My name is Ibn Battuta and I was born in NorthWestern Africa in Tangier, Morocco I am keeping this journal to record my travels to the Middle East. More specifically, I will be traveling to complete my hajj or Muslim pilgrimage, and it will take me to the holy city of Mecca in the Middle East, to fulfill the fifth pillar of Islam. I’m setting out on my travels alone after I could not find a companion to accompany me on my journey or a group of travelers to join, and I am leaving behind my family of qadi, or Muslim legal scholars, that I grew up in.
Leaving my parents and friends, whom I have known my entire 21 years of life, will be difficult, but I must quench my thirst for knowledge, adventure, and learning from the greatest scholars of my time. As well as, my long-needed desire to visit the illustrious sanctuaries of Mecca. My long journey will begin traveling along the coast of Northern Africa, riding on a lone donkey.
It’s supposed to be a dangerous trek across many countries, but this is a risk I have been willing to take for a while now. I will leave Morocco by riding through the interior region of the Atlas Mountains in my home state. I will write more after I have begun my travels.
After traveling through the mountains, I eventually arrived at the trading city of Tlemcen located in northwestern Algeria, where I joined a pilgrim caravan that would eventually make its way across the North African coast but would encounter very few people.
There was the possibility of traveling for days without seeing any towns. I have the feeling we might encounter some camel herders and possibly merchants or traders along the way, but I’m hoping to eventually encounter another group of travelers, very much like myself, or possibly a caravan of pilgrims on their route to Mecca.
Yes, my prayers to Allah have been answered! I met a pilgrimage caravan traveling along the same path as me today and they were very kind and devoted to their hajj, which I find very comforting as I am going by myself on my hajj. Some of them were riding donkeys, as I was, but there were some riding other animals, including horses, camels, and donkeys. Along the way, we conversed and realized we had both stumbled upon camps occupied by the Berber people along the path, especially located in the desert.
When I arrived in the amazing city of Cairo in Egypt, I stopped for a minute to take in the image of organized chaos set before me in the streets. The narrow streets of Egypt were packed with people and animals alike rushing to purchase goods and products from the shops and markets that lined the streets. The sites that I viewed before I arrived in this city have paled in comparison to this wonder. Cairo is home to the capital of the Mamluk Sultanate and its politicians rule from this city, which explains the grandeur and beauty. It seemed to be a very Islamic city because many Muslims found their home here after the Mongols sacked the city of Baghdad. It contains many places where the poor and unfortunate may find refuge, including places like mosques, universities, and hospitals. I was told by a local vendor and merchant they were built by the military commanders of the city who are continually competing with each other in the race to do charitable deeds and found mosques and places of worship. I will stay in Cairo for around a month and then proceed to Mecca on my own through Upper Egypt and through the port of ‘Aydhad in the Red Sea, which will eventually lead me to the Arabian Coast. This route is supposed to be safer than the other options and I will be under the protection of the Mamluk sultan, so it should be an easy voyage.
After beginning my trek up the Nile, instead of choosing to travel along the river by boat, I chose to travel overland instead. I have been lodging at the homes of many prestigious individuals, including scholars, qadis, and Sufis. By traveling overland instead of by river, I have had the unique experience to observe the flooding of the Nile that normally occurs during June, this flooding is monumentally important to the agriculture, economy, and taxation of the people of Egypt. The land tax in this country depends on high how the river rises. For example, if it rises 16 cubits the land tax will be paid in full however it diminishes or damages farmland if it exceeds 18 cubits or only rises by 15. It will also affect the mood and the spirit of the people and may cause them much misery. My trip has primarily gone on without any incidents occurring, but in the town of How along the southern bend of the Nile River, I met a man who shared a troubling prophecy that I chose to ignore. Regardless, I will share information about the omen here that stated that I would not make my pilgrimage in any way, except for through Syria.
When my party and I reached the Red Sea, we discovered that the ruling family in the area was in revolt against the Mamluk sultan and they were promising violence. We have been forced to retreat to Cairo and take a secondary route to Mecca through Damascus, Syria. This was a safer route, as the Mamluk people protected this northeastward course. This series of events coincided exactly with what the prophecy declared, which is interesting, but I am going to try and not pay too much mind to it.
Traveling along the caravan dedicated to the pilgrims traveling for the hajj revealed itself to not be as comfortable as I had foreseen. Especially, considering the distance between Damascus and Medina is about 820 miles, which takes about 45 to 60 days to travel, and I have no way to earn money because I’m still unemployed. So, I have had to accept charitable donations from many other pilgrims, who were willing to assist me along the way. There was one person, in particular, a law professor, who hired camels for me and gave me provisions for traveling and money. I was so thankful for this great kindness that so many strangers had shown me. When we reached the city of medina without interruption we proceeded to the grave of Muhammad, which has become the second site of pilgrimage for many Muslims due to his proximity to Mecca. The idea was for everyone to reside in the local holy mosques and move on to Mecca in 4 days. We will spend our time in Medina reciting from the Holy Koran, singing songs to praise God, and worshipping at the Holy tomb of Muhammad.
Hurrah! We finally reached Mecca after our time in Medina and our long travels. It has taken me a year and a half to reach my final destination from my home state, and I am so glad for the journey and knowledge that was acquired along the way I will perform the religious ceremonies in Mecca wearing the same cloth since I left Medina. This is a simple white cloth called an ihram. The first stop in Mecca is at the religious shrine called the Ka’ba where we are supposed to pray and bow around the shrine. I plan to spend the following three weeks in Mecca studying with great Muslim scholars and meeting them. But, after I graduate with the status of al-Hajji, or one who has been on the Hajj, I don’t want to go straight back home. There is so much of the world to see and understand and knowledge to be acquired in distant kingdoms, such as the Delhi Sultanate in India. I am thinking I should travel there to the court and find an opportunity or a job. Or should I spend this time traveling instead?
After completing my third pilgrimage to Mecca, before heading to the Delhi Sultanate in India, I wanted to continue my travels and this time travel northeastward to Anatolia. From there, I have the opportunity to ride a Turkish caravan to India if I see fit. My group and I left Damascus by way of a galley, straight from Genoa, and headed to Alanya. Alanya is an important trading port in Anatolia, most importantly used by Egypt and Syria used to transport wood. We traveled over the sea for a total of 9 days and 10 nights alongside many Christians who still occupy the land since it was conquered by Muslims. They were very kind to us and it represented their fine country well. We just arrived in Anatolia and I was taken aback by many things in this accomplished city. On one hand, I admire the people’s dedication to hosting and making visitors feel welcome, as well as their commitment as Sunnis to the Muslim faith. But at the same time, I was taken aback by their desire to consume hashish and believe there will be no harm to their bodies and minds in it. I find it almost disrespectful in a way, but if that’s how they want to waste their health and time, then who am I to stop it.
As I have traveled through Anatolia and its beautiful cities, I have been welcomed into fraternities and homes of Muslim brothers, who welcomed me and others and provided food and shelter. But, I also had the favorable circumstance to reside with important leaders of the region, including the Il-Khan of Persia. They gave me gifts to represent their will of hospitality. I have never experienced such generosity, and it helped me along my journey because they often shared with me a letter of introduction to another host in the next city.
Today, we started crossing distance toward the Black Sea. I wasn’t traveling alone though, because I was joined by three of my close friends and three slave children, along with gifts from hosts that had been kind enough to house me during my time away from home. I was so grateful to the Turks for all of their generosity and hospitality, but I now have to be careful who I trust due to an incident that occurred at the river. A guide who was supposed to be leading us, got my party lost, and we ended up almost dying from frostbite and hypothermia from getting caught in the river. Regardless, we are on our way now and should soon be reaching the port that will connect us to the Black Sea. Its time to continue our travels through the steppe lands of Asia.
My recent travels have taken me on a series of missteps, including previously losing all of my belongings to pirates and shipwrecksseaportsIt, I have made the executive decision to continue my journey on my own and head to China. I don’t believe that my loss of belongings will hinder the progression of my expedition because of the charity of Muslims in many Malaysian sea ports along the way to China. This has been the common thread at every stop I have made ever since I left home all those years ago. After leaving India, I sailed to a chief port of Bangladesh, Chittagon, where I boarded a Chinese junk ship, whisichwhich are sailing vessevessels used for extensive ocean voyages, to reach China. But, the junk only took me to the island of Sumatra that signaled the end of Dar-Islam and that there was no land under Muslim rule any farther to the east. I feel as if I have come to depend on the charity of rulers and Muslims on my journey, but that has now come to an end and I can’t help but falter at the thought that I will be alone in a foreign country without any possible foreseen aid. Maybe this is the thought that leads me to want to stay and reside with the sultan of the region for longer than I should, but I cannot let this small, insignificant fear stop me.
In the end, I did let my fear get the better of me and I stayed with the sultan for a total of 2 weeks, before he gave me supplies and junk and shipped me off to China. We sailed for a long 40 days before we reached Quanzhou, a seaport in the province of Fu of trojan. When I arrived, I saw so much beauty and believed it was the great country of the East that I need to see and experience myself. But, the more time I immerse myself in the culture of the Chinese people the more concerned I become. These people worship nonsense idols and burn their dead in order to appease mystery spirits, and that has dominated the entire country’s ideology. I feel that because of this I should spend more of my time indoors away from the paganist nature of the country.