Ibn Battuta Judges the Character of the People of Mali The Negroes possess some admirable qualities. They are seldom unjust, and have a greater abhorrence of injustice than any other people. Their sultan shows no mercy to anyone who is guilty of the least act of it. There is complete security in their country. Neither traveller nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence. They do not confiscate the property of any white man who dies in their country, even if it be uncounted wealth. On the contrary, they give it into the charge of some trustworthy person among the whites, until the rightful heir takes possession of it. They are careful to observe the hours of prayer, and assiduous in attending them in congregations, and in bringing up their children to them.
Their Piety On Fridays, if a man does not go early to the mosque, he cannot find a corner to pray in, on account of the crowd. It is a custom of theirs to send each man his boy with his prayer-mat; the boy spreads it out for his master in a place befitting him until he comes to the mosque. Their prayer-mats are made of the leaves of a tree resembling a date-palm, but without fruit.
Another of their good qualities is their habit of wearing clean white garments on Fridays. Even if a man has nothing but an old worn shirt, he washes it and cleans it, and wears it to the Friday service. Yet another is their zeal for learning the Koran by heart. They put their children in chains if they show any backwardness in memorizing it, and they are not set free until they have it by heart. I visited the qadi in his house on the day of the festival. His children were chained up, so I said to him, "Will you not let them loose?" He replied, "I shall not do so until they learn the Koran by heart."
The Nakedness of the Women Among their bad qualities are the following. The women servants, slave-girls, and young girls go about in front of everyone naked, without a stitch of clothing on them. Women go into the sultan's presence naked and without coverings, and his daughters also go about naked. Then there is their custom of putting dust and ashes on their heads, as a mark of respect, and the grotesque ceremonies we have described when the poets recite their verses. Another reprehensible practice among many of them is the eating of carrion, dogs, and asses.
Ibn Battuta Leaves the City of Mali The date of my arrival at Malli was 14th Jumada I, 53 (AH 753, June 28, 1352), and of my departure from it 22nd Muharram of the year 54 (AH 754, February 27, 1353).
The Hippos of the River Niger I was accompanied by a merchant called Abu Bakr ibn Ya'qub. We took the Mima road. I had a camel which I was riding, because horses are expensive, and cost a hundred mithqals each. We came to a wide channel which flows out of the Nile (Niger) and can only be crossed in boats. The place is infested with mosquitoes, and no one can pass that way except by night. We reached the channel three or four hours after nightfall on a moonlit night.
On reaching it I saw sixteen beasts with enormous bodies, and marveled at them, taking them to be elephants, of which there are many in that country. Afterwards I saw that they had gone into the river, so I said to Abu Bakr, "What kind of animals are these?" He replied, "They are hippopotami which have come out to pasture ashore." They are bulkier than horses, have manes and tails, and their heads are like horses' heads, but their feet like elephants' feet. I saw these hippopotami again when we sailed down the Nile (Niger) from Tumbuktu to Gawgaw. They were swimming in the water, and lifting their heads and blowing. The men in the boat were afraid of them and kept close to the bank in case the hippopotami should sink them.
They have a cunning method of catching these hippopotami. They use spears with a hole bored in them, through which strong cords are passed. The spear is thrown at one of the animals, and if it strikes its leg or neck it goes right through it. Then they pull on the rope until the beast is brought to the bank, kill it and eat its flesh. Along the bank there are quantities of hippopotamus bones.
Cannibals We halted near this channel at a large village, which had as governor a Negro, a pilgrim, and man of fine character named Farba Magha. He was one of the Negroes who made the pilgrimage in the company of Sultan Mansa Musa. Farba Magha told me that when Mansa Musa came to this channel, he had with him a qadi, a white man. This qadi attempted to make away with four thousand mithqals and the sultan, on learning of it, was enraged at him and exiled him to the country of the heathen cannibals. He lived among them for four years, at the end of which the sultan sent him back to his own country. The reason why the heathens did not eat him was that he was white, for they say that the white is indigestible because he is not "ripe," whereas the black man is "ripe" in their opinion.
Sultan Mansa Sulayman was visited by a party of these Negro cannibals, including one of their amirs. They have a custom of wearing in their ears large pendants, each pendant having an opening of half a span. They wrap themselves in silk mantles, and in their country there is a gold mine. The sultan received them with honor, and gave them as his hospitality-gift a servant, a negress. They killed and ate her, and having smeared their faces and hands with her blood came to the sultan to thank him. I was informed that this is their regular custom whenever they visit his court. Someone told me about them that they say that the choicest parts of women's flesh are the palm of the hand and the breast.
Ibn Battuta Arrives at Timbuktu Thence we went on to Timbuktu, which stands four miles from the river (Niger). Most of its inhabitants are of the Massufa tribe, wearers of the face-veil. Its governor is called Farba Musa. I was present with him one day when he had just appointed one of the Massufa to be amir of a section. He assigned to him a robe, a turban, and trousers, all of them of dyed cloth, and bade him sit upon a shield, and the chiefs of his tribe raised him on their heads. In this town is the grave of the meritorious poet Abu Ishaq as-Sahili, of Gharnata (Granada), who is known in his own land as at-Tuwayjin ("Little Saucepan").
Ibn Battuta Leaves Timbuktu for Gogo From Timbuktu I sailed down the Nile (Niger) on a small boat, hollowed out of a single piece of wood.
I went on to Gawgaw (Gogo), which is a large city on the Nile (Niger), and one of the finest towns in the Negro lands. It is also one of their biggest and best-provisioned towns, with rice in plenty, milk, and fish, and there is a species of cucumber there called "inani" which has no equal. The buying and selling of its inhabitants is done with cowry-shells, and the same is the case at Malli. I stayed there about a month, and then set out in the direction of Tagadda by land with a large caravan of merchants from Ghadamas.
Ibn Battuta Continues to Travel in the Lands Along the Niger, But Then Returns to Morocco, Re-crossing the Sahara. He Arrives in Fez in December of 1355. Ibn Battuta Ends His Long and Many Travels I arrived at the royal city of Fa's (Fez), the capital of our master the Commander of the Faithful (may God strengthen him), where I kissed his beneficent hand and was privileged to behold his gracious countenance. I settled down under the wing of his bounty after long journeying. May God Most High recompense him for the abundant favors and ample benefits which he has bestowed on me; may He prolong his days and spare him to the Muslims for many years to come.
Here ends the travel-narrative entitled "A Donation to those interested in the Curiosities of the Cities and Marvels of the Ways." Its dictation was finished on 3rd Dhu'l-hijja 756 (December 9, 1355). Praise be to God, and peace to His creatures whom He hath chosen.