Ibn Battuta spent 29 years traveling the world during the Middle Ages. During his travels, he covered around 75,000 miles of ground which included much of the Islamic Empire and beyond. He is known as one of the greatest travelers in world history.
How do we know about Ibn Battuta?
When Ibn Battuta returned to Morocco near the end of his life in 1354, he told many tales of his fantastic journeys abroad. The ruler of Morocco wanted a record of Ibn Battuta's travels and insisted that he tell the stories of his journeys to a scholar. The scholar wrote the accounts down and they became a famous travel book known as the Rihla, which means "Journey."
Where did Ibn Battuta grow up?
Ibn Battuta was born on February 25, 1304 in Tangier, Morocco. At this time, Morocco was part of the Islamic Empire and Ibn Battuta grew up in a Muslim family. He likely spent his youth studying at an Islamic school learning reading, writing, science, mathematics, and Islamic law.
At the age of 21, Ibn Battuta decided it was time for him to make a pilgrimage to the Islamic holy city of Mecca. He knew that this would be a long and difficult journey, but he said goodbye to his family and set out on his own.
The trip to Mecca was thousands of miles long. He traveled across north Africa, usually joining a caravan for company and the safety of numbers. Along the way, he visited cities such as Tunis, Alexandria, Cairo, Damascus, and Jerusalem. Finally, a year and half after leaving home, he reached Mecca and completed his pilgrimage.
Ibn Battuta discovered during his pilgrimage that he loved to travel. He liked seeing new places, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new people. He decided to continue traveling.
Over the next 28 or so years, Ibn Battuta would travel the world. He first went up into Iraq and Persia visiting parts of the Silk Road and cities such as Baghdad, Tabriz, and Mosul. He then traveled along the east coast of Africa spending time in Somalia and Tanzania. After seeing much of the African coast, he returned to Mecca for Hajj. Ibn Battuta next headed north visiting the land of Anatolia (Turkey) and the Crimean peninsula. He visited the city of Constantinople and then began to head east to India. Once in India, he went to work for the Sultan of Delhi as a judge. He left there after a few years and continued his travels to China. In 1345, he arrived in Quanzhou, China.
While in China, Ibn Battuta visited cities such as Beijing, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou. He traveled on the Grand Canal, visited the Great Wall of China, and met with the Mongol Khan who ruled China.
After spending over a year in China, Ibn Battuta decided to head home to Morocco. He had almost reached home when a messenger informed him that his parents had died while he was away. Rather than return home, he continued on his travels. He went north to Al-Andalus (Islamic Spain) and then headed back south into the heart of Africa to visit Mali and the famous African city of Timbuktu.
Later Life and Death
In 1354, Ibn Battuta finally returned to Morocco. He told the story of his adventures to a scholar who wrote it all down in a book called the Rihla. He then remained in Morocco and worked as a judge until he died around the year 1369.