Abu 'Abdallah ibn Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveler, was born in Tangier, Morocco, in 1304, into a family of Muslim scholars of Berber origin. He studied law as a young man and in 1325, at the age of twenty-one, set out alone from his native city to make the pilgrimage, or hajj, to the sacred city of Mecca, in Arabia. This was the start of a career of adventurous journeying spanning almost thirty years, during which he allegedly traveled approximately 73,000 miles visiting territories equivalent to forty-four modern countries. He visited North Africa, Palestine, and Syria along the way; then Baghdad and southwestern Iran; Yemen, East Africa, Oman, and the Gulf; Asia Minor, the Caucasus, and southern Russia; India, the Maldive Islands, and China; then back to his native Maghreb, from there to Andalusia, and thence to the Sahara. He married several times during his peregrinations and fathered a number of children.
His travels remained within the cultural boundaries of Dar al-Islam, or the Abode of Islam. This expression included the lands where Muslims predominated, where Muslim kings or princes ruled, and where the shari'a, or Sacred Law of Islam, was the foundation of the social order. He moved within a world of Muslim princes, scholars, holy men, and merchants and succeeded in disarming people with his piety, good breeding, and charm. He was offered hospitality and generous gifts in the course of his career on the road. He sought out those with whom he shared a common thought expressed in the Arabic language, for although he was Berber in ethnic origin, he was Arab in culture. Wishing to deepen his learning and piety, he visited great mosques, zawiyas (Sufi lodges), and madrasas (schools or colleges teaching the Islamic sciences, especially law). He was appointed to the office of qadi, or judge, in the Maldive Islands and in Delhi by Sultan Muhammad Tughluq. The honor conferred upon him is testi-