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



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Ibn Battuta Meets Uzbeg's Wives, the Khatuns
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 honors 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.
The third khatun Bayalun is the 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 favors, may God reward her!
Ibn Battuta Leaves the Steppe Kingdom of Uzbeg Khan with the Retinue of Uzbeg's Wife the Khatun Bayalan, a Byzantine Princess
We set out in the company of the khatun Bayalun and under her protection. The sultan escorted her one stage then returned, he and the queen and the heir to the throne; the other khatuns accompanied her 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.
The Khatun is Met at the Border of Her Father's Territory
The Greeks had heard that this khatun was returning to her country, and there came to this fortress to meet her the Greek Kifali (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, and six thence to Constantinople. From this fortress one travels on horses and mules only, and the wagons 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 wagons and baggage, and he assigned them a house.
The commander Baydara returned 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 honorably, and on one occasion he beat one of his guards because he had laughed at our prayer.
Nearer Constantinople the Khatun is Greeted by Her Brother
Then her brother, whose name was Kifali Qaras, arrived with five thousand horsemen, fully accoutered in armor. 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 armored horse carrying the arms of a horseman, consisting of a jeweled 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 accoutered in armor, each leading a horse, and behind him ten colored 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.
The Procession Reaches Constantinople
We encamped at a distance of ten miles from Constantinople, and on the following day the population, men, women and children, came out riding or on foot, in their richest apparel. At dawn the drums, trumpets and fifes were sounded; the troops mounted, and the Emperor with his wife, the mother of this khatun, came out, accompanied by the high officials of state and the courtiers. Over the king's head there was a canopy, carried by a number of horsemen and men on foot, who had in their hands long staves, each surmounted by something resembling a ball of leather, with which they hoisted the canopy. In the center of this canopy was a sort of pavilion which was supported by horsemen staves. When the Emperor approached, the troops became entangled with one another and there was much dust. I was unable to make my way amongst them, so I kept with the khatun's baggage and party, fearing for my life. I was told that when the princess approached her parents she dismounted and kissed the ground before them, and then kissed the two hoofs of their horses, the principal members of her party doing the same.
Our entry into Constantinople the Great was made about noon or a little later, and they rang their bells until the very skies shook with the mingling of their sounds. When we reached the fist gate of the king's palace we found there about a hundred men, with an officer on a platform, and I heard them saying "Sarakinu, Sarakinu," ("Saracen, Saracen") which means Muslims. They would not let us enter, and when those who were with the khatun said that we belonged to their party, they answered "They cannot enter except by permission," so we stayed at the gate. One of the khatun's party sent a messenger to tell her of this while she was still with her father. She told him about us and he gave orders that we should enter, and assigned us a house near the khatun's house. He wrote also on our behalf an order that we should not be abused where-so-ever we went in the city, and this order was proclaimed in the bazaars.
We stayed indoors three days, receiving from the khatun gifts of flour, bread, sheep, chickens, butter, fruit, fish, money and beds, and on the fourth day we had audience of the sultan.
Ibn Batutta Meets the Byzantine Emperor
The Emperor of Constantinople is called Takfur (Andronicus III), son of the Emperor Jirgis (George, Andronicus II). His father, the Emperor George, was still alive, but had become an ascetic and monk, devoting himself to religious exercises in the churches, and had resigned the sovereignty to his son. We shall speak of him later.
On the fourth day after our arrival in Constantinople, the khatun sent the slave Sunbul the Indian to me, and he took my hand and led me into the palace. We passed through four gateways, each of which had archways in which were foot soldiers with their weapons, their officer being on a carpeted platform. When we reached the fifth gateway the slave Sunbul left me, and going inside returned with four Greek youths, who searched me to see that I had no knife on my person. The officer said to me: "This is a custom of theirs; every person who enters the king's presence, be he noble or private citizen, foreigner or native, must be searched." The same practice is observed also in India. After they had searched me the man in charge of the gate rose and took me by the hand and opened the gate. Four of the men surrounded me, two of them holding my sleeves and two behind me, and brought me into a large hall, the walls of which were of mosaic work, in which there were pictures of creatures, both animate and inanimate. In the center there was a stream of water, with trees on either side of it, and men were standing to right and left, silent, not one of them speaking.
In the midst of the hall three men were standing to whom those four men delivered me. These took hold of my garments as the others had done, and on a signal from another man led me forward. One of them was a Jew, and he said to me in Arabic "Do not be afraid; this is their custom that they use with one who enters. I am the interpreter, and I come from Syria." So I asked him how I should salute the Emperor, and he told me to say "As-salam alaykum."
After this I reached a great pavilion, where the Emperor was seated on his throne, with his wife, the mother of the khatun, before him. At the foot of the throne were the khatun and her brothers, to the right of it six men and to the left of it four, and behind it four, every one of them armed. The Emperor signed to me, before I had saluted and reached him, to sit down for a moment, in order that my apprehension might be calmed. After doing so I approached him and saluted him, and he signed to me to sit down, but I did not do so. He questioned me about Jerusalem, the Sacred Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the cradle of Jesus, and Bethlehem, and about the city of Abraham, then about Damascus, Cairo, Iraq, and Anatolia, and I answered all his questions about these, the Jew interpreting between us. He was pleased with my replies and said to his sons "Treat this man with honor and ensure his safety." Then he bestowed upon me a robe of honor and assigned me a horse with saddle and bridle, and an umbrella of the kind which the king has carried above his head, that being a sign of protection. I requested him to designate someone to ride in the city with me every day; that I might see its marvelous and rare sights and tell of them in my own country, and he appointed a man as I had asked. They have a custom that anyone who wears the king's robe of honor and rides his horse is paraded round with trumpets, fifes and drums, so that the people may see him. They do this mostly with the Turks who come from the territories of Sultan Uzbeg, so that the people may not molest them, and I was paraded in this fashion through the bazaars.
Ibn Battuta Describes Constantinople
The city is enormous in size and in two parts separated by a great river (the Golden Horn), in which there is a rising and ebbing tide. In former times there was a stone bridge over it, but it fell into ruins and the crossing is now made in boats. The part of the city on the eastern bank of the river is called Istambul, and contains the residence of the Emperor, the nobles and the rest of the population. Its bazaars and streets are spacious and paved with flagstones; each bazaar has gates which are closed upon it at night, and the majority of the artisans and sellers in them are women. The city lies at the foot of a hill which projects about nine miles into the sea, its breadth being the same or greater. On the top of the hill there is a small citadel and the Emperor's palace. Round this hill runs the city-wall, which is very strong and cannot be taken by assault from the sea front. Within its circuit there are about thirteen inhabited villages. The principal church is in the midst of this part of the city.
The second part, on the western bank of the river, is called Galata, and is reserved to the Frankish Christians who dwell there. They are of different kinds, including Genoese, Venetians, Romans and people of France; they are subject to the authority of the king of Constantinople, who sets over them one of their own number of whom they approve, and him they call the Comes (Count). They are bound to pay a tax every year to the king of Constantinople, but often they revolt against him and he makes war on them until the Pope makes peace between them. They are all men of commerce and their harbor is one of the largest in the world; I saw there about a hundred galleys and other large ships, and the small ships were too many to be counted. The bazaars in this part of the town are good but filthy, and a small and very dirty river runs through them. Their churches too are filthy and mean.
Hagia Sophia
Of the great church I can only describe the exterior, for I did not see its interior. It is called by them Aya Sufiya (Hagia Sophia), and the story goes that it was built by Asaph, the son of Berechiah, who was Solomon's cousin. It is one of the greatest churches of the Greeks, and is encircled by a wall so that it looks as if it were a town. It has thirteen gates and a sacred enclosure, which is about a mile long and closed by a great gate. No one is prevented from entering this enclosure, and indeed I went into it with the king's father; it resembles an audience-hall paved with marble, and is traversed by a stream which issues from the church. Outside the gate of this hall are platforms and shops, mostly of wood, where their judges and the recorders of their bureau sit. At the gate of the church there are porticoes where the keepers sit who sweep its paths, light its lamps and close its gates.
They allow none to enter it until he prostrates himself to the huge cross there, which they claim to be a relic of the wood upon which the pseudo-Jesus was crucified. This is over the gate of the church, set in a golden case whose height is about ten cubits, across which a similar golden case is placed to form a cross. This gate is covered with plaques of silver and gold and its two rings are of pure gold.
I was told that the number of monks and priests in this church runs into thousands, and that some of them are descendants of the apostles, and that inside it is another church exclusively for women, containing more than a thousand virgins and a still greater number of aged women who devote themselves to religious practices. It is the custom of the king, the nobles and the rest of the people to come every morning to visit this church. The Pope comes to visit it once a year. When he is four days' journey from the town the king goes out to meet him, and dismounts before him and when he enters the city walks on foot in front of him. During his stay in Constantinople the king comes to salute him every morning and evening.
On Christian Communities of Religion
A monastery is the Christian equivalent of a religious house or convent among the Muslims, and there are a great many such monasteries at Constantinople. Among them is the monastery which King George (Andronicus II) built outside Istambul and opposite Galata, and two monasteries outside the principal church, to the right as one enters it. These two monasteries are inside a garden traversed by a stream of water; one of them is for men and the other for women. In each there is a church and they are surrounded by the cells of men and women who have devoted themselves to religious exercises. Each monastery possesses pious endowments for the clothing and maintenance of the devotees. Inside every monastery there is a small convent designed for the ascetic retreat of the king who built it, for most of these kings, on reaching the age of sixty or seventy, build a monastery and put on garments of hair, investing their sons with the sovereignty and occupying themselves with religious exercises for the rest of their lives. They display great magnificence in building these monasteries, and construct them of marble and mosaic-work.
I entered a monastery with the Greek whom the king had given me as a guide. Inside it was a church containing about five hundred virgins wearing hair-garments; their heads were shaved and covered with felt bonnets. They were exceedingly beautiful and showed the traces of their austerities. A youth sitting on a pulpit was reading the gospel to them in the most beautiful voice I have ever heard; round him were eight other youths on pulpits with their priest, and when the first youth had finished reading another began. The Greek said to me, "These girls are kings' daughters who have given themselves to the service of this church, and likewise the boys who are reading."
I entered with him also into churches in which there were the daughters of ministers, governors, and the principal men of the city, and others where there were aged women and widows, and others where there were monks, each church containing a hundred men or so. Most of the population of the city is monks, ascetics, and priests, and its churches are not to be counted for multitude. The inhabitants of the city, soldiers and civilians, small and great, carry over their heads huge parasols, both in winter and summer, and the women wear large turbans.
The Former Emperor Now a Monk
I was out one day with my Greek guide, when we met the former king George (Andronicus II) who had become a monk. He was walking on foot, wearing haircloth garments and a bonnet of felt, and he had a long white beard and a fine face, which bore traces of his austerities. Behind and before him was a body of monks, and he had a staff in his hand and a rosary on his neck. When the Greek saw him he dismounted and said to me, "Dismount, for this is the king's father." When my guide saluted him, the king asked him about me, then stopped and sent for me. He took my hand and said to the Greek (who knew the Arabic tongue), "Say to this Saracen, 'I clasp the hand which has entered Jerusalem and the foot which has walked within the Dome of the Rock and the great church of the Holy Sepulcher and Bethlehem,'" and he laid his hand upon my feet and passed it over his face. I was astonished at their good opinion of one who, though not of their religion, had entered these places. Then he took my hand and as I walked with him asked me about Jerusalem and the Christians who were there, and questioned me at length.
I entered with him the sacred enclosure of the church which we have described above. When he approached the principal gate, a party of priests and monks came out to salute him, for he is one of their chief men in monasticism, and on seeing them he let go my hand. I said to him "I should like to enter the church with you." Then he said to the interpreter, "Say to him, 'He who enters it must needs prostrate himself before the great cross, for this is a rule which the ancients laid down and which cannot be contravened.'" So I left him and he entered alone and I did not see him again.
After leaving the king I entered the bazaar of the scribes, where I was noticed by the judge, who sent one of his assistants to ask the Greek about me. On learning that I was a Muslim scholar he sent for me and I went up to him. He was an old man with a fine face and hair, wearing the black garments of a monk, and had about ten scribes in front of him writing. He rose to meet me, his companions rising also, and said, "You are the king's guest and we are bound to honor you." He then asked me about Jerusalem, Syria, and Egypt, and spoke with me for a long time. A great crowd gathered round him, and he said, "You must come to my house that I may entertain you." After that I went away, but I did not see him again.
The Khatun Declines to Return to Her Husband Uzbeg Khan
When it became clear to the Turks who were in the khatun's company that she professed her father's religion and wished to stay with him, they asked her for leave to return to their country. She made them rich presents and sent them an amir called Saruja with five hundred horsemen to escort them to their country. She sent for me, and gave me three hundred of their gold dinars, called barbara, which are not good money, and a thousand Venetian silver pieces, together with some robes and pieces of cloth and two horses, which were a gift from her father, and commended me to Saruja. I bade her farewell and left, having spent a month and six days in their town.
Ibn Battuta Returns to the Steppe Kingdom of Uzbeg Khan, from Where He Journeys on Deeper into Central Asia and Then to India, Java, and China; He Then Returns Westward and Homeward, Arriving at the City of Fez in Morocco in November of 1349.
Ibn Battuta Arrives in Fez
Arrived at the royal city of Fez on Friday, at the end of the month of Sha'ban of the year 750 (November 13, 1349).
I presented myself before our most noble master the most generous imam, the Commander of the Faithful, al-Mutawakkil Abu' Inan - may God enlarge his greatness and humble his enemies. His dignity made me forget the dignity of the sultan of Iraq, his beauty the beauty of the king of India, his fine qualities the noble character of the king of Yemen, his courage the courage of the king of the Turks, his clemency the clemency of the king of the Greeks, his devotion the devotion of the king of Turkistan, and his knowledge the knowledge of the king of Jawa (Java). I laid down the staff of travel in his glorious land, having assured myself after unbiased consideration that it is the best of countries, for in it fruits are plentiful, and running water and nourishing food are never exhausted. Few indeed are the lands which unite all these advantages, and well-spoken are the poet's words:
"Of all the lands the West by this token's the best:
Here the full moon is spied and the sun speeds to rest."
Ibn Battuta Lauds the Diet of the Maghreb Over That of Other Lands
The dirhams of the West are small, but their utility is great. When you compare its prices with the prices of Egypt and Syria, you will see the truth of my contention, and realize the superiority of the Maghrib. For I assure you that mutton in Egypt is sold at eighteen ounces for a dirham nuqra, which equals in value six dirhams of the Maghrib, whereas in the Maghrib meat is sold, when prices are high, at eighteen ounces for two dirhams that is a third of a nuqra. As for melted butter, it is usually not to be found in Egypt at all.
The kinds of things that the Egyptians eat along with their bread would not even be looked at in the Maghrib. They consist for the most part of lentils and chickpeas, which they cook in enormous cauldrons, and on which they put oil of sesame; "basilla," a kind of peas which they cook and eat with olive oil; gherkins, which they cook and mix with curdled milk; purslane, which they prepare in the same way; the buds of almond trees, which they cook and serve in curdled milk; and colocasia, which they cook. All these things are easily come by in the Maghrib, but God has enabled its inhabitants to dispense with them, by reason of the abundance of flesh-meats, melted butter, fresh butter, honey, and other products. As for green vegetables, they are the rarest of things in Egypt, and most of their fruit has to be brought from Syria. Grapes, when they are cheap, are sold amongst them at a dirham nuqra for three of their pounds, their pound being twelve ounces.
As for Syria, fruits are indeed plentiful there, but in the Maghrib they are cheaper. Grapes are sold there at the rate of one of their pounds for a dirham nuqra (their pound is three Maghribi pounds), and when their price is low, two pounds for a dirham nuqra. Pomegranates and quinces are sold at eight fals apiece, which equals a dirham of our money. As for vegetables the quantity sold for a dirham nuqra is less than that sold for a small dirham in our country. Meat is sold there at the rate of one Syrian pound for two and a half dirhams nuqra. If you consider all this, it will be clear to you that the lands of the Maghrib are the cheapest in cost of living, the most abundant in good things, and blest with the greatest share of material comforts and advantages.
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