Ibn Battuta’s Travels in Asia and
The following excerpts are selections from those posted on the Internet Medieval Sourcebook at http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1354-ibnbattuta.html
Here begins Ibn Battuta's travels p. 43
I left Tangier, my birthplace, on Thursday,
2nd Rajab 725 [June 14, 1325], being at that time twenty-two years of age [22 lunar
years; 21 and 4 months by solar reckoning], with the intention of making the
Pilgrimage to the Holy House [at
I set out alone, finding no companion to cheer the way with friendly intercourse, and no party of travellers with whom to associate myself. Swayed by an overmastering impulse within me, and a long-cherished desire to visit those glorious sanctuaries, I resolved to quit all my friends and tear myself away from my home. As my parents were still alive, it weighed grievously upon me to part from them, and both they and I were afflicted with sorrow.
On reaching the city of
Tilimsan [Tlemsen], whose sultan at that time was Abu Tashifin, I found there
two ambassadors of the Sultan of Tunis, who left the city on the same day that
I arrived. One of the brethren having advised me to accompany them, I consulted
the will of God in this matter, and after a stay of three days in the city to
procure all that I needed, I rode after them with all speed. I overtook them at
the town of
On the road
On the way from
We then reached
The Christian holy places
Among the grace-bestowing sanctuaries of
describes the city of
Thence we travelled to
The baths at
The western part of
The eastern part has an abundance of bazaars, the largest of which is called the Tuesday bazaar. On this side there are no fruit trees, but all the fruit is brought from the western side, where there are orchards and gardens.
When we arrived at
As we left Kufa I fell ill of a
diarrhoea and had to be dismounted from the camel many times a day. The
commander of the caravan used to make enquiries for my condition and give
instructions that I should be looked after. My illness continued until I
Ibn Battuta leaves
After the Pilgrimage at the close of the
year [AD 1330] I set out from
These terrors continued until
we emerged at a roadstead called Ra's Dawa'ir between Aydhab and Sawakin. We
landed here and found on the shore a reed hut shaped like a mosque, inside
which were ostrich egg-shells filled with water. We drank from these and cooked
food. A party of Bejas came to us, so we hired camels from them and travelled
with them through a country in which there are many gazelles. The Bejas do not
eat them so they are tame and do not run away from men. After two days'
travelling we reached the
We took ship at Sawakin for
Ibn Battuta arrives in Yemen, first visiting the town of Zabid pp.108-110.
Zabid is a hundred and twenty miles from
San'a, and is after San'a the largest and wealthiest town in
The people of this town hold
the famous [picnics called] subut an-nakhl in this wise. They go out to the
palmgroves every Saturday during the season of the colouring 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 [
Ibn Battuta travels on to Ta'izz and San'a
We went on from there to the town of
The sultan of
After staying some days as his
guest I set out for the town of
Ibn Battuta arrives in Aden
I travelled thence to '
sails along the east coast of
I took ship at
The town of
On leaving Zayla we sailed for fifteen days
and came to Maqdasha [
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.
I embarked at Maqdashaw [
We came to Mambasa [
Kulwa on the African mainland
We stayed one night in this island [
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.
From Kulwa we sailed to Dhafari [Dhofar], at
the extremity of
The people of Dhofar and their customs
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
Banana, betel, and coconut trees
In the neighbourhood of the town there are
orchards with many banana trees. The bananas are of immense size; one which was
weighed in my presence scaled twelve ounces and was pleasant to the taste and
very sweet. They grow also betel-trees and coco-palms, which are found only in
Betel-trees are grown like vines on cane trellises or else trained up coco-palms. They have no fruit and are grown only for their leaves. The Indians have a high opinion of betel, and if a man visits a friend and the latter gives him five leaves of it, you would think he had given him the world, especially if he is a prince or notable. A gift of betel is a far greater honour than a gift of gold and silver. It is used in this way. First one takes areca-nuts, which are like nutmegs, crushes them into small bits and chews them. Then the betel leaves are taken, a little chalk is put on them, and they are chewed with the areca-nuts. They sweeten the breath and aid digestion, prevent the disagreeable effects of drinking water on an empty stomach, and stimulates the faculties.
The coco-palm is one of the strangest of trees, and looks exactly like a date-palm. The nut resembles a man's head, for it has marks like eyes and a mouth, and the contents, when it is green, are like the brain. It has fibre like hair, out of which they make ropes, which they use instead of nails to bind their ships together and also as cables. Amongst its properties are that it strengthens the body, fattens, and adds redness to the face. If it is cut open when it is green it gives a liquid deliciously sweet and fresh. After drinking this one takes a piece of the rind as a spoon and scoops out the pulp inside the nut. This tastes like an egg that has been broiled but not quite cooked, and is nourishing. I lived on it for a year and a half when I was in the Maldive islands.
The many uses of the coconut
One of its peculiarities is that oil, milk
and honey are extracted from it. The honey is made in this fashion. They cut a
stalk on which the fruit grows, leaving two fingers' length, and on this they
tie a small bowl, into which the sap drips. If this has been done in the
morning, a servant climbs up again in the evening with two bowls, one filled
with water. He pours into the other the sap that has collected, then washes the
stalk, cuts off a small piece, and ties on another bowl. The same thing is repeated
next morning until a good deal of the sap has been collected, when it is cooked
until it thickens. It then makes an excellent honey, and the merchants of
It is a fertile land, with streams trees, orchards,
palm gardens, and fruit trees of various kinds. Its capital, the town of
The city of
I travelled next to the country of Hormuz.
Hormuz is a town on the coast, called also Mughistan, and in the sea facing it
and nine miles from shore is New Hormuz, which is an island. The town on it is
called Jarawn. It is a large and fine city, with busy markets, as it is the
port from which the wares from
Water is a valuable commodity in this island. They have wells and artificial reservoirs to collect rainwater at some distance from the town. The inhabitants go there with waterskins, which they fill and carry on their backs to the shore, load them on boats and bring them to the town.
Ibn Battuta leaves Hormuz by land and crosses a desert
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.
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 travellers 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
Pearl divers of the
From there we journeyed to the town of
leaves the steppe
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].
The khatun is met at the border of her father's territory
The Greeks had heard that this khatun was
returning to her country, and there came to this fortress [at the Byzantine
border] to meet her the Greek Kifali [Greek kephale, meaning chief] Nicolas,
with a large army and a large hospitality-gift, accompanied by the princesses
and nurses from the palace of her father, the king of Constantinople. From
Mahtuli to Constantinople is a journey of twenty-two days, sixteen to the canal
[unclear, perhaps the Danube?], and six thence to
The commander Baydara returned [to Uzbeg Khan] with his troops, and none travelled on with the khatun but her own people. She left her mosque behind at the fort and the practice of calling to prayer was abolished. As part of her hospitality-gifts she was given intoxicating liquors, which she drank, and swine, and I was told by one of her suite that she ate them. No one remained with her who prayed except one Turk, who used to pray with us. Sentiments formerly hidden were revealed because of our entry into the land of the infidels, but the khatun charged the amir Kifali to treat us honourably, and on one occasion he beat one of his guards because he had laughed at our prayer.
Then her brother, whose name was Kifali Qaras, arrived with five thousand horsemen, fully accoutred in armour. When they prepared to meet the princess, her brother, dressed in white, rode a grey horse, having over his head a parasol ornamented with jewels. On his right hand he had five princes and the same number on his left hand, all dressed in white also, and with parasols embroidered in gold over their heads. In front of him were a hundred foot soldiers and a hundred horsemen, who wore long coats of mail over themselves and their horses, each one of them leading a saddled and armoured horse carrying the arms of a horseman, consisting of a jewelled helmet, a breastplate, a bow, and a sword, and each man had in his hand a lance with a pennant at its head. Most of these lances were covered with plaques of gold and silver. These led horses are the riding horses of the sultan's son.
His horsemen were divided into squadrons, two hundred horsemen in each squadron. Over them was a commander, who had in front of him ten of the horsemen, fully accoutred in armour, each leading a horse, and behind him ten coloured standards, carried by ten of the horsemen, and ten kettledrums slung over the shoulders of ten of the horsemen, with whom were six others sounding trumpets and bugles and fifes.
The khatun rode out with her guards, maidens, slave boys and servants, these numbering about five hundred, all wearing silken garments, embroidered with gold and encrusted with precious stones. She herself was wearing a garment of gold brocade, encrusted with jewels, with a crown set with precious stones on her head, and her horse was covered with a saddle-cloth of silk embroidered in gold. On its legs were bracelets of gold and round its neck necklaces set with precious stones, and her saddle frame was covered with gold ornamented with jewels.
Their meeting took place in a flat piece of ground about a mile distant from the town. Her brother dismounted to her, because he was younger than her, and kissed her stirrup and she kissed his head. The commanders and princes also dismounted and they all kissed her stirrup, after which she set out with her brother.
The procession reaches
We encamped at a distance of ten miles from
Our entry into
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.
Ibn Batutta meets the Byzantine emperor
The Emperor of Constantinople is called Takfur [actually Andronicus III], son of the Emperor Jirgis ["George," but actually Andronicus II]. His father, the Emperor George, was still alive, but had become an ascetic and monk, devoting himself to religious exercises in the churches, and had resigned the sovereignty to his son. We shall speak of him later.
On the fourth day after our
In the midst of the hall three
men were standing to whom those four men delivered me. These took hold of my garments
as the others had done, and on a signal from another man led me forward. One of
them was a Jew, and he said to me in Arabic "Do not be afraid; this is
their custom that they use with one who enters. I am the interpreter, and I
After this I reached a great
pavilion, where the Emperor was seated on his throne, with his wife, the mother
of the khatun, before him. At the foot of the throne were the khatun and her
brothers, to the right of it six men and to the left of it four, and behind it
four, every one of them armed. The Emperor signed to me, before I had saluted
and reached him, to sit down for a moment, in order that my apprehension might
be calmed. After doing so I approached him and saluted him, and he signed to me
to sit down, but I did not do so. He questioned me about
The city is enormous in size, and in two
parts separated by a great river [the
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
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.
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.
I was told that the number of
monks and priests in this church runs into thousands, and that some of them are
descendants of the apostles, and that inside it is another church exclusively
for women, containing more than a thousand virgins and a still greater number
of aged women who devote themselves to religious practices. It is the custom of
the king, the nobles and the rest of the people to come every morning to visit
this church. The Pope comes to visit it once a year [sic]. When he is four
days' journey from the town the king goes out to meet him, and dismounts before
him and when he enters the city walks on foot in front of him. During his stay
On Christian communities of religious
A monastery is the Christian equivalent of a
religious house or convent among the Muslims, and there are a great many such
I entered a monastery with the Greek whom the king had given me as a guide. Inside it was a church containing about five hundred virgins wearing hair-garments; their heads were shaved and covered with felt bonnets. They were exceedingly beautiful and showed the traces of their austerities. A youth sitting on a pulpit was reading the gospel to them in the most beautiful voice I have ever heard; round him were eight other youths on pulpits with their priest, and when the first youth had finished reading another began. The Greek said to me, "These girls are kings' daughters who have given themselves to the service of this church, and likewise the boys who are reading [are kings' sons]."
I entered with him also into churches in which there were the daughters of ministers, governors, and the principal men of the city, and others where there were aged women and widows, and others where there were monks, each church containing a hundred men or so. Most of the population of the city are monks, ascetics, and priests, and its churches are not to be counted for multitude. The inhabitants of the city, soldiers and civilians, small and great, carry over their heads huge parasols, both in winter and summer, and the women wear large turbans.
The former emperor now a monk
I was out one day with my Greek
guide, when we met the former king George [Andronicos II] who had become a
monk. He was walking on foot, wearing haircloth garments and a bonnet of felt,
and he had a long white beard and a fine face, which bore traces of his
austerities. Behind and before him was a body of monks, and he had a staff in
his hand and a rosary on his neck. When the Greek saw him he dismounted and
said to me, "Dismount, for this is the king's father." When my guide
saluted him the king asked him about me, then stopped and sent for me. He took
my hand and said to the Greek (who knew the Arabic tongue), "Say to this
Saracen (meaning Muslim), 'I clasp the hand which has entered Jerusalem and the
foot which has walked within the Dome of the Rock and the great church of the
Holy Sepulchre and Bethlehem,'" and he laid his hand upon my feet and
passed it over his face. I was astonished at their good opinion of one who,
though not of their religion, had entered these places. Then he took my hand
and as I walked with him asked me about
I entered with him the sacred enclosure of the church which we have described above. When he approached the principal gate, a party of priests and monks came out to salute him, for he is one of their chief men in monasticism, and on seeing them he let go my hand. I said to him "I should like to enter the church with you." Then he said to the interpreter, "Say to him, 'He who enters it must needs prostrate himself before the great cross, for this is a rule which the ancients laid down and which cannot be contravened.'" So I left him and he entered alone and I did not see him again.
After leaving the king I
entered the bazaar of the scribes, where I was noticed by the judge, who sent
one of his assistants to ask the Greek about me. On learning that I was a
Muslim scholar he sent for me and I went up to him. He was an old man with a
fine face and hair, wearing the black garments of a monk, and had about ten
scribes in front of him writing. He rose to meet me, his companions rising
also, and [he] said, "You are the king's guest and we are bound to honour
you." He then asked me about
The khatun declines to return to her husband Uzbeg Khan
When it became clear to the Turks who were in the khatun's company that she professed her father's religion and wished to stay with him, they asked her for leave to return to their country. She made them rich presents and sent them an amir called Saruja with five hundred horsemen to escort them to their country. She sent for me, and gave me three hundred of their gold dinars, called barbara, which are not good money, and a thousand Venetian silver pieces, together with some robes and pieces of cloth and two horses, which were a gift from her father, and commended me to Saruja. I bade her farewell and left, having spent a month and six days in their town.
prepares to cross the
At Sijilmasa [at the edge of the desert] I bought camels and a four months' supply of forage for them. Thereupon I set out on the 1st Muharram of the year 53 [AH 753, February 13, 1352] with a caravan including, amongst others, a number of the merchants of Sijilmasa.
The saltworks at the oasis of Taghaza
After twenty-five days [from Sijilmasa] we reached Taghaza, an unattractive village, with the curious feature that its houses and mosques are built of blocks of salt, roofed with camel skins. There are no trees there, nothing but sand. In the sand is a salt mine; they dig for the salt, and find it in thick slabs, lying one on top. of the other, as though they had been tool-squared and laid under the surface of the earth. A camel will carry two of these slabs.
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
We passed ten days of discomfort there, because the water is brackish and the place is plagued with flies. Water supplies are laid in at Taghaza for the crossing of the desert which lies beyond it, which is a ten-nights' journey with no water on the way except on rare occasions. We indeed had the good fortune to find water in plenty, in pools left by the rain. One day we found a pool of sweet water between two rocky prominences. We quenched our thirst at it and then washed our clothes. Truffles are plentiful in this desert and it swarms with lice, so that people wear string necklaces containing mercury, which kills them.
Death in the desert
At that time we used to go ahead of the caravan, and when we found a place suitable for pasturage we would graze our beasts. We went on doing this until one of our party was lost in the desert; after that I neither went ahead nor lagged behind. We passed a caravan on the way and they told us that some of their party had become separated from them. We found one of them dead under a shrub, of the sort that grows in the sand, with his clothes on and a whip in his hand. The water was only about a mile away from him.
The oasis of Tisarahla, where the caravan hires a desert guide
We came next to Tisarahla, a place of subterranean water-beds, where the caravans halt. They stay there three days to rest, mend their waterskins, fill them with water, and sew on them covers of sackcloth as a precaution against the wind.
From this point the "takshif" is despatched. The "takshif" is a name given to any man of the Massufa tribe who is hired by the persons in the caravan to go ahead to Iwalatan, carrying letters from them to their friends there, so that they may take lodgings for them. These persons then come out a distance of four nights' journey to meet the caravan, and bring water with them. Anyone who has no friend in Iwalatan writes to some merchant well known for his worthy character who then undertakes the same services for him.
It often happens that the "takshif" perishes in this desert, with the result that the people of Iwalatan know nothing about the caravan, and all or most of those who are with it perish. That desert is haunted by demons; if the "takshif" be alone, they make sport of him and disorder his mind, so that he loses his way and perishes. For there is no visible road or track in these parts, nothing but sand blown hither and thither by the wind. You see hills of sand in one place, and afterwards you will see them moved to quite another place. The guide there [sic] is one who has made the journey frequently in both directions, and who is gifted with a quick intelligence. I remarked, as a strange thing, that the guide whom we had was blind in one eye, and diseased in the other, yet he had the best knowledge of the road of any man. We hired the "takshif" on this journey for a hundred gold mithqals; he was a man of the Massufa. On the night of the seventh day [from Tasarahla] we saw with joy the fires of the party who had come out to meet us.
The caravan reaches the oasis of Walata
Thus we reached the town of
I went to visit Ibn Badda, a
worthy man of Sala' [Sallee, near the Morroccan city of
Life at Walata
My stay at Iwalatan lasted about fifty days; and I was shown honour 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.
Their women are of surpassing beauty, and are shown more respect than the men. The state of affairs amongst these people is indeed extraordinary. Their men show no signs of jealousy whatever; no one claims descent from his father, but on the contrary from his mother's brother. A person's heirs are his sister's sons, not his own sons. This is a thing which I have seen nowhere in the world except among the Indians of Malabar. But those are heathens; these people are Muslims, punctilious in observing the hours of prayer, studying books of law, and memorizing the Koran. Yet their women show no bashfulness before men and do not veil themselves, though they are assiduous in attending the prayers. Any man who wishes to marry one of them may do so, but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one desired to do so her family would not allow her to go.
The women there have
"friends" and "companions" amongst the men outside their
own families, and the men in the same way have "companions" amongst
the women of other families. A man may go into his house and find his wife
entertaining her "companion" but he takes no objection to it. One day
at Iwalatan I went into the qadi's house, after asking his permission to enter,
and found with him a young woman of remarkable beauty. When I saw her I was
shocked and turned to go out, but she laughed at me, instead of being overcome
by shame, and the qadi said to me "Why are you going out? She is my
companion." I was amazed at their conduct, for he was a theologian and a
From Walata to the river
When I decided to make the journey to Malli [the city of Mali], which is reached in twenty-four days from Iwalatan if the traveller pushes on rapidly, I hired a guide from the Massufa--for there is no necessity to travel in a company on account of the safety of that road--and set out with three of my companions.
On the way there are many trees [baobabs], and these trees are of great age and girth; a whole caravan may shelter in the shade of one of them. There are trees which have neither branches nor leaves, yet the shade cast by their trunks is sufficient to shelter a man. Some of these trees are rotted in the interior and the rain-water collects in them, so that they serve as wells and the people drink of the water inside them. In others there are bees and honey, which is collected by the people. I was surprised to find inside one tree, by which I passed, a man, a weaver, who had set up his loom in it and was actually weaving.
A traveller in this country carries no provisions, whether plain food or seasonings, and neither gold nor silver. He takes nothing but pieces of salt and glass ornaments, which the people call beads, and some aromatic goods. When he comes to a village the womenfolk of the blacks bring out millet, milk, chickens, pulped lotus fruit, rice, "funi" (a grain resembling mustard seed, from which "kuskusu" [couscous] and gruel are made), and pounded haricot beans. The traveller buys what of these he wants, but their rice causes sickness to whites when it is eaten, and the funi is preferable to it.
Ibn Battuta reaches the
Niger river, which he mistakenly believes to be the
The Nile [actually the
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.
I saw a crocodile in this part of the Nile [
Ibn Battuta arrives at the
Thus I reached the city of
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.
Ibn Battuta meets the king
The sultan of Malli is Mansa Sulayman,
"mansa" meaning [in Mandingo] sultan, and Sulayman being his proper
name. He is a miserly king, not a man from whom one might hope for a rich
present. It happened that I spent these two months without seeing him, on
account of my illness. Later on he held a banquet in commemoration of our
master [the late sultan of
When the ceremony was over I went forward and saluted Mansa Sulayman. The qadi, the preacher, and Ibn al-Faqih told him who I was, and he answered them in their tongue. They said to me, "The sultan says to you 'Give thanks to God,'" so I said, "Praise be to God and thanks under all circumstances." When I withdrew the [sultan's] hospitality gift was sent to me. It was taken first to the qadi's house, and the qadi sent it on with his men to Ibn al-Faqih's house. Ibn al-Faqih came hurrying out of his house barefooted, and entered my room saying, "Stand up; here comes the sultan's stuff and gift to you." So I stood up thinking--since he had called it "stuff"--that it consisted of robes of honour and money, and lo!, it was three cakes of bread, and a piece of beef fried in native oil, and a calabash of sour curds. When I saw this I burst out laughing, and thought it a most amazing thing that they could be so foolish and make so much of such a paltry matter.
The court ceremonial of king
On certain days the sultan holds audiences in the palace yard, where there is a platform under a tree, with three steps; this they call the "pempi." It is carpeted with silk and has cushions placed on it. [Over it] is raised the umbrella, which is a sort of pavilion made of silk, surmounted by a bird in gold, about the size of a falcon. The sultan comes out of a door in a corner of the palace, carrying a bow in his hand and a quiver on his back. On his head he has a golden skull-cap, bound with a gold band which has narrow ends shaped like knives, more than a span in length. His usual dress is a velvety red tunic, made of the European fabrics called "mutanfas." The sultan is preceded by his musicians, who carry gold and silver guimbris [two-stringed guitars], and behind him come three hundred armed slaves. He walks in a leisurely fashion, affecting a very slow movement, and even stops from time to time. On reaching the pempi he stops and looks round the assembly, then ascends it in the sedate manner of a preacher ascending a mosque-pulpit. As he takes his seat the drums, trumpets, and bugles are sounded. Three slaves go out at a run to summon the sovereign's deputy and the military commanders, who enter and sit down. Two saddled and bridled horses are brought, along with two goats, which they hold to serve as a protection against the evil eye. Dugha stands at the gate and the rest of the people remain in the street, under the trees.
The negroes are of all people the most submissive to their king and the most abject in their behaviour before him. They swear by his name, saying "Mansa Sulayman ki" [in Mandingo, "the emperor Sulayman has commanded"]. If he summons any of them while he is holding an audience in his pavilion, the person summoned takes off his clothes and puts on worn garments, removes his turban and dons a dirty skullcap, and enters with his garments and trousers raised knee-high. He goes forward in an attitude of humility and dejection and knocks the ground hard with his elbows, then stands with bowed head and bent back listening to what he says. If anyone addresses the king and receives a reply from him, he uncovers his back and throws dust over his head and back, for all the world like a bather splashing himself with water. I used to wonder how it was they did not blind themselves. If the sultan delivers any remarks during his audience, those present take off their turbans and put them down, and listen in silence to what he says.
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.
I was at Malli during the two festivals of the sacrifice and the fast-breaking. On these days the sultan takes his seat on the pempi after the midafternoon prayer. The armour-bearers bring in magnificent arms--quivers of gold and silver, swords ornamented with gold and with golden scabbards, gold and silver lances, and crystal maces. At his head stand four amirs driving off the flies, having in their hands silver ornaments resembling saddle-stirrups. The commanders, qadi and preacher sit in their usual places.
The interpreter Dugha comes
with his four wives and his slave-girls, who are about a hundred in number.
They are wearing beautiful robes, and on their heads they have gold and silver
fillets, with gold and silver balls attached. A chair is placed for Dugha to
sit on. He plays on an instrument made of reeds, with some small calabashes at
its lower end, and chants a poem in praise of the sultan, recalling his battles
and deeds of valour. The women and girls sing along with him and play with
bows. Accompanying them are about thirty youths, wearing red woollen tunics and
white skull-caps; each of them has his drum slung from his shoulder and beats
it. Afterwards come his boy pupils who play and turn wheels in the air, like
the natives of
On feast-days after Dugha has finished his display, the poets come in. Each of them is inside a figure resembling a thrush, made of feathers, and provided with a wooden head with a red beak, to look like a thrush's head. They stand in front of the sultan in this ridiculous make-up and recite their poems. I was told that their poetry is a kind of sermonizing in which they say to the sultan: "This pempi which you occupy was that whereon sat this king and that king, and such and such were this one's noble actions and such and such the other's. So do you too do good deeds whose memory will outlive you." After that the chief of the poets mounts the steps of the pempi and lays his head on the sultan's lap, then climbs to the top of the pempi and lays his head first on the sultan's right shoulder and then on his left, speaking all the while in their tongue, and finally he comes down again. I was told that this practice is a very old custom amongst them, prior to the introduction of Islam, and that they have kept it Up.
Ibn Battuta judges the
character of the people of
The negroes possess some admirable qualities. They are seldom unjust, and have a greater abhorrence of injustice than any other people. Their sultan shows no mercy to anyone who is guilty of the least act of it. There is complete security in their country. Neither traveller nor inhabitant in it has anything to fear from robbers or men of violence. They do not confiscate the property of any white man who dies in their country, even if it be uncounted wealth. On the contrary, they give it into the charge of some trustworthy person among the whites, until the rightful heir takes possession of it. They are careful to observe the hours of prayer, and assiduous in attending them in congregations, and in bringing up their children to them.
On Fridays, if a man does not go early to the mosque, he cannot find a corner to pray in, on account of the crowd. It is a custom of theirs to send each man his boy [to the mosque] with his prayer-mat; the boy spreads it out for his master in a place befitting him [and remains on it] until he comes to the mosque. Their prayer-mats are made of the leaves of a tree resembling a date-palm, but without fruit.
Another of their good qualities is their habit of wearing clean white garments on Fridays. Even if a man has nothing but an old worn shirt, he washes it and cleans it, and wears it to the Friday service. Yet another is their zeal for learning the Koran by heart. They put their children in chains if they show any backwardness in memorizing it, and they are not set free until they have it by heart. I visited the qadi in his house on the day of the festival. His children were chained up, so I said to him, "Will you not let them loose?" He replied, "I shall not do so until they learn the Koran by heart."
The nakedness of the women
Among their bad qualities are the following. The women servants, slave-girls, and young girls go about in front of everyone naked, without a stitch of clothing on them. Women go into the sultan's presence naked and without coverings, and his daughters also go about naked. Then there is their custom of putting dust and ashes on their heads, as a mark of respect, and the grotesque ceremonies we have described when the poets recite their verses. Another reprehensible practice among many of them is the eating of carrion, dogs, and asses.
Ibn Battuta leaves the city
The date of my arrival at Malli was 14th Jumada I, 53 [AH 753, June 28, 1352], and of my departure from it 22nd Muharram of the year 54 [AH 754, February 27, 1353].
The hippos of the river
I was accompanied by a merchant called Abu
Bakr ibn Ya'qub. We took the Mima road. I had a camel which I was riding,
because horses are expensive, and cost a hundred mithqals each. We came to a
wide channel which flows out of the Nile [
On reaching it I saw sixteen
beasts with enormous bodies, and marvelled at them, taking them to be
elephants, of which there are many in that country. Afterwards I saw that they
had gone into the river, so I said to Abu Bakr, "What kind of animals are
these?" He replied, "They are hippopotami which have come out to
pasture ashore." They are bulkier than horses, have manes and tails, and
their heads are like horses' heads, but their feet like elephants' feet. I saw
these hippopotami again when we sailed down the Nile [
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 halted near this channel at a large village, which had as governor a negro, a pilgrim, and man of fine character named Farba Magha. He was one of the negroes who made the pilgrimage in the company of Sultan Mansa Musa. Farba Magha told me that when Mansa Musa came to this channel, he had with him a qadi, a white man. This qadi attempted to make away with four thousand mithqals and the sultan, on learning of it, was enraged at him and exiled him to the country of the heathen cannibals. He [the qadi] lived among them for four years, at the end of which the sultan sent him back to his own country. The reason why the heathens did not eat him was that he was white, for they say that the white is indigestible because he is not "ripe," whereas the black man is "ripe" in their opinion.
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 honour, 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.
Ibn Battuta arrives at Timbuktoo
Thence we went on to Tumbuktu, which stands
four miles from the river [
Ibn Battuta leaves Timbuktoo for Gogo
From Tumbuktu I sailed down the
I went on . . . to Gawgaw
[Gogo], which is a large city on the