all this I witnessed a riot--may God preserve us from such! We went on into the ambergris and musk market, and witnessed another riot like it or worse. \~\

“We spent only one night at Tabriz. Next day the amir received an order from the sultan to rejoin him, so I returned along with him, without having seen any of the learned men there [in Tabriz]. On reaching the camp the amir told the sultan about me and introduced me into his presence. The sultan asked me about my country, and gave me a robe and a horse. The amir told him that I was intending to go to the Hijaz, whereupon he gave orders for me to be supplied with provisions and to travel with the cortege of the commander of the pilgrim caravan, and wrote instructions to that effect to the governor of Baghdad. I returned therefore to Baghdad and received in full what the sultan had ordered. As more than two months remained before the period when the pilgrim caravan was to set out, I thought it a good plan to make a journey to Mosul and Diyar Bakr to see those districts and then return to Baghdad when the Hijaz caravan was due to start.” \~\

Ibn Battuta Makes His Second Pilgrimage to Mecca

“When we arrived at Baghdad [after touring Tabriz and other cities in Iran and Iraq] I found the pilgrims preparing for the journey, so I went to visit the governor and asked him for the things which the sultan had ordered for me. He assigned me the half of a camel-litter and provisions and water for four persons, writing out an order to that effect, then sent for the leader of the caravan and commended me to him. I had already made the acquaintance of the latter, but our friendship was strengthened and I remained under his protection and favoured by his bounty, for he gave me even more than had been ordered for me. [Source: pp. 104-107.“Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

Mecca on a Turkish tile

“As we left Kufa I fell ill of a diarrhoea and had to be dismounted from the camel many times a day. The commander of the caravan used to make enquiries for my condition and give instructions that I should be looked after. My illness continued until I reached Mecca, the Sanctuary of God (may He exalt her honour and greatness!) I made the circuit of the Sacred Edifice [the Ka'aba] on arrival, but I was so weak that I had to carry out the prescribed ceremonies seated, and I made the circuit and the ritual visitation of Safa and Marwa riding on the amir's horse. When we camped at Mina I began to feel relief and to recover from my malady. At the end of the Pilgrimage I remained at Mecca all that year, giving myself up entirely to pious exercises and leading a most agreeable existence After the next Pilgrimage [of AD 1328] I spent another year there, and yet another after that.

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Ibn Battuta had spent about one year in Mecca studying and making his third pilgrimage. He had been thinking more and more about going to get work under the Sultan of Delhi, now part of Muslim controlled India. The sultan was welcoming scholars and judges from abroad and gave them high paying jobs. But first Ibn Battuta had to find a guide, someone who could speak Persian and knew India well. So in 1330 he went to the town of Jidd on the Red Sea. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu ]

Ibn Battuta in the Persian Gulf in 1330

After his stay in Mecca, Ibn Battuta traveled to Hormuz on the Persian Gulf. Ibn Battuta wrote: “I traveled next to the country of Hormuz. Hormuz is a town on the coast, called also Mughistan, and in the sea facing it and nine miles from shore is New Hormuz, which is an island. The town on it is called Jarawn. It is a large and fine city, with busy markets, as it is the port from which the wares from India and Sind are despatched to the Iraqs, Firs and Khurasan. The island is saline, and the inhabitants live on fish and dates exported to them from Basra. They say in their tongue . . . "Dates and fish are a royal dish." Water is a valuable commodity in this island. They have wells and artificial reservoirs to collect rainwater at some distance from the town. The inhabitants go there with waterskins, which they fill and carry on their backs to the shore, load them on boats and bring them to the town. [Source: “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“We set out from Hormuz to visit a saintly man in the town of Khunjubal, and after crossing the strait, hired mounts from the Turkmens who live in that country. No travelling can be done there except in their company, because of their bravery and knowledge of the roads. In these parts there is a desert four days' journey in extent, which is the haunt of Arab brigands, and in which the deadly samum [simoom] blows in June and July. All who are overtaken by it perish, and I was told that when a man has fallen a victim to this wind and his friends attempt to wash his body [for burial], all his limbs fall apart. All along the road there are graves of persons who have succumbed there to this wind. We used to travel by night, and halt from sunrise until late afternoon in the shade of the trees. \~\

“This desert was the scene of the exploits of the famous brigand Jamal al-Luk, who had under him a band of Arab and Persian horsemen. He used to build hospices and entertain travellers with the money that he gained by robbery, and it is said that he used to claim that he never employed violence except against those who did not pay the tithes on their property. No king could do anything against him, but afterwards he repented and gave himself up to ascetic practices and his grave is now a place of pilgrimage. We went on to the town of Khunjubal, the residence of the Shaykh Abu Dulaf, whom we had come to visit. We lodged in his hermitage and he treated me kindly and sent me food and fruit by one of his sons. \~\

From there we journeyed to the town of Qays, which is also called Siraf. The people of Siraf are Persians of noble stock, and amongst them there is a tribe of Arabs, who dive for pearls. The pearl fisheries are situated between Siraf and Bahrayn in a calm bay like a wide river. During the months of April and May a large number of boats come to this place with divers and merchants from Firs, Bahrayn and Qathif. Before diving the diver puts on his face a sort of tortoiseshell mask and a tortoiseshell clip on his nose, then he ties a rope round his waist and dives. They differ in their endurance under water, some of them being able to stay under for an hour or two hours [sic] or less. When he reaches the bottom of the sea he finds the shells there stuck in the sand between small stones, and pulls them out by hand or cuts them loose with a knife which he has for the purpose, and puts them in a leather bag slung round his neck. When his breath becomes restricted he pulls the rope, and the man holding the rope on the shore feels the movement and pulls him up into the boat. The bag is taken from him and the shells are opened. Inside them are found pieces of flesh which are cut out with a knife, and when they come into contact with the air solidify and turn into pearls [sic]. These are then collected large and small together; the sultan takes his fifth and the remainder are bought by the merchants who are there in the boats. Most of them are the creditors of the divers, and they take the pearls in quittance of their debt [i.e., the debt of the divers] or so much of it as is their due.” \~\

Ibn Battuta Journey Across to Central Asia to India

After spending another year in Mecca, Ibn Battuta decided to seek employment with the Muslim Sultan of Delhi, Muhammad bin Tughluq. In 1330 (or 1332), in need of a guide and translator for his journey, he set off for the Seljuq controlled territory of Anatolia to join one of the caravans that went from there to India. From the Syrian port of Latakia, a Genoese ship took him to Alanya on the southern coast of modern-day Turkey. He then travelled overland to Konya and afterwards to Sinope on the Black Sea coast. [Source: World Heritage Encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg, Self-Publishing Press, self.gutenberg.org *-* ]

From Sinope he took a sea route to the Crimean Peninsula, arriving so in the Golden Horde realm. He went to port town of Azov, where he met with the emir of the Khan, then to the large and rich city of Majar. He left Majar to meet with Uzbeg Khan's travelling court (Orda), which was in the time near Beshtau mountain. From there he made a journey to Bolghar, which became the northernmost point he reached, and noted its unusually (for a subtropics dweller) short nights in summer. Then he returned to Khan's court and with it moved to Astrakhan. *-*

When they reached Astrakhan, Uzbeg Khan had just given permission for one of his pregnant wives, Princess Bayalun, a daughter of Greek Emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos, to return to her home city of Constantinople to give birth. Ibn Battuta talked his way into this expedition, which would be his first beyond the boundaries of the Islamic world. *-*

Arriving in Constantinople towards the end of 1332 (or 1334), he met the Greek emperor Andronikos III Palaiologos. He visited the great church of Hagia Sophia and spoke with a Christian Orthodox priest about his travels in the city of Jerusalem. After a month in the city, Ibn Battuta returned to Astrakhan, then arrived in the capital city Sarai al-Jadid and reported his travelling account to Sultan Uzbeg Khan (r. 1313–1341). Thereafter he continued past the Caspian and Aral Seas to Bukhara and Samarkand. There he visited the court of another Mongolian king, Tarmashirin (r. 1331-1334) of the Chagatai Khanate. From there, he journeyed south to Afghanistan, ruled by the Mongols, then crossed into India via the mountain passes of the Hindu Kush. In the Rihla, he mentions these mountains and the history of the range. From there, he made his way to Delhi and became acquainted with the sultan, Muhammad bin Tughluq.” *-*

Ibn Battuta Travels in Anatolia (Turkey)

Seljuk Turk mosque

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “ After looking unsuccessfully for a guide to India for several months, he decided to continue his travels. This time he would go northward to Anatolia (modern Turkey). From there he could connect with Turkish caravans going to India. He traveled back into Egypt where he met a friend, and they went by caravan to Damascus, Syria, and from there set out for Anatolia. Ibn Battuta's small group left Syria on a large galley (a trading ship) belonging to the Genoese (from Italy) and arrived at Alanya (or Alaya) in Anatolia. This town was a busy trading port, especially known for its wood which was shipped to Egypt and Syria. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

Ibn Battuta wrote: "[We] set out for the country of the Turks. ... It was conquered by the Muslims, but there are still large numbers of Christians there under the protection of the Turkmen Muslims. We traveled on the sea for ten nights, and the Christians treated us honorably and took no passage money from us. On the tenth day we arrived at Alanya [where the province begins]. This country ... is one of the finest in the world; in it God has brought together the good things dispersed throughout other lands. Its people are the most comely (handsome) of men, the cleanest in their dress, the most delicious in their food, and the kindliest folk in creation. Wherever we stopped in this land, whether at a hospice or a private house, our neighbors both men and women (these do not veil themselves) came to ask after our needs. When we left them they bade us farewell as though they were our relatives and our own folk, and you would see. [Source: pp. 415-416, Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354", translated by translated and edited by ed. H. A. R. Gibb; ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

"From Alaya I went to Antaliya [Adalia], a most beautiful city... one of the most attractive towns to be seen anywhere... Each section of the inhabitants lives in a separate quarter. The Christian merchants live in a quarter of the town ... and are surrounded by a wall, the gates of which are shut upon them from without at night and during the Friday service. The Greeks ... live by themselves in another quarter, the Jews in another, and the king and his court and mamluks (slaves) in another, each of these quarters being walled off likewise. The rest of the Muslims live in the main city. Round the whole town and all the quarters mentioned there is another great wall." [Gibb, p. 124.]

Ibn Battuta’s Impressions of the Turks

In Anatolia Ibn Battuta was welcomed with hospitality from the Turks. "Wherever we stopped in this land, at hospices or private homes, our neighbors, both men and women (who do not veil) came to ask for our needs." He wrote that many people wanted to exchange bread for a Muslim prayer in Arabic. Ibn Battuta stopped in Konya, the home of Rumi, the Sufi poet who founded the whirling dervishes. In the fortified Black Sea port of Sinope he waited 51 days for a ship and survived a tortuous crossing to the Crimea. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Ibn Battuta praised Turkish hospitality and their piety, but was surprised that "they eat hashish and think no harm of it." On Alanya, he wrote: "There is a magnificent and formidable citadel [or fort] at the upper end of town. ... At the northwestern corner is a place where prisoners condemned to death were hurled over the precipice by means of catapults." [Source: pp. 124, 415-416, “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354", translated by translated and edited by ed. H. A. R. Gibb; ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

Ibn Battuta said that everywhere he went in Turkey he was welcomed into a fraternity of Muslim brothers, who provided him with food and shelter, and even competed with other fraternities for the honor of entertaining their guests. "We stayed here at the college mosque of the town... Now in all the lands inhabited by the Turkmens in Anatolia, in every district, town and village, there are to be found members of the organization known as the ... Young Brotherhood. Nowhere in the world will you find men so eager to welcome strangers, so prompt to serve food and to satisfy the wants of others... The members of this community work during the day to gain their livelihood, and bring ... what they have earned in the late afternoon. With this they buy fruit, food, and the other things which the hospice requires for their use. If a traveler comes to town that day they lodge him.... and he stays with them until he goes away. If there are no travelers they themselves assemble to partake of the food, and having eaten it they sing and dance. On the morrow they return to their occupations and bring their earnings to their leader in the late afternoon." [Gibb |::|]

He also stayed at the homes of important leaders, some of them related to the Il-Khan of Persia himself! And at each place, as was the custom, he was given "hospitality gifts": sometimes money, fine robes, a horse, or even a slave, and often a letter of introduction to some host in the next city on the trip. He praised most of hosts, especially for their generosity towards him, and criticizes one as "a worthless person."

Ibn Battuta on Turkish Women and Slaves

Ottoman women

On Turkish women, Ibn Battuta wrote: “A remarkable thing which I saw in this country was the respect shown to women by the Turks, for they hold a more dignified position than the men. ... I saw also the wives of the merchants and common [men]. [Their faces are] visible for the Turkish women do not veil themselves. Sometimes a woman will be accompanied by her husband and anyone seeing him would take him for one of her servants." [Source: pp. 425-426, Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354", translated by translated and edited by ed. H. A. R. Gibb; ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

However, in one town he didn’t like the way slave women were treated: "The inhabitants of this city make no effort to stamp out immorality - indeed, the same applies to the whole population of these regions. They buy beautiful Greek slave-girls and put them out to prostitution, and each girl has to pay a regular due to her master. I heard it said there that the girls go into the bath-houses along with the men, and anyone who wishes to indulge in depravity does so in the bath-house and nobody tries to stop him. I was told that the [governor] in this city owns slave-girls employed in this way." |::|

Ibn Battuta on Konya and the Whirling Dervishes

In Anatolia, Ibn Battuta visited Konya, the famous home of the Sufi poet Rumi and the whirling dervishes Sufi sect. Dance and whirling were used by Sufi brotherhoods and dervishes in Anatolia and Persia as a way to whip themselves into a trance-like state of ecstasy and bond with God. To reach Konya Ibn Battuta boards a Genoese merchant galley in Syria for the sea crossing to the southern coast of Anatolia and then made his way overland to Konya.

Ibn Battuta wrote: “It is a large town with fine buildings, and has many streams and fruit-gardens. The streets are exceedingly broad, and the bazaars admirably planned, with each craft in a bazaar of its is own. It is said that this city was built by Alexander. It is now in the territories of Sultan Badr ad-Din ibn Quraman, whom we shall mention presently, but it has sometimes been captured by the king of Iraq, as it lies close to his territories in this country. We stayed there at the hospice of the qadi, who is called Ibn Qa1am Shah, and is a member of the Futuwa. His hospice is very large indeed, and he has a great many disciples. They trace their affiliation to the Futuwa back to the Caliph 'Ali, and the distinctive garment of the order in their case is the trousers, just as the Sufis wear the patched robe. This qadi showed us even greater consideration and hospitality than our former benefactors and sent his son with us in his place to the bath.” [Source: pp. 130-134 “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu]

On dervishes he saw earlier in Iraq, Ibn Battuta wrote: “As the caravan stayed here [Wisit] three days, I had an opportunity of visiting the grave of ar-Rifai which is at a village called Umm 'Ubayda, one day's journey from there. I reached the establishment at noon the next day and found it to be an enormous monastery containing thousands of darwishes [dervishes]. After the mid-afternoon prayer drums and kettledrums were beaten and the darwishes began to dance. After this they prayed the sunset prayer and brought in the meal, consisting of rice-bread, fish, milk and dates. After the night prayer they began to recite their litany. A number of loads of wood had been brought in and kindled into a flame, and they went into the fire dancing; some of them rolled in it and others ate it in their mouths until they had extinguished it entirely. This is the peculiar custom of the Ahmadi darwishes. Some of them take large snakes and bite their heads with their teeth until they bite them clean through.”[Source: “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

Sultan of Birgi Shows Ibn Battuta a Meteor

20120510-Dervish Amedeo_Preziosi_-_Turks.jpg
Dervish by Amedeo Preziosi
Ibn Battuta wrote: “We went on to the town of Birgi [near present-day Izmir, Turkey] where we had been told there was a distinguished professor called Muhyi ad-Din. On reaching the madrasa we found him just arriving, mounted on a lively mule and wearing ample garments with gold embroidery, with his slaves and servants on either side of him and preceded by the students. He gave us a kindly welcome and invited me to visit him after the sunset prayer. I found him in a reception hall in his garden, which had a stream of water flowing through a white marble basin with a rim of enamelled tiles. He was occupying a raised seat covered with embroidered cloths, having a number of his students and slaves standing on either side of him, and when I saw him I took him for a king. He rose to greet me and made me sit next him on the dais, after which we were served with food and returned to the madrasa. [Source: “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“The sultan of Birgi was then at his summer quarters on a mountain close by and on receiving news of me from the professor sent for me. When I arrived with the professor he sent his two sons to ask how we were, and sent me a tent of the kind they call Khargah [kurgan]. It consists of wooden laths put together like a dome and covered with pieces of felt; the upper part is opened to admit the light and air and can be closed when required. Next day the sultan sent for us and asked me about the countries I had visited, then after food had been served we retired. This went on for several days, the sultan inviting us daily to join him at his meal, and one afternoon visiting us himself, on account of the respect which the Turks show for theologians. At length we both became weary of staying on this mountain, so the professor sent a message to the sultan that I wished to continue my journey, and received a reply that we should accompany the sultan to his palace in the city on the following day. \~\

“Next day he sent an excellent horse and descended with us to the city. On reaching the palace we climbed a long flight of stairs with him and came to a fine audience hall with a basin of water in the centre and a bronze lion at each corner of it spouting water from its mouth. Round the hall were daises covered with carpets, on one of which was the sultan's cushion. When we reached this place, the sultan removed his cushion and sat down beside us on the carpets. The Koran readers, who always attend the sultan's audiences, sat below the dais. After syrup and biscuits had been served I spoke thanking the sultan warmly and praising the professor, which pleased the sultan a great deal. \~\

“As we were sitting there, he said to me "Have you ever seen a stone that has fallen from the sky?" I replied " No, nor ever heard of one." "Well," he said, "a stone fell from the sky outside this town," and thereupon called for it to be brought A great black stone was brought, very hard and with a glitter in it, I reckon its weight was about a hundredweight. The sultan sent for stone breakers, and four of them came and struck it all together four times over with iron hammers, but made no impression on it. I was amazed, and he ordered it to be taken back to its place. \~\

“We stayed altogether fourteen days with this sultan. Every night he sent us food, fruit, sweetmeats and candles, and gave me in addition a hundred pieces of gold, a thousand dirhems, a complete set of garments and a Greek slave called Michael, as well as sending a robe and a gift of money to each of my companions. All this we owed to the professor Muhyi ad-Din--may God reward him with good !” \~\

Ibn Battuta Travels Along the Aegean and Black Sea Coasts

In November of 1331, Ibn Battuta and three friends, two slave boys and a slave girl, along with with several horses and gifts from governors and hosts, started out toward the Black Sea. During the first part of the trip he experienced more generosity and hospitality from the Turks. But during the later he endured a number of difficulties: being caught in a raging river; being mislead by a guide who got the party lost and demanded money; and then almost freezing to death in the wilderness. Finally they reached the port of Sinop on the Black Sea and made their way to steppe homelands of the "Golden Horde" (a mix of Mongols, Turks and Tartars).

Ibn Battuta wrote: “We went on through the town of Tim, which is in the territories of this sultan, to Aya Suluq [Ephesus], a large and ancient town venerated by the Greeks. It possesses a large church built of finely hewn stones, each measuring ten or more cubits in length. The cathedral mosque, which was formerly a church greatly venerated by the Greeks, is one of the most beautiful in the world. I bought a Greek slave girl here for forty dinars. [Source: pp. 136-137 and 141. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“We journeyed next to Bursa, a great city with fine bazaars and broad streets, surrounded by orchards and running springs. Outside it are two thermal establishments, one for men and the other for women, to which patients come from the most distant parts. They lodge there for three days at a hospice which was built by one of the Turkmen kings. In this town I met the pious Shaykh 'Abdullah the Egyptian, a traveller, who went all round the world, except that he never visited China, Ceylon, the West, or Spain or the Negrolands, so that in visiting those countries I have surpassed him. \~\

“The sultan of Bursa is Orkhan Bek, son of Othman Chuk. He is the greatest of the Turkmen kings and the rischest in wealth, lands, and military forces, and possesses nearly a hundred fortresses which he is continually visiting for inspection and putting to rights. He fights with the infidels and besieges them. It was his father who captured Bursa from the Greeks, and it is said that he besieged Yaznik [Nicea] for about twenty years, but died before it was taken. His son Orkhan besieged it twelve years before capturing it, and it was there that I saw him. \~\

“Yaznik lies in a lake and can be reached only by one road like a bridge admitting only a single horseman at a time. It is in ruins and uninhabited except for a few men in the Sultan's service. It is defended by four walls with a moat between each pair, and is entered over wooden drawbridges. Inside there are orchards and houses and fields, and drinking water is obtained from wells. I stayed in this town forty days owing to the illness of one of my horses, but growing impatient at the delay I left it and went on with three of my companions and a slave girl and two slave boys. We had no one with us who could speak Turkish well enough to interpret for us, for the interpreter we had left us at Yaznik. After leaving this town [Nicea] we crossed a great river called Saqari [Sakaria] by a ferry. This consisted of four beams bound together with ropes, on which the passengers are placed, together with their saddles and baggage; it is pulled across by men on the further bank, and the horses swim behind. \~\

Upon arriving on the Black Sea coast, Ibn Battuta wrote: “[Sinope is] a populous town combining strength with beauty. It is surrounded by sea except on the east, where there is only one gate which no one is allowed to enter without permission from the governor, Ibrahim Bek, who is a son of Sulayman Padshah. Outside the town there are eleven villages inhabited by Greek infidels. The cathedral mosque at Sanub [Sinope] is a most beautiful building, constructed by Sultan Parwanah. He was succeeded by his son Ghazi Chelebi, at whose death the town was seized by Sultan Sulayman. Ghazi Chelebi was a brave and audacious man, with a peculiar capacity for swimming under water. He used to sail out with his war vessels to fight the Greeks, and when the fleets met and everyone was occupied with the fighting he would dive under the water carrying an iron tool with which he pierced the enemy's ships, and they knew nothing about it until all at once they sank. \~\

At the Black Sea ports were: 1) trade goods of the steppe such as grains, timber, furs, salt, wax, and honey; 2) Silk Road goods from Persia or China; and 3) slaves, many of them war captives or children sold by their poor parents in order to survive. Some were sold at slave markets in Cairo; others were sent to work in the sugar plantations of Cyprus or to serve rich families in Italy. [Source: “The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, a Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century” by Ross E. Dunn, University of California Press, 1989]

Ibn Battuta Sails from Sinope to the Crimea

Ibn Battuta travel across the Black Sea from Sinope to the Crimea in what is now the Ukraine and southern Russia. According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “After waiting more than a month for good weather, Ibn Battuta and his small party boarded a ship and began to cross the Black Sea. Severe storms hit and almost capsized the ship, but after several days of panic and near disaster, they arrived at the opposite coast. Then they reached Kaffa, a Genoese (Italian) colony which had about 200 ships in its harbor. Here lived traders from Genoa, Venice, Egypt, Russia, and elsewhere. There was only one mosque in the town since most of the Europeans were Christians. When the Church bell rang, Ibn Battuta and his friend were offended! They went up to the top of their lodging and out of anger started the call for Muslim prayer! Some other Muslims rushed to them and tried to stop what might cause a religious fight! The next day they continued on to a city with a much larger Muslim population.[Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

On the trip across the Black Sea from Sinope to the Crimea, Ibn Battuta wrote: “We stayed at Sanub [Sinope] about forty days waiting for the weather to became favourable for sailing to the town of Qiram [in the Crimea]. Then we hired a vessel belonging to the Greeks and waited another eleven days for a favourable wind. At length we set sail, but after travelling for three nights, we were beset in mid-sea by a terrible tempest. The storm raged with unparalleled fury, then the wind changed and drove us back nearly to Sanub. The weather cleared and we set out again, and after another tempest like the former, we at length saw the hills on the land. We made for a harbour called Karsh [Kerch], intending to enter it, but some people on the hill made signs to us not to enter, and fearing that there were enemy vessels in the port, we turned back along the coast. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~\]

“As we approached the land I said to the master of the ship "I want to descend here, so he put me ashore." The place was in the Qipchaq desert [steppe] which is green and verdant, but flat and treeless. There is no firewood so they make fires of dung, and you will see even the highest of them picking it up and putting it in the skirts of their garments. The only method of travelling in this desert is in waggons; it extends for six months' journey, of which three are in the territories of Sultan Muhammad Uzbeg. \~\

“The day after our arrival one of the merchants in our company hired some waggons from the Qipchaqs who inhabit this desert, and who are Christians, and we came to Kafa [Kaffa], a large town extending along the sea-coast, inhabited by Christians, mostly Genoese, whose governor is called Damdir [Demetrio]. We stayed at Kaffa in the mosque of the Muslims. An hour after our arrival we heard bells ringing on all sides. As I had never heard bells before, I was alarmed and made my companions ascend the minaret and read the Koran and issue the call to prayer. They did so, when suddenly a man entered wearing armour and weapons and greeted us. He told us that he was the qadi of the Muslims there, and said "When I heard the reading and the call to prayer, I feared for your safety and came as you see." Then he went away, but no evil befel us. \~\

“The next day the governor came to us and entertained us to a meal, then we went round the city and found it provided with fine bazaars. All the inhabitants are infidels. We went down to the port and saw a magnificent harbour with about two hundred vessels in it, ships of war and trading vessels, small and large, for it is one of the most notable harbours in the world. \~\

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated September 2016

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