Ibn Battuta, or Muhammad Ibn Battuta

Battuta, or Muhammad Ibn Battuta

Moroccan Muslim Traveler and Scholar

Author Quotes

We set out from Hormuz to visit a saintly man in the. town of Khunjubal, and after crossing the strait, hired mounts from the Turkmens who live in that country. No travelling can be done there except in their company, because of their bravery and knowledge of the roads. In these parts there is a desert four days' journey in extent, which is the haunt of Arab brigands, and in which the deadly samum [simoom] blows in June and July. All who are overtaken by it perish, and I was told that when a man has fallen a victim to this wind and his friends attempt to wash his body [for burial], all his limbs fall apart. All along the road there are graves of persons who have succumbed there to this wind. We used to travel by night, and halt from sunrise until late afternoon in the shade of the trees.

I passed days some of the alleys of Damascus , and I saw them owned small had fallen out of his hand dish of Chinese pottery They call it the saucer Vtksart met the people some of whom Collect told him Hqvha, carry them with you to the owner of the endowments pots Fjmaha and the man went with him showed him her and pushed him what bought him like that Dish this is one of the best business, the master of the boy he must beat him to break the saucer or Anehrh He is also broken his heart and changed for that this was the cessation of Gera hearts May Allah reward of Tsamt mettle in good to like this.

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.

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 [with a twang], 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.

The Nile [actually the 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 Malli. 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 [Timbuktoo] 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 [the kingdom of] Malli; 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.

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.

We set out? in the company of the khatun Bayalun and under her protection. The sultan [Uzbeg] escorted her one stage then returned, he and the queen [the khatun Taytughli] and the heir to the throne; the other khatuns accompanied her [the khatun Bayalan] 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 [to her father the emperor].

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. [That person] answered. "His purpose in doing that was solely to protect you from the crocodile, by placing himself between you and it."

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.

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.

The people of this town hold the famous [picnics called] subut an-nakhl 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 [to entertain them], 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 [Tangiers, 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.

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.

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.

I took ship at Aden, and after four days at sea reached Zayla [Zeila, on the African coast], 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.

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 Negrolands. 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 [elsewhere]; 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.

Tell me trustworthy people Kfiqih Isa Yemen, and al - Faqih teacher Ali, Judge Abdullah and the Community of others, that the people of this Algeria (Maldives) were infidels, and was showing them each month puck from the jinn, sea hand comes up , like a boat full of lanterns. It was their habit if they saw him, they took a virgin Vzinoha underway and they entered into Bdjanh. It is the house of idols, and was based on the bank of the sea, and has a strand seen, and there they leave for the night, and then come in the morning Vigdunha Muftdh dead. And continue each month voting for them, it 's hit the lottery gave his daughter. Then they gave them a Moroccan - called father of the blessings barbaric, and was maintained for the great Koran, went down an old House of them on the island of deadlines, went out one day, her family has collected, and they cry as if they were at a funeral. Fastvhmhn for them alone, why Ifamenh.

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 [other Italians?] 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 harbour 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.

This desert was the scene of the exploits of the famous brigand Jamal al-Luk, who had under him a band of Arab and Persian horsemen. He used to build hospices and entertain travelers with the money that he gained by robbery, and it is said that he used to claim that he never employed violence except against those who did not pay the tithes on their property. No king could do anything against him, but afterwards he repented and gave himself up to ascetic practices and his grave is now a place of pilgrimage. We went on to the town of Khunjubal, the residence of the Shaykh Abu Dulaf, whom we had come to visit. We lodged in his hermitage and he treated me kindly and sent me food and fruit by one of his sons.

We stayed one night in this island [Mombasa], 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 colour, and with tattoo marks on their faces. I was told by a merchant that the town of Sufala lies a fortnight's journey [south] 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.

I traveled to the city of Almajer, a Maks and a thousand open and Jim pinned behind the major city of the best cities Turk, on the big river, and its orchards and many fruits, we got them at an angle , Sheikh Saleh al - Abed chives Mohammed Bataiha of Btaih Iraq, and it was Khalifa , Sheikh Ahmed al - Rifai may Allah be pleased with him, and in his corner toward seventy of Arabs, Persians and Turks , and the Roman poor, married and estates of them, living from Fotouh. To the people of that country 's good faith in the poor, and every night they come to the corner of horses, cattle and sheep, comes the Sultan and Akhawatin to visit Sheikh and blessed him, and Adzlon charity, and give the bid a lot, especially women , they Akthern charity and Atharin good deeds ... and I saw this country screamed to maximize women have a higher they inferior to men. As for women , the princes were the first I see them when I came out of the Crimean see Khatoon wife of Prince Sultah in a cart to her, all of which are shrouded in blue file - Tayeb, the strands of the house open, and doors, and between her four neighbors, Lovely Hassan Bdiat dress, and left behind a series of gigs in the vicinity of Itbanha As brought from a house in Prince descended from the vehicle to the ground, and went down with about thirty of slaves hold up their wake, but Othoabha bonds take all ongoing Baroh, and Oarfn common yellow earth from each side, and walked well Mtbchterh when he arrived at the Prince made ??it and handed it and Ocilha to his side, and Dar by Jawareha and came Brwaya Aalghemz, Vspt of it in a glass and sat down on her knees in front of the prince, and Nolth mug and drank, and then nourished his brother and Sagaha Prince, attended the food I ate with him and gave her clothes and left... the women vendors and mob Froathn, and one of them be in the cart and the horse - drawn, and between three and four hands of slaves, hold up their wake. First and foremost Albguetaq, a Okarov studded substance, and in the above blades peacocks and be strands of the house were open, the visible face, because women Turks Ihtjbn comes one of them on this arrangement and with its slaves for sheep and milk Vtabieh of people goods aromatic, perhaps with the woman whom her husband Viznh of see some of the servants, not be the only scalp of dresses from sheepskin, and in his bonnet fit so they call it both.

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 bureaux 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.

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.

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.

Thus I reached the city of Malli [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 Malli, '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!

We stayed there [in Mogadishu] three days, food being brought to us three times a day, and on the fourth, a Friday, the qadi and one of the wazirs brought me a set of garments. We then went to the mosque and prayed behind the [sultan's] 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 coloured silk, each surmounted by a golden bird. After the palace ceremonies were over, all those present saluted and retired.

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Battuta, or Muhammad Ibn Battuta
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Moroccan Muslim Traveler and Scholar