The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century

Synopsis

Ross Dunn here recounts the great traveler's remarkable career, interpreting it within the cultural and social context of Islamic society and giving the reader both a biography of an extraordinary personality and a study of the hemispheric dimensions of human interchange in medieval times.

Excerpt

The year 2004 marks the seven hundredth anniversary of the birth of Abu ’Abdallah ibn Battuta, the Muslim lawyer who crisscrossed the Eastern Hemisphere in the second quarter of the fourteenth century and, with the help of a literary collaborator, wrote a lengthy account of what he saw and did. The world should take note of the septicentenary of this pious and educated Moroccan traveler. Not only did he give us a precious description of places, people, politics, and lifeways in nearly all the urbanized lands of Eurasia and Africa in the later medieval era, he also exposed the premodern roots of globalization. His tale reveals that by the fourteenth century the formation of dense networks of communication and exchange had linked in one way or another nearly everyone in the hemisphere with nearly everyone else. From Ibn Battuta’s Rihla, or Book of Travels, we discover the webs of interconnection that stretched from Spain to China and from Kazakhstan to Tanzania, and we can see that already in the Moroccan’s time an event occurring in one part of Eurasia or Africa might reverberate, in its effects, thousands of miles away.

Sailing the Arabian Sea in a two-masted dhow or leading his horse over a snow-covered pass in the Hindu Kush, Ibn Battuta could not have dreamed of the speed and intensity of human interchange today. Even since 1987, when the first edition of this book appeared, humankind has made astonishing advances in electronic technology and communication. One small irony of this “information revolution” is that Ibn Battuta himself has journeyed deeper into the popular imagination. He is today a more familiar historical figure among both Muslims and non-Muslims than he was twentyfive years ago. This has happened, I think, partly because of the increasing intensity of political and cultural relations between Muslim and Western countries and partly because of the broadening of international curriculums in schools and universities, notably in the United States, to embrace Asian and African societies, including famous men and women of the Muslim past.

In the United States, virtually all high school and college world history textbooks introduce Ibn Battuta, and in the past several . . .

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