Ibn Battuta

Explorer

Medieval

Claim to Fame:

A world-renowned Islamic explorer, he traveled to forty-five nations throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Name: Ibn Battuta

Birth/Death: 1304 CE - 1368 CE

Nationality: Moroccan

Birthplace: Morocco

Objective: To travel around the world, particularly the Muslim world

Sponsoring Nation: Morocco

Cause of Death: Unknown

Portrait of Ibn Battuta

Ibn Battuta Portrait

Portrait of Ibn Battuta showing on an interactive display in Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Credit: Imre Solt)

Early Life

Ibn Battuta was born in 1304 in Tangier, Morocco in North Africa. His family had the role of quadis, which were traditional judges in Islamic society who presided over religious matters. This was a position of great importance. Since his profession would be quadis, like his family, Ibn received a very good education as a young man.

Voyages

At twenty-one years old, Ibn Battuta made the traditional pilgrimage, or hajj, to the sacred city of Mecca. This trip allowed him to expand his education by studying with famous scholars from all over the Islamic world and hearing of their travels. After this trip, he decided to travel more extensively. His second voyage took him through southern Iraq and Persia, to Baghdad, and then to Tabriz before he returned through Baghdad back to Mecca. On his third trip, Battuta travelled down the Red Sea to Yemen. He travelled from Aden to the trading posts on the East African coast and back along the Arabian coast to Oman and the Persian Gulf.

His fourth trip took him through Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor and through Bulgaria up to Constantinople. He travelled through southern Russia to Sarai before setting out for India and crossed through Khiva, Bukhara, Khurasan and Afghanistan before reaching India in 1333. Once Battuta reached India, he travelled through the southern region and down the Malabar Coast to Calicut and the Maldive Islands. After eighteen months, he went to Ceylon and continued to explore the coast of southern Asia. While he waited for the winds to change, he visited Bengal, Assam, Sumatra and then China.

In 1347, Ibn Battuta decided to return to the West. His return trip took him from the Persian Gulf to Baghdad, to Syria, through Egypt and back to Mecca. On his return to Egypt, he sailed from Alexandria to Tunisia and Algeria and over land to Fez. After a brief stay in Fez, he crossed the Straits of Gibraltar to visit Andalusia, and then to Morocco. Later, he travelled throughout Africa and crossed the Sahara Desert twice. Ibn Battuta died in 1368 or 1369.

Legacy

Ibn Battuta died in 1368 or 1369. Stories of his travel and exploration made him one of the most famous Muslim explorers in history, and one of the great travellers of all time. His accounts of his journeys were studied by French scholars Charles Defrémery and Beniamino Sanguinetti and were published in Arabic, French and several other languages.