In the Crimea, Ibn Battuta was welcomed with hospitality by Christian "infidels." He was given a banquet by a Christian emir and put up in a mosque surrounded by churches. "We heard the sound of [bells] on every side, and never having heard them before I was alarmed at this an bade my companions climb the minaret and chant the Koran." [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Their timing was good. When they arrived in al-Qiram, they learned they had arrived just in time to make the 1,100-kilometer trip to the Volga River under the protection of the Khan of the Golden Horde who was traveling only a few days ahead. Ibn Battuta’s group bought three wagons and animals to pull them and rushed to catch up. (One wagon was for Ibn Battuta himself and a slave girl - with whom he would father another child. A second wagon was for his friend, and a third large one was for the rest of his companions and other slaves.) At that time a rich steppe dweller might own one or two hundred wagons. [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

When Genghis Khan died he divided the Mongol Empire into four "khanates" for his sons and grandsons. The Golden Horde was the northwestern khanate (including much of Eastern Europe and Russia). The Golden Horde was led a Mongol Khan but was made up of various steppe tribes that included Mongols, Turks and Tartars. Some translations of the Golden Horde, refer to them as Turks. Unlike the Mongols that lived in Persia and China, who settled in cities and adopted local cultures, the Golden Horde maintained their nomadic ways on the Russian steppes. Travel in this region and this time was primarily in wagons pulled by teams of horses, camels, or oxen. Caravans of these wagons were not all that different from American wagon trains in that the wagons were covered with tent-like coverings. In the case of the Mongols and Turkish nomads, their wagons were covered a variation of a yurt, a round felt tent made over a wooden frame. |::|

Soon they caught up to the caravan of the Khan Uzbeg, King of the Golden Horde. The Khan's caravan was like "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"[Source: p. 167 “The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, a Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century” by Ross E. Dunn, University of California Press, 1989]

On the Russian steppe, Ibn Battuta met Uzbeg Khan. Later he traveled down the frozen Volga river in the wintertime. "I used to put on three fur coats and two pairs of trousers and on my feet I had woolen boots, with a pair of boots quilted with linen cloth on top of them and on top of these again was a pair of horsehide boots lined with bearskin." He says he was so weighted down he had to be lifted on his horse.

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;

Ibn Battuta on the Overland Silk Road to India

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. 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 - ]

Ibn Battuta's route in Central Asia and India

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.” -

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. ||

Wagon Travel and Food of the Golden Horde

By this time Ibn Battuta’s fame had grown so that he and his entourage moved with "arabas" (wheeled wagons), which carried felt tents. He wrote that one "can employ himself in it as he likes, sleeping or eating or reading or writing on the way. I prepared for my own conveyance a wagon covered with felt, taking with me in it a slave girl of mine, another small wagon for my associate...and for the rest of many companions a large wagon drawn by three camels." [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

Golden Horde territory

Ibn Battuta wrote: “We hired a waggon and travelled to the town of Qiram, which forms part of the territories of Sultan Uzbeg Khan and has a governor called Tuluktumur. On hearing of our arrival the governor sent the imam to me with a horse; he himself was ill, but we visited him and he treated us honourably and gave us gifts. He was on the point of setting out for the town of Sari, the capital of the Khan, so I prepared to travel along with him and hired waggons for that purpose. These waggons have four large wheels and are drawn by two or more horses, or by oxen or camels, according to their weight. The driver rides on one of the horses and carries a whip or wooden goad. On the waggon is put a light tent made of wooden laths bound with strips of hide and covered with felt or blanket-cloth, and it has grilled windows so that the person inside can see without being seen. One can do anything one likes inside, sleep, eat, read or write, during the march. The waggons conveying the baggage and provisions are covered with a similar tent which is locked. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“We set out with the amir Tuluktumur and his brother and two sons. At every halt the Turks [let] loose their horses, oxen and camels, and drive them out to pasture at liberty, night or day, without shepherds or guardians. This is due to the severity of their laws against theft. Any person found in possession of a stolen horse is obliged to restore it with nine others; if he cannot do this, his sons are taken instead, and if he has no sons he is slaughtered like a sheep.” \~\

Ibn Battuta said the food of Golden Horse "dugi" (millet porridge, on which curdled milk was poured), horse and sheep meat and "rishta" (a kind of macaroni cooked and eaten with milk).They drank mares' milk (horse milk) and a fermented (alcoholic) drink called "buza" made from grain . Ibn Battuta was shocked they ignored the Muslim ban on alcohol. Ibn Battuta wrote: “They do not eat bread nor any solid food, but prepare a soup with a kind of millet, and any meat they may have is cut into small pieces and cooked in this soup. Everyone is given his share in a plate with curdled milk, and they drink it, afterwards drinking curdled mares milk, which they call qumizz [kumis]. They have also a fermented drink prepared from the same grain, which they call buza [beer] and regard as lawful to drink. It is white in colour; I tasted it once and found it bitter, so I left it alone. They regard the eating of sweetmeats as a disgrace. One day during Ramadan I presented Sultan Uzbeg with a plate of sweetmeats which one of my companions had made, but he did no more than touch them with his finger and then place it in his mouth.” he aso said they "do not eat any meat unless the bones are mixed with it" and they dipped their meat into a salt-water sauce. He mentions some bread and fruits: grapes, apples, pears, quinces. \~\

Russian steppe

Horses of the Golden Horde

Ibn Battuta wrote: “The horses in this country are very numerous and the price of them is negligible. A good one costs about a dinar of our money. The livelihood of the people depends on them, and they are as numerous as sheep in our country, or even more so. A single Turk will possess thousands of horses. They are exported to India in droves of six thousand or so, each merchant possessing one or two hundred of them or less or more. For each fifty they hire a keeper, who looks after their pasturage. He rides on one of them, carrying a long stick with a rope attached to it, and when he wishes to catch any horse he gets opposite it on the horse which he is riding, throws the rope over its neck and draws it towards him, mounts it and sets the other free to pasture. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“On reaching Sind [in India] the horses are fed with forage, because the vegetation of Sind will not take the place of barley, and the greater part of them die or are stolen. The owners pay a duty of seven silver dinars on entering Sind and a further duty at Multan. Formerly they were taxed a quarter of the value of their imports, but Sultan Muhammad abolished this tax and ordered that Muslim merchants should pay the legal tithe and infidel merchants a tenth. Nevertheless the merchants make a handsome profit, for the least that a horse fetches [in India] is a hundred dinars (that is twenty-five dinars in Moroccan money) and it often sells for twice or three times that amount. A good horse sells for five hundred or more. The Indians do not buy them as racehorses, for in battle they wear coats of mail and cover their horses with armour; what they prize in a horse is its strength and length of pace. Their racehorses are brought from Yemen, Oman and Firs, and they cost from a thousand to four thousand dinars each. \~\

Women of the Golden Horde

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. The first time that I saw a princess was when, on leaving Qiram, I saw the wife of the amir in her waggon. The entire waggon was covered with rich blue woollen cloth, and the windows and doors of the tent were open. With the princess were four maidens, exquisitely beautiful and richly dressed, and behind her were a number of waggons with maidens belonging to her suite. When she came near the amir's camp she alighted with about thirty of the maidens who carried her train. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“On her garments there were loops, of which each maiden took one, and lifted her train clear of the ground on all sides, and she walked in this stately manner. When she reached the amir he rose before her and greeted her and sat her beside him, with the maidens standing round her. Skins of qumizz were brought and she, pouring some into a cup, knelt before him and gave it to him, afterwards pouring out a cup for his brother. Then the amir poured out a cup for her and food was brought in and she ate with him. He then gave her a robe and she withdrew. \~\

“I saw also the wives of the merchants and commonalty. One of them will sit in a waggon which is being drawn by horses, attended by three or four maidens to carry her train, and on her head she wears a conical headdress incrusted with pearls and surmounted by peacock feathers. The windows of the tent are open and her face is 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; he has no garment other than a sheep's wool cloak and a high cap to match. \~\

Ibn Battuta Reaches the Uzbeg Khan’s Camp

In Bish Dagh (present-day Pyatigorsk), Ibn Battuta stayed at the khans's royal encampment. He described it as a "vast city on the move...with mosques and bazaars in it, the smoke of the kitchens rising in the air (for the cooks on the march)." On getting there, Ibn Battuta wrote: “We then prepared for the journey to the sultan's camp, which was four days' march [to] a place called Bishdagh, which means "Five mountains." In these mountains there is a hot spring in which the Turks bathe, claiming that it prevents illness. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“We arrived at the camp on the first day of Ramadan and found that it was moving to the neighbourhood from which we had just come, so we returned thither. I set up my tent on a hill there, fixing a standard in the ground in front of it, and drew up the horses and waggons behind. Thereupon the mahalla approached (the name they give to it is the ordu) and we saw a vast town on the move with all its inhabitants, containing mosques and bazaars, the smoke from the kitchens rising in the air (for they cook while on the march), and horse-drawn waggons transporting them. On reaching the encampment they took the tents off the waggons and set them upon the ground, for they were very light, and they did the same with the mosques and shops. \~\

“The sultan's khatuns [wives] passed by us, each separately with her own retinue. The fourth of them, as she passed, saw the tent on top of the hill [i.e., Ibn Battuta's tent] with the standard in front of it, which is the mark of a new arrival, and sent pages and maidens to greet me and convey her salutations, herself halting to wait for them. I sent her a gift by one of my companions and the chamberlain of the amir Tuluktumur. She accepted it as a blessing and gave orders that I should be taken under her protection, then went on. Afterwards the sultan arrived and camped with his mahalla separately. \~\

Russian rendering of the Golden Horde

Uzbeg Khan

When Ibn Battuta met Uzbeg, he was seated upon a silver throne in the middle of a huge tent whose exterior was covered with a layer of bright gold tiles. His family was seated below the throne, but the four wives were seated next to him. Dunn wrote: "In the Mongol states, women of the court shared openly and energetically in the governing of the realm. Princesses, like their brothers, were awarded land which they ruled and taxed.” [Source: “The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, a Muslim Traveler of the Fourteenth Century” by Ross E. Dunn, University of California Press, 1989 +++]

Ibn Battuta wrote: “The illustrious Sultan Muhammad Uzbeg Khan is the ruler of a vast kingdom and a most powerful sovereign, victor over the enemies of God, the people of Constantinople the Great, and diligent in warring against them. He is one of the seven mighty kings of the world, to wit: [first], our master the Commander of the Faithful, may God strengthen his might and magnify his victory! [the sultan of Morocco]; [second] the sultan of Egypt and Syria; [third], the sultan of the Two Iraqs; [fourth], this Sultan Uzbeg; [fifth], the sultan of Turkistan and the lands beyond the Oxus; [sixth], the sultan of India; and [seventh], the sultan of China [the emperor]. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“The day after my arrival I visited him [Uzbeg Khan] in the afternoon at a ceremonial audience; a great banquet was prepared and we broke our fast in his presence. These Turks do not follow the custom of assigning a lodging to visitors and giving them money for their expenses, but they send him sheep and horses for slaughtering and skins of qumizz, which is their form of benefaction. \~\

“Every Friday, after the midday prayer, the sultan holds an audience in a pavilion called the Golden Pavilion, which is richly decorated. In the centre there is a wooden throne covered with silver-gilt plates, the legs being of pure silver set with jewels at the top. The sultan sits on the throne, having on his right the Khatun Taytughli with the khatun Kebek on her right, and on his left the khatun Bayalun with the khatun Urduja on her left. Below the throne stand the sultan's sons, the elder on the right and the younger on the left, and his daughter sits in front of him. He rises to meet each Khatun as she arrives and takes her by the hand until she mounts to the throne. All this takes place in view of the whole people, without any screening. \~\

On how Khan greeted his wives, Ibn Battuta wrote: "[The ruler] advances to the entrance 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...The horses that draw [each wife's] wagon are [decorated] with silk .. In front of the wagons are ten or fifteen pages (young boy servants), Greeks and Indians, who are dressed in robes of silk encrusted with jewels, and each of whom carries in his hand a mace of gold or silver... Behind her wagon there are about a hundred wagons, in each of which there are four slave girls full-grown or young... Behind these wagons still are about three hundred wagons, drawn by camels and oxen, carrying the [wife's] chests, moneys, robes, furnishings, and food." [+++ Dunn, p. 168 - 169]

Ibn Battuta Meets Uzbeg's Wives, the Khatuns

Uzbeg Khan

Ibn Battuta wrote: “On the morrow of my interview with the sultan I visited the principal khatun Taytughli, who is the queen and the mother of the sultan's two sons. She was sitting in the midst of ten aged women, who appeared to be servants of hers, and had in front of her about fifty young maidens with gold and silver salvers filled with cherries which they were cleaning. The khatun also had a golden tray filled with cherries in front of her and was cleaning them. She ordered qumizz to be brought and with her own hand poured out a cupful and gave it to me, which is the highest of honours in their estimation. I had never drunk qumizz before, but there was nothing for me but to accept it. I tasted it, but found it disagreeable and passed it on to one of my companions. The following day we visited the second khatun Kebek and found her sitting on a divan reading the holy Koran. She also served me with qumizz. [Source: pp. 147-155. “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“The third khatun Bayalun is the daughter [almost certainly an illegitimate daughter] of the Emperor of Constantinople the Great. On visiting her we found her sitting on a throne set with jewels, with about a hundred maidens, Greek, Turkish and Nubian, standing or sitting in front of her. Behind her were eunuchs and in front of her Greek chamberlains. She asked how we were and about our journey and the distance of our native lands, and wept, in pity and compassion, wiping her face with a handkerchief that lay before her. She ordered food to be served and we ate in her presence, and when we desired to leave she said "Do not sever relations with us, but come often to us and inform us of your needs." She showed great kindness to us and after we had gone sent us food, a great quantity of bread, butter, sheep, money, a magnificent robe and thirteen horses, three good ones and ten of the ordinary sort. It was with this khatun that I made my journey to Constantinople the Great, as we shall relate hereafter. \~\

“The fourth khatun is one of the best, most amiable and sympathetic of princesses. We visited her and she showed us a kindness and generosity that cannot be surpassed. By the sultan's daughter however we were treated with a generosity and kindness that no other khatun showed us; she loaded us with surpassing favours, may God reward her!

Ibn Battuta’s Trip from Southern Russia to Constantinople

Ibn Battuta left the steppe kingdom of Uzbeg Khan with the retinue of Uzbeg's wife, the khatun Bayalan, a Byzantine princess, on a journey to visit her father, The Emperor of Byzantium, In Constantinople. According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: When Ibn Battuta and his entourage reached Astrakhan, on the Volga River in southern Russia, “Ibn Battuta learned that the third wife of the Khan was pregnant. The Khan gave her permission to go back to her father - the King of the Byzantine Empire - to have her baby in Constantinople. Ibn Battuta asked the Khan if he could go along and also got permission. Here was an unexpected opportunity to see another part of the world, his first time to go beyond” the Islamic world “and see one of the great cities of the world. (There was nothing unusual about Muslim Turks or Arabs visiting Christian Constantinople in the 14th century. Merchants and ambassadors went there whenever business required it, and there was even a mosque in the heart of the city.) [Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

So in July, 1332, they set out with about 5,000 horsemen, 500 of her personal soldiers and servants, 200 slave girls, 20 Indian and Greek pages, 400 wagons, 2,000 horses and about 500 oxen and camels. (The unfortunate people who lived along the route were obligated to provide this huge caravan with food! This was part of their "tax" and required support for their rulers.) After traveling about 75 days they arrived in Constantinople. Ibn Battuta noticed that as they got closer, the former Christian princess stopped the calls to prayer; wines were brought to her and she even ate pork! [Her marriage to the Khan was a political arrangement made by her Christian father to gain advantages from the Muslim ruler.]” |::|

Ibn Battuta wrote: “We set out . . . in the company of the khatun Bayalun and under her protection. The sultan [Uzbeg] escorted her one stage then returned, he and the queen [the khatun Taytughli] and the heir to the throne; the other khatuns accompanied her [the khatun Bayalan] for a second stage and then returned. The amir Baydara with five thousand troops travelled with her, and her own troops numbered about five hundred horsemen, two hundred of whom were her attendant slaves and Greeks, and the remainder Turks. She had with her also about two hundred maidens, most of whom were Greeks, and about four hundred carts and about two thousand draught and riding horses, as well as three hundred oxen and two hundred camels. She had also ten Greek youths and the same number of Indians, whose leader-in-chief was called Sunbul the Indian; the leader of the Greeks was a man of conspicuous bravery called Michael, but the Turks gave him the name of Lu'lu' [Pearl]. She left most of her maidens and her baggage at the sultan's camp, since she had set out only to pay a visit [to her father the emperor]. [Source: pp. 152-159, “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“Then her brother, whose name was Kifali Qaras, arrived with five thousand horsemen, fully accoutred in armour. When they prepared to meet the princess, her brother, dressed in white, rode a grey horse, having over his head a parasol ornamented with jewels. On his right hand he had five princes and the same number on his left hand, all dressed in white also, and with parasols embroidered in gold over their heads. In front of him were a hundred foot soldiers and a hundred horsemen, who wore long coats of mail over themselves and their horses, each one of them leading a saddled and armoured horse carrying the arms of a horseman, consisting of a jewelled helmet, a breastplate, a bow, and a sword, and each man had in his hand a lance with a pennant at its head. Most of these lances were covered with plaques of gold and silver. These led horses are the riding horses of the sultan's son. \~\

“His horsemen were divided into squadrons, two hundred horsemen in each squadron. Over them was a commander, who had in front of him ten of the horsemen, fully accoutred in armour, each leading a horse, and behind him ten coloured standards, carried by ten of the horsemen, and ten kettledrums slung over the shoulders of ten of the horsemen, with whom were six others sounding trumpets and bugles and fifes. \~\

“The khatun rode out with her guards, maidens, slave boys and servants, these numbering about five hundred, all wearing silken garments, embroidered with gold and encrusted with precious stones. She herself was wearing a garment of gold brocade, encrusted with jewels, with a crown set with precious stones on her head, and her horse was covered with a saddle-cloth of silk embroidered in gold. On its legs were bracelets of gold and round its neck necklaces set with precious stones, and her saddle frame was covered with gold ornamented with jewels. \~\

“Their meeting took place in a flat piece of ground about a mile distant from the town. Her brother dismounted to her, because he was younger than her, and kissed her stirrup and she kissed his head. The commanders and princes also dismounted and they all kissed her stirrup, after which she set out with her brother. \~\

Border of Byzantium and the Golden Horde Territory


Ibn Battuta wrote: “The Greeks had heard that this khatun was returning to her country, and there came to this fortress [at the Byzantine border] to meet her the Greek Kifali [Greek kephale, meaning chief] Nicolas, with a large army and a large hospitality-gift, accompanied by the princesses and nurses from the palace of her father, the king of Constantinople. From Mahtuli to Constantinople is a journey of twenty-two days, sixteen to the canal [unclear, perhaps the Danube?], and six thence to Constantinople. From this [border] fortress one travels on horses and mules only, and the waggons are left behind there on account of the rough ground and the mountains. Kifali had brought many mules, six of which the khatun sent to me. She also commended to the care of the governor of the fortress those of my companions and of my slaves whom I had left behind with the waggons and baggage, and he assigned them a house. [Source: pp. 152-159, “Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354"; Fordham University fordham.edu \~]

“The commander Baydara returned [to Uzbeg Khan] with his troops, and none travelled on with the khatun but her own people. She left her mosque behind at the fort and the practice of calling to prayer was abolished. As part of her hospitality-gifts she was given intoxicating liquors, which she drank, and swine, and I was told by one of her suite that she ate them. No one remained with her who prayed except one Turk, who used to pray with us. Sentiments formerly hidden were revealed because of our entry into the land of the infidels, but the khatun charged the amir Kifali to treat us honourably, and on one occasion he beat one of his guards because he had laughed at our prayer.” \~\


Ibn Battuta’s Travels in Central Asia

After Constantinople, in 1333, Ibn Battuta took the long route on the Silk Road to India by traveling through modern-day Russia, Central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ibn Battuta returned to Astrakhan, then arrived in the capital city Sarai al-Jadid (New Saray) and reported the accounts of his travels to Uzbeg Beg Khan and then continued past the Caspian and Aral Seas to Bukhara and Samarkand. [Source: Wikipedia]

Ibn Battuta spent 40 days traveling in a wagon shared with three slave girls from the Golden Horde capital of Sarai al-Jadid to Khwariszm, an affluent oasis south of the Aral Sea, and then spent 18 more days traveling across the desert to Samarkand. From Samarkand, as usual, he took a roundabout route to India, passing through Meshed and Neyshabur, Persia and the desert plateau of northern Afghanistan. At Kunduz he camped for six weeks to allow his horses to graze in the high altitude pastures before tackling the snowy passes of the Hindu Kush. [Source: Thomas Abercrombie, National Geographic, December 1991]

19th century Uzbek mir

According to Nick Bartel and ORIAS: “Ibn Battuta and the royal escorts returned to the steppe just as the terrible Asian winter was beginning. He wore three fur coats, two pairs of trousers, two pairs of heavy socks, and heavy boots lined with bearskin. Whenever he washed with hot water, the water would run down his beard and freeze. They again reached Astrakhan, but continued northward to meet the Khan who was then at New Saray, a city up the now-frozen Volga River. New Saray was "of boundless size ... choked with its inhabitants." Its bazaars handled metal ware, leather, silk and woolens, grain, furs, timber, and slaves. Here, too, were a band of Muslim scholars and hopeful bureaucrats eager to find jobs in the frontier cities of Dar al-Islam.[Source: Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

Ibn Battuta left the Volga River colony and headed south, generally toward India. For five months he traveled through regions conquered by the Mongols. In the aftermath of the conquest, civilization for a time simply vanished. In Bukhara, Ibn Battuta reports, "the mosques, colleges, and bazaars are in ruins ... There is not one person in it today who possesses any learning or who shows any concern for acquiring it." [Dunn, p. 175 - 176] The once-great walled cities that tried to resist the Mongols had been totally destroyed.” |::|

Douglas Bullis wrote in Aramco World: “The trade routes Ibn Battuta traversed north of the Caspian were less busy than those across Afghanistan and Iran. Nonetheless, amber came down this way from the Baltic Sea to China via Moscow and the Volga. (He claims to have made an abortive attempt to journey up the Volga to the capital of the Bulgar state, but scholars doubt his veracity on this.) After his return to the steppes from Constantinople, Ibn Battuta relates descriptions of the route's continuation along the Silk Road and its cities. [Source: Douglas Bullis, Aramco World, July-August 2000 /*]

Ibn Battuta the Sultan of the Chagatai Khanate

In what is now Uzbekistan, Ibn Battuta visited the court of another Mongol king, Tarmashirin (r. 1331–1334) of the Chagatai Khanate. Douglas Bullis wrote in Aramco World: “ Near Samarkand Ibn Battuta spent 54 days with Tarmashirin, the Chagatay khan who had only recently converted to Islam and was interested in what a worldly-wise qadi might tell him. Although Tarmashirin "never failed to attend the dawn and evening prayers with the congregation," he was overthrown by a nephew soon thereafter. [Source: Douglas Bullis, Aramco World, July-August 2000 /*]

Ibn Battuta told of the cruelty King Kabak of Transoxiana or Chagatay and how he settled a dispute about a drink of milk: “A woman laid a complaint before [the king] against one of the amirs (military leaders). She stated that she was a poor woman with children to support, that she had some milk [for sale] with the price of which she would procure food for them, and that the amir had taken it from her by force, and drunk it. [The king] said to her, 'I shall cut him in two; if the milk comes out of his belly, he has gone to his fate, but if not I shall cut you in two after him'. The woman said, '[No,] I release him from the obligation... But [the king] gave the order, the man was cut in two, and the milk came out of his stomach." [Source: Gibb, p. 557; Travels of Ibn Battuta, Nick Bartel and ORIAS, U. C. Berkeley, ibnbattuta.berkeley.edu |::|]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: ; 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; 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 November 2016

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