1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Ibn Batuta

(Part 11)

Ibn Batuta

Ibn Batuta (or Ibn Battuta), the great Arab traveller, is separated by a wide space of time from his countrymen already mentioned, and he finds his proper place in a chronological notice after the days of Marco Polo -- for he was not born at Tangier until 1304. He began his wanderings in 1325, his career thus coinciding in time with that of Sir John Mandeville (1322-1356), but the Moor was more trustworthy than the Englishman. Ibn Batuta went by land from Tangier to Cairo, then visiting Syria, and performing the pilgrimages to Medina and Mecca. After exploring Persia, and again residing for some time at Mecca, he made a voyage down the Red Sea to Yemen, and travelled through that country to Aden, which remarkable place he correctly describes. Thence he visited the African coast, touching at Mombasa and Quiloa, and then sailed across to Ormuz and the Persian Gulf. He crossed Arabia from Bahreyn to Jiddah, traversed the Red Sea and the desert to Syene, and descended the Nile to Cairo. After this he revisited Syria and Asia Minor, crossed the Black Sea to Caffa, and proceeded to the camp of the khan of Kipchak at the foot of the Caucasus. Ibn Batuta crossed the desrt from Astrakban to Bokhara, and went over the Hindu Kush to Cabul, reaching the Indus somewhere below Larkhana, in 1333. He gives an interesting account of Muhammad Tughluk, then ruler of Delhi, in whose service the great traveller remained for about eight years. He was sent on an embassy to China in 1342, travelling by land from Delhi to the seaport; whence the ambassadors sailed down the west coast of India to Calicut, and then visited the Maldive Islands and Ceylon. He made a voyage through the Islands to China, and on his return he proceeded from Malabar to Baghdad and Damascus, where he got his first news from home and heard of his father’s death. Finally he reached Fez, the capital of his native country, in November 1349, after an absence of twenty-four years, and came to the conclusion that there was no place like home. After a journey into Spain, he set out for central Africa in 1352, and reached Timbuctoo and the Niger, returning to Fez in 1353. He had travelled over a length of at least 75,000 English miles. His narrative was committed to writing from his dictation, by order of the sultan of Fez, and the work was completed in December 1355. Ibn Batuta died at the age of seventy-three, in the year 1377. His whole work was carefully edited in the original, with a translation into French under the auspices of the Asiatic Society of Paris, and published in 1858. Colonel Yule has given us an English version of the portion relating to China.

Ibn Batuta was certainly the greatest of Arab travellers, and soon after his death in the kingdom of Fez, the opposite realm of Spain began to send forth explorers to distant lands. The peaceful reign of Henry III of Castile is famous for the attempts of that prince to extend the diplomatic relations of Spain to the remotest parts of the earth. Mariana tells us that he sent embassies to the princes of Christendom and to the Moors. In 1403 the Spanish king sent a knight of Madrid named Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, to the court of the mighty Timur, at Samarkand. He returned in 1406, and died soon after, but not before he had written a most valuable and interesting narrative of his travels from Constantinople through Persia and Khorasan to the Oxus, and thence by the Iron Gates to Samarkand.

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