Travels in Asia and Africa by Ibn Battuta Here Begin Ibn Battuta's Travels

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Ibn Battuta Comes to Basra
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 center 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 Kindness and Ignorance of the Inhabitants
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!
Ibn Battuta Leaves Basra by Boat
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.
Ibn Battuta Describes the City of Baghdad
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 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 Leaves Baghdad for Persia and the City of Tabriz
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.
Ibn Battutta Journeys to Tabriz
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.
The Riches of the Ghazan Bazaar in Tabriz
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 jewelers’ 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.
Ibn Battuta Meets the Sultan
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. 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.
After Returning to Baghdad, Ibn Battuta Makes His Second Pilgrimage to Mecca
Ibn Battuta Returns to Mecca with the Baghdad Pilgrim's Caravan
When we arrived at Baghdad 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 favored by his bounty, for he gave me even more than had been ordered for me.
As we left Kufa I fell ill of a diarrhea 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 honor 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.
Ibn Battuta Leaves Mecca for the Port of Jedda and a Voyage Down the Red Sea to Yemen
After the Pilgrimage at the close of the year (AD 1330) I set out from Mecca, making for Yemen. I arrived at Judda (Jedda), an ancient town on the sea-coast, which is said to have been built by the Persians. We embarked here on a boat which they called a jalba. The Sharif Mansur embarked on another and desired me to accompany him, but I refused. He had a number of camels in his jalba and that frightened me, as I had never travelled on sea before. For two days we sailed with a favoring wind, then it changed and drove us out of our course. The waves came overboard into our midst and the passengers fell grievously sick.
These terrors continued until we emerged at a roadstead called Ra's Dawa'ir between Aydhab and Sawakin. We landed here and found on the shore a reed hut shaped like a mosque, inside which were ostrich egg-shells filled with water. We drank from these and cooked food. A party of Bejas came to us, so we hired camels from them and travelled with them through a country in which there are many gazelles. The Bejas do not eat them so they are tame and do not run away from men. After two days' travelling we reached the island of Sawakin (Suakin). It is a large island lying about six miles off the coast and has neither water nor cereal crops nor trees. Water is brought to it in boats, and it has large reservoirs for collecting rainwater. The flesh of ostriches, gazelles and wild asses is to be had in it, and it has many goats together with milk and butter, which is exported to Mecca. Their cereal is jurjur, a kind of coarse grained millet, which is also exported to Mecca. The sultan of Sawakin when I was there was the Sharif Zayd, the son of the amir of Mecca.
We took ship at Sawakin for Yemen. No sailing is done on this sea at night because of the number of rocks in it. At nightfall they land and embark again at sunrise. The captain of the ship stands constantly at the prow to warn the steersman of rocks. Six days after leaving Sawakin we reached the town of Hali, a large and populous town inhabited by two Arab tribes. The sultan is a man of excellent character, a man of letters and a poet. I had accompanied him from Mecca to Judda, and when I reached his city he treated me generously and made me his guest for several days. I embarked in a ship of his and reached the township of Sarja, which is inhabited by Yemenite merchants.
Ibn Battuta Rrrives in Yemen, First Visiting the Town of Zabid
Zabid is a hundred and twenty miles from San'a, and is after San'a the largest and wealthiest town in Yemen. It lies amidst luxuriant gardens with many streams and fruits, such as bananas and the like. It is in the interior, not on the coast, and is one of the capital cities of the country. The town is large and populous, with palm-groves, orchards, and running streams - in fact, the pleasantest and most beautiful town in Yemen. Its inhabitants are charming in their manners, upright, and handsome, and the women especially are exceedingly beautiful.
The people of this town hold the famous subut an-nakhl (picnics) in this wise. They go out to the palm groves every Saturday during the season of the coloring and ripening of the dates. Not a soul remains in the town, whether of the townsfolk or of the visitors. The musicians go out, and the shopkeepers go out selling fruits and sweetmeats. The women go in litters on camels. For all we have said of their exceeding beauty they are virtuous and possessed of excellent qualities. They show a predilection for foreigners, and do not refuse to marry them, as the women in our country (Morocco) do. When a woman's husband wishes to travel she goes out with him and bids him farewell, and if they have a child, it is she who takes care of it and supplies its wants until the father returns. While he is absent she demands nothing from him for maintenance or clothes or anything else, and while he stays with her she is content with very little for upkeep and clothing. But the women never leave their own towns, and none of them would consent to do so, however much she were offered.
Ibn Battuta Travels on to Ta'izz and San'a
We went on from there to the town of Ta'izz, the capital of the king of Yemen, and one of the finest and largest towns in that country. Its people are overbearing, insolent, and rude, as is generally the case in towns where kings reside. Ta'izz is made up of three quarters; the first is the residence of the king and his court, the second, called 'Udayna, is the military station, and the third, called al-Mahalib, is inhabited by the commonalty, and contains the principal market.
The sultan of Yemen is Nur ad-Din 'Ali of the house of Rasul. He uses an elaborate ceremonial in his audiences and progresses. The fourth day after our arrival was a Thursday, on which day the king holds a public audience. The qadi presented me to him and I saluted him. The way in which one salutes is to touch the ground with the index-finger, then lift it to the head and say "May God prolong thy Majesty." I did as the qadi had done, and the king, having ordered me to sit in front of him, questioned me about my country and the other lands and princes I had seen. The vizier was present, and the king ordered him to treat me honorably and arrange for my lodging.
After staying some days as his guest I set out for the town of San'a', which was the former capital, a populous town built of brick and plaster, with a temperate climate and good water. A strange thing about the rain in India, Yemen, and Abyssinia is that it falls only in the hot weather, and mostly every afternoon during that season, so travellers always make haste about noon to avoid being caught by the rain, and the townsfolk retire indoors, for their rains are heavy downpours. The whole town of San'a is paved, so that when the rain falls it washes and cleans all the streets.
Ibn Battuta Arrives in Aden
I travelled thence to 'Aden, the port of Yemen, on the coast of the ocean. It is surrounded by mountains and can be approached from one side only; it has no crops, trees, or water, but has reservoirs in which rainwater is collected. The Arabs often cut off the inhabitants from their supply of drinking-water until they buy them off with money and pieces of cloth. It is an exceedingly hot place. It is the port of the Indians, and to it come large vessels from Kinbayat (Cambay), Kawlam (Quilon), Calicut and many other Malabar ports. There are Indian merchants living there, as well as Egyptian merchants. Its inhabitants are all either merchants, porters, or fishermen. Some of the merchants are immensely rich, so rich that sometimes a single merchant is sole owner of a large ship with all it contains, and this is a subject of ostentation and rivalry amongst them. In spite of that they are pious, humble, upright, and generous in character, treat strangers well, give liberally to devotees, and pay in full the tithes due to God.
Ibn Battuta Sails Along the East Coast of Africa
I took ship at Aden, and after four days at sea reached Zayla (Zeila), the town of the Berberah, who are a Negro people. Their land is a desert extending for two months' journey from Zayla to Maqdashaw (Mogadishu). Zayla is a large city with a great bazaar, but it is the dirtiest, most abominable, and most stinking town in the world. The reason for the stench is the quantity of its fish and the blood of the camels that they slaughter in the streets. When we got there, we chose to spend the night at sea, in spite of its extreme roughness, rather than in the town, because of its filth.
The Town of Mogadishu in Somalia
On leaving Zayla we sailed for fifteen days and came to Maqdashaw (Mogadishu), which is an enormous town. Its inhabitants are merchants and have many camels, of which they slaughter hundreds every day. When a vessel reaches the port, it is met by sumbuqs, which are small boats, in each of which are a number of young men, each carrying a covered dish containing food. He presents this to one of the merchants on the ship saying "This is my guest," and all the others do the same. Each merchant on disembarking goes only to the house of the young man who is his host, except those who have made frequent journeys to the town and know its people well; these live where they please. The host then sells his goods for him and buys for him, and if anyone buys anything from him at too low a price, or sells to him in the absence of his host, the sale is regarded by them as invalid. This practice is of great advantage to them.
We stayed there three days, food being brought to us three times a day, and on the fourth, a Friday, the qadi and one of the viziers brought me a set of garments. We then went to the mosque and prayed behind the screen. When the Shaykh came out I greeted him and he bade me welcome. He put on his sandals, ordering the qadi and myself to do the same, and set out for his palace on foot. All the other people walked barefooted. Over his head were carried four canopies of colored silk, each surmounted by a golden bird. After the palace ceremonies were over, all those present saluted and retired.
Ibn Battuta Sails to Mombasa
I embarked at Maqdashaw for the Sawahil (Swahili) country, with the object of visiting the town of Kulwa (Kilwa, Quiloa) in the land of the Zanj.
We came to Mambasa (Mombasa), a large island two days' journey by sea from the Sawihil country. It possesses no territory on the mainland. They have fruit trees on the island, but no cereals, which have to be brought to them from the Sawahil. Their food consists chiefly of bananas and fish. The inhabitants are pious, honorable, and upright, and they have well-built wooden mosques.
Kulwa on the African Mainland
We stayed one night in this island, and then pursued our journey to Kulwa, which is a large town on the coast. The majority of its inhabitants are Zanj, jet-black in color, and with tattoo marks on their faces. I was told by a merchant that the town of Sufala lies a fortnight's journey from Kulwa and that gold dust is brought to Sufala from Yufi in the country of the Limis, which is a month's journey distant from it. Kulwa is a very fine and substantially built town, and all its buildings are of wood. Its inhabitants are constantly engaged in military expeditions, for their country is contiguous to the heathen Zanj.
The sultan at the time of my visit was Abu'l-Muzaffar Hasan, who was noted for his gifts and generosity. He used to devote the fifth part of the booty made on his expeditions to pious and charitable purposes, as is prescribed in the Koran, and I have seen him give the clothes off his back to a mendicant who asked him for them. When this liberal and virtuous sultan died, he was succeeded by his brother Dawud, who was at the opposite pole from him in this respect. Whenever a petitioner came to him, he would say, "He who gave is dead, and left nothing behind him to be given." Visitors would stay at his court for months on end, and finally he would make them some small gift, so that at last people gave up going to his gate.
Ibn Battuta Returns to Yemen
From Kulwa we sailed to Dhafari (Dhofar), at the extremity of Yemen. Thoroughbred horses are exported from here to India, the passage taking a month with a favoring wind. Dhafari is a month's journey from 'Aden across the desert, and is situated in a desolate locality without villages or dependencies. Its market is one of the dirtiest in the world and the most pestered by flies because of the quantity of fruit and fish sold there. Most of the fish are of the kind called sardines, which are extremely fat in that country. A curious fact is that these sardines are the sole food of their beasts and flocks, a thing which I have seen nowhere else. Most of the sellers are female slaves, who wear black garments. The inhabitants cultivate millet and irrigate it from very deep wells, the water from which is raised in a large bucket drawn up by a number of ropes attached to the waists of slaves. Their principal food is rice imported from India.
The People of Dhofar and Their Customs
Its population consists of merchants who live entirely on trade. When a vessel arrives they take the master, captain and writer in procession to the sultan's palace and entertain the entire ship's company for three days in order to gain the goodwill of the shipmasters. Another curious thing is that its people closely resemble the people of Northwest Africa in their customs.
Banana, Betel, and Coconut Trees
In the neighborhood of the town there are orchards with many banana trees. The bananas are of immense size; one which was weighed in my presence scaled twelve ounces and was pleasant to the taste and very sweet. They grow also betel-trees and coco-palms, which are found only in India and the town of Dhafari. Since we have mentioned these trees, we shall describe them and their properties here.
Betel-trees are grown like vines on cane trellises or else trained up coco-palms. They have no fruit and are grown only for their leaves. The Indians have a high opinion of betel, and if a man visits a friend and the latter gives him five leaves of it, you would think he had given him the world, especially if he is a prince or notable. A gift of betel is a far greater honor than a gift of gold and silver. It is used in this way. First one takes areca-nuts, which are like nutmegs, crushes them into small bits and chews them. Then the betel leaves are taken, a little chalk is put on them, and they are chewed with the areca-nuts. They sweeten the breath and aid digestion, prevent the disagreeable effects of drinking water on an empty stomach, and stimulate the faculties.
The coco-palm is one of the strangest of trees, and looks exactly like a date-palm. The nut resembles a man's head, for it has marks like eyes and a mouth, and the contents, when it is green, are like the brain. It has fiber like hair, out of which they make ropes, which they use instead of nails to bind their ships together and also as cables. Amongst its properties are that it strengthens the body, fattens, and adds redness to the face. If it is cut open when it is green it gives a liquid deliciously sweet and fresh. After drinking this one takes a piece of the rind as a spoon and scoops out the pulp inside the nut. This tastes like an egg that has been broiled but not quite cooked, and is nourishing. I lived on it for a year and a half when I was in the Maldives islands.
The Many Uses of the Coconut
One of its peculiarities is that oil, milk and honey are extracted from it. The honey is made in this fashion. They cut a stalk on which the fruit grows, leaving two fingers' length, and on this they tie a small bowl, into which the sap drips. If this has been done in the morning, a servant climbs up again in the evening with two bowls, one filled with water. He pours into the other the sap that has collected, and then washes the stalk, cuts off a small piece, and ties on another bowl. The same thing is repeated next morning until a good deal of the sap has been collected, when it is cooked until it thickens. It then makes an excellent honey, and the merchants of India, Yemen, and China buy it and take it to their own countries, where they manufacture sweetmeats from it. The milk is made by steeping the contents of the nut in water, which takes on the color and taste of milk and is used along with food. To make the oil, the ripe nuts are peeled and the contents dried in the sun, then cooked in cauldrons and the oil extracted. They use it for lighting and dip bread in it, and the women put it on their hair.
Ibn Battuta Arrives in Oman
It is a fertile land, with streams trees, orchards, palm gardens, and fruit trees of various kinds. Its capital, the town of Nazwa, lies at the foot of a mountain and has fine bazaars and splendid clean mosques. Its inhabitants make a habit of eating meals in the courts of the mosques, every person bringing what he has, and all sitting down to the meal together, and travellers join in with them. They are very warlike and brave, always fighting between themselves. The sultan of Oman is an Arab of the tribe of Azd, and is called Abu Muhammad, which is the title given to every sultan who governs Oman. The towns on the coast are for the most part under the government of Hormuz.

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