Ibn Battuta’s Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325-55 – Excerpts

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 Mecca] and the Tomb of the Prophet [at Medina].

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 Miliana, where we stayed ten days, as both ambassadors fell sick on account of the summer heats. When we set out again, one of them grew worse, and died after we had stopped for three nights by a stream four miles from Miliana. I left their party there and pursued my journey, with a company of merchants from Tunis.

On the road to Jerusalem: Hebron and Bethlehem pp. 55-57

From Gaza I travelled to the city of Abraham [Hebron], the mosque of which is of elegant, but substantial construction, imposing and lofty, and built of squared stones At one angle of it there is a stone, one of whose faces measures twenty-seven spans. It is said that Solomon commanded the jinn to build it. Inside it is the sacred cave containing the graves of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, opposite which are three graves, which are those of their wives. I questioned the imam, a man of great piety and learning, on the authenticity of these graves, and he replied: "All the scholars whom I have met hold these graves to be the very graves of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives. No one questions this except introducers of false doctrines; it is a tradition which has passed from father to son for generations and admits of no doubt." This mosque contains also the grave of Joseph, and somewhat to the east of it lies the tomb of Lot, which is surmounted by an elegant building. In the neighbourhood is Lot's lake [the Dead Sea], which is brackish and is said to cover the site of the settlements of Lot's people.

On the way from Hebron to Jerusalem, I visited Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. The site is covered by a large building; the Christians regard it with intense veneration and hospitably entertain all who alight at it.

Jerusalem and its holy sites

We then reached Jerusalem (may God ennoble her !), third in excellence after the two holy shrines of Mecca and Medina and the place whence the Prophet was caught up into heaven. Its walls were destroyed by the illustrious King Saladin and his Successors, for fear lest the Christians should seize it and fortify themselves in it. The sacred mosque is a most beautiful building, and is said to be the largest mosque in the world. Its length from east to west is put at 752 "royal" cubits and its breadth at 435. On three sides it has many entrances, but on the south side I know of one only, which is that by which the imam enters. The entire mosque is an open court and unroofed, except the mosque al-Aqsa, which has a roof of most excellent workmanship, embellished with gold and brilliant colours. Some other parts of the mosque are roofed as well. The Dome of the Rock is a building of extraordinary beauty, solidity, elegance, and singularity of shape. It stands on an elevation in the centre of the mosque and is reached by a flight of marble steps. It has four doors. The space round it is also paved with marble, excellently done, and the interior likewise. Both outside and inside the decoration is so magnificent and the workmanship so surpassing as to defy description. The greater part is covered with gold so that the eyes of one who gazes on its beauties are dazzled by its brilliance, now glowing like a mass of light, now flashing like lightning. In the centre of the Dome is the blessed rock from which the Prophet ascended to heaven, a great rock projecting about a man's height, and underneath it there is a cave the size of a small room, also of a man's height, with steps leading down to it. Encircling the rock are two railings of excellent workmanship, the one nearer the rock being artistically constructed in iron and the other of wood.

The Christian holy places

Among the grace-bestowing sanctuaries of Jerusalem is a building, situated on the farther side of the valley called the valley of Jahannam [Gehenna] to the east of the town, on a high hill. This building is said to mark the place whence Jesus ascended to heaven. In the bottom of the same valley is a church venerated by the Christians, who say that it contains the grave of Mary. In the same place there is another church which the Christians venerate and to which they come on pilgrimage. This is the church of which they are falsely persuaded to believe that it contains the grave of Jesus [Church of the Holy Sepulcher]. All who come on pilgrimage to visit it pay a stipulated tax to the Muslims, and suffer very unwillingly various humiliations. Thereabouts also is the place of the cradle of Jesus which is visited in order to obtain blessing.

Ibn Battuta describes the city of Baghdad pp. 99-101.

Thence we travelled to Baghdad, the Abode of Peace and Capital of Islam. Here there are two bridges like that at Hilla on which the people promenade night and day, both men and women. The town has eleven cathedral mosques, eight on the right bank and three on the left, together with very many other mosques and madrasas, only the latter are all in ruins.

The baths at Baghdad are numerous and excellently constructed, most of them being painted with pitch, which has the appearance of black marble. This pitch is brought from a spring between Kufa and Basra, from which it flows continually. It gathers at the sides of the spring like clay and is shovelled up and brought to Baghdad. Each establishment has a large number of private bathrooms, every one of which has also a wash-basin in the corner, with two taps supplying hot and cold water. Every bather is given three towels, one to wear round his waist when he goes in, another to wear round his waist when he comes out, and the third to dry himself with. In no town other than Baghdad have I seen all this elaborate arrangement, though some other towns approach it in this respect.

The western part of Baghdad was the earliest to be built, but it is now for the most part in ruins. In spite of that there remain in it still thirteen quarters, each like a city in itself and possessing two or three baths. The hospital (maristan) is a vast ruined edifice, of which only vestiges remain.

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.

Ibn Battuta returns to Mecca with the Baghdad pilgrim's caravan pp. 104-107.

When we arrived at Baghdad [after touring Tabriz and other cities in Iran and Iraq] I found the pilgrims preparing for the journey, so I went to visit the governor and asked him for the things which the sultan had ordered for me. He assigned me the half of a camel-litter and provisions and water for four persons, writing out an order to that effect, then sent for the leader of the caravan and commended me to him. I had already made the acquaintance of the latter, but our friendship was strengthened and I remained under his protection and favoured by his bounty, for he gave me even more than had been ordered for me.

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 reached Mecca, the Sanctuary of God (may He exalt her honour and greatness!) I made the circuit of the Sacred Edifice [the Ka'aba] on arrival, but I was so weak that I had to carry out the prescribed ceremonies seated, and I made the circuit and the ritual visitation of Safa and Marwa riding on the amir's horse. When we camped at Mina I began to feel relief and to recover from my malady. At the end of the Pilgrimage I remained at Mecca all that year, giving myself up entirely to pious exercises and leading a most agreeable existence After the next Pilgrimage [of AD 1328] I spent another year there, and yet another after that.

Ibn Battuta leaves Mecca for the port of Jedda and a voyage down the Red Sea to Yemen

After the Pilgrimage at the close of the year [AD 1330] I set out from Mecca, making for Yemen. I arrived at Judda [Jedda], an ancient town on the sea-coast, which is said to have been built by the Persians. . . . We embarked here on a boat which they called a jalba. The Sharif Mansur embarked on another and desired me to accompany him, but I refused. He had a number of camels in his jalba and that frightened me, as I had never travelled on sea before. For two days we sailed with a favouring wind, then it changed and drove us out of our course. The waves came overboard into our midst and the passengers fell grievously sick.

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 island of Sawakin [Suakin]. It is a large island lying about six miles off the coast and has neither water nor cereal crops nor trees. Water is brought to it in boats, and it has large reservoirs for collecting rainwater. The flesh of ostriches, gazelles and wild asses is to be had in it, and it has many goats together with milk and butter, which is exported to Mecca. Their cereal is jurjur, a kind of coarse grained millet, which is also exported to Mecca. The sultan of Sawakin when I was there was the Sharif Zayd, the son of the amir of Mecca.

We took ship at Sawakin for Yemen. No sailing is done on this sea at night because of the number of rocks in it. At nightfall they land and embark again at sunrise. The captain of the ship stands constantly at the prow to warn the steersman of rocks. Six days after leaving Sawakin we reached the town of Hali, a large and populous town inhabited by two Arab tribes. The sultan is a man of excellent character, a man of letters and a poet. I had accompanied him from Mecca to Judda, and when I reached his city he treated me generously and made me his guest for several days. I embarked in a ship of his and reached the township of Sarja, which is inhabited by Yemenite merchants.

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 Yemen. It lies amidst luxuriant gardens with many streams and fruits, such as bananas and the like. It is in the interior, not on the coast, and is one of the capital cities of the country. The town is large and populous, with palm-groves, orchards, and running streams--in fact, the pleasantest and most beautiful town in Yemen. Its inhabitants are charming in their manners, upright, and handsome, and the women especially are exceedingly beautiful.

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 [Tangiers, Morocco] do. When a woman's husband wishes to travel she goes out with him and bids him farewell, and if they have a child, it is she who takes care of it and supplies its wants until the father returns. While he is absent she demands nothing from him for maintenance or clothes or anything else, and while he stays with her she is content with very little for upkeep and clothing. But the women never leave their own towns, and none of them would consent to do so, however much she were offered.

Ibn Battuta travels on to Ta'izz and San'a

We went on from there to the town of Ta'izz, the capital of the king of Yemen, and one of the finest and largest towns in that country. Its people are overbearing, insolent, and rude, as is generally the case in towns where kings reside. Ta'izz is made up of three quarters; the first is the residence of the king and his court, the second, called 'Udayna, is the military station, and the third, called al-Mahalib, is inhabited by the commonalty, and contains the principal market.

The sultan of Yemen is Nur ad-Din 'Ali of the house of Rasul. He uses an elaborate ceremonial in his audiences and progresses. The fourth day after our arrival was a Thursday, on which day the king holds a public audience. The qadi presented me to him and I saluted him. The way in which one salutes is to touch the ground with the index-finger, then lift it to the head and say "May God prolong thy Majesty." I did as the qadi had done, and the king, having ordered me to sit in front of him, questioned me about my country and the other lands and princes I had seen. The wazir was present, and the king ordered him to treat me honourably and arrange for my lodging.

After staying some days as his guest I set out for the town of San'a', which was the former capital, a populous town built of brick and plaster, with a temperate climate and good water. A strange thing about the rain in India, Yemen, and Abyssinia is that it falls only in the hot weather, and mostly every afternoon during that season, so travellers always make haste about noon to avoid being caught by the rain, and the townsfolk retire indoors, for their rains are heavy downpours. The whole town of San'a is paved, so that when the rain falls it washes and cleans all the streets.

Ibn Battuta arrives in Aden

I travelled thence to 'Aden, the port of Yemen, on the coast of the ocean. It is surrounded by mountains and can be approached from one side only; it has no crops, trees, or water, but has reservoirs in which rainwater is collected. The Arabs often cut off the inhabitants from their supply of drinking-water until the they buy them off with money and pieces of cloth. It is an exceedingly hot place. It is the port of the Indians, and to it come large vessels from Kinbayat [Cambay], Kawlam [Quilon], Calicut and many other Malabar ports [on the south-west coast of India]. There are Indian merchants living there, as well as Egyptian merchants. Its inhabitants are all either merchants, porters, or fishermen. Some of the merchants are immensely rich, so rich that sometimes a single merchant is sole owner of a large ship with all it contains, and this is a subject of ostentation and rivalry amongst them. In spite of that they are pious, humble, upright, and generous in character, treat strangers well, give liberally to devotees, and pay in full the tithes due to God.

Ibn Battuta sails along the east coast of Africa pp. 110-112

I took ship at Aden, and after four days at sea reached Zayla [Zeila, on the African coast], the town of the Berberah, who are a negro people. Their land is a desert extending for two months' journey from Zayla to Maqdashaw [Mogadishu]. Zayla is a large city with a great bazaar, but it is the dirtiest, most abominable, and most stinking town in the world. The reason for the stench is the quantity of its fish and the blood of the camels that they slaughter in the streets. When we got there, we chose to spend the night at sea, in spite of its extreme roughness, rather than in the town, because of its filth.

The town of Mogadishu in Somalia

On leaving Zayla we sailed for fifteen days and came to Maqdasha [Mogadishu], which is an enormous town. Its inhabitants are merchants and have many camels, of which they slaughter hundreds every day [for food]. When a vessel reaches the port, it is met by sumbuqs, which are small boats, in each of which are a number of young men, each carrying a covered dish containing food. He presents this to one of the merchants on the ship saying "This is my guest," and all the others do the same. Each merchant on disembarking goes only to the house of the young man who is his host, except those who have made frequent journeys to the town and know its people well; these live where they please. The host then sells his goods for him and buys for him, and if anyone buys anything from him at too low a price, or sells to him in the absence of his host, the sale is regarded by them as invalid. This practice is of great advantage to them.

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.

Ibn Battuta sails to Mombasa pp. 112-113.

I embarked at Maqdashaw [Mogadishu] for the Sawahil [Swahili] country, with the object of visiting the town of Kulwa [Kilwa, Quiloa] in the land of the Zanj.

We came to Mambasa [Mombasa], a large island two days' journey by sea from the Sawihil country. It possesses no territory on the mainland. They have fruit trees on the island, but no cereals, which have to be brought to them from the Sawahil. Their food consists chiefly of bananas and fish.The inhabitants are pious, honourable, and upright, and they have well-built wooden mosques.

Kulwa on the African mainland

We stayed one night in this island [Mombasa], and then pursued our journey to Kulwa, which is a large town on the coast. The majority of its inhabitants are Zanj, jet-black in colour, and with tattoo marks on their faces. I was told by a merchant that the town of Sufala lies a fortnight's journey [south] from Kulwa and that gold dust is brought to Sufala from Yufi in the country of the Limis, which is a month's journey distant from it. Kulwa is a very fine and substantially built town, and all its buildings are of wood. Its inhabitants are constantly engaged in military expeditions, for their country is contiguous to the heathen Zanj.

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.

Ibn Battuta returns to Yemen pp. 113-115.

From Kulwa we sailed to Dhafari [Dhofar], at the extremity of Yemen [near the border with Oman]. Thoroughbred horses are exported from here to India, the passage taking a month with a favouring wind. Dhafari is a month's journey from 'Aden across the desert, and is situated in a desolate locality without villages or dependencies. Its market is one of the dirtiest in the world and the most pestered by flies because of the quantity of fruit and fish sold there. Most of the fish are of the kind called sardines, which are extremely fat in that country. A curious fact is that these sardines are the sole food of their beasts and flocks, a thing which I have seen nowhere else. Most of the sellers [in the market] are female slaves, who wear black garments. The inhabitants cultivate millet and irrigate it from very deep wells, the water from which is raised in a large bucket drawn up by a number of ropes attached to the waists of slaves. Their principal food is rice imported from India.

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 Northwest Africa in their customs.

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 India and the town of Dhafari. Since we have mentioned these trees, we shall describe them and their properties here.

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 India, Yemen, and China buy it and take it to their own countries, where they manufacture sweetmeats from it. The milk is made by steeping the contents of the nut in water, which takes on the colour and taste of milk and is used along with food. To make the oil, the ripe nuts are peeled and the contents dried in the sun, then cooked in cauldrons and the oil extracted. They use it for lighting and dip bread in it, and the women put it on their hair.

Ibn Battuta arrives in Oman pp. 118-122

It is a fertile land, with streams trees, orchards, palm gardens, and fruit trees of various kinds. Its capital, the town of Nazwa, lies at the foot of a mountain and has fine bazaars and splendid clean mosques. Its inhabitants make a habit of eating meals in the courts of the mosques, every person bringing what he has, and all sitting down to he meal together, and travellers join in with them. They are very warlike and brave, always fighting between themselves. The sultan of Oman is an Arab of the tribe of Azd, and is called Abu Muhammad, which is the title given to every sultan who governs Oman. The towns on the coast are for the most part under the government of Hormuz.

The city of Hormuz

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 India and Sind are despatched to the Iraqs, Firs and Khurasan. The island is saline, and the inhabitants live on fish and dates exported to them from Basra. They say in their tongue . . . "Dates and fish are a royal dish."

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 Khunjubal, the residence of the Shaykh Abu Dulaf, whom we had come to visit. We lodged in his hermitage and he treated me kindly and sent me food and fruit by one of his sons.

Pearl divers of the Persian Gulf

From there we journeyed to the town of Qays, which is also called Siraf. The people of Siraf are Persians of noble stock, and amongst them there is a tribe of Arabs, who dive for pearls. The pearl fisheries are situated between Siraf and Bahrayn in a calm bay like a wide river. During the months of April and May a large number of boats come to this place with divers and merchants from Firs, Bahrayn and Qathif. Before diving the diver puts on his face a sort of tortoiseshell mask and a tortoiseshell clip on his nose, then he ties a rope round his waist and dives. They differ in their endurance under water, some of them being able to stay under for an hour or two hours [sic] or less. When he reaches the bottom of the sea he finds the shells there stuck in the sand between small stones, and pulls them out by hand or cuts them loose with a knife which he has for the purpose, and puts them in a leather bag slung round his neck. When his breath becomes restricted he pulls the rope, and the man holding the rope on the shore feels the movement and pulls him up into the boat. The bag is taken from him and the shells are opened. Inside them are found pieces of flesh which are cut out with a knife, and when they come into contact with the air solidify and turn into pearls [sic]. These are then collected large and small together; the sultan takes his fifth and the remainder are bought by the merchants who are there in the boats. Most of them are the creditors of the divers, and they take the pearls in quittance of their debt [i.e., the debt of the divers] or so much of it as is their due.

Ibn Battuta leaves the steppe kingdom of Uzbeg Khan with the retinue of Uzbeg's wife the khatun Bayalan, a Byzantine princess pp. 152-159.

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 Constantinople. From this [border] fortress one travels on horses and mules only, and the waggons are left behind there on account of the rough ground and the mountains. Kifali had brought many mules, six of which the khatun sent to me. She also commended to the care of the governor of the fortress those of my companions and of my slaves whom I had left behind with the waggons and baggage, and he assigned them a house.

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.

Nearer Constantinople the khatun is greeted by her brother

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 Constantinople

We encamped at a distance of ten miles from Constantinople, and on the following day the population, men, women and children, came out riding or on foot, in their richest apparel. At dawn the drums, trumpets and fifes were sounded; the troops mounted, and the Emperor with his wife, the mother of this khatun, came out, accompanied by the high officials of state and the courtiers. Over the king's head there was a canopy, carried by a number of horsemen and men on foot, who had in their hands long staves, each surmounted by something resembling a ball of leather, with which they hoisted the canopy. In the centre of this canopy was a sort of pavilion which was supported by horsemen [carrying] staves. When the Emperor approached, the troops became entangled with one another and there was much dust. I was unable to make my way amongst them, so I kept with the khatun's baggage and party, fearing for my life. I was told that when the princess approached her parents she dismounted and kissed the ground before them, and then kissed the two hoofs of their horses, the principal members of her party doing the same.

Our entry into Constantinople the Great was made about noon or a little later, and they rang their bells until the very skies shook with the mingling of their sounds. When we reached the fist gate of the king's palace we found there about a hundred men, with an officer on a platform, and I heard them saying "Sarakinu, Sarakinu," ["Saracen, Saracen"] which means Muslims. They would not let us enter, and when those who were with the khatun said that we belonged to their party, they answered "They cannot enter except by permission," so we stayed at the gate. One of the khatun's party sent a messenger to tell her of this while she was still with her father. She told him about us and he gave orders that we should enter, and assigned us a house near the khatun's house. He wrote also on our behalf an order that we should not be abused wheresoever we went in the city, and this order was proclaimed in the bazaars.

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 arrival in Constantinople, the khatun sent the slave Sunbul the Indian to me, and he took my hand and led me into the palace. We passed through four gateways, each of which had archways in which were footsoldiers with their weapons, their officer being on a carpeted platform. When we reached the fifth gateway the slave Sunbul left me, and going inside returned with four Greek youths, who searched me to see that I had no knife on my person. The officer said to me: "This is a custon of theirs; every person who enters the king's presence, be he noble or private citizen, foreigner or native, must be searched." The same practice is observed also in India. After they had searched me the man in charge of the gate rose and took me by the hand and opened the gate. Four of the men surrounded me, two of them holding my sleeves and two behind me, and brought me into a large hall, the walls of which were of mosaic work, in which there were pictures of creatures, both animate and inanimate. In the centre there was a stream of water, with trees on either side of it, and men were standing to right and left, silent, not one of them speaking.

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 come from Syria." So I asked him how I should salute the Emperor, and he told me to say "As-salam alaykum."

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 Jerusalem, the Sacred Rock, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the cradle of Jesus, and Bethlehem, and about the city of Abraham [Hebron], then about Damascus, Cairo, Iraq, and Anatolia, and I answered all his questions about these, the Jew interpreting between us. He was pleased with my replies and said to his sons "Treat this man with honour and ensure his safety." Then he bestowed upon me a robe of honour and assigned me a horse with saddle and bridle, and an umbrella of the kind which the king has carried above his head, that being a sign of protection. I requested him to designate someone to ride in the city with me every day, that I might see its marvellous and rare sights and tell of them in my own country, and he appointed a man as I had asked. They have a custom that anyone who wears the king's robe of honour and rides his horse is paraded round with trumpets, fifes and drums, so that the people may see him. They do this mostly with the Turks who come from the territories of Sultan Uzbeg, so that the people may not molest them, and I was paraded in this fashion through the bazaars.

Ibn Battuta describes Constantinople pp. 159-164.

The city is enormous in size, and in two parts separated by a great river [the Golden Horn], in which there is a rising and ebbing tide. In former times there was a stone bridge over it, but it fell into ruins and the crossing is now made in boats. The part of the city on the eastern bank of the river is called Istambul, and contains the residence of the Emperor, the nobles and the rest of the population. Its bazaars and streets are spacious and paved with flagstones; each bazaar has gates which are closed upon it at night, and the majority of the artisans and sellers in them are women. The city lies at the foot of a hill which projects about nine miles into the sea, its breadth being the same or greater. On the top of the hill there is a small citadel and the Emperor's palace. Round this hill runs the city-wall, which is very strong and cannot be taken by assault from the sea front. Within its circuit there are about thirteen inhabited villages. The principal church is in the midst of this part of the city.

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 France; they are subject to the authority of the king of Constantinople, who sets over them one of their own number of whom they approve, and him they call the Comes [count]. They are bound to pay a tax every year to the king of Constantinople, but often they revolt against him and he makes war on them until the Pope makes peace between them. They are all men of commerce and their harbour is one of the largest in the world; I saw there about a hundred galleys and other large ships, and the small ships were too many to be counted. The bazaars in this part of the town are good but filthy, and a small and very dirty river runs through them. Their churches too are filthy and mean.

Hagia Sophia

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 in Constantinople the king comes to salute him every morning and evening.

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 monasteries at Constantinople. Among them is the monastery which King George [Andronicos II] built outside Istambul and opposite Galata, and two monasteries outside the principal church, to the right as one enters it. These two monasteries are inside a garden traversed by a stream of water; one of them is for men and the other for women. In each there is a church and they are surrounded by the cells of men and women who have devoted themselves to religious exercises. Each monastery possesses pious endowments for the clothing and maintenance of the devotees. Inside every monastery there is a small convent designed for the ascetic retreat of the king who built it, for most of these kings, on reaching the age of sixty or seventy, build a monastery and put on garments of hair, investing their sons with the sovereignty and occupying themselves with religious exercises for the rest of their lives. They display great magnificence in building these monasteries, and construct them of marble and mosaic-work.

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 Jerusalem and the Christians who were there, and questioned me at length.

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 Jerusalem, Syria, and Egypt, and spoke with me for a long time. A great crowd gathered round him, and he said, "You must come to my house that I may entertain you." After that I went away, but I did not see him again.

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.

 

Ibn Battuta prepares to cross the Sahara pp. 317-323.

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 Malli [Mali] it sells for twenty to thirty, and sometimes as much as forty. The negroes use salt as a medium of exchange, just as gold and silver is used [elsewhere]; they cut it up into pieces and buy and sell with it. The business done at Taghaza, for all its meanness, amounts to an enormous figure in terms of hundredweights of gold-dust.

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 Iwalatan [Walata] after a journey from Sijilmasa of two months to a day. Iwalatan is the northernmost province of the negroes, and the sultan's representative there was one Farba Husayn, "farba" meaning deputy [in their Ianguage]. When we arrived there, the merchants deposited their goods in an open square, where the blacks undertook to guard them, and went to the farba. He was sitting on a carpet under an archway, with his guards before him carrying lances and bows in their hands, and the headmen of the Massufa behind him. The merchants remained standing in front of him while he spoke to them through an interpreter, although they were close to him, to show his contempt for them. It was then that I repented of having come to their country, because of their lack of manners and their contempt for the whites.

I went to visit Ibn Badda, a worthy man of Sala' [Sallee, near the Morroccan city of Rabat], to whom I had written requesting him to hire a house for me, and who had done so. Later on the mushrif [inspector] of Iwalatan, whose name was Mansha Ju, invited all those who had come with the caravan to partake of his hospitality. At first I refused to attend, but my companions urged me very strongly, so I went with the rest. The repast was served--some pounded millet mixed with a little honey and milk, put in a half calabash shaped like a large bowl. The guests drank and retired. I said to them, "Was it for this that the black invited us?" They answered, "Yes; and it is in their opinion the highest form of hospitality." This convinced me that there was no good to be hoped for from these people, and I made up my mind to travel [back to Morocco at once] with the pilgrim caravan from Iwalatan. Afterwards, however, I thought it best to go to see the capital of their king [of the kingdom of Mali, at the city of Mali].

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 pilgrim [to Mecca] to boot. I was told that he had asked the sultan's permission to make the pilgrimage that year with his "companion"--whether this one or not I cannot say--but the sultan would not grant it.

From Walata to the river Niger

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 Nile

The Nile [actually the Niger] flows from there down to Kabara, and thence to Zagha. In both Kabara and Zagha there are sultans who owe allegiance to the king of Malli. The inhabitants of Zagha are of old standing in Islam; they show great devotion and zeal for study.

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.

A crocodile

I saw a crocodile in this part of the Nile [Niger], close to the bank; it looked just like a small boat. One day I went down to the river to satisfy a need, and lo, one of the blacks came and stood between me and the river. I was amazed at such lack of manners and decency on his part, and spoke of it to someone or other. [That person] answered. "His purpose in doing that was solely to protect you from the crocodile, by placing himself between you and it."

Ibn Battuta arrives at the city of Mali, capital of the kingdom of Mali p 323-335.

Thus I reached the city of Malli [Mali], the capital of the king of the blacks. I stopped at the cemetery and went to the quarter occupied by the whites, where I asked for Muhammad ibn al-Faqih. I found that he had hired a house for me and went there. His son-in-law brought me candles and food, and next day Ibn al-Faqih himself came to visit me, with other prominent residents. I met the qadi of Malli, 'Abd ar-Rahman, who came to see me; he is a negro, a pilgrim, and a man of fine character. I met also the interpreter Dugha, who is one of the principal men among the blacks. All these persons sent me hospitality-gifts of food and treated me with the utmost generosity--may God reward them for their kindnesses!

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 of Mali

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 Morocco] Abu'l-Hasan, to which the commanders, doctors, qadi and preacher were invited, and I went along with them. Reading-desks were brought in, and the Koran was read through, then they prayed for our master Abu'l-Hasan and also for Mansa Sulayman.

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 Sulayman of Mali

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.

Festival ceremonial

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 Sind. They show a marvellous nimbleness and agility in these exercises and play most cleverly with swords. Dugha also makes a fine play with the sword. Thereupon the sultan orders a gift to be presented to Dugha and he is given a purse containing two hundred mithqals of gold dust and is informed of the contents of the purse before all the people. The commanders rise and twang their bows in thanks to the sultan. The next day each one of them gives Dugha a gift, every man according to his rank. Every Friday after the 'asr prayer, Dugha carries out a similar ceremony to this that we have described.

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 Mali

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.

Their piety

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 of Mali

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 Niger

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 [Niger] and can only be crossed in boats. The place is infested with mosquitoes, and no one can pass that way except by night. We reached the channel three or four hours after nightfall on a moonlit night.

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 [Niger] from Tumbuktu to Gawgaw. They were swimming in the water, and lifting their heads and blowing. The men in the boat were afraid of them and kept close to the bank in case the hippopotami should sink them.

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.

Cannibals

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 [Niger]. Most of its inhabitants are of the Massufa tribe, wearers of the face-veil. Its governor is called Farba Musa. I was present with him one day when he had just appointed one of the Massufa to be amir of a section. He assigned to him a robe, a turban, and trousers, all of them of dyed cloth, and bade him sit upon a shield, and the chiefs of his tribe raised him on their heads. In this town is the grave of the meritorious poet Abu Ishaq as-Sahili, of Gharnata [Granada], who is known in his own land as at-Tuwayjin ["Little Saucepan"].

Ibn Battuta leaves Timbuktoo for Gogo

From Tumbuktu I sailed down the Nile on a small boat, hollowed out of a single piece of wood.

I went on . . . to Gawgaw [Gogo], which is a large city on the Nile, and one of the finest towns in the Negrolands. It is also one of their biggest and best-provisioned towns, with rice in plenty, milk, and fish, and there is a species of cucumber there called "inani" which has no equal. The buying and selling of its inhabitants is done with cowry-shells, and the same is the case at Malli [the city of Mali]. I stayed there about a month, and then set out in the direction of Tagadda by land with a large caravan of merchants from Ghadamas.