Ibn Battuta


Ibn Battuta : biography

1304 – 1369


The Rihla

After returning home from his travels in 1354, and at the instigation of the Marinid ruler of Morocco, Abu Inan Faris, Ibn Battuta dictated an account of his journeys to Ibn Juzayy, a scholar whom he had previously met in Granada. The account is the only source for Ibn Battuta’s adventures. The full title of the manuscript تحفة النظار في غرائب الأمصار وعجائب الأسفار may be translated as A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling. However, it is often simply referred to as the Rihla الرحلة, or "The Journey". There is no indication that Ibn Battuta made any notes during his twenty-nine years of travels. When he came to dictate an account of them, he had to rely on memory and manuscripts produced by earlier travellers. When describing Damascus, Mecca, Medina and some other places in the Middle East, Ibn Juzayy clearly copied passages from the 12th-century account by Ibn Jubayr. Similarly, most of Ibn Juzayy’s descriptions of places in Palestine were copied from an account by the 13th-century traveller Muhammad al-Abdari.; Western Orientalists do not believe that Ibn Battuta visited all the places he described and argue that in order to provide a comprehensive description of places in the Muslim world, he relied on hearsay evidence and made use of accounts by earlier travellers. For example, it is considered very unlikely that Ibn Battuta made a trip up the Volga River from New Sarai to visit Bolghar; and there are serious doubts about a number of other journeys such as his trip to Sana’a in Yemen, his journey from Balkh to Bistam in Khorasan and his trip around Anatolia. Some orientalists have also questioned whether he really visited China. Nevertheless, while apparently fictional in places, the Rihla provides an important account of much of the 14th-century world.

Ibn Battuta often experienced culture shock in regions he visited where the local customs of recently converted peoples did not fit in with his orthodox Muslim background. Among the Turks and Mongols, he was astonished at the way women behaved, remarking that on seeing a Turkish couple and noting the woman’s freedom of speech, he had assumed that the man was the woman’s servant when he was in fact her husband. He also felt that dress customs in the Maldives, and some sub-Saharan regions in Africa were too revealing. He particularly made note of cannibalism practiced in West Africa:

Little is known about Ibn Battuta’s life after completion of his Rihla in 1355. He was appointed a judge in Morocco and died in 1368 or 1369.;

For centuries his book was obscure, even within the Muslim world, but in the early 19th century extracts were published in German and English based on manuscripts discovered in the Middle East, containing abridged versions of Ibn Juzayy’s Arabic text. During the French occupation of Algeria in the 1830s five manuscripts were discovered in Constantine, including two that contained more complete versions of the text. These manuscripts were brought back to the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris and studied by French scholars Charles Defrémery and Beniamino Sanguinetti. From 1853 they published a series of four volumes containing the Arabic text, extensive notes and a translation into French. Defrémery and Sanguinetti’s printed text has now been translated into many other languages while Ibn Battuta has grown in reputation and is now a well-known figure.

Places visited by Ibn Battuta

Over his lifetime Ibn Battuta traveled over 73,000 miles (117 500 km) and visited the equivalent of 44 modern countries, here is a list.Jerry Bently, Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993),114.


  • Tangier
  • Fes
  • Marrakech
  • Tlemcen (Tilimsan)
  • Miliana
  • Algiers
  • Djurdjura Mountains
  • Béjaïa
  • Constantine – Named as Qusantînah.
  • Annaba – Also called Bona.
  • Tunis – At that time, Abu Yahya (son of Abu Zajaria) was the sultan of Tunis.
  • Sousse – Also called Susah.
  • Sfax
  • Gabès
  • Tripoli