Ibn Battuta Praises His Natural Lord, the Sultan of Morocco Moreover, God has augmented the honor and excellence of the Maghrib by the imamate of our master, the Commander of the Faithful, who has spread the shelter of security throughout its territories and made the sun of equity to rise within its borders, who has caused the clouds of beneficence to shed their rain upon its dwellers in country and town, who has purified it from evildoers, and established it in the ways alike of worldly prosperity and of religious observance.
Ibn Battuta Returns to His Native Tangiers After I had been privileged to observe this noble majesty and to share in the all-embracing bounty of his beneficence, I set out to visit the tomb of my mother. I arrived at my home town of Tangier and visited her, and went on to the town of Sabta (Ceuta), where I stayed for some months. While I was there I suffered from an illness for three months, but afterwards God restored me to health.
I then proposed to take part in the jihad and the defense of the frontier, so I crossed the sea from Ceuta in a barque belonging to the people of Asila (Arzila), and reached the land of Andalusia (may God Almighty guard her!) where the reward of the dweller is abundant and a recompense is laid up for the settler and visitor.
Sailing from Morocco, Ibn Battuta Lands in Gibralter and Travels to Ronda I went out of Gibraltar to the town of Ronda, one of the strongest and most beautifully situated fortresses of the Muslims. The qadi there was my cousin, the doctor Abu'l-Qasim Muhammad b. Yahya Ibn Battuta. I stayed at Ronda for five days, then went on to the town of Marbala (Marbella).
An Ambush by Christian Raiders Along the Road from Marbella to Malaga The road between these two places is difficult and exceedingly rough. Marbala is a pretty little town in a fertile district. I found there a company of horsemen setting out for Malaqa (Malaga), and intended to go in their company, but God by His grace preserved me, for they went on ahead of me and were captured on the way, as we shall relate. I set out after them, and when I had traversed the district of Marbala, and entered the district of Suhayl I passed a dead horse lying in the ditch, and a little farther on a pannier of fish thrown on the ground. This aroused my suspicions. In front of me there was a watchtower, and I said to myself, "If an enemy were to appear here, the man on the tower would give the alarm." So I went on to a house thereabouts, and at it I found a horse killed.
While I was there I heard a shout behind me (for I had gone ahead of my party) and turning back to them, found the commander of the fort of Suhayl with them. He told me that four galleys belonging to the enemy had appeared there, and a number of the men on board had landed when the watchman was not in the tower. The horsemen who had just left Marbala, twelve in number, had encountered this raiding force. The Christians had killed one of them, one had escaped, and ten were taken prisoner. A fisherman was killed along with them, and it was he whose basket I had found lying on the road. The officer advised me to spend the night with him in his quarters, so that he could escort me thence to Milaqa. I passed the night in the castle of the regiment of mounted frontiersmen called the Suhayl regiment. All this time the galleys of which we have spoken were lying close by.
The City of Malaga On the morrow he rode with me and we reached Malaqa (Malaga), which is one of the largest and most beautiful towns of Andalusia. It unites the conveniences of both sea and land, and is abundantly supplied with foodstuffs and fruits. I saw grapes being sold in its bazaars at the rate of eight pounds for a small dirham, and its ruby-colored Murcian pomegranates have no equal in the world. As for figs and almonds, they are exported from Malaqa and its outlying districts to the lands both of the East and the West. At Malaqa there is manufactured excellent gilded pottery, which is exported thence to the most distant lands. Its mosque covers a large area and has a reputation for sanctity; the court of the mosque is of unequalled beauty, and contains exceptionally tall orange trees.
Ibn Battuta Arrives in Granada Thence I went to on the city of Gharnata (Granada), the metropolis of Andalusia and the bride of its cities. Its environs have not their equal in any country in the world. They extend for the space of forty miles, and are traversed by the celebrated river of Shannil (Xenil) and many other streams. Around it on every side are orchards, gardens, flowery meads, noble buildings, and vineyards. One of the most beautiful places there is "Ayn ad-dama" (the Fountain of Tears), which is a hill covered with gardens and orchards and has no parallel in any other country.
The king of Gharnata at the time of my visit was Sultan Abu'l-Hajjaj Yusuf. I did not meet him on account of an illness from which he was suffering, but the noble, pious, and virtuous woman, his mother, sent me some gold dinars, of which I made good use. I met at Gharnata a number of its distinguished scholars and the principal Shaykh, who is also the superior of the Sufi orders. I spent some days with him in his hermitage outside Gharnata. He showed me the greatest honor and went with me to visit the hospice, famed for its sanctity, known as the Outpost of al-Uqab (the Eagle). Al-Uqab is a hill overlooking the environs of Gharnita, about eight miles from the city and close by the ruined city of al-Bira.
There is also at Gharnita a company of Persian dervishes, who have made their homes there because of its resemblance to their native lands. One is from Samarqand (Samarkand), another from Tabriz, a third from Quniya (Konia), one from Khurasan, two from India, and so on.
Ibn Battuta Leaves Andalusia and Returns to Morocco On leaving Gharnita I travelled back through al-Hamma, Ballash, and Malaqa, to the castle of Dhakwan, which is a fine fortress with abundant water, trees, and fruits. From there I went to Ronda and on to Gibraltar, where I embarked on the ship by which I had crossed before, and which belonged to the people of Asili (Arzila).
Ibn Battuta Briefly Describes the City of Marrakesh It is one of the most beautiful of cities, spaciously built and extending over a wide area, with abundant supplies. It contains magnificent mosques, such as its principal mosque, known as the Mosque of the Kutubiyin (Booksellers). There is a marvelously tall minaret there; I climbed it and obtained a view of the whole town from it. The town is now largely in ruins, so that I could compare it only to Baghdad, though the bazaars in Baghdad are finer. At Marrakush (Marrakesh) too there is a splendid college, distinguished by its fine site and solid construction; it was built by our master the Commander of the Faithful, Abu'l-Hasan.
After returning to Fez, in 1352 Ibn Battuta Crosses the Sahara and Makes a Tour of the Kingdom of Mali, Including the City of Timbuktu Ibn Battuta Prepares to Cross the Sahara At Sijilmasa I bought camels and a four months' supply of forage for them. Thereupon I set out on the 1st Muharram of the year 53 (AH 753, February 13, 1352) with a caravan including, amongst others, a number of the merchants of Sijilmasa.
The Salt Works at the Oasis of Taghaza After twenty-five days we reached Taghaza, an unattractive village, with the curious feature that its houses and mosques are built of blocks of salt, roofed with camel skins. There are no trees there, nothing but sand. In the sand is a salt mine; they dig for the salt, and find it in thick slabs, lying one on top of the other, as though they had been tool-squared and laid under the surface of the earth. A camel will carry two of these slabs.
No one lives at Taghaza except the slaves of the Massufa tribe, who dig for the salt; they subsist on dates imported from Dar'a and Sijilmasa, camels' flesh, and millet imported from the Negro lands. The Negroes come up from their country and take away the salt from there. At Iwalatan a load of salt brings eight to ten mithqals; in the town of Malli (Mali) it sells for twenty to thirty, and sometimes as much as forty. The Negroes use salt as a medium of exchange, just as gold and silver is used; they cut it up into pieces and buy and sell with it. The business done at Taghaza, for all its meanness, amounts to an enormous figure in terms of hundredweights of gold-dust.
We passed ten days of discomfort there, because the water is brackish and the place is plagued with flies. Water supplies are laid in at Taghaza for the crossing of the desert which lies beyond it, which is a ten-nights' journey with no water on the way except on rare occasions. We indeed had the good fortune to find water in plenty, in pools left by the rain. One day we found a pool of sweet water between two rocky prominences. We quenched our thirst at it and then washed our clothes. Truffles are plentiful in this desert and it swarms with lice, so that people wear string necklaces containing mercury, which kills them.
Death in the Desert At that time we used to go ahead of the caravan, and when we found a place suitable for pasturage we would graze our beasts. We went on doing this until one of our party was lost in the desert; after that I neither went ahead nor lagged behind. We passed a caravan on the way and they told us that some of their party had become separated from them. We found one of them dead under a shrub, of the sort that grows in the sand, with his clothes on and a whip in his hand. The water was only about a mile away from him.
The Oasis of Tisarahla, Where the Caravan Hires a Desert Guide We came next to Tisarahla, a place of subterranean water-beds, where the caravans halt. They stay there three days to rest, mend their water skins, fill them with water, and sew on them covers of sackcloth as a precaution against the wind.
From this point the "takshif" is dispatched. The "takshif" is a name given to any man of the Massufa tribe who is hired by the persons in the caravan to go ahead to Iwalatan, carrying letters from them to their friends there, so that they may take lodgings for them. These persons then come out a distance of four nights' journey to meet the caravan, and bring water with them. Anyone who has no friend in Iwalatan writes to some merchant well known for his worthy character who then undertakes the same services for him.
It often happens that the "takshif" perishes in this desert, with the result that the people of Iwalatan know nothing about the caravan, and all or most of those who are with it perish. That desert is haunted by demons; if the "takshif" be alone, they make sport of him and disorder his mind, so that he loses his way and perishes. For there is no visible road or track in these parts, nothing but sand blown hither and thither by the wind. You see hills of sand in one place, and afterwards you will see them moved to quite another place. The guide there is one who has made the journey frequently in both directions, and who is gifted with a quick intelligence. I remarked, as a strange thing, that the guide whom we had was blind in one eye, and diseased in the other, yet he had the best knowledge of the road of any man. We hired the "takshif" on this journey for a hundred gold mithqals; he was a man of the Massufa. On the night of the seventh day we saw with joy the fires of the party who had come out to meet us.
The Caravan Reaches the Oasis of Walata Thus we reached the town of Iwalatan (Walata) after a journey from Sijilmasa of two months to a day. Iwalatan is the northernmost province of the Negroes, and the sultan's representative there was one Farba Husayn, "farba" meaning deputy. When we arrived there, the merchants deposited their goods in an open square, where the blacks undertook to guard them, and went to the farba. He was sitting on a carpet under an archway, with his guards before him carrying lances and bows in their hands, and the headmen of the Massufa behind him. The merchants remained standing in front of him while he spoke to them through an interpreter, although they were close to him, to show his contempt for them. It was then that I repented of having come to their country, because of their lack of manners and their contempt for the whites.
I went to visit Ibn Badda, a worthy man of Sala (Sallee, near the Morroccan city of Rabat), to whom I had written requesting him to hire a house for me, and who had done so. Later on the mushrif (inspector) of Iwalatan, whose name was Mansha Ju, invited all those who had come with the caravan to partake of his hospitality. At first I refused to attend, but my companions urged me very strongly, so I went with the rest. The repast was served - some pounded millet mixed with a little honey and milk, put in a half calabash shaped like a large bowl. The guests drank and retired. I said to them, "Was it for this that the black invited us?" They answered, "Yes; and it is in their opinion the highest form of hospitality." This convinced me that there was no good to be hoped for from these people, and I made up my mind to travel with the pilgrim caravan from Iwalatan. Afterwards, however, I thought it best to go to see the capital of their king.
Life at Walata My stay at Iwalatan lasted about fifty days; and I was shown honor and entertained by its inhabitants. It is an excessively hot place, and boasts a few small date-palms, in the shade of which they sow watermelons. Its water comes from underground waterbeds at that point, and there is plenty of mutton to be had. The garments of its inhabitants, most of whom belong to the Massufa tribe, are of fine Egyptian fabrics.
Their women are of surpassing beauty, and are shown more respect than the men. The state of affairs amongst these people is indeed extraordinary. Their men show no signs of jealousy whatever; no one claims descent from his father, but on the contrary from his mother's brother. A person's heirs are his sister's sons, not his own sons. This is a thing which I have seen nowhere in the world except among the Indians of Malabar. But those are heathens; these people are Muslims, punctilious in observing the hours of prayer, studying books of law, and memorizing the Koran. Yet their women show no bashfulness before men and do not veil themselves, though they are assiduous in attending the prayers. Any man who wishes to marry one of them may do so, but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one desired to do so her family would not allow her to go.
The women there have "friends" and "companions" amongst the men outside their own families, and the men in the same way have "companions" amongst the women of other families. A man may go into his house and find his wife entertaining her "companion" but he takes no objection to it. One day at Iwalatan I went into the qadi's house, after asking his permission to enter, and found with him a young woman of remarkable beauty. When I saw her I was shocked and turned to go out, but she laughed at me, instead of being overcome by shame, and the qadi said to me "Why are you going out? She is my companion." I was amazed at their conduct, for he was a theologian and a pilgrim to boot. I was told that he had asked the sultan's permission to make the pilgrimage that year with his "companion" - whether this one or not I cannot say - but the sultan would not grant it.
From Walata to the River Niger When I decided to make the journey to Malli, which is reached in twenty-four days from Iwalatan if the traveller pushes on rapidly, I hired a guide from the Massufa - for there is no necessity to travel in a company on account of the safety of that road - and set out with three of my companions.
On the way there are many trees, and these trees are of great age and girth; a whole caravan may shelter in the shade of one of them. There are trees which have neither branches nor leaves, yet the shade cast by their trunks is sufficient to shelter a man. Some of these trees are rotted in the interior and the rain-water collects in them, so that they serve as wells and the people drink of the water inside them. In others there are bees and honey, which is collected by the people. I was surprised to find inside one tree, by which I passed, a man, a weaver, who had set up his loom in it and was actually weaving.
A traveller in this country carries no provisions, whether plain food or seasonings, and neither gold nor silver. He takes nothing but pieces of salt and glass ornaments, which the people call beads, and some aromatic goods. When he comes to a village the womenfolk of the blacks bring out millet, milk, chickens, pulped lotus fruit, rice, "funi" (a grain resembling mustard seed, from which "kuskusu" (couscous) and gruel are made), and pounded haricot beans. The traveller buys what of these he wants, but their rice causes sickness to whites when it is eaten, and the funi is preferable to it.
Ibn Battuta Reaches the Niger River, Which he Mistakenly Believes to Be the Nile The Nile (Niger) flows from there down to Kabara, and thence to Zagha. In both Kabara and Zagha there are sultans who owe allegiance to the king of Mali. The inhabitants of Zagha are of old standing in Islam; they show great devotion and zeal for study.
Thence the Nile (Niger) descends to Tumbuktu (Timbuktu) and Gawgaw (Gogo), both of which will be described later; then to the town of Muli in the land of the Limis, which is the frontier province of Mali; thence to Yufi, one of the largest towns of the Negroes, whose ruler is one of the most considerable of the Negro rulers. It cannot be visited by any white man because they would kill him before he got there.
A Crocodile I saw a crocodile in this part of the Nile (Niger), close to the bank; it looked just like a small boat. One day I went down to the river to satisfy a need, and lo, one of the blacks came and stood between me and the river. I was amazed at such lack of manners and decency on his part, and spoke of it to someone or other. Answered, "His purpose in doing that was solely to protect you from the crocodile, by placing himself between you and it."
Ibn Battuta Arrives at the City of Mali, Capital of the Kingdom of Mali Thus I reached the city of Mali, the capital of the king of the blacks. I stopped at the cemetery and went to the quarter occupied by the whites, where I asked for Muhammad ibn al-Faqih. I found that he had hired a house for me and went there. His son-in-law brought me candles and food, and next day Ibn al-Faqih himself came to visit me, with other prominent residents. I met the qadi of Mali, 'Abd ar-Rahman, who came to see me; he is a Negro, a pilgrim, and a man of fine character. I met also the interpreter Dugha, who is one of the principal men among the blacks. All these persons sent me hospitality-gifts of food and treated me with the utmost generosity - may God reward them for their kindnesses!
Ten days after our arrival we ate a gruel made of a root resembling colocasia, which is preferred by them to all other dishes. We all fell ill - there were six of us - and one of our number died. I for my part went to the morning prayer and fainted there. I asked a certain Egyptian for a loosening remedy and he gave me a thing called "baydar," made of vegetable roots, which he mixed with aniseed and sugar, and stirred in water. I drank it off and vomited what I had eaten, together with a large quantity of bile. God preserved me from death but I was ill for two months.
Ibn Battuta Meets the King of Mali The sultan of Mali is Mansa Sulayman, "mansa" meaning sultan, and Sulayman being his proper name. He is a miserly king, not a man from whom one might hope for a rich present. It happened that I spent these two months without seeing him, on account of my illness. Later on he held a banquet in commemoration of our master Abu'l-Hasan, to which the commanders, doctors, qadi and preacher were invited, and I went along with them. Reading-desks were brought in, and the Koran was read through, then they prayed for our master Abu'l-Hasan and also for Mansa Sulayman.
When the ceremony was over I went forward and saluted Mansa Sulayman. The qadi, the preacher, and Ibn al-Faqih told him who I was, and he answered them in their tongue. They said to me, "The sultan says to you 'Give thanks to God,'" so I said, "Praise be to God and thanks under all circumstances." When I withdrew the hospitality gift was sent to me. It was taken first to the qadi's house, and the qadi sent it on with his men to Ibn al-Faqih's house. Ibn al-Faqih came hurrying out of his house barefooted, and entered my room saying, "Stand up; here comes the sultan's stuff and gift to you." So I stood up thinking - since he had called it "stuff" - that it consisted of robes of honor and money, and lo!, it was three cakes of bread, and a piece of beef fried in native oil, and a calabash of sour curds. When I saw this I burst out laughing, and thought it a most amazing thing that they could be so foolish and make so much of such a paltry matter.
The Court Ceremonial of King Sulayman of Mali On certain days the sultan holds audiences in the palace yard, where there is a platform under a tree, with three steps; this they call the "pempi." It is carpeted with silk and has cushions placed on it. Is raised the umbrella, which is a sort of pavilion made of silk, surmounted by a bird in gold, about the size of a falcon. The sultan comes out of a door in a corner of the palace, carrying a bow in his hand and a quiver on his back. On his head he has a golden skull-cap, bound with a gold band which has narrow ends shaped like knives, more than a span in length. His usual dress is a velvety red tunic, made of the European fabrics called "mutanfas." The sultan is preceded by his musicians, who carry gold and silver guimbris (two-stringed guitars), and behind him come three hundred armed slaves. He walks in a leisurely fashion, affecting a very slow movement, and even stops from time to time. On reaching the pempi he stops and looks round the assembly, then ascends it in the sedate manner of a preacher ascending a mosque-pulpit. As he takes his seat the drums, trumpets, and bugles are sounded. Three slaves go out at a run to summon the sovereign's deputy and the military commanders, who enter and sit down. Two saddled and bridled horses are brought, along with two goats, which they hold to serve as a protection against the evil eye. Dugha stands at the gate and the rest of the people remain in the street, under the trees.
The Negroes are of all people the most submissive to their king and the most abject in their behavior before him. They swear by his name, saying "Mansa Sulayman ki" ("the emperor Sulayman has commanded"). If he summons any of them while he is holding an audience in his pavilion, the person summoned takes off his clothes and puts on worn garments, removes his turban and dons a dirty skullcap, and enters with his garments and trousers raised knee-high. He goes forward in an attitude of humility and dejection and knocks the ground hard with his elbows, then stands with bowed head and bent back listening to what he says. If anyone addresses the king and receives a reply from him, he uncovers his back and throws dust over his head and back, for all the world like a bather splashing himself with water. I used to wonder how it was they did not blind themselves. If the sultan delivers any remarks during his audience, those present take off their turbans and put them down, and listen in silence to what he says.
Sometimes one of them stands up before him and recalls his deeds in the sultan's service, saying, "I did so-and-so on such a day," or, "I killed so-and-so on such a day." Those who have knowledge of this confirm his words, which they do by plucking the cord of the bow and releasing it, just as an archer does when shooting an arrow. If the sultan says, "Truly spoken," or thanks him, he removes his clothes and "dusts." That is their idea of good manners.
Festival Ceremonial I was at Malli during the two festivals of the sacrifice and the fast-breaking. On these days the sultan takes his seat on the pempi after the midafternoon prayer. The armor-bearers bring in magnificent arms - quivers of gold and silver, swords ornamented with gold and with golden scabbards, gold and silver lances, and crystal maces. At his head stand four amirs driving off the flies, having in their hands silver ornaments resembling saddle-stirrups. The commanders, qadi and preacher sit in their usual places.
The interpreter Dugha comes with his four wives and his slave-girls, who are about a hundred in number. They are wearing beautiful robes, and on their heads they have gold and silver fillets, with gold and silver balls attached. A chair is placed for Dugha to sit on. He plays on an instrument made of reeds, with some small calabashes at its lower end, and chants a poem in praise of the sultan, recalling his battles and deeds of valor. The women and girls sing along with him and play with bows. Accompanying them are about thirty youths, wearing red woolen tunics and white skull-caps; each of them has his drum slung from his shoulder and beats it. Afterwards come his boy pupils who play and turn wheels in the air, like the natives of Sind. They show a marvelous nimbleness and agility in these exercises and play most cleverly with swords. Dugha also makes a fine play with the sword. Thereupon the sultan orders a gift to be presented to Dugha and he is given a purse containing two hundred mithqals of gold dust and is informed of the contents of the purse before all the people. The commanders rise and twang their bows in thanks to the sultan. The next day each one of them gives Dugha a gift, every man according to his rank. Every Friday after the 'asr prayer, Dugha carries out a similar ceremony to this that we have described.
On feast-days after Dugha has finished his display, the poets come in. Each of them is inside a figure resembling a thrush, made of feathers, and provided with a wooden head with a red beak, to look like a thrush's head. They stand in front of the sultan in this ridiculous make-up and recite their poems. I was told that their poetry is a kind of sermonizing in which they say to the sultan: "This pempi which you occupy was that whereon sat this king and that king, and such and such were this one's noble actions and such and such the other's. So do you too do good deeds whose memory will outlive you." After that the chief of the poets mounts the steps of the pempi and lays his head on the sultan's lap, then climbs to the top of the pempi and lays his head first on the sultan's right shoulder and then on his left, speaking all the while in their tongue, and finally he comes down again. I was told that this practice is a very old custom amongst them, prior to the introduction of Islam, and that they have kept it up.