Ibn Battuta – Muslim Explorer

Fancy yourself as a hardcore traveler? This 13th century Moroccan traveler covered 75,000 miles in 30 years around the world.

Ibn Battuta was one of the greatest travelers the world has ever seen and hardly ever heard of. Making Marco Polo seem like a casual backpacker, Ibn Battuta was on the road for almost 30 years, covering some 75,000 miles through the length and breadth of the Muslim world.

He was born in Fez, Morocco and set out to travel at the tender age of 21, intending to win his reputation by going on Hajj to Mecca. This accomplished, instead of turning home he decided to get a job in Delhi, under the Muslim Emperor of India, Muhammad Tughlaq. With some detours along the African coast and up through Turkey and the Crimea, Ibn Battuta finally intrigued his way with various caravans to India.

The Emperor Tughlaq was reputed to be an eccentric, unstable personality and he decided to stabilize his position in India by importing Muslim scholars and clerics. Ibn Battuta may have been a ragged traveler but he was also now a Hajji and he found himself employment as a judge.

Finally, his itchy feet moved him on and he accepted the position of ambassador to China. On the way though the Hindu Indians waylaid him and, rather than return to Delhi in failure and lose his life, Ibn Battuta carried on to Sumatra where he married into the royal family and served as a judge until his strict judgments got him thrown out.

He drifted slowly back home to Morocco, detouring through North Africa and seeing the effects of the Black Death everywhere. Upon his return he dictated the stories of his travels and came up with the longest title for a travel book ever to be seen: A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Traveling – though most refer to his book as the Rihla, or Travels.

Ibn Battuta isn’t exactly a gifted writer but he’s honest and funny, a the following excerpt shows.


I saw a slave-boy being auctioned for thirty dinars, and as he was worth three hundred I bought him. I was building a house at the time, and I gave him twenty dinars to lay out on the workmen. He spent ten on them and bought a garment for himself with the other ten. I said to him:



“What’s this?” to which he replied:



“Don’t be too hasty; no gentleman scolds his slaves.” I said to myself, here have I bought the Caliph’s tutor without knowing it.



Later on I wanted to marry a woman unknown to my cousin (i.e. my first wife), so I swore him to secrecy and gave him a dinar to buy somethings, including some of the fish called haziba. But he bought something else, and when I was wroth with him he said:



“I find that Hippocrates disapproves of haziba.” I said to him:



“You worthless fool, I was not aware that I had bought a Galen,” and gave him ten blows with the whip. But he seized me and gave me seven back saying:



“Sir, three blows is enough as a punishment, and the seven I gave you are my rightful retaliation.” So I made at him andgave him a cut on the head, whereupon he went off to my cousin, and said to her:



“Sincerity is a religious duty, and whoever deceives us is not one of us. My master has married and he swore me to silence, and when I said to him that my lady must be told of it he broke my head.”



So my cousin would neither let me into her house nor let me have anything out of it, until at last I had to divorce the other woman. After that she used to call the boy “The honest lad,” and I could not say a word to him, so I said to myself:



“I shall set him free, and then I shall have peace.”


Ibn Battuta returned home to Morocco safe and sound and little more is known about him. You can read more of the original travels of Ibn Battuta here or go to the most comprehensive resource for Ibn Battuta on the internet