By KidReporter: Hari. S., Grade 5
Introduction: Ibn Who?
Most of the general public thinks explorers like Columbus, Magellan, da Gama, et cetera were
”better” than all others. In reality, they were, but only at the trivial feat of making themselves known.
The simple truth is, the story of Columbus landing in America first, and many others are royal
cover-ups. The unsung heroes of exploring were really the ones who the Europeans erased from all
memory. One of these invisible supermen was a man named Ibn Battuta.
Tangier, Morocco, was a quiet place in the year 1325. That would change. It wasn’t known for
very much at all. That would also change. All this change would be caused by one 21-year-old scholar.
Abu Abd al-Lah Muhammad ibn Abd al-Lah al-Lawati al-Tangi ibn Batutah was not an
explorer. At least that’s what the world thought until 1325. He was a scholar and a judge, born to two
“quadis” or religious judges, who sorted out disputes using Shariah law, the guidelines of the Islamic
religion practiced in most of the Middle East and North Africa.
He was not satisfied with the prospect of simply traveling to Mecca and back, so he traversed the
entirety of Asia, securing him a place in history.
Ibn Battuta left Tangier in the summer of 1325. He traversed Er Rif, a mountainous region on
the Morocco-Algeria border, unsupported and alone. He inexplicably bypassed the great city of Fes,
crossing into the Tell Atlas mountains. The first mention he makes of traveling with anybody is after
he arrives at the busy trading hub of Tlemcen. At the great palace of the Sultan, Abu Tashifin, he
met up with two Tunisian merchants, with whom he traveled to the town of Miliana.
One of the merchants died of a high fever on the way, but Ibn and the other trader pressed on.
Once they camped out near the city gates, a huge storm struck, forcing them to seek shelter inside the
city. In ten days, they left for the port of Algiers.
Ibn contracted a fever on the way, possibly caused by touching the dead merchant’s belongings.
However, he was determined to go to Mecca, so he wrote in the Rihla, his autobiography, “If God decrees
my death, then my death shall be on the road, with my face set towards Mecca”. He tied himself into
the saddle of his donkey and they set off to the city of Constantine, traveling through Bijaya.
In Constantine he received a new turban from the overly generous Sultan, but quickly set off
with the local Haj caravan and traveled hundreds of miles, through Libya and even the Egyptian
Empire, to the city of Tunis, their last stop in North Africa. Tunis was the largest city in Africa at
the time, but Ibn only stocked up on supplies before sailing across the Gulf of Aden into Arabia.
Middle East and the Mongol Empire.
In fact, after Ibn Battuta crossed the Gulf of Aden, he came within 200 miles of Mecca, but he
still kept traveling, stopping briefly in Jeddah to buy provisions for the long trip ahead. Then, he
traveled for the longest straight stretch of his trip, from Jeddah to Hebron, in Palestine. For the rest
of his trip, he would only stop to trade and stock up on essentials. From Hebron he traveled to
Jerusalem, a Muslim holy site among other things. He paid his respects and moved on into the vast
territory of the Mongol Empire.
Now, word of this amazing Muslim judge wandering around Asia had spread like wildfire. It had
even reached the ears of the infamous Kublai Khan. The Khan was a very secretive man, and he didn’t
want any potential spies entering his glorious, barbaric (although he didn’t think so) country. So, as any
tyrant would, he ordered his men to behead Ibn Battuta. But, Ibn was prepared. In Alexandria, he had
acquired an escort of 100 Mamluk warriors to protect him against the Khan’s forces. Eventually, Ibn managed to push through Syria , Mongolia, Kazakhstan, China, and Russia (the present day areas the
Mongol Empire covered) unscathed.
After barely surviving the Mongol Empire, Ibn crossed the border into the Sultanate of Delhi,
today known as India. It was ruled at the time by Sultan Qutb ud-Din Aibak, and it was Ibn Battuta’s
longest stop. He spent years as a judge in Delhi before he traveled south to the city of Calicut, where he
obtained 300 pounds of cloves, worth an enormous amounts of money back in Africa. He spent some time
in the islands of Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Archipelago before leaving on a boat from
Calicut to Saudi Arabia.
Mecca and Return to Tangier
After arriving in Mecca, Ibn completed his Haj , and returned to Tangier. He wrote Rihla with
Ibn Juzayy, and achieved world fame. He lived for 2 more years, but died of unknown causes. He
remains an inspiration for countess people even 710 years after his death.