The Adventures oflb1n Battuta

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t\.MustiwTrQQ leroftbe14tb' £oturg

Uni,c:ml}, a'fCalifomia Pre ., Ber'keley and Los An'.g.eI • CalIfornia ~ ]986 'by Ross E. Dunn

Library of Conlr~ C!!t!ll'oging,·in·:PijbUc;atioD Dalai Duon. Ross :E.

The: I)dyen~UfI"~, o nhfl_Ba,Ulltll. a Mwlim 'tmvel:er

of 'Ihe rouneen~~CCiii'ii[iIIlI}'.

BibUogmpll)': p. ] ncludesindex .

. tl.DIli ,8a'I'lu't:a, W304-IJ17. 2. 1ftyel~ers-hJamjiC Empir~Biography. t Tilme.

0'9.3.. 124D86· 1986 910' .812911 86--5249

ISBN ·~521)...i05'" 1-6 (.alk. paper)

Printed and bound, in Great Britaiin

ForJordan and Jocelyn

I met in [Brusa] the piousshaykh 'Abdallah al-Misri. the traveler, amdl a man of saintly life" He journeyed through the earth, but be: never went lnto China. nor the island of Ceylon •. nor the Maghrib, nor al-Andalus, nor the Negrolands .. so that 1 have outdone him by visiting these regions.

Ibn Battuta








The Muslim Calendar


A Note on Money


List of Abbreviations 1 Jsed in footnotes



L Tangier


2.. The lVIaghrib


3 The Mamluks


4 ... M'ecca

5. Persia and [rag


6. The Arabian Sea


7. Anatolia


8. The Steppe


9. Delhi


10 Malabaomd the Maldives


III China


12. Home


J3 Mali


14 The Riltla



Hi bliogr.aphy




L Cities, .of Eurasia and Africa in the f urM,c'en.[h Cen['Ury 2

2. Region of the Strait of Oibra.llar .14

3. Ibn Battuta's Itinerary in Northern frica. 1325-26 28

4.lhn Battuta's Itineraryin Egypt., '·yri'aandAr,abia.

1. 325-.26 42,

5., Ibn Battuaa's Itinerary in Persia ad Iraq. B2 '·2"1 ,82,

6. Ibn Battuta's Itinerary in Arabia and E' t Afriea,

1328-30 (133'0-32) lUi'

7, Ibn Battuta's Itinerary in AmUolia and she B.,~ack Sea

Region. '133'0-32 (133.2-34) 1,3 '

8.. Ibn Bauuta's Itinerary in Central Asia and Afghanistan"

1332-33 ( 1334-35) 175

9. ~hn Banuta's Itinerary in India. Ceylon and the Maldive

Lhmd • lJ,33-45 184-

1. Ibn .B' nuta' Itinerary in Southeast Asia and China,

I~, ·,6 256

J .~ • Ibn H, .IIU· a's, Rerum trinerary from China [0 North

. r,rica. 1 . 4&49 '267'

1.2.. lbn Bauuta' .Isinerar in' anti Arrica,. Spain and West

,Africa. t 49-4 271



Staring at the wall ,of my windowless office one day in 1976. I suddenly got the mdea to write this book. I was teaching world history to undergraduates and trying to give them an idea of Islam in the medieval age as a dviUzation whose cultural dominance extendedfar beyond the Midd]e East or the lands inhabited by Arabs" It occurred tome that the 'life of Abu 'Abdallah ibn Battuta, the famous Moroccan traveler of the fourteenth century, wondertully illustrated the internationalist scope of Islamic clvilization, He toured not only the central. regions of Islam but also its far frcntiers in India. Indonesia. Central Asia, East Africa. and the West African Sudan. The travel book he produced at the end of his 'career is both a tale of high adventure and an expansive portrait of the eminently cosmopolitan world of Muslim princes, merchants. scholars. and holy wen within which be moved during 29 years on the road.

Since tile mid nineteenth century, when rrauslations of his ANable narrative began to ,appear fn Westem languages" Ibn Battuta has been well known among specialists in Islamic and medieval history. But no scholar bad attempted to retell kis 1"6- markable story toa general audience. For the non-specialist interested in medieval Islam. and the attitudes and preoccupations of its, intelleetual class the narrative can be absorbing. But the modem reader is also likely to findit puzzlingly ofg:a.n~d1 archaic. and to some degree unintelligible, My idea.jherefore. has been to brimg Ibm Battuta's adventure 'to general readers and to interpret :it witlilJio the rich, trans-hemispheric cultural seuing of' 'medieval Islam. My hope isnot only that the Moroccan journeyer will. become as. well blown in the Weslern, world as Marco Polo is but that 'readers will also gaiaa sharper and more panoramic view of the forces that made the history of Eurasia and Africa in the' fourteenth century an iaterconnected whole .. Ibn Battuta, we shaU see.was a kind of citizen of'tbe Eastern Hemisphere. The gJoba~ interdependence of the late twentieth oentury would be less startling to himthan we might suppose.

Almost everything we know about: Ibn Banuta the man. is, to be

found iili!. his own 'work" called the R'thla. which is readily avaUabie in prwn~,ed Arabic ,ed~tion'S. as wen as traaslations in Engll:ish and several other hm.guages. J have not rum.linaged about aecient m;ulJUSCripl coUect~olllts in Fez Damascus, or Delhi to piece his life together since. in so far as, anyone. knows. no such manuscripts exist. 1 ndeed, this book. part bi.ography and par~ cllmltura~ history of the second quarter of the foerteeruh century, is a work of synthesis. In tracing Ibn Battuta's footstep!' through the eq:w"v3ielilt of some 44 modern countries. l have relied on a wide range of published literature ..

[ first became interested in Ibn Battuta when I spent 'the 'better part of a year translating portions of the narrative in iii graduate school Arabie class. I have come Ito this project however, witJb: a modest training in that beautiful and intractable language. I have used printed Arabic editions of the Rinla to <Clarify various problems of nomenclature arod textual meaning, but :J have [ar,gel.y depended on the major Eaglish or French translations in relating and interpreting Ibn Battuta's career.

The Rihla is not a daily diary or' a coUe'cti;ol ,of notes that Ibn Battuta jotted ilin the course of his travels, Rather 'it is a. work: of literature, part autobiographyand part descriptive c,orwpendium. tham was written at the end of his career. In composing the book. Ibm Batruta (and Ibn Juzayy, the literary scholar who collaborated with him) 'took far less care: with detaHs, of itinerary, dates •. and Ithe sequenee iQf events than [he rnodem vsclentiflc" mind would consider acceptable practice fora travel writer. Consequently I' the bistorian attempting to reconstruct the chronology of Ibn Batteta's journeys must confront numerous gaps, inconsistencies, and pazzles .. some of them baffling. Fortunately. the textual problems of the Rihla have sustained the attention of historians, Unguis.ts.~ phi~oloBis,ts. and geographers formore than a. century. In trying to umlt.ogle Ibn Batture's movements from one end of the Eastern Hemisphere to the: other. I have therefore relied heavily on the existing eorpusof textual commentary. Given the scope and purpose of th~s book, I c-ou~d not do orherwise, since amy "further progress in sol:ving remaining problems of chronology. itinerary. authenticity, and place name identification. would require laborious research in f01!U"teeDth~century documentary sources .. I have, however, 'tried to address the major difficulties 'UTI! usiagthe RihLa as a biograp,bJcaJ record of events. Most ofthis discussion bas belen confined to footnotes in order to avoid digressions into

·technicamith~s that would break aJilJnoyingly iJ!lto story or tax the int'erest of some general readers.

In: this 3Qe of tile·d'oc~ .. -dra.a" and the~non..:fiction novel," I should 3.150 slate eKpUcUly that I have in. 1110 deUberate way fictionalized Ibn Battuta's life story. The words that be speaks. the attitudes tbat be holds .• the actions that he takes are either drawn directly from the /{'ihla or can be' readily inferred fro:m it or other histcrical soarces.

This. book is my iaterpretatien of Ibn Battuta's life and 'times and Il1IO~ a. pi1ct1!llre of the 'fourteenth century "through his eyes," His not .81 commentary om h·is encyclopedic observations, not, in other words. lit book about his book. Its subject matter does, however" largely reflect his socialexperience and cultural perceptions. He wasa literate. urbane gentleman interested [or the most part in the affairs o,f other literate, urbane gentlemen, Though as a pious Muslim he by 110 means despised the poor. he did not 'Often associate with peasants, herdsmen. or city working folk. Nor does he have much to say about them in the R'.ihla. Moreover, he. traveled in the csrcles of world-minded men fOJ whom the universalist values and cosmopolitan institutions of Islam - the mosques, the coneg,es~the palaces ~ were more. important than the parochialcustoms and loyalties that constricted the cultural vision of the great majority. Some readers, therefore will not fail to noticerwo conceptual biases, One is that political snd cultural ej~tes dominate tile story at the expense of "the little man,' even though the social history of ordinary MusHm folk is. no less worthy ofthe historian'sattenricn. The other is that the cosmopolitan tendencies within Islamic civilization are our primary theme rather than the admittedly great cuJturaJ. diversity among. Muslim peoples, even though one of the strengths of an expanding Islam 'was its successful adaptabiliity to local pattems of culture.

A few technical matters need to be mentioned, In order to' :Si.mplUY the footlllo~e apparatus I haee not for the most part: given pag,e citations fur direct quotes from English translations of the .Rillla. Unless otherwise noted" quotations are taken from the published translasionsas follows: Chapters 1-8 ud 1.4., H. A. R. Oibb. The TravelS' of Ibn Battuttl A. .. D'. 1325-1354, 3 vols ... ~ Chapters, '9-11 . Agh.a Mah.di Husaia, Th« Rehla aflbn Battum; and Cbapt,cr 13. N. LevtzionaJlld J.F .. P. Hopkins (eds.], Corpus of Early Arabic Sowrces for mes:r African History. For the sake of 'lIIwf!Omrhy I .bave' made a 'few orth.o,graphic changes ID.qllot.atiOJls.

from the Rihl'a' translations. I have "arnericanized'tthe spelling of (II aumber of words (e.g., "favor" rasher than "favour") and I ha:ve changedthe speUing om a few Arabic terms (e.g., "Koran" rather than "Our'an" and "vizier" rather than "vizir" or "wezir"], 1m t,raiE1ls~l,it!e,ra,tj,ng, Arabic t!erms., I have eliminated all diia,critica~ m,arks, exeepnng lI't to i,lrnldicate the tWIO Arabic letters "hamza" and ""ayn,.'·


Ibn Bartuta has led me so far and wide ~n the Eastern Hemisphere that in the course of wrwting this book I have asked for advice ad criticism from an unusually large number of scholars and eolleagues. I cennot mention them all, but] would like to thank the following individuals, for reading and criticizing, sometimes in great detail, aU or part of the manuscript: Jere Bacharach, Edmund Burke. P. C. Chu, Julia Glall,cy~Smjth. Micha,el Dols,

J - - - - 0" . - - R' ':c:h- ard 'Ei -.- to - G. S. P. Free aJ1··G· . envill 1. esnne unn" L __ II". a __ n. _. _. _ . .' __ ro_. L_.V_ e.,

l{.{]1thryn Green, Davld Hart, James KirkmaJ1l., Howard Kushner. Ira Lapidus. Michael Meeker, David Morgan. William Phillips. Charle-s Smith •. Ray Smith, Peter von Sivers, and Robert W~ls:o.n,. I am especially grateftd for thee~fljdUlril1g, support 'Of Professor C. F . Beckingham, a man of ~earningand urbanity ·wEth. whom lbn Batt-uta would have found much in common. If I failed to understand or heed good advice these individuals gav'e me I alone bear the responsibility,

I. am grateful to ~be National Endowment for the Htl'lrmTIanitmes for awarding :me a feHowsh~p [ha,m funded research and writ~ng in ]98(HID. During that year I e-njoyed the :pr.iVnegle~ of affiliation with the Mi,dd~e' Eas~ Centre lat Cambridge' University, thanksro Professor R. B. Serjeaat and Dr Robi,11 B~dwell~ .. [ am also indebled to tli1lefeHows of Clare Hall for ext1endiing me membership in the college asa Visiting Associate, San iego SUlite University generously supported this, project wit~ a. sabbatical. 'leave and severalsmall grants. FOlf reseaschassistance or 'typing services I would like toexpress myappreeiauon to Lorin Birch .. Veronica Kin,g. Richard Knigbt, Helen Lavey, and lUI Swamng. Harrington .. ~Fin:any. ] want to thank Barbara Aguado for making the maps,

The Muslim Calendar

Ibn Battutarepo,rts the dale· ofbb travels,aecording to 'the Musim caiendar, wbicb :is based OIl die cycles .of the moon, The Mullim year is di'vided intotw,elve tuaar montbs, f .291 or cOday ech.Th,e year is ;approximalely 354 days long" Ithal i,,~elor eleven. days shorter than a solar year, C nsequentJ,y. dates of lLbe Mu'lim ,calendar 'have no fixed re~a,tio,lls!hipeither'ro dates of'lbe Gregori,an (Western) Icalendu or to seasons of the year. For example, Christmas is ,a.lw,ays celebrated to winter li,'1liI Europe aad the United Stales. 8y contrast, 8 Mu lim religious holiday win. over time, occW" in aU roU! seasons ~f 'the year. The base-year of the M'U's~im calendar is. 6122 A.D .• when 'th,e Pn)phetMubamm,ad ,1U'I.d b~s fo~~owers made dIe hijra,or "migratioa," iT m Meccato M,edwna., The. abbreviation A.H .• for anno Hejirae denotes years of the M"uslimcaJendar. [0 t~is book 1. have give.n key dal,es according to both calendars, Converting precise' dates from one system to the ether requires the use of a formula and a series of tables, These may be: found in G. S .. P'. Freeman-Grenville, The Muslim and Christian' Calendars (London )19 3).

The Muslim lunar months are as fOUOiWS=

Muharram Saf~l.Ir

Rahi' al~aww,a!~" I)

'R' 'boo I'b .' 'R 11.. •• 1Il1l)

, ill .l a.~L am au:1 ill i

Jamada l·uJ:a (Julllada.[) Jumacta, l-akhira (Jumads II)

Rajab Sha'ban Ramadan Shawwal Dbu l-Oa'da Dhu I-Hijja


A Nate on Money

In! the course of his career Ibn Battuta received numerous gifts and salary payments in gold or silvercoins. He usually refers to these coins as dimarst though sometimes distinguishing between t'gold dinars" and "silver dinars.' In: file early Islamic centuries the weight of a goJd dinar was set ar 4.25 grams. In Ibn Battuta's time, however l the weigh t and fineness of both gold and sIDllv'ercoms as weU as the exchange rate between them, varied greatly frOD] one period or country to the next. It would be futile tberefore,to expn~ss the value of money he received in terms of modem. dollars or pounds. sterting. In fOll.lfteell:tb-century India, where be was paid Large sums Hom the public treasury, a "silver dinar" (or silver tanka) was, valued ar about one-tenth of a go~d dinar.


Abbreviations Used in Footnotes

ntis c. D~fremery ud B", .R. Suguinetti (trans. amdeds .• Voyages dOllm! 8lJ'lhtto'. 4 viols. (Paris 185]",58,; reprint edn .• Vincent MmmtdJ (ed.) .. Paris, 197'9)

E1~ EnE clopfJ'cdiQ' of Islam, 1st ledn .. , 4 vols, (Leiden, 1191]",38)1

E12 En:c ciopfJ'edio) Q/.lsl:am l'lilId edn .. , ;; VIOls. (Leiden. ~.'954; London. 1'956-)

Gb H. A. R. Oibb (trans .. and ed.}, Th« Tra'V,els Battulo A.,D. J'325-1'354. T7iQMI't.ltea with Revisions and Notes from the A,nabic Tes: ,Editttl,by C.,D,elremery and' B. R. SClnguinel:t~', .]v(lls. (Cambflidge for 'the Hakluyt Society. 1958. 1961. 19i7m)

HaLl<. Said flamdulil a,nd N el :King, (tf,a.ns. and,eds.).lbl1 Bunu€a in fj,tae" A/rica (London. 1975)

Hr Ivan Hrbek. "The' Chronology of Ibn Battuta's Travels,' A,rclriv Orienia/ni 30 (1962)~ 409-86

lB Ibn Batruta

L&H N. Levtzicoend J" F., P. Hopkins (trans. and eds.), Carpus of Ea',ly Arab'ic Sources for West Africlclfl History (New York .. 11981

MHA.ghaMabdi Husain (trans. aad ed.], The Re.hlo: of Ibn BattU1:a (Baroda, India, 1976)


Introduction have si.ngu~ady narrowed the history of the 'World in .grouping the UtUe dllatthey knew about: tbe expiawlSioilll. ofthe human race .ar;ound the peoples ·of Israel, Greece and Rome. Thus ha.v1e th:ey ignored all those travellers and exp~!Jnu:s who in. their ships ploughed the China Sea and. the Indian Ocean, or rode across the ~mm·eJilsili,es of Central Asia to the Persian Gulf. In truth the larger pad of the globe, containing cultures different from those O!f the ancient Greeks and Romans but no less civilized. has remained unknown to those who wrote the mstory of tllil.eir little world under the impression that they were writing wodd h istory. I

Henri Cordier

Abu 'Abdallah .ibm Bamna bas been riglbtl.y eelebrased as (be greatest traveler of premodern times. He was bor:n into a fam.iIDyoiC Muslim legal scholars in Tangier, Morocco. in 1304 du,ring the era of the Mariaid dynasty, He studied ~alw as ayouag man amid in 1325 left IDS native roW:1l1 [0 malte the' pUgrimage.~ or .hajj to we sac lied city of Mecca in Arabia. He took a year and a. half to reach his destine don I visiting North Africa Egypt Palestine, and Sy.ria along the way. After completing his first hajj in 1326,. be toured Iraq aad Persla, then returned to Meeca, In 1328. (olr 1330) he e:mbarked upon ,9 sea voyage that took him down the eastern coast 'Of Africa as far south as the region of modern Ianzania, On ms return veyagehe visited Oman and the Persian GuLf and returned to .M,ecc:3 .again by rthe overland route across, central Arabia.

In 1330 (or m332) be ventured to go to India to seek lemp~oyment .In. the gov,emmen.t: ,of the Sultanate of DeIhL Rather than. taking the normal ocean route across the Arabian Sea to the western coastof India,he l1"avefed nerth through Egypt and Syria. to Asia Minor. After that region, he crossed tbe :Black Sea. to the plains of West Central Asia. He then, owing to foduitous drcumstances .. made a westward detoll!l~r to visit: Constantiacple, capital of

Infroduction 3

the Byzantine Empire, in tbeoompuy of 8! Turkish princess. Returning to the Asian steppes, be traveled eastward througb TlraJnsaxiana. IatulI'asam. and AfgbaoistanT uriving at: the banks, of Indus River in September 1333 (or ~335l.

He: spenteigbt years ~fJlndia., most of thallime occupying 3! post as ,I ,qadi. or judge, in tile g:ovemm.enl of MIi.mbammad Tnghluq SuUan of Delhi, In 1341 tbe kiogappointed him to lead 3.lfiplomalk mission to the court of the Mongol emperor of China. The expedi~io.n ended disastrous,ly in srup,wreck uff thesouthwestern coastof Indj,a"Ie:aviingJbn Battuta wiitboU'temp'loymenm or resourees. For a little more than two years he traveledabout southern India, CeyIon"atFld the Maldive Islands, where he' served for about ei,gbt momths as a ,q:adi under the loc:a~MlaStiMI dynasty .. Then. despite the faillUIc, of his ambassadcrial mission, he resolved in B45 to go to Ch.ina on his own .. Traveling by sea" 'be visited Benga], the coast ,of Bnrma, and the island of Sumatra, then Icontinued on to Canton. .. The extent of his, visit to China 'is uncertain but was p,Fobably limited to the southern coastal region.

In t346-47 he retarned to Mecca by way of South India, the Persian Gulf, Syria. and Egypt. Afi,er perfof'l'Ding the ceremonies of the hajj one last time. he: set a. course 'for home. Traveling by botb land and sea, be arrived in Fez. tile capita.~ of Morocco late ill 1349. "The fQUowing year be made a brief trip across the Strait of Gibraltar to (he Mus]im kJingdom 'of Granada, Then, in 1153, he Illndertook b.isfKIa.I adventure, 3. joerney by camel caravan across the Saha.ra Desert to theKingdom of M,a!Ji in the West Mit-an Sudan. In 1355 he returned 'to Morocco to stay. In the, course of a career OIJ the roadspeaning almost thirty years. be crossed the breadth of the Eastern Hemisphere, visited territories equruvalent til) about 44 modem countries. and put behind him a total distance of approximately 73,000 miles.:2

Earlyin 13516 Sultan Abu 'Inan the Marinid ruler of Morocco. eommissioned Ibn Juzayy a yo'ung literary scholar of Andalasian origin, to record .Ibn Banuta's experiences, as well as his observationsabout the Islamic world of his day". in the form of a ,ihla. or boo.k of tra.veI:s. As ,3 type of Arabic literature, the ,{hi,,: attained :somerhingof a flowerimg in North Africa between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. The best known examples of the genre recounted a journey DOm. the Maghrib to Mecca, inforraing and e.o'tfert,aiuiog readers with rich descriptions of the pious institations, public mOEllu:ments, and religious personalities of the

4! .introduction

great cities of (s]am. J Ibn Banuta and Ibn Juzayy collaborated for about two ,years to compose their work" the longest and in terms of its subject matter th,e most complex, riftla to come out of North Africa in tile medieval ag:e. His rOY';d charge completed. Ibn Battuta retired 10 a judicial past. in a, Moroccanprovincial town. He dmed in 1368.

Written illl dle convemltional HteI,M)' style of the miMe" Ibn Battnta's Rihltlis a ,comprehensive sUTVey of thepersoaalities, places, gove,mments,customs. and curiosities of the Muslim world In the second quarter of the fourteenth cestury, It isalso the record of a dramatic personal ,advlenture.In the four centuriesaften Ibmm Battuta '51 death, the R'ihlaciroulated. mostly in copied manuscript abridgments of Ibn Juzayy's eriginal 'text, among people of leammg in Nortb Africa, W:est Africa, Egypt, and perhaps other .Muslim lands where Arabic was flood.

The, book 'was unknown outside Islancaountries,lImrllti) the early nineteenth century ~ when ~wo German scholars published separately translations of portions of the .Rihla from. manuscripts obtained in 'the .Middle East. In 18291 Samuel Lee, I!I! British orientaIJist, published an English translation. based on abridgments of' the narrative [tia'[ John Burckhardt, 'the famous Sw~ss exp[orer~ had acquired in Egypt.,;! Around the middle of tbe century five manuscripts of the Rihla were: found iII Algeria following 'tbe French oocupa.tion ,of that ,COWl try. These documents were subsequently transferred to tile Bibliotheque Nanoaalein Paris. Two oftbem represent the most complete' versions of the narrative that have evercome to lighm. The others are translations, one of whiehcames the autograph lof IbnJuzayy, Ibn Battuta's editor" 'Working with these five documents. two French

&-1,1-, C'. Defremervand B .R. ·Sailf\.-:-uiii'Oet·=nub'tiS,ih···rw·· een

sc () ars. . _ ._m_11' __ __ .___ __ug_ .J!!~ __ Y,I" __ ' 1m;; _en

1853,ud 1858 a printed edition of the Arabic text, together witlil a. translation in French and an apparatus of notesand variant textu.atli readings, S

$.00, then. translations of the work, prepared in every case: from Defr-em,ery and Sanguinetti's printed text', have been published in m.atty ~anguaEes. includmflg Spanish.ltalian. German. Russian, Polish, Hunganan, Persian, and Japanese . In 1929 Sir Hamilton Gibb :prodaced anabridg:ed English translation and began work on a complete edition ,of the work. under the auspices o:f the Hakluyt Society. 6 The .Iast of the lom volumes, in this series Is still in: preparstton.? However. EmglishtIansLanons, of various portions of the Rihla have appeared in tb ~_- -, - c,tlli"V as books or ;as artides ,- antholoziesa dscholarlv ___ e pas cen., ...... J .. .. ....". m_ .... . o",C 11 ..arl"


Imroduaion .s

The numerous translations, of the Rih:la. together with the extensive corpus of encyelopedia articles, popular ' • and critical commenrartes on Ibn Battuta and his eareee that hav,e accumulated since the eighteenth century, area 'tribute to the e'xtraorcJ~na.ryvalue of the narrative as a hlstorlcal source on much of the ~nhabited Eastern Hemisphere in the second quarter of tbe fourte,enth century .. The book bas been cited amd quoted in hundreds of historical 'works! not only those .re~atiQ!g m lfslamic countries but to China and the Byzantine empire as well For the h.istory of certain regiorrs, Sudanic West Africa, Asia Minor. orthe Malabar coast of India. fOlr ex:ample, the RihJll stands as the only eye-witness report 01 po.iwtilcaJ events, BIJman geography, and social or economic conditions for a period of a century or more. Ibn Bateuta had no professional background or experience as a Miter of geography, history, or e'thnograpby.. but be 'Was., as Gibb declares. "the supreme example of le gb;groJ,he rna/gre. lui. I~ the "geographer in spite of himself ." 8

The WeslernwQ:r.ld bas conventionallycelebreted Marco Polo., wbo died rh,e year before Ibn Battuta first ~eft berne, ,as the "Greatest Traveler in History. 'II Ibn Batturla has, been, ,compared with him and has usually taken secondprizeas "the Marco Polo of the Muslim world' or "the: Marco Polo of the, tropics. "'~ Keepingia mind. neither manactually composed IiIis own book. (Maroo's record was, dictated to, the' French romance writer Rustieelloia a, Geaoese prisonl); there is no doubt tbat the Venetian's work. is the superior one in terms of the accurate, precise, practical Eormation ri,t coatributes Of! medieval Chima. and other Asim lands in tbe' latter p.a.rr of the thirteenta century, inform.ation of profound value to historiassever since. Yet Ibn Bauuta traveled to, and reports 0;0" agre,a~ many more places than Marco did, and his narrative offers details. sometimes in incidental bitse somenmesIn long disquisitions, on almost every conceivable aspect of human life inthat age. Irorn the royal ceremonial of the Su~tan of Delli to the sexual custom's, of women in the Maldive Islands to the harv,esting of coconuts in South. Arabia. MO.reover his story ~sfaJ"'m.ore personal and humanely engaging thaD MaJit'!O?'s. Some Western writers, especially in anearlier time when the OO:llViCtiO'D of Europe's sllIpe:ri,orityovet Islamic civilization 'Was a, presumption o,f bi'stolncal scbo~a"hip'. have eriticized Ibn Ba:.ttu~a ~or being exeessivelj eager moteU about the lives and pious a.ccomplisbm:e:nts of ['e;l1igiouss3J'IIan'ts and Safi 'mystics when he

might have written more ,a. bout. practical poUtics and prices, The Rihla. however. was directed Ito Musllim men of learning of the fOltrt'seDitb century for whom such reportage, SIO recondite to the modern 'We,stem reader, wa:spert~Dent and interesting ..

As in Mar,co's case, we know almost nothing about the Ufeaf Ibn Battnta apart from what the autobiographical dimensi,on of his own book reveals. Asmde from three minor referencesjn Muslim scholarly 'works of the fourteenth or 6ft.eemth century that attest in dependently tot11le Moreeean's existence and to his achievements as. a traveler, no deeument has ever come ~!O ligbt from his ownage that mentions.D. ~o To understand his character his aspirations. his social attitudes and prejudices, his personal! relations with other people and, finally, 'the way be "fits' Into fourteenth .. cemury Musllliim society and culture, we must. :rel.y almost exclusively on the Rihl'a itself. Fortunately, by expressing here aadthere in its pages his resctioesto events, his annoyances. his animosities, and the details of his persona] intrigues., be reveals something of his own character ..

Westernwriters have sometimes characterized Ibn Banuta as 3 brave explorer like Marco Polo, riskingil1l.s Ufe to discoY!cr terra im:ogniliJ' and bring knowledge of it to public attention .. In fact Ibn Batruta's experience was drastically different from that of the Venetian .. Marco traveled as an alien visiter into lands few Europeans, had ever seen and whose people little, and cared ·to' know little, about Europe. He was. an oddlty, a "stranger ill a strange land," who was given the opportunity to visit China only because or 'he very special political circumstances that prevailed for a. short time i.1I1 the thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries: the existence of the gJea~ Mongol states of Asia. and. their policyof permirting merehants of all origins and religions to travel and conduct business, wn tlileir domains. Marco does indeed herald. th.e age of EUfopcam discovery, not because tI:le peoples of Asia. somehow needed. discovering to set themselves on acourse into "the future bat because IDS book made an extraordinary and almost immediate intellectual impact Olll ·3 young Westem civilization that um'til t.ha~. time bad a cramped and faulty vision of what the wider world of the Eastern Hemisphere was all about.

Ibn Bartuta. by contrast, spent most of his traveling career within the eultural boundaries of whatt Mus~ims caned the Dar al- 18181111, or Abode of Islam .. Thisexpressionembraced the lands where .MusJJms predominated inthe population, or atleast where

lntl'od[uctio,M 7

Muslim kings or princes ruled over non~Mus~m majorities and where in consequence the shari',o, or Sacred law, of Isliam was presumably the foundatioll1 of the social order. In t~al sense IslamicciviUza:tion extended hom the Atlantic coast of Wiest Afriea to Southeast Asia .. Moreover, important: minority communities of MlllIslims inba.iJited cities and tOWI1S in regions such as China, Spaia ,and tropical 'West Africa that were beyond tbe :frontiersof the Dar a~.-lsiam..Ther,e:fore almost everywhere Ibn Battuta went he lived im lhe [oompany of other Muslims, men and women who shared notmerely his doctrinal beliefs aad religious £i,tuws., but his moral vaJues,bis social ideals, IUs everyday manners. Althoogb be W9!\j, introduced in the course of his travels to a great many Muslim peoples whose local languages cus,tmQs,ind aesthetic values were unfamiliae in his own homeland at the far western edgeot the hemisphere, be never strayed from the social world of mdividuals who shared Iris tastes and sensibilities and among "'bo:m he could always find hos:pita~wty security. and &ielldsb~p.

Today, we characterize the cosmopolitan individual in several ways: the advoeate of jntemasionsl cooperation or wodd government thesophisncated city-dweller, the jet-setter. The Musli:m cosmopolite of tfue fourteenthcentury was likewise urbane, wen traveled, and free of 'the grosser varieties of parochial bigotry .. But. a.bovea~~, be possessed 3. coascioasaess, more or less acutely formed, of the entire D3Jf a~-IsJam 3!5 a socia.~ reality .. He also believed. at least iimplicitly. in the' Sacred Law as rhe proper and emio6.otliy workable foandationof 3. gJobai community.

To understand the intellectual basis of ibmi' Battut31's oosmopotitarusm. we must re-orient ourselves ,aWal} from theconv:eotiomd 'view of history as primlu~~y the study of individual natioas or discrete "cultures," 111 their writings more than twentY' y,ears ago the world historians Mars.haJl Hodgson and William M,cNeiU lntrodeced and, de'Veiloped the "global" concept of the Eurasian, Of preferably Afro~Eurasia.n. Eeumene, that is, the belt' of agrarian lands ,extendikl,g,w,cst to east 'from the Mediterranean basin to China. 11 1t \\l3S within. this regionthat the major sedentary civilizations o'f the Eastern Hemisphere arose, where most cities spr[ang up aId where most importamtculLuraJ and technological innovations were made.

Begwnning [11 ancient times. according to M[cNeiU. 'the Eeuraene went through a series of "closures" which involved increas~ngly

8 Introduction

complex interrelations among the civilizations of the hemisphere. Thus there evolved a eontinuous region of intercommunication, or, as we will caU it in this book. the intercommunicating zone, which joined the sedentary and urbanizing' peoples of the Mediterranean rim" the Middle East Greater India. and China mto a single field of historical interaction and change, Important innovations occurring in one: part of the zone tended to spread to the other parts of it through trade, military conquest. human migtation. OJ gradual diffusion. Moreover, the: intercemeaunieating zone "grew' over the, course of time by incorporating peoples iii.! peripheral areas - sub-Saharan AfriC31 Southeast Asia, Central Asia". Europe north of the Alps _. into the web of interrelations, Thus, the his,tory of Africa and Eurasiain premede'mtimes becomes more than the stories of individual, g.eogI"aphkafJ]y bounded nations, cultures, or empires.Tt is also the history of the "unconsciously inter-regional developments,' to quote Hodgson, whi:c:h "converge ill their effects to alter the gell~ eral disposition of the Hemisphere," 12

Doe of the most important dimensions Q1f this "hemispheric b.istory"wa.s the role of pastoral populations who inhablted t.he great arid belt which ran diagonally from southwest to northeast eross th e intercomm umcanng zone that is the cham' of, sten ies

acr s.s ue 1 . . ., ._~ ~-. ~. _~ _ ~ IL - ~ pp

: d des . t·, - rt - rdin - from rhe Sahara through the Middle I[:' - st

aIlu eser s ex en g __ _ __ UL __ _~_~__ _. _ _ _ _ _ _ L __ JL:<.as,

afld Central Asia. to the Gobi. Contact between the herding peoples of the arid zoneand sedentary societies tended ~n normal times to be liO.ostly beneficial to both, involving rhe exchange of goods and elements ofculture. However. tile pastoralists, owing to their mobiJ"ity and ethos of martial 'Strength, were always a potential threat to the far richer settled civilizations. At periodic: intervals beginning in the eighteenth century B.C. or earlier, nomadic invaders poured into neighboring agrarian lands. pillaging cities, terminating dynasties, and generally upsetting prevailing cultural and social patterns over wide areas of Eurasia and Africa. The last great nomadic movement occurred in the thirteenth century .. when the Mongols and their Turkish-speaking allies erupted out of Centra] Asia and conquered China, Russia. and most of the Middle East, creating the largest territorial empire the world has ever known.

Jslam had come upon Ute world scene in the seventh century in connection with tile explosion of Arabic-speaking, camel-riding herdsmen out of the Arabian desert under the Leadership of the

llltrodueti'o'l 9

Prop:he~ ,Muhammad :iJ1Dd his, SUOCCS60Ili,. Weste:rD hislorical writing has ,given ;3 great deallof artention to the eadyevo~l!JItion of Islamic civi~a9Jtion. that is. the "classical" age of the Abbasid Caliphate (or High Caliphate) centered 0:1], Bagbdad between tbeeightband t'cmth centuries. For this period the .astonishil\lgcom1ltribl1t~olills of Muslims to world history in art. science. mediciae, philosopby, and international commeree have been recognized. especially in 00 fuas tibey were a major fonaative infWuencce Omll the rise of Christian European civilizatiolll in tbe early Middle Ages. But precisely because historians of the W'est have been interested in Islam mainly in terms of its effects. on the development of European institutions. the sabsequent periods of Islamic history up to modem times bave been given less heed. Indeed. '[he conventional perspective in European and American textbook writing, has been that Islamic civilization reached its "peak" during the Abbasid age and thereafter went into a gradual but inexorahlevdecline .. " This lotion ~.bat Islam somehow atrophied after th.e tentb or eleventh ce"Dltury has largely tWined on the Western perception (considerabl.y e:rcagger8'[!cd)t.h3![ Muslims! rejected the intellectual heritage of Hellenistic raticnslism about the same time that Europeans "rediscovered' it. Consequently, so the: argument runs, the We:st:~ I!. " ..l d ....,,:'4:;. •• d , ... " 1'" f ,"Ii.. ~11 wlBV!ng aaepte ,.3 "scientific an' ,'Iatl.ona..~ 'V1ew 0 we natura)

world, was able to ""pr,ogrecSs" in the direction of world dominance:.! w.hl~e: "traditional" civilizations such as Islam lamguished and feU. further and further behmd.

In facr, the period of hemispheric history from 1000 to 1500 A.D." what we wim can the Islamic Middle Period, witnessed a steady and remarkable expansion of Islam, mo~ simply as a reI.igious faith but as a coherent. universaJIiist model of dvUized life. To be sure. the intense, concentrated .•. innovative brilliance of the Abbasid Caliphate was not to be repeated in the subsequent half millennium of Islamic history, Yet if Islam did turn intellectually conservative by the standard of modern scientific rationeliser, it nonetheless pushed outward from its Middle Eastern core as an attractive, s," cohesive system for explaining the cosmos and for erdering collective life. among ever-larger nWlilbers of people, both sedentary and pastoral. both urban and rural, all across the intercommunieatingaone.

The spread of lslsm into Dew areas of the hemisphere during the Middle Period was given impetus by two major forces. One of these was the advance of Turkish .. speaking Muslim herding

peoples ko:m Central Asia into the Middl~e East, a. movement that

egan. on a large scale withlhe coaqaesrs ofthe Seljuk Turks in the eleventh centwy. In the ensuing 300 years Turkish caya,~ry armies pushed westward wnlo Asia ,Minor and 'southern Russia, and leastwaJ1dinto India. The second force was the gradual but persis'"ent movement of' 'Musliim merchants into tbe lands rimming the [ndian Ocean.tha~ is, Eas~ Africa India, Southeast: Asia, and China. as wellas into Central Asia andWesl Africa soush of the Sahara,

Yet the prind,p,aJI contribution of both warriors aadmerchants esulblishiltllg in some places M,llmsiiRl milit3'Q' dominence and in other places only communities of believers under nen-Muslim auw:tbolnty. was to prepare the ground for influxes 'Of Muslim religiious and intellectual, cadres. It was they over the longer term, who 'founded the basic' ins,titutions 'of hl~amic IcivHization '~n these new areas and who earried on the work of eultural cenverslcn almlilong non-Muslim peoples.

A dose look at the patterns of travel and migration in the post ..

Abbasid centuries revealsa quie'l 'but persistent d~s,persion. 0'£ legal scholars. theologians. Suf~ divines. belle .. lettrists .. scribes. archi .. I teets. and cnftsmeil1 outward [rom fbe older c:enters of Is'lam to these flew frontiers ef MIliISI.illtnl military and commercial act~vity. A:t the same time., [he membe:noif this eulteralethe who were Uving and travellng 11. the further r:egioncon:si:stlc,ntly maintained close ties with tbe great cities of the' central Islamic lands, thereby ereating not merlely a scattering IOf literate' and skilled M'Us:liJlls across the hemisphere: but an i.ntlegram,edl. growing, :seH-r,eplenilsh,,.. ing networkofcultu ral ,c:ommlLUucattOn.

Moreover, the most fu.,ld,amerual value of Islamtended to enccurage ~a higher degree ,rf social. mobWUmy and freer mOV!emeDt of individuals from ole city and region to aeother than was the case hllhe other clvllizations of tbal time'. lslalmic cultureput great stress on egahtariaa behavior ill1l. social re~atiofJIs based em itthe ideal, of ,11 ,commlu,lilJJityof beiiLe'Vers (the UfflmJl) having aoommo;n

8. U.·. e.g. wan., ee ·.t.'O .. I cloe. GO. d .. 3.n.d hj.'S Sa. cred.... "ft. 0 b.e 1.,.IIll. - . .r. e ...•. 3. gr .. ieau. _t gu...rr I

separated 'the ricb, ,Ill '1lIl d powerful from 'the POOlt and WICaK, as was

the case in all ciivi.lize,d societies until ve:ry reeenr Islam mighUly resisted 'fhein,sdtutionalizing of ascribed statuses, etomic exclusiviti,es. lor pur,eliy territo'riailloyaities. The dynamics of soci:aJ ~ije, not 01[]1 relations among fixed! .ri,gidly de:fined groups as was tbe case in Hi,l1ldu India lor e'y,em_. to iii lesser degree, the I medieval WeeSt,. blWil on wb,eu Hodgson calls ~Iegatitarla.n,oon.-I

Introduction II

tractuallwsml,"" the relladveily free play of reiadons ,among individual:s who tended 110 size one, another Up' 'mauid,. in, terms ofpersena] con.formityto I ~amIc m,oraJ stan.dla-rd. ill Oonse'Qllendy,. wherever iillllhe Dar ,alHslam an indlviduel traveled. pursued a career, or bought and 'sold goods, the same social ad moral rales ooonducl Iargel)' Bpp.liectruJ,es fOUlndedon the sli'll'fi'·,Q.

The Islamic: wodd in Ibn Bauura's lime was dilvid.edpoUtica.!Uy into numerous kimgdomsandprincipalities,. Rulers linsisted that t:beif' administrative and penalcodes beobeyed , 'but they made' no claims to divine authori~y.flor the most part, Muslims on tbe move - merchants, schclars, and skiUed" literare individuals of aU kinds-regarded 'the Jurisdictions of statesasa 'necessary impo:sition and gave tbem as little attention as possible. Theil primary aJle,giance was tothe Dar aJ-b'l,am asa whole. Th.e focal poin.ts of their pltbnc lives were mo~ countries bUl~ cit ies, where world-:mlnde,d Muslims 'carried on theirinter-personalatiairs main~y wi'tb reference w tbe uliversalisLand unjfonJmjstandards of the Law,

The 'Ilernible Mongol conquests of Persia and Syria that occurred between 1219 and .258 appeared to Mus~[ms, to threaten the very existence of Islamic civiliza.ti(»DI. Yet by the' tlilmelbn ,Ba~tu,ta. began bis travelog career Mongol lPo~itical deminanee over the greater part 0'( Eurasia was .proving conducive 'to the' further expaasicncf bi~.amaDd its illls'lit~lti,on . The powerfu~ Monlgol kh,am of Persia and Cen'tr,a~ Asia, were converting to, the faith. and tbe eanditions of order and stunt), that attended the Pax MongoHca of the later thiJt.eeotb and early fourt,e gavefteer play than ever to, 'the movement of Muslims back and fQ.r~bactQss Eurasia.

]t was 'in the late decades f'the Pax Mangolica that [bn Battnta made his remarkable joumeys, m. a sense he partic:ipaled. sometimes ., iJnIl.lJ~aleously. UI. fO'Uf different streams of travel and migration. irsl~ he was 8. pUgrimt JOining the :mardl of pious beUevers ~O' the spi'riiltua~ sliuines of Mecc-aand Me,dina at least fOIJI" times in his career, Second he was a devotee of Sufism,. er mysneal Islam ,travelling., as thousends did •. 10 the hermitages and lodges of venerable ho~y mem to receive thew blessing udwisdom. Third" he was ,B. juridicalscholar, seeking know~edge and erudite company in tile great cities of the Islamic heartland. And final1y,. he was a memberof the literate Imobile, world .. minded educated adventurer as it were, looking for hospitaliry, honors, and profitable emprnoyment ill the more newly ,esta.b~isl1ed centers

12 .Introduction

'of Islamic ci ViilizBti on in. the furtherre,gions of Asia and Africa. In any of these traveoolgfoles, however ~ he re.garded himself as a. citizen ~ not of 8. eountrycalled MOliooco. bot of the Dara~-lsl'am to whose: universallist spiritua1, :moml.andsocia1values he was, toy,a~ above any other allegiance. His life and careerexempUfy 3. remarkable fact of Afro--Eurasian history in the. later Middle Period I' tha~ as Marshall Hodgson writes, Islam i.'came closer tb._any other medieval society to estabIisnmg a common worldorder of social 81mdeven cultural standard's. ,,14

1 .. Henri Cordicrr·, quoted in, ,Joseph Needham, Science and CI''IIliizatio/l ,il:1 China, vot, 4. part J: Civil Enginee,ing and Nauti~ (O:!mbridg(,l; 1971). p. 486·.

2. This figure: represents my caJcl!!lation O:r t.h~ app:ro:dma'~e extem of U3"s u·l:lvels.

Henry YuJ'e estiim.a' he traveledmere than 75,000 miles during his careell'. llilot counting journeys he undertook wbil~ li ... ing in lndl~. CalhflY flNd ,fh~' Way Thililtr" 4 vois,(lAnd.Qo. 1.9IW3-16).\lQI. 4" p. 40. Mahdi Husain (MHL, p. 1m) 5Ug!J(i;81:S ~ tOl;nll1gu!li'1i! oH7,640mil'es,.

3. 011 rib/a li~eratl1re2 in Northl Africa see M.B. A. BenchekIolln. La ViI." inte/lea-utile mIlTOCUlQt ,fow-1Q MerlJridt.s ,ella WQl(wid~ (Rubut. :11.T74').11p. 91..\1.251- 57; .. Andre Michel, "milo ,Ba[lu~.a. tl1cnle ann~es de vo)'o,g,es de Pcld!n (11.1 Niger," Lei A[ri.cains I (1917): 134-36: A .. L, dePrdmare. Ma,gh,:eb t!l A.llda/ouslllflU XTVe slecie (Lyon~ 1981.),pp. J4,~ .

. 4·.S00nulill Le~, The! frtHI:e/J of ltm lJot/llla !(I.,ondeR" 1,929). IOn 'the hiMory ef the!l discovell'}lolm.see D&S. vol. ~. p;p, xifi...JXVl.

,C: .. c· D~·r:..J.·· .... 8' II) .~-,- - •• c -I.U· .(.- .. ~ - -d~.d·)· v,- '" .1'/""' B '1l ,I 4 :1. • .!l;!n;mery QiDy .1".. ~JlgQl..f!!:L I ' ......... IU! '- Cu;o,., Q'Y,afJt'~Q ",11 .!l. u.a •.

vois" I{Pans. l85l-SS;.reprinl eda., Vinoeru :MollteiI. (eili.). Pari, 19:79)"

,6. H.A. R. Gibb. Ibn .BtltJOllJl: Trawls in' hi" and'.Africa (Leaden, 1929); :EI1Id The Trtl'¥els of 11m &tlum A.D', J.J2S-~3j4. 111WU~d wil1, Ret~iliofU Cl.M !VOlts< jr.o1nlht habic TUfEdit~db)' C. Dd/rtm~ryatul B. R. ,Slm8uine.lli • .3 vo15. (Ca.mhridge ror'the Hak!uytSociet:y, 1958. fl961.19J~)I.

7 .11u~. final. volume is king t1i!J1S1alc.d ,anth!dimd by Pmfessor C.F. Bedkingham.

8. Gjbb. Tf'tlVflsfn Asia and A/ria. p. 12. .

'9. The seoondi pbrascis t!&ed by A. G. Hopkirul" ,An EMnomi H'is{(1f)' ofWesr Afri't1 (NewYcnk,l97.3),p.18.

10. Qnl1ie medievai:soumcs Iha~ men,rianrB 'see a,a~pleli' 14.

U. ~ G. S. H.odgwo •. 'The Vomue oIls/lim: ICoJUci~ct ,and Huw.ry il;,~ 'W'o.rld CiviiizaJion 3 yol. (Chi~go. 19'14); WUUam H. McNciti. Th~ Rut of ,tile W:i!sl: A, History 01 the HUmim Commwtizy (OhiC!lgo. [963,). 'The ool:Kie,pl of ill'Bm-lI' "i'llteroommunicaliIllg mnes;" is also impoRaint in lhc'writiags of :Pbilr'pl D. Cl1Jl1tin, 'Ilotably Cross·Cu/J/Dai ];Qdt 111 World F.Jrstory I( camb,ridge~ England. 1984 ..

,112. Mm.ha1l G .S. Hod,gsom,,"Hem.i:sphericl.ntef"'R!gionai Histo.ry as Hi. Appmaeh (0 Worldliislory. n JO.Uf11QlofWol'ld HislOl')' ~ (19So!1~: 1]1.

13. Marshall . .o.S" :H'oogso:nl. "The Role or llstam in Worl.d. His:lory," lrumwliotmi Journal qf Middle East,s,udia ~ (UnO): ~ m6.

14. Marshallil G."S, Hod,pol}., '1lIe Unif}! of Later lslamic HislO.ry." J,().llrmU a/Wotld HtflDry5 (~960): 884.

1 Tangier

The learned man 008 esteemed in whatever place or condition he may be, always IlDeetillg, people who are favorably disposed to him, who draw near to t1im and seek his company gratified in beillg close to him, I

'Abd ai-Latif al-Baghdadi

The while and windy city of 'Tangier lies on the coast of Morocco at the southwesternead of the Strait of Gibraltarwhere the cold surface current otthe Adantic flows into the channel, fOTlllili~g ,Ill! river to the Mediterranean ,45 miles away. A'CiC<l,rding to legend, Hercules feunded the city im honor' of his wife. after he the eominents and built his pillars, the mOlJllta:Ln known as Jebel Musa on the Am,can shore, tbe Rock of Gibraltar on rhe European. For travelers saUing between Mor,ocoo and. the Iberiao Peninsula the strait 'Was indeed a river. only 16 .i~es across, a~ its narrowest point and rraversed in as little as, three hours in fa.iir weather. To sail east or west from one sea ito the other was a more dangerous and exacting fe;al~han the ,ClIOS !II'Eg.owing ~o capricious 'Winds and currenes as wen as reefs and sandbars along the shores. Yet merchant ships 'were making 'the passage with more and more: frequency 1.0 medieval times. and Tangier was growing among with the other ports ofthestraitas anentrepot between theeemmercial networks of .. he Medillenane,8n and the North Atlantic., Tangier was a converging point of four geograpbkaj worlds -. Afrl'c8n and European! Atlantic and M'lediterraneu. lit was an. in~ematiomaI town whose character W8.S determined by 'the s.m.ftiIlIllg flI'ow of maritime traffic in the strait ~ merchants and warriors •. craftsmen and scholars shuttling back and forth between the pillars or gliding, under them between the ocean. aad the sea.

W'e hav,c oI1l~Y a faintidea of t.he local bistory of Tangier (Tanja) 1llth.efirsiI: qusrter of the fourteenth century when Ibn Battuta was growing 1liJ[p there ~ being educated, and moving in the secure eircles of parents. kinsmen. teachers and friends . .1 But there is no, doubt Itbal ~i~e in the town was shaped by the patteras of history in. the


',14 'T'-ng.ier .L a, ...

Map!; Region of the Strait: of Gibraltar

wider wodd of the strait, If the young Ibn Battuta, preoccupied with his Koramc Iessous, was, iD.di[fferient to the momenrouscomings and in the region of the ehannehthese must have had, nonetheless, a pervading influence on the daily affairs ofthe city and its people.

The early fourteenth century was a time of transition for all the towns bordering the strait. as prevailing relationships between Africa and Europe on the one band and the Atlantic and Mediterranean on the other were being altered, in some ways drastically. Most conspicuous was tim retreat of Muslim power from Europe in the face olf the Christian reconquista. During the half millen.Diu,m between the eighth and 'thirteenth centnsiesvallof the Maghri b (N orth Africa from Morocco to western Libya) and most of Iberia wereunderMuslim rule, On both sides of the strait there developed a sophisticated urban civilization, founded on the rid! irrigated agriculture of Andalusis (aJ~.A:ndamus), as Muslim Iberia was called, and flourishing ,amidcom.plex cultural and commereial interchange among cities all around the rim of the far western Medirerranean, The unity of this civi~jzadoD reached its apogee in the twelfth century when rhe Almohads, a dynasty of

Tangier 15

Moroccan Berbers, impeUed by a. militant ideology of religious, reform creased ,I vast Mediterranean empire !' whose lands spanned tbe strait and stretched &om the Atlantic coast to Libya.

The A~mohad sultans~ however, proved incapable of managing such am. ,enormoUiS territory for IOD,g. Early in the thirteenth century the political edffioe began to come apart amid economic dieclime, religioas quarrels, and countryside rebellions. In northern Iberia Christian kingdoms" which I!IIIltil them bad existed ill the shadow of Muslim civiiz:altion, took, the offensive. The victory of tbe combined foroes of Aragon I Castile, and Portugal over an Mmobad army at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 was the first of a. seecession of spectacular Christiu advances ,a:gaifls1 Muslim territory .. Orne by one the great Muslim cities le,lm eo:rdova iln 1236'1 Valencia in IDS, Seville in 1248. By mid. oentu,ry the Almohads were all bot driven from Iberiaand am~ that remained of Muslim power on the northern. side of the strait was the moueraiaous kingdom of Granada. In Nortb ,Afric,at.ll!le Almobad state split into three smaller .kingdoms onein the Eastern Maghrtb (Ifriqiya) ruled by the Hafsid dy1111 asty: a second iD the Central Maghrib governed by the 'Abd aJ··Wadids~ and a third ill Moroooo under a nomadic warrior tribe of Berber nomads knownas the Banu Marin. or the Marinj,ds.

Rough and readycavalrymen with no guiding ideology. the Marialds overthrew the last ·o!f the Almohadrulers, established a new dynastic Icapital at Fez, and restored ill measure ,oif po.~itieal stability to Morocco in the lastquarter of the thirteie:ntb,ceD~ury . From the staid the new sll.:dta:ns harbored dreams of resurrecting the M,eciliteIl"anean empire ef their predecessorsvand with thisin mind repeatedly waged war againat the' Abd al~Wad.ids and the Hafsids, their neighbors to the easr, Some or the Marin:id kilirugs mounted seaborne campaigns against the Iberian coast, but' none of these invasions seriously tlueatened the. Christian bold on the li.nteri.or of the, peninsula, In any event the Moroccans were obliged til pursue an active poHcy in the region of the strait; which was far too important strategicarn1y to be gi.ven upto the Christian states without a struggle.

The contest, however, was no simple matter of Islam versus Christianity . The battle of faiths that bad dominated tile decades ,of the Almohad retreat was losing some of its emotional ferocity and a 'l'e~atjvely stable balance of power was emerging among six seceesser s~ame'S. Four of them were Muslim - the Marinids, the

'Abd a.l~Wad.wd5"the Hafsids, and the Nasrids, who ruled Granada, after 123'0.. The other two were Christian - Castile and Aragon-Cat.alonia. From the later thirteenth through the foUowmg century these six kingdoms competed in peace and war with little regard EO matters .of religion, which served mainly as ideological cover for uttedy pragmatic political or military undertilings.

W'.ar and peace iII! the Srrait of Gibraltarconverged on the five principal towns, which faced l't -. Tania, Atgeciras. and Gibr;altar 0[1 the European side. Ceuta and Tangier on the African, These ports were tile entrepots of trade between the continents. the embarkation points for waoiors on crusade, @lD;d the bases for galleys which patro lied the channel, In the later ~hirteentlru and the fourteenth centuries they were the objects of incessant m~:lhary rivalry amOIlg the: kings of thetegion. Algeciras, ~orex31mlp]e, was, ceded by Granada to' the Marinids ill ~175.; returned to Granada, in 1294. taken again by Morocco in 1333. and 'finally seized by Castile in 1344. Indeed! Tangier was the mdyone of tbe port, 'to retainrbe same political masters throughout this period,followM1lg l:!'le Marinid occupation in 1275. Parlor (he I!,eason was tihal in tllle politiesof the strait, Tangier was, relatively :speaking.thel'ea:S'[ important of the five cities. The others ell fronted the narrow easterly end of the channel and were vital to' the trade and communication of the western MedJilterranean. But Tangier. ~ying far off to the southwest and almost facing the Atlantic. was a prize ,of lesser rnagnitude .. It would be the fortune of Portugal, an Adall~ic power, to wrest the city from Moroecan cornrel. but not until 147l.

Still, Tangier was of considerable strategic value. The love~y bay, whose white beaches curve off to tile northeast of the cruty, was the on[y natural indentation of any size on the entire coast of Morocco'. and :it could easily shelter a fleet ofwarships. Along with Ceuta (Sabta) and some lesser towns on tbe strait, Tangier had for several cenmries served as a point of embarkation for naval and cargo vessels bound for Iberia .. In 12.79 Sultan. Abu Yusut, fOl!Jnder of rhe Marinjd dynasty, supervised. the massing of a fleet of 72 galleys ~n the bay in order Ito send 'troops to relieve a, eastman siege .of Al,gec~ras. JAs~de from the recurrent movement of M,m,ri:mid troops, horses, and mat,eriel through the port, the cit.y aIls.o played host to numerous bands of Mwslim pirate-s. who harassed sbippi-n,g in '[he strait and made raids on the Spanish

Tangier 17

Coast. 4, The hazardous and uncertain condition of mterstate affairs [10, doubt stimulated the Tangierian economy and gave the population. ample ,ernp~oyment building ships. running cargos, hiriDI out as, so~diers and seamen, and trafficking in arms and supp~ies,. Short of a Christiaaattack, the city had ~ittle to loseand maeh [:0 gain from [be prevailing conditions of 'War and diplomacy wnl the .region.

H thecontiauieg prosperity of the city hi the aftermath of the All mob ad collapse. resulted p,anly fro'm. the vigo,rou5, effort-sof the Mannids to check the reconqu,{staevenmDre j'mportant were dev,elopmem~ in trade and seaborne t,ecbnoiogy. In the course of the Christian. ernsades to Palestine between th.eelevent.b and the end rof tile thirteenth eenteries, European long-distance shipping took almost full command of the Mediterranean. Thms, wasthe first great age iQf Burope's economic de'Velop:m,en~,. and although trade between. Christian and Muslim states grew by ~e;aps,virtllatUy ,a.U of it was carried in Latinvessels .. 1:n the western sea the Genoese took the lead. signing a. commercial treaty wwtb the Almoheds in H37~38a.nd thereafter opening up trade with a number of Magbribi. pons, inciudiElg Ceutavand possilb'ly Tangier •. in the B60s.5 Merchants (!if Catalonia, opera~in,g prindpaUy from Barcelona aad protected by the rismg power of ~.helci:ng.s of Aragon. extended their commercial operations to North Africa by the early 1200s. Traders from, MarseiUe~ Majol'Cal. Velice" ud Pisa also joined ~.n the competition., offering grain, wine, hardware, spices .• and weaponry, plus cotton. weolen, and linen textiles in return for the wool. hide's, leather, w,ax.allUm.grain.~ and oil of North Afrieaand the gold. ivory, and slaves of the lands beyond the Sahara,

Witf1. commercial traffic in the western Mediterraaean gr-owing continually i.n the twelfth and. thirteenth centuries It was oo]y a matter of time before it would spillthrough tile strait into the Atlaatic, Tille Genoese, Catalans, Provencals, and Venetians were all established in the town'S of the strait in the 1300s. But there we~re strong incentives to go further, To the south lay the Atlantic ports of Morocco Mid the prospect not only of expanding the Magbri.bij t.r.ade but of diverting some of the gold brought up from W,es' before' it reached the Mediterranean outlets, Bythe later twe:llfth century Genoese vessels were already sailing beyond Tangier •. round the northwestern tip of Africa, and down tbe coast to Sale Safiand other Moroccan ports. In 1291 the intrepid

18 Tangier

Vivaldi brothers of Genoa vanished into terra incogn,ita after setting sail down thecoast of Morocco, bound for India. 'two centuries too soon. c,

It was also after 1275 that Genoese merchanss began sailing northwestward from the strait around the great bulge of Iberia and into the waters of the North Atlantic, By BOOl:mtn Genoese and Venetian galleys were making regular trips to ports in En,g~and and Flanders, carrying goods from all the: Mediterranean lands ad re'tllIming wi;tb woolens. timber. and other products of northern Europe .. Here was, occurring the great rnaritime link-up between [he ocean and the sea that would weigh so muchin the transfermarion .orr Europe in the later Middle Ages.

The invasion of the Atlantic by Mediterranean shipping made the Strait of Gibraltar' of even gr'cater strategieimportanee than it bad been earlier and gave the cit:ies, along its shore a new 'surge of commercial vitality. Ceuta was the busiestand most prosperous, of tbe towns on either side of the ehannel in the e,arly fourteenth oentury,.7 But Tangier wbklu. :Iay along the southwestedy route from the: s-uaif to ~be ports of AalalmJllk Morocco, had its share of the new sh~ppjng waffle. t! .m fair weather mOlllths vessels from

Genoa" Catalonia. Pisa, Marseille. and Majorca might all be seep, ilTIl Tangier bay - slender galleys: which sat low on the surface of the water and maneuvered dose r,o 'shore under the power of their oarsmea; hig:h~sided round ships \vith ttieir grea trian.gUlhlf sails; and. perhaps cccaslonally after [300 I tubby~~ooking~ square-rigged cogs from 80m'!;: port on tl1e Atlantic coast of Portugal or Spa-in. And ill addhion to these, a swarm of Muslim vessels put ou~ "from the barb or to "tramp" the Maghribiceest. :sh.u.u~e Icargo to Iberian pons, or fish 'the waters of the strait. The movement of Cbristi:tllfIJ merchants and sailors in and out of tbe town must have been a matter of regular occurrence. And ,,:0 normal times, these' visitors 'mixed :freely with the local M UlS lim. population to exchange news and haggle over prices,

Tangier was indeed a. frontier town in rile early fourteenth century. With rough Berber soldiers tramping through tile steep streets to their warships Christian. and Muslim traders jostling, one another' 00 the wharves and inthe warehouses. pirates disposing of theilr pJluder in the bazaar, the city imaged the roisterous frontier excitement of tile times. Perched on the western edge of the Muslim world and caught up in the changing patterns of trade and power in ahe M,edli'te,nsnean basin, It was Fl. mll.IC restless and

Tangie'f 19

cosmopolitan dt)' than it had ever been before. It was tile sort of [place wherea young man migbt grow up and develop an W'g~ to travel.

In the narrative of his wortd adventeres Ibn Baetuta te~ls us vIrtually nothing of hisearly life in Tangier. From. Ibn. J!uzayy,. tbe:

Andalusian scholar wtto composed and edited Itbe R'ihta I Of from Ibn Batmta himself m the most off-band way" we learn that be was bom Abu 'Abdallah Muhammad ibn 'Abdallah ibn Muhammad ~bll Ibrahim al-Lawati ibn Battut,a. on 25 February m304; that bis family was descended from the Berber tribe knOWII. as the Lawata: ~.hat. his mother and father were still alive when he left Moroeeo in 1325, and that some members of his extended famBy besides himself were schooled in Islamic law and had pursued eareers as ~ega~ scholars, (jaqihs) OJ judges (qad'i.s). Beyond these skimpy facts, we know only what the RihJa reveals to us by,ica,tmo:rn: that he received the best education in Law and the other Islamic sciences that Tangier could provide and that during his adolescent years. be acquired an educated man IS values and sensibilities ..

His family obviously enjoyed respectablestanding as members of the d~y's scholarly elite. Tangier W.I!S not s chief center of learning in fourteenth-century North Africa; it was not a Fez, a Tlemcen, ora Tunis.When Ibn Battuta wall growing up. it did. Dot possess one' of the ."uldrasas. or colleges of higher learning. wwdl the new Ma:rioidl.ru1el's bad begun foundil1.g H1 tlleir capital," iBm Ta:ngier, ~ik:e: any city of commerce in the Islamic world, required Ilterate families who specialized in. providing a variety of skills and services: the 'Officers. of mosques and other pious foundatioas, admlmiist:rative and customs officials" scribes, accountants, notaries legaleounsellors, and judges, as wen as teachers and prefessors for the SOmiS 0,[ the: affhm.ent famililies of merchants and landowners.

The education Ibn lBattuta received was one worthy of a member of a legal family. It is easy e'nougb to imagine the young boy, eager and a[fllbleas be would be 1m adult life. marching oft to Koranic school in the ne:ighborh.ood mosque to have the teamer beat 'the Sacred Bookinso him until by the age of twelve at least, he had it all committed to memory .. The educatioaof most boys would go' nc farther thanthis Koranic 1I:ra.irni:ng~plus perhaps ,ill smattering ofcaligraphy .,gramm.a.r ~ and arithmetic. But a lad of Ibn ,BattlJt.a·'s family status would be encouraged to move on t.o

20 Tangier

advanced study of the religious sciences: Koranic exegesis, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (hadith:). grammar, rhetoric, tbeo~ogy, logic, and Jaw. the foremost scholar-teachers of the city offered courses. ill mosques or their own homes, Students might. normallyattend the lectures of a num ref of different men" sitting in a semi-circle at the master's feet as he read from learned! texts and discoursed on their meaning.

The, pupil's task was not simply to grasp the substance of a text but to:

Jearn 'it by heart. The memorization of standard and classical texts comprising the corpus of Islamic knowledge was central toalladvanced education, The most respected masters m DY 'field of Iearnicg were the mel) who had: not only comenitted to memory and thorouglilly understood the greatest number of books, but who could recall and recite passages, from. them with ease in scholarly discourse and debate. According to Ibn Khaldun, the great philosopher and historian of the later fourteenth century, memory training was even more rigorously pursued in Moroccan education than in other parts of the Muslim world. m The purpose of education in the Islamic Middme Period, it

... old: be '1 dersrc od was not to teach studems to thi ,t. criti -,,~:I

Suou e un_. _0 _. __ _ _IV i~ !.uJ]1I\. _nJci.1!I!'Y

about their human or natural environment or to push the tronners of knowledge beyond the limits of their elders. Rather it was to transrnie to the coming generation the spiritual truths, moral values. aodsocial rules of the past which 'I mer all, Mushms bad found valid by the astonishing success of their faith and civilization. Education was in every sense.conservative.

Although the narrow discipline of memorizatioa occupied much of a student's time, an Islamic education nonetheless addressed the whole mao. In the-course of his advanced studies a boy was expected to acquire dle values and manners of a gentleman. This included his everyday conversation if! Arabic, Despite the Berber-speaking heritage of North Africa, including Tangier and its environs, Arabic was the language of civilized speech in every Maghribi city. A man of learning, unlike the ordinary citizen, was expected to knew the subtle complexities .of formal Arabic grammar. syntax, and poetics and to decorate hisconversation with Koranic quotations, classical allusions, and rhymed phrases. I I Thn Battuta's family was of Berberorigin, but we may suppose that be grew up speaking Arabic in his own household as weill as in thecompany of other educated men and boys. The Rihla gives 1]0 evidence that he could speak the Berber language of northern Morocco at aU.

The narrative of his life experience reveals that ~n his youth he

Tangier 21

mas.teried the qualities of social polish expected ot the urbane scholar and gentleman ..

Politeness" diseretien, propriety, decency ,cleanline-ss. ways of ICOO~lI1Ig table maaners and rules of dress an formed part of that extremelyrefined code IOf savoir Vfvre which oceupied so predominant a place .iosocial relations and mor3iljudgements. Wbateverc81!l1sed slhlameandoould initate or im:c"ODvenieece someone was considered impolIte. A courteous and refined man ... evinced in bis behavior a co mbmatiofJI of artimoes, gestures and words, which made hls relations with others harmonious, amiable and so natural that they seemed :s:pontao.emms.l2

Tbis description pertains to learned MO[iOccaDS m the. nineteenth century, bu~ it could easily ap· to Ibn Batnrta and to, the we:U-bred: menof his time. If in the course of his world. tf.avels; he w01lllldl display some ~ess fortunate traits ~ impatience pl!l)~. fIIigalcy • impetuousness, pious self .. righteousness, mud art inclination to be unctuous in the presence of wealth: or power - he was nonetheless an eminentlycivilized individual, As he grew 11Ilto adulthood his speech, ms manners, his conduct would identify him as a,fIII 'aiim, a man of learning, and as a member of the social category of educated men calledthe 'ulama ..

ASI his edecaeicnadvaneed, he began to specialize in the law. as other members of his family bad done ... Tbe study of law (in Arabic fiqh) was one of the fundameneal religious sciences. rn Islam the Sacred Law, or shari'«. was founded principally on the revealed Koran and the words and actions of the Prophet. IdeaUyit was the basis not merely of religious practice but of the social order in its broadest expression, Although Muslim kings and princes promulgated administrative and penal ordinances as occasion demanded (and increasingly so in the Middle Period of Islam), the shari"a addressed thefull spectrum of social relations ~ marriage, inheri tance, slavery, taxation I market relations " moral behavior" and so on. Unlike the in the Christian. wodd. n:o forma~ distinction. was made between canon and secular legal systems .. Therefore. Ibn Banura's j.uridica~ training was ,entirely integrated with his theologiealand Ute:rary education.

Ia SUEilum Islam. tbat is,Nlainstream. or. perhaps less appropriasely, orthodox .I5~am~ t:he legal systems embraced fOUT

majQr'~schools'" of ~aw. called madhhQbs. They were the HaIM. the Shafi'i, the Maliki, and the Hanbali, The four schools, differed iII matters of juristic detail. not iu. fundamental legal principles. The school to which. an mdivi.duaJ. adhered depended lugeJy Oil where be happened to have been born, sincetbe madhhobs evolved durilITlg the early eenturies of Islam along territorial lines.

The MalUki school, named after i~s eighth-century fou.nder Malik ibn • Anas, has been historically dominant UUlJllIghou;t North Africa. The Alsnohad mlers of dlle twelfth alldl thirteenth Ceo[iur;es possessed a distinctive approach to [urispmdeecewhich set them and the minority of scholars who served them apart from the four schools and involved vigorous suppression of the Maliki doctors. The rude Marinid war captains who replaced the A1mobads bad no thoughts oa the subject of law ;at all .. They we re however, quick £0 distance themselves from the ideology of their predecessors by championing the re-establishment of Malikism. In this wa."I they gained status and legitimacy in. the eyes of Morocco's educated majority and enlisted their help in consolidating the Dew political 'Order. Therefore, Ibn Battuta grew up and went to school during a time of renaissance in M:aUJk:ilegarn studies. And part~y because 'Mar~1Usm_ had been tempcrarily out of favor and was now back in" legal education in fourteenth century Moroccotended to stress uncritical, doctrinaire acceptance of: the interpretations of 'law contained in the major Maliki texts.]3 The law Classes he attended in Tangier would have involved mainly the presentation and memorizing of sections of the corpus of Maliki liq fz ~ the professo rs using summaries and abridgments of major legal texts of that school.

As his introductory legal studies proceeded. he was also assimilatiag the specific cultural. style of a Muslim lawyer. The education. as well as the speech and manners, of the juridical class was largely the same 'ewerywller,e ~[I the Muslan world. Therefore, Ibn Battuta's particular socialization was equipping him to move easily among men of Learning anywhere in. the Dar al-Islam, If he aspired ~o be a Jurisprudent one- day, then be was expected to exemplify tile prized quahtles of members of his profession -_ erudition ..,d comportment" moderation in speech and conduct" and absolute incorruptibility, He also, adopted the distinetive dress of the legalscholar: a .More or less voluminoas turban: a tayiasrm. or shawl-like garment draped over the head and shoulders~ and a long •. wide-sleeved, immaculately dean gown of

'Tangier 23

fine material. Most edueated men wore beards. In one passage in the Rihla Ibn Battuta makes an imcidermtaID reference to his own. L4 (That refereace. it might be addedvis the only clue be offers anywhere inthenarrative as to his own physical appearance. Since the ancestors of a Tangierian might include dark-eyed oliveskinned Arabs, blue-eyed • fair-haired Berbers, and even black West Africans, nothing can be assumed abolut the traveler's physiognomy. )

Another important dimension of liJiseducatiofl was his introduction to Sufism, the mystical dimension of 1:sIHI1. Throughonr the Muslim world in the: thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Sufism was addressing popular desires for an Jslamic faith of warmth. emotion, and persona] hope. needs that outward performance of Koranic duties could not alone supply. Indeed it was during tile later Middle Pe-riod. that Sunni orthodoxy embraced Sufism wholeheartedly and uransformed ~t into a. powerful force "for the further expansion of Islam.

Two ideas were at the heart of the Sufi movement. One was that. the individual. Muslim is. capable of achieving direct and personal comnumion with God. The other was that the path to God could be found through the intermediary of a saintly master or shuykh. Such an mdjvidual wasthought W be a waii, a "friend of God," who radiated the quality of divine grace (ba.r:aka) and could transmit It to others. With the. help of his master the Sufi initiate immersed himself ift mystkaJ teachings. riruals, and special prayers and strove to inculcate high spiritual qualities til everyday life, Sufism was also a social movement because it involved the formation of con gregations of seekers who gathered round. a particulsr master to hear his 'teachings and join with him in devotional exercises. All across the Islamic world in Ibn Battuta's time these groups were Just beginning to become institutionalized as religioue orders •. or brotherhoods each one organized around eorrrmon devotion to the spiritual teachings. or "path," of the founder of the order and his successors, These fraternities were also developing as ci vie organiza tionsand mutual aid societiesand, by the fifteenth century in some areas, as loci of considerable political power.

Sufism bad! a special appeal for rural folk. whose a:rdl~ouslives demanded a concrete faith of hope and salvation and who were isolated to a greaterorlesser extent from the literate, juridically minded Islam of the cities. Sufi lodges, called z.awiyas. organized as centers for worship, mystical edueatien, and charity. were

24 T,angier

springing up all across North Africa in Ibn Battuta's timet especially among rural Berber populations to whom they offered a richer, more accessible religion and a. new kind of communal expertenee,

In Morocco Sufi preachers were notably active andsuecessful among the Berber-speaking populations of the Rif Mountains, the region south and. east of Tangier. IS Yet mystical ideas were also penetrating the towns in the thirteenth and fourteenth [centuries, perhaps rather early in Tangier because of its, nearness to the Rif. Moreover I Tangier, forall its intellectual respectability, was not one of the great bastions of scriptural orthodoxy like Fez. where the leading Mallk:i doctors were still inclined to be suspicious of Sefism, or MI,}, other religious idea not documented in. their law books or theological treatises.

Although we have no idea what Ibn Battuta's early experience with SUfi,SDl may have been, his behavior during his travels is hseLf evidence that lie grew up iro. a social climate rich. in mystical beliefs and that these ideas were tightly Interwoven with his formal, scriptural education. By the time he Jeft Tangier. he was so deeply infllruencedl by Sufi Ideas espedaUy belief to personal baraka and title value' of ascetic devotionalism, that his traveling career turned out to be.jn a sense. a grand world tour of the lodges and tombs of famous, Sufi mystics and saints. He was never, to be sure, a commltted Sufi disciple. He remained throughout his tife a "lay" Sufi, attending mystical gatherings, seeking the blessing and wisdom of spiritual luminaries, ,311d retreating DEI occasion into brief periods. of ascetic centemplation. 'But he never gave up' the worldly I:ife. H.e was, rather. a Living exarnpie of that moral fee .. onciliation between popular Sufism and public' orthodoxy was working itself out in the Islamic world of his time. Consequently, be embarked on his travels prepared to sbowas muchcquaaimity in the company of holy hermits in mountain caves as in the presence of the august professors of urban colleges.

Aside from the local teachers and divines of his youth, he is like~y to have bad contact with. :men of letters who passed through Tangier at one time or another. The' scholarly class of the Islamic world was an extraordinarily mobile group. In th,e Maghrib of the later Middle Period the learned, like modern cenference-hopping academics, cirealated incessantly from. one city and country to another studying witl:t renowned professors, leading diplomatic missioas I taking up posts in mosques and royal chanceries.

Tangier 25

Scholars routinely shuttled back and forth across the Strait of Gibraltar between the cities of Morocco and the Nasrid Sultanate, Indeed, Ibn Battuta had a cousin (the Rihla tens lIiS) who served as a qadi m the Andalusian city of Ronda.

Apart from. 1th~ normal circulation, there: was over the Long ron of time a pattern. of one-way migration of educated people frorn Andalusia tOI North Africa. a kind of Iberian brain drain which accelerated in response to each new surge of Christian power and concomitant 10;8s IOf security and opportunity for Muslims em the northern side of the straU.16 Iberia's loss. however" was North Africa's gain .. since Andalusian scholars and craftsmen, arriving in sporadic streams between the thirteenthaad fifteenth centuries, did much to enliven the eultural life of Maghribi towns. If Tangier took in few immigrants 'compared w~t!b Fez or other premier cities, the tegacy of the great Andalusian intellectual tradition must have robbed off on the: city's. educated class to a significant extent.

No young scholar, however weU connected Ills family might be, could expect to pursue a. religious lor public vocation until be had undertaken advanced studies with at 'least a few eminent teachers, The local masters and"visiting sehelars" of Tangier could give a boy a solid foundation m. the major disciplines, But any lad with a large intellectual appetite and personal ambition to! match was obliged to take to the road along with the rest of the scholarly eomnnmity, Fez lay onJy a few days 'traveling time to the south. and its colleges, just being built under Marinid sponsorship, were attractingseudentsfrom all Morocco's provincial towns .. But though Fez. was fastgaining a reputationas the most important seat of learning west of Tullis. it lacked the 'Sbinmg prestige of the great cultural centers of the Middle East, notably Cairo and Damascus. In those cities were to be found the most illustrious teachers the most varied curricula, the biggest colleges, the rarest libraries, and. jor a young man with a career ahead of him. the most respected credentials,


1. Quoted in Geor:ge M.akdisi. The Rise (jf Coll'eges [Edinburgh, 1981). p, 91.

2. Thel:imited :liiterary sources Oil Tangier in the Almnhad age' wd Jater have been brought together in Edouard Michaw:-BeUai:re. Vifle9et .tribus du Maroc: Tanger .zone. vol, '1 (Paris, 1921).

3. Derek Lath:am.·'The Later 'Azafids.·' Revue de "Occidem Mwulman e:~ de la' Me'tJiterrOllee 1s.-..L6 (1913): U2-13.

'_.j6 "F' ..~·,angre,

4. Ch3ri~~s-Elmm3nucll Dufo.uroq.t:,EspQg,Ilf caru.tanr r, If" MO;ghrib atu >lU.I,. el XtVt: slFd~ (Pnri" li966).p., 575. DufoUlroq 'hOles an upsurge of pimcyenmn3ti'ng Irirom MorOCCiln portsin Ihe earl fou,r1:eenth century.

!i-.HUmar C.K1ft1egcr. ~Ge-naese Trade Mth 'orlbwe'tAJirica in 11.'l:\e Twelfth CC,l1lury.,- Spiculum ~ (11),),)1; 311-82. K!i\!.eg~1I' doe; not m!!!illion Tangier !rpecifiClIl .lbul ~here i Ino douh~ rhallEuropeam, ,\!i,elile sailing there arbaul ~hi lime: in~"t the. were Ililso I:lcginnrl'lg 10 put in i!!t j\llamk punts, solJlh"'!e. s t of Tal!l,licr. 6. J., H. Parry. T1Jt'D.i:scot.oel}'(l1 tift' .seD (New York. 1914-). p, 7S.

1. Ch a rlC:'-[llI11manucl: DEJr:ou~q. "La Que I'i n decut:a, au XJUe s.i~Q'e.~ ,Hesplris 42 (1955): . 7;":121: Dtrck,la~ham. '-The Stnuegie foilion and Defence or CeiUliOil:'ilh~ L:m:r Muslim iPtri(i)d.- Islamic' Qaanfriy' IS 1911)1: IBlJ..2,1)r4: AlIlna :rvlascarcllo. "Oul!ll'q'liIii!S ,rrs:PC~s, des aclivjlcs ili3ilienll1E!-S, d:an~~" Magnreb mc.dihllt ,., ,R~~'lll' .(I'.Nlistoirt:' ,er d~ CirwffisruiQIl tlu MagJrrtb :; (l9{)ft)I: 74-1:5,.

R. DyJOUll'I~q. l. 'Uf.UJg/1'i! roUllOIl~. IP. ].5'9.

1)1. A ITIcltl'rasa was rCllullde,d 'il'l Talogier :somt! rime du_rirng the reign of A.bu ~. Iasen UlJl-SH. H~lnri T~~. Hisl'fJit,f au Monor. 2 ,",at. Casablanca. 19~9-S0).\i'0L 2. p. 5J.

10. Ibn !<hIlUlun. Th~ -frI/fuqa,udimo.ll. 2ndcdn .. trans, ·F. R-osenn'h31. 1 vols. (Princeton, N.J .• ~1'7),., "01. ..;. pp. 43()"11.

11. On Ihe:oollure or men or rradhicnal learning in nine~eellll'lJ· ond twell.~h:l.b· ccnlul')' MorQOto.ce Oale F. Eickdman. KIlol'.lied'ge on'd Power In MOfCJCCO: l'Ir~ [duccJlifm ora rll'rnlil!llt Crn,tufjl Nol(l'ble (Pnncetcn, N.J .• t'9H5).

12. Kenneth Brown. Peop/~ of Sal: TrmJil;tm (md Change ill rI Morae .(1(1 CiIY· . .t81tJ-19J(J (Cambridg,c. Mas ., 1976). p. 103.

13. Alfred BeL La ReUg;oll ,musII/mll'/lf en Bel'bcl';e (Paris. 19~8). pp, 320-22, 327.

14. o.n the dre s of'legal chclers in both Granada and Moroeco see Rachel Ari~, LjE...~/}(J81,1i' mlisu/mulfP t;m temps d:es Nasrldeiv (Paris, 1973). lpp. JR2-'9L

I S. Bel. La ReligiQu rrw-suhn:arl€. pp, 352-53: Terrasse, Histolre de Maroc. vol.


1 (1. Mo,hamed-rdbi speaks of Muslim. cm~gr,3i[ion from Spaln as iii "FrLuire des, cerveau-'" illl '·Le::> ecmaets culturels entre I"lfri'qiya halside U230-1569') el: Il,e suJumm na rid~ d'!3.spagn¢ 0232-1492)"" in A,etas del n Cotoqrlis h-iS,lJfiUO'/lltlecitl0 de (!smdio,~r h/~,;rorfc;mJ (Mudrid, 1'9'3). P'P. 6.3-90.




A SCh:Obllf s education i'sgrleat1ly improved by traveling in ques~ of knowledge and meeting theaurhoritatwe teachers (of his ~ime)."

Ibn :Khaldun

Tangier wm.w;ldhsvc counted its .inhabitants many Individuals who had tray,e~ed to tbe Middle Ea I. most of'l1'm1. with the main purpeseef carrying out. the lIajj., Of piJgrim.age' to the. Ho]y Places of Mecca .. 8.odMed.a, i:nhe Hij,az region ofW,estern. Arabia.Tslam obliged every Musliill1l1, who wa -. not i.pave.fished. enslaved, tnsane I all' endangered by 'War or epidemic to go to Meccal91~ least oncein his lifetime and to perform there the set oif eolleetlve ceremonies prescribed byrhe .sharfa. Each year hundredsand often 'thousands of North Aflicall'ls flillfiUed the~r du[y~ jinin.g ilia grea.t ritunl migrali.on that brolJlg'~t together believers frog the far corners of the Afro-Eurasia.n world. A traveler bound for the 'Middle East might have any number of mundane ,0'[ pl!!lrely pen nal goals ~n mlnd-s- trade. study, diplomacy or simply adventure, but the Il,rljj wasalmose always the expressed and over-ridieg rno,tive. The higlm aim of reachillg Mecca in time' fo:r the pilgrimage se,ason if] the month of Dhu l-Hijja gave shape to the traveler's itinerary and lent a spirit of .rnUbUali.oo to wlhla.t was a long, exhausting. and sometimes dangerous journey.

In the fo,u,rteenth century anaspiring pi.lgrimof Tangier had the choice of traveling by land or sea. or a combitlatioDof the two. Europeanvessels which put in at Maghrib! ports •. as 'WeU ssMusUm co,3sting hip. .oommotdy took passeng,ers 011 board and delivered them to some port flrt.ber easralong the Mediterranean shore?

Unti:~ the age of the steamship' amd thecharter flight. however. most pilgri.nil5, chose the: overland route across the Magbrib . Libya, and Egypt. TIll'S route' was in: fact part of .3 network 'of tracks Ulllking the towns and cities 'of northem Africa wit.hone another. A. traveler f.r·oml Morocco migbt foUow a number aif slightly varymg ~rinerarje:s, passing P"~ of 'the way a.mong Ilhe MecUle:rra,lJeca[l eoast


If ~ 4r




r _ d u


o CI.



g- g

nle,rib 29

and pad of the w,ay across the 'higb ~epp - - wruch ran, Wes! I.aeast betv.!e,en the CC:F -tal moun:lains and the AUas raJilg,g- of the deepl mterior. Or. p, .sta.r1iogo'ut in _ol'tbem MOf,oee-a ,coUld ('I by way of Ithe oases and river 'valleyswblch were strung out ;al comfort .. table ilftltlsrvaLs alillmg the Jilortbern IFrin,ge or the Sahara, NorUlIem and southern routes alike looo"verg,_d in Ifriqiya. From there 101 Egypt pit~grim.s took. the ceast road. the I'ifeIine between the Maghri.b and tbeMiddle lEast. which tan al: :ng d]:c nanow rib n ,of settled territory between the Medi~enane'an and theibyan desert.

Whether by land or sea, geuing, ~~ Mlg·eta was a risky affair. If seafarers ha:dlrO brave' torms. plrates, and hostile n.avie'.o"ll=rland travelerseonfronted bandit. nomad maraaders, 'O,f (he possib.i1it ' of stuD'Dbllinrg into a war between ne Nortll African stat -od another .. COD> eqll.lentJly .. nilot pilc.rims gOling overland kept. for the sake ef seeurity, to the compa.ny of others. 'Qlfl,c,11II thtsmDU caravans tbal shunled ifOu.I.ine~y between tlle'Eowns8f1d rural markets. Traveller, who :ttadllitne mone to start w'ith f,l'equently traded a stock of war-es of their lown oling, Ilbe WB.y ........ leather goods or precious stones for examrpl'e -. or offered their Il:abo[ here and there, _ ometimest,a.:king several 1m nth or even ear to

finally work or chaffer their way as far - 'gypt.

Quite apart from these Iift~e bands orf'pil-rims iin the compa.n-·· of merchant and wayfarers was the great hajj caravan I, wb:ich ideally wemilt every year Dram Morooco~:Q airo .. and UIOm. thereto the Hijaz with 'the pilgrims froMI . gypl. Starting u uaUy in fez Of

- '" - - - -

TIem.cen. theprocession picked Ill' '_ fOIUpS of pilgrim along the

way like a rolling so:owba,liL.o,meof them w,alking~others riding horses" mules .. donkeyso.r camels, 'i the lime the oO.mpany reached Cairo 'it mighl in, some years, Il1lliJimber several thou and.

'The :EI,Q,W of pUgrims across the I.ear~y 3.000 mUes of,·[ PP s, desert, and mrJlI!ln~ain sep,arating Morocco 'from M,ect3J '\:3S one of tb.e most eenspieuous expre,io.n:s of 'the extraordi .. nary In ·bibly and cosmopolitaeism witbin Ithe Dar al-lslam '~I the: Mh1dJ Period. A1th.ougb North Africa was known as. the Lland of tile Wiest (JaDratal.~M.aghrib).1I a mountainous realm separated from the heartland o( Ishtm by sea and desert" the intc(1cOmmun,cWBliDD a,CI!o'sstiJe baJ1'lenga,p of Libya., whether by .hQJj caravan or oil:hmwise~ was, nonetheless eonsinuous - barring t[m_ 'f unusual political instability on one side or the other, And wbil_lb,e commercial aspect ·of the ILim~k was important itscu'l'lural di-

30 The .Maghrib

mension was even more so. ]f'few educated Egyptians. Syrians •. or Persians found reason to tra.vem west in the fourteenth centu ry (and tended to thlnk ,of the Maghrib as lslmn's back couatry, Its WUd West), the learned classes of North Africa and Granada were always settiDg: off ow tOUf'S, to the EaSI 1m order to draw spiritua11 and ~l1IteUectu,a11 sustenance from their scholarly counterparts in Cairo', Damascuscand the Holy Citiesof tile Hijaz,

For scholarly Nortlil Africaasthe hajj was almost always more l.ban a Journey to Meeea and home again .. Rather it was a rihl(l Sgramdl study tour o,f the great mosques, and of theaeartland, an opportunity to acquire books and diplomas, deepen one's knowledge of theology and ~aw·. and ~ommunewithrefinedaDd civilized men.

Literate Moroccans of the fourteenth oe·n.tul}'owed~beiE greatest inrelleetual debt not to the Midld~e East but to the learned establishmeat of Muslim Iberia. Yet AlIlda~usia":s tooe was 'fas:t running out, and beleaguered Imttle Granada, despite ,I brave showing of artistic energy in its La·fter days, could no longer provide much cultural leadership .. Tille MiddleEast, how,ev'er., somehow survived the dark catastrophes of tile Mengelcentury was experiencing a. cultural tlo:rescenc,e. notably ~n toe Mam~uk~ ruled lands of Egypt and Syria .. Gentlemenscholars of fa:r western cities like Tangier could readily look there for oiviliz·ed models. higher knowledge, and learned companionship, And tJaougb the road to Mecca was ]emg and perilous" the internationalism of klamic culture, continuously reaffirmed. held men of learning ina bond of unity and shrank the miles between them.

On 14 June 1325 (2 Rajah 725 A.H.) Ibn Battuta rode out of Tangier and headed southeastward through the highlands. of the Eastern Rif to Join the main caravan road that ran from Fez to Tlemcen, He was 21 years old and eager for more learning and more adventure, than his native cijyeould hope to give him, The parting was bittersweet:

My departure from Tangier I' my birthplaee.jcck place + • • with the object of making the Pilgrim.age 10 the Holy House [at Mecca] andof visiting the tomb of the Prophet, God's richest blessingasd peace be on hUm (at Medina]l. I set 'Out alone, baving neither fellow-traveler in wbose com_paniol'llship 1 might find cheer, nor IcaraV,cUll whose p,art)f I Might join, but swayed by

Th. Ma' L _;b·.· 11'11 e __ gnu .J.ll

an ove,on3ste.ring impu.lse within me mcla desire Ilo:og-iherisbed in my bosom to visit these illustrious, s:an,ctuanes. So I braced my resolution to quilt aI my dear ODes, female and maJe,30d forsook my home as trirds forsak:.etbeif nests. .My parents being yet in tbe bonds of life,it weighed sorely upon me te part from tbem, and both they aad Lwere a:ffiictedi with sorrow at this separation.

He did RDt, it seems, set OD~ from Tangier with aD)' plan to join the hajj caravan, if there was one that year .. it 'Was lElIot • uy event, a. bad ye~arr ~or a young man to bllUllnlch forth entirely on 'his OWD" for political conditions ill the Western Maghrih 'were untypEC-aly carum .. AJb\!l Sa'id (1310--31). the reigning Ma.rinid Sultan

'.f· M' ... ~ ,',~ .... : . ~ .• ,_ , _ d' "~a~;;"'el-: unenter c risi c ~ ... aler ,_. ,"'I~

0. . ~ 010000, was a p~oms an, re .. L.l!' ~ ~y _ ~~ __ ~ __ rp~ .. smgl!!.!U __ ali1Yl~

WI1ike many of tbe kings of his line. mot much interested in pllltrsui:ngmilitary adventures either in. Iberia Of North Africa. Ar,ouDd the ead of the thirteenth cel1Jtury the pilgrimage caravans from Morocco had had to be suspended for several years ow:ing to Marinid waraagainst rheiireastietn ne'igbbor •. the 'Abd al .. Wad:id kingdom. ~ But ~ess intrigued than his predecessors 'With visions of a aeo-Almohad empire', Abu S,a'idl permitted a. de facto peace to prevail on his eastern frontier daring most of his reign. COE1- sequemly, merchants and pilgruns could expect to pass between rhe 'two realms in relative security,

Ridil'llg eastward tbJougb Morocco's mountasaous in~erior and then onto the high plains that stretched into the: Central Magruib, Ibn. Bartuta reached Tlemcen, capital of the • Abd al-Wadid state, in the space ofa few weeks. Although Tlemcen was .. S! busy 'commercial transit center and intellectually the live~iest ciryaaywhere between Fez and TUllis, be did not Unger there ... For upon arri,ving he learned that two envoys from the Hafsid Sultanate of Ifrj,qiya bad been In the' city on a dipiom!lltic missionand had just left to return home .. The'Abd! al- Wadids, enjoying an unusual break .01 tfueir wars with tile Marinids, had turned their fuU attention to their eastern marches where they were engaged in a protracted struggle with the Hafsids, notably over control of Bijaya (Bougie), a key Mediterranean port 450 miles west of Tunis, At the time Ibn Battuta arrived ill Tlemcen, Abu Tashfin, the: j Abd. aJ~Wadiid sultan, was conspiring with a number of lfriqiy,an rebels and p.retenders to uaseat ltIis Hafsid neighbor and satisfy his own espansionist ambitions." It may be that the two envoys bad come to

32 The Maghrib

Tlemeen to try to negotiase peace with Abu Tashfin and were now going home. albeit empty-handed, 5 In any case, someone advised Ibn Battuta to catch up with them and theirentourage and proceed on to Tunis in the mfety of their company ..

The buslesteommercial mutes out of TIe me en led northward to the ports of Oran. and Henein. But Ibn Battuta took the lonelier pilgrimage trail running northeastward througha series of river valleys, andaridplalns flanked on one side or the otherbythe low, fragmented mountain chams that broke up the Mediterranean hinterland. This part of the Magbrib was sparsely populated in the fourteenth 00 11 t1J!Jry . He might have ridden for several days at a time withoutencountering any towns, onl), Berber haanlets and bands of Arabic-speaking camel herders who ranged over the broad, green-brown valleys and depressmos.

After what must have been two or three weeks on the road, be caught up with. the Ifriqiyans at Miliaria, a small commercial center in the Zaccar hills overlliooking the plain of the Chelif River. Eager scholar that he was, he could hardly have made better choices of his first traveling companions .. One of them was Abu 'Abdallah alZubaydi, a prominent theologian. the other Abu 'Abdallah al-Nafzawi •. a qadi of Tunis. Unfortunately. tragedy struck as soon as Ibn Battuta arrived. Both envoys fell ill owing to the hot weather (it. was mid summer) and were forced to remaia ~n .Miliana for ten days. On tbe eleventh the little caravan resumed its journey. but: just four milesfrom the town the qadi grew worse and died. Al-Zubaydi, in the company of the dead. man's son, 'whose name was Abu al-Tayytb, returned to Miliana for mourningand burial. leaving Ibn Battuta Ito continue on ahead with a party of IIriq.iyan merchants.

Descending ~he steep slopes of the: Zaccar, the travelers arrived at the port of Algiers, and Ibn Battuta bad his first sigbt of the Mediterranean since leaving Tangier. Algiers was a place of minor Importance in, the fourteenth century, not the maritime capita] it would come to be in, another two hundred years. It had lin"!,e to recommend it to a member of the educated class, Abu Muhammad al-Abdari, an Andalusan scholar who had tr:aveled from. Morocco to Arabia. 36 yearsearlier and had subsequently returned borne to write a rihla of his experiences. sized up' the city's literate establishment and qu~ddy wrote the place off:

In setting foot in this town. m wondered whether one would he able to meet any enlightened people or any persons whose erudition

The Moghrlb 33

would offer some attmclion: but. I bad the fee:]Jng ,of on

loo •. "ki~o fo - h o'-e th at wasn't hu!.1:I"nJ c ·~ thi 'ee.·· e , -,f -, - -. -- -I 6

.n,1O . r a '~.,. ..' _ '~J f.. . .,ggs 0 a came .

Ibn Battuta likemy shared .aIJ~ 'Abdari's opmioJill since: be says 'nothing, mn his narrative .abou,t. what Algiers waslike .. In any case. he and bis merehant companionscamped eutsidethe wallis of the IcilJ for several days." w.auiting fOf al-Z!l!Jba,ydi and Abu a~-Tayy:i'b to caleb up.

As soonas tbey did, the pan,' set out fior the port of Bijaya, the western, 'frontier city of the Hafsid kingdom.. The joum:ey took 'them directly eastward through the. heart of the Grand Kabylie Mountains. a region ,of' immense oak and cedar forests. spectacular gorges. and summits reachingmgber tbam6,.500 feet. rougher country ttham Ibn Battuta bad seen since leaving home, Bi.ja.ya lay 'up agaiDst the' slopes, of the mouatains near the month of the SOWllUl River, which separates the Grand Kabylie: range from the Little iKJabylie to theeast .. It was a busy international port and tile priJllcip.aJ maritimeoutlet .[o:r die dense eommunities of Berber fanners who inhabited the bi,ghIand valleys bebind it.

l:Ujiaya was the first real city Ibn Battuta had the opportunity to explore since leaving Tlemcen, Noneth,eless. he was determined to pushon quickly, aad this iD spite of an. 'attack of' fever that left rum badlyweakened. AJ-Zubaydi advised him tostay in B·ija.ya until lime recovered, but the jonng man was adaftUlIll: ~'H God decrees my deatb .. , then my death shall be on the road, with .my face set towards the land of the Hijaz, I! Relenting before this bt~gh sen tiMllle nt, al~.zubaydil offered to lend himanass and a tentif rue: would agree to sell his own. donkey and heavy bagg8lge so that they migbt a.m'l travel at :3! q uieker pace, Ibn Batnnaagreed, thanked God for His beneficcacc, and prepared for 'the departure for Constantine .. the next major city on the main pilgrimage route.

AI-Zuba.ydl s insistence all. traveling fast and light hadless ~o do with his yo~ng friend'sillness than with the dangers that lay on the. road ahead. Ibn Battuta had bad the good fortune to cross, M.orocco and the "Abd .am- Wadid lands during a period of relative peace, But the Eastern Maghrib .rn.132S was i.m the midst of one of the recurring cycles of political and milit8'ry crisis that eharacterized the Hafsid age, Sultan Abu Yahya Abu Hairr. who had acceded 'to die, Hafsid tlillrone in 1318., was yet striving to gain a reasonable measure 'of control over his domains in the face Q1f a Pandora's box: of plots, betrayals, revolts, and 'invasions. On one

34 The' Mnghr.ib

side were rival members of the Hafsid royal family, who from provincial bases m various parts of the country were organiz~mg; movements either [0 seize the capital city of Tunis or to set up petty kingdoms of their' own. On the other side were 'the • Abd alWadids, who repeatedly invaded Abu Bake's western territories and tried almost every year . though never successfully. to force the walls of Bijaya ..

As if these enemies were mot enough. the sultan had to contend with the turbuleat and unpredictable Arab warrior tribes who for more than two cenmries had beea 'the dominant pohtical force over large areas of rural Ifriqiya ... These nomads were descendants of the great wave' of Arabic-speaking, carnel-herding migrants, known collectively as the Banu Hilal, who had trekked from Egypt in the eleventh century and then gone on to penetrate the steppes and coastal lowlands of 'the Maghnb as far west as the Atlantie plains. If over the long run the relationship between these COIIIIpanies of herdsmen and the indigenous Berbers of the towns and \lHlages was described far less by hostility than by mutual commercia! and cultural dependence the migrations were no netheless a source of persistent trouble for North African rulers, who tried time and again to harness the military power of the Arabs to their own ends" o:nly to find thelrerstwhile allies putting in with rebels and pretenders. In 1325 Arab hands were politically 'teamed up with at least two Hafsid rebels aswell as wid! Abu Tashfin, the 'Abd a]~Wa.did. A~ the same time that Ibn Bartuta was makwng his way across the Central Maghrib an.' Abd al-Wadid army was laying siege to Constantine and had Sultan. Abu Bakr himself balded up, inside the city. t.n the meantime.ia Hafsid pretender and his Arab cohorts took advantage of the sultan's helplessness to occupy Tunis. The kingdom was ion a state of civil confusion, the roads were unsafe, and roving bands of Arab cavalry plagued the countryside"

Ignoring the tumult. Ibn Battuta and his companions struck out from Bijaya across the Little Kabylie Moumtahts and arrived at Constantine withouteneountering trouble .. By this time (it must have been August) tbe approaches to thecity were dear. The 'Abd al-Wadid army had precipitously given up :its siege some weeks earlier and returaed to Tlemcen in leaving Abu Bakr free to restore ,8, degree of order in the region and lead his loyal forces back to Tunis to eject the rebels."

Although Constantine was the: Largest city in the interior of the

The' ,Maghrib 35

Eastern Magbrlb, Ibn Barrera did not tany there long. Consequently be !laB little to recall about it in the Rihla - except the one notable fa,Cit t'hat hie was p,riviile,ged to make the acquaintance: of the governor. 3 son of Abu Bakr, who came out to the edge of tewn to we:lcomeal-ZUlba,ydi.The meeting was a memonl!bJe one

f' ,'.~ ~ ".- un~' ','il" " -~ beca se the O\l,e:m: IF ' rei ted be'" w't'k ~ or we yo~ ~~g p"gnm ~ et_u", ~,,~ g~ ,~,~o~ p, _sen~__ 1m,] ,J] a.

gift of alms, the first of many presents, be wou)d! receive from kings, and governors during the course of his travels, In this ~Dstal1lJce it was ~wogold dinars and a fiae woolen mantle to replace bis old one. whieh by this stage of the: journey was in rags. AJms,giving W,a5, one of 'the five sacred pUI ars of Islam, the duty of princes and peasaatsalike eo sbare one's material wealth with othersand thus, remit it to God. The' obligation included voluntary giving I(sadaqa) to specific classes of people: the poor, orphans, prisoners, staves, (fof' ransoming), fighters In the holy war.and wayfarers. FaUillilg emiDendyinlto this last category, Ibn Battuta would during tllile next several years see his welfare assured. to one degreeo,r ~by an array of pious individuals who were moved to p,erfonn theie Koranic duty, the more readily sosmce tbe recipienr was hhtlself an, educated gentleman weU worthy of such tokeasof God's beneficence,

Leaving Ccnstantlne better dressed and ncherv he and his friends tn~aded northeast across more mountainous country, reaching the Medilterrane,an again at the port of BUlla (Bone, today Aanabe) .. After :res:thwg here for several days :LD. the security of the city walls, be: bade farewell to the merchants who had accompanied hi mllalf way across the, Central Maghrib and eontinued on tow,ard TWIis with al-Zubayd] and Abu al-Tayyib, Now the Iittle party "traveled Ilg'ht with the utmost speed, on nigbt and day without stopping" for fear of attack by Arab marauders, Ibn Bsttuta was once agal[1 struck by "fever andhad to tie hiimself"to his saddlewith a tu~bao doth. to keep from faUi,og off. since they dared no~ stop for IOliilg. Their route took them parallel to the coast. through, high cork and oak, forests. thea gradually dowaward [[ r to the open plain and theexpansive wheat lands, of centnd Hriqiy,Bl. From there they had a IDevel road along the 'fertHeMedj.erdia Ri:v·er vlIUey to' the westerneavirons of 'Tunis.

Of .aU the North .African cities wbere maud inteUect flourisbed., Tunis, was premier dwimg, most of thethineentb and, fowteentll centuries. The ,AJ:rnohads had made it their pl"oviociaJ1 capital! illl! the, Eastern Magibrib,. all.d IL't was under'th.ell patronage that. 'it took

36 The Maghtib

on the physical and demographic dimensions of a major city, aUam~;dll1lg a population of about ]00,000 during peak periods of prosper:imy.a The Hafsids, who started out as Alrnohad governors over Ifriqiya and sub iequently represented themselves as the leg~ltimate dynasdc heirs of the empiure" continued to rule from Tunis and to cultivate the city's eorps of scho]ru-s and craftsmen, much as the Marinids, !eql!!lally driven 'to idelTIlti.fy themselves with rhe Almohad model of civiUzed taste, were dOing in. Fez.

Uke other Maghr,ibi cities of that ,age. Tunis under the Hafsids blJ.H~ its splendid mos:ques and palaces, ~aid out its public gardens, and founded ~jts colleges with we'alili thar cameia large measure from leng-distance bade. In the early fourteenth century Tunis was the' busiest of the ports wh~cb lay along the economie frontier between. ~be European seaborne trade of tille' Medliterraoeanan.d the Muslimcaravan network IQf the African interlor. The Ifriqiyan hinterland plain W,2I!S narrow but rich enough toexport a w~de range of Maghribi products ~ wool, leather, hides. cloth, wax, olive oil, and grain. Tunis wasalso a consumer and transit m,uket for goods from sub-Saharan Africa ~ gold, ivory, slaves, ostrich feathers. What ,gave the cIty ilts spec:ia:t prominence was, wts straregic position on the scathern rim of the Sicilian Channel, which joiaed (and divided) the maritime cOll1p~e,xes ofthe Westernaliild Eastern Mediterranean. Tunis maintained cI,ose'commercia] "ties witb Egypt byway of Muslim coastal and overland trade and was well placed to serve as a major emporium for Christian merehamsot the Western Mediterranean who found it a convenient place to buy exotic goods of the East without themselves venturing onthe voyage: to' Egypt or the' Levant,

What Ibn Bsttuta recallsabout his feelings upon arriving in Tunis is not the e~a.tio[l of a pilgrim who. has reached one of the great centers. of religious learning along the hajj route. bum the ferlornness ,o.f a young man in a strange city:

The tow nsfo I k came out to welcome ~he shaykh Abu 'Abdallah alJ-ZubaydiJ and to welcome Abu al .. Tayyib, the son of the qadi Abu 'Abdallah a.~~Na.rza.wi. 00 an sides they carne forward with and questions to one another, butnot a. soul said a w·olrd ,of greetil1g, to me. siaee there was none of them that I knew. [ felt so sad at heart ,on aCCO'I.Ullt of my loneliness that ] could not restrain the tears tha.tstaned to my eyes, and wept bitterly.

Inl notime at all. however things were ~ookimg up:

One of the pilgrims, r;,ealiziing the cause ·o.f 1m)' distress. came IIIp to me MEha greeting and friendly welcom.e. andcontinued to ,comfort. me witt. friendly tall. 'Wlti~ E entered tbecity~ where "1 lodged in d~.econege of the Booksellers ..

After dodging tribal maraudeesall B!loliIgtbe from. BiJaya •.

Ibn Batmta managed t.OI fJlrriv,eill Tuais during a period of relative poritllcal. ealm, The harried Abu B·akr;wbo bad fo[ulI.d bimselfs-but outof the ciitildel. of Tl1lli·s by,e d.ifferen.t times si'loo 1.32.1, retumed from Constantiaeand recaptueed the city perhaps only a few days, ahead of IbnB;attuta's a.mivallbere .. 9 Indeed Abu Baler probably resumedauth.o,rity just in time fO'f the old al .. Fitr the: :fe¥~ celebrating t.he end of Ramadan. the Muslim DlI0,Ii('tD lof fasting during ,d.a.)'tigbt. hours, Ibn Battuta was on, bandl to wito'ess, the su~ta_ofulfiU his Icuslomary duty of leading·,a, mS,gmficent precession' of officials., cOIJf1!l·e:fS., and oldliers bo'm the ci'tade~ 'to .31 speciaJoutdoor praying gfoUlJdI (mus.alla) 'tba'l .acco,mmodated the crowds g~tberedfor the prayers marking the Breaking of the

Fast. Ill' . - -

Ibn Battuta spent about two' months in Tunis, ,aniy,ing some days before 10 September 1325 and leaving inearly November .. It waseommon for edllllcat,ed travelers, or piJgrims, to take loo,giog temporarily inI3.oollege.. even thoug'b they were nct. reg[]Ja,r~y a.lJl:endin,g lectures, The madresa o,f the Booksellers where be sta.yed was oneof three colleges in existenee .in Tunis, ,at Ithat 'time. 'II His recollections of his. fi rst visit to' the city are sl igilt, but we Imight be: sure 'that be spellt most OIf his time in the company of thegentlemea-scholarsof the c~ty. He may indeed have had exposure to some of the emmenm Maliki 'tdamo« the century, Since the demise of the Almohads. the MaUiki: schocl was e'njoyin,gas moch of a, resurgence in Uri.qiya: as it wasil Morocco. The Hafsid rulers were appointLng :Maliki scholars to higb positions of state and pa:tJ'onizimg the fflaQ,..(J5o.s. where: .Ma!ikj juridical texts were the heart !of the clI[rri,c'U~lUm.

II the Tunis ellile be:l.d out anestimable model of erudition, they werealso masters of refined taste :awd that 'Union of pil,et)' and restrained wordlin.e s that Ibn S,aUu'ta would exeE~p1ify m adult:bood. DuriJOg title previous clentury 'Tunis bad beea a distant refuge [or 5il!.liolDessive waves of MusUm:s , illmi 'the

38 The Maghrib

wake of the reco'l1quista. Of all the North African cities with populations of Iberian descent, Tunis had the fiveliest and most productive. The Andalusians. coming, from a civilized tradition that was morepolished tho that of North Africa, were leaders in me' fields of arehitecmre, cr.aft5mansbip~ horticulture, music, belle .. lettres, and the niceties of diplomatic Efird courtly protocol An Amdialusian strnimlr seems evWdenrt in Ibn Banuta's own mannerly c~aracter .. asd we can wonder what seasoning effect two months in Tunis :a.mollg such people may have bad.

That he was already showing promise as an intelligent Mallki scholar wasevidentin tire circumstances of hls departure from Tunis in. November 1325. He had 1eft bome a: lonely journeyer eager tojosn I!!IP with whoever .might tolerate his company. He left Tunis as the appointed qa(i:i iQf acaravan of p:U,grims. Tills, was his first official post as an aspiring jurist. Perhaps the bon or went to brim because no better qllllaHfied lawyer was present m the group Of because, as be tells us in t~e narrative, most of the people 'in the company were: Moroccan Berbers. Inl an.~(' case, a hajj [caravan was a sort of community and required formal leadersbip-a chief (amir) who bad all the powers of the captain of a ship, and a qcu:li, who adjudicated disputes and thereby kept peace and order a.UI,ong the travelers.

The main caravan mute led southward along Tunisia's rich liUor,a] of olive and fruit groves. and throu[gh a succession lot busy maritime cities _' Sousse, Sfax, Gabes, Some' miles south of Gabes the road turnedabruptly eastward with tbe coast, runnieg between 'the island of Djerba onone side, thefringe of the Sahara en abe other, The next major stop was Tripoli, the last urban outpost of the Hafsid domain.

The province of Tripolitania, toda.y part of Libya, marked ,,apl(mkaHy the eastern extremity of the island Maghrib. From here the coastline ran southeastward for more than 400 miles[cutting further and further into the climatic zone of the Sahara until desert and water came together. obliterating entirely the narrow coastal band of fertility. Further on the: land jilts 'suddenJy northward again. WJllt,or latitudes of higher rainfall, Here was the w,eJl-po'pmlaled region of Cy renal ca. with its. forests and paslttrelands and fanen Ramal] towns. If Tripolitania was historicaJ]'yand culturally the end of the Maghrib, Cyrenaica was the begiullimg of 'the Middle East. the two halves of Libya divided one from the other by several hundred miles of sand and sea.

The Ma,ghrib 39

Atross'tbe b.rea:d01 oftbe coastal L~byan IOOUMl trysj de, Arab herding 'tribe rW,(}(1 SUJ' reme and once a zaln Ibn Battutaand his com nanion ~

~ s _ _ _ __ _ ~ p __ ~ ,g " , , , _ _p, ~_S

courted trouble. Between Gabes and Tripoli a, com.pall'lhy of archers, no doubtprovided by the ,Halsid. saltan to' protect the ,hajj caravan kept revers at bay. In Tripoli, bowever, Ibn, Battura decided to ~eave the main group, whi,ch :tmgefoo in !the city because of rain and cold, and ptmb 0,1'1 ahead witba small troop of M:OroCC3iM,. presumably leaving his judgeship at least temporarilJy in the bands of a subordinate. Somewhere near the, port wwn of Surt (Sirte) a band o,f cameleers tried to attacktheliltt1eparty. Butaocmding to the R!ihla~ • .. tJJ,e Divine Will diverted! them, and prevented them from. doing: 'Us harm that 'they had _tended.," After rea,ching Cyrenaica in safety, the travelers waited for the restof the caravan to catch up then continu,ed pmsumably without further incident, toward. the N:He.

Crossing Libya. fun Batmta had greaterreason than everto be wary of trouble since be DO longer had oIlLI:}' himseif'to consider, Whiletli:te car,avan was 1m Sfax he entered into ill contract 0:£ marriage with the daughter of a TumsiHI official in ,the pilgrim company .. 'When tbey reached Trtpofi.the woman was preselll~ed to ·hlm. The arrangement ended in faLilJure, Rowe'ver for Ibn Battuta feU intoa di pule with his prospective falltter~iD~law while travelingtbroug~ Cyremaica and ended up returnieg £be girl. Undaunted,. be then wedded 'Ihe daugWller of another pilgrim, this, time a scholarfrom Fez. Apparelnly witb income from. his Judicial offioo' he put on a marriage feast "at wlbic.b J detained tile: caravWi1I for a whole day, and entertalnedthem a1Jl." The Rihla tels us n.othing what oever 8.00ut the character ofeitberofthe e womenor Ibn Battuta's re~ationshjpwitlfll them. Indeed be would many several times in the eeuese 01 ~jjS tl'av,els, yet nlelrt'liTIer, 'wives, nor the slave concubines who were frequently in his, train during later periods of his travels, would receive anythin.g other than the scantest mention here Wild there in the Rillla. 'Wives vanish as casually and as inexplicablyfm",om the narrative as they enter it. In the Islamic society I)fth.a~ age a mall's iJI,ti.m·ate famny relations, were regarded as.noone's business but his own. and married Muslim women, at least iin the Arabic .. speaking lands Lived out their liveslargely in seclusion. Ibn Battuta's domestic affairs were not a proper subject 'fora. rlhla~ nor 'would they be for the b~ography orautobiography of am,. publieman of Ul.Qt time. Coasequentlywe learn milch less than we would like about a significam~ d.imcnsion ·of Ibm Battuta's tJavell~r1g life.

Sometime .in the late winter or spring of 1326 the caravan reached Alexandria at the western end of tbe' Nile De:lta.12 As treks across

The Maghrib

Iilordmem Am.CD went. Ibn B,!llltura managed it lm1l: less time than many traveters did, the mo:re 'tb.. 2.000 milesm. the space or e.ilgbl or rune' mmltibs.. U at this point he lilJad been in a burry to gel to the HWjiaz be could uv,econtin.ued across the delta and the Sinai :P'emnsu,la., pickin1g up the EgyptiancuaV3£l route te Mecca. Bu.ttibe' nextpigri:mage seasol was still eight months Blway,affo.rding bim p,lentyof time to explore 'me NUe VaU.ey and" ud a. ,B,DY serious sdlo~ar-pUgrimctid. pay his respects to Cairo, wroch 'in Ibe6JfSt balf of 'meitlt!nteenth c-ent1~ry wast,he reigning inmdledu311 capj,tall or the Arabic~speaking wodd and the' largest city in the hemi~befe .anywhere west of China.


L Ibn, Kha~dun. The Mu.qaddimo/r. 2m) edn .. '1J!'81r1. P. R~nlhat 3 'vol. (P,rinc-elon. N.J .. 1967). vot, 3. p. 307.

Z. EtobertBrun.scbvig, J...g Br'fbll'i'e Cn1mfo.le . o(i~o;ftj' ,HfJf~idI'SJ titS orig#I!t!! .~ ,ltI /induXVe sl~dc. 2\1015" I{Pad!l, L 40. '~47), "'01 .• 2. p.!}?',

3, M. Cona.rd. '"Le5 fei~atiDn!! en"fcles Mcrillllid~~ct ICiS Mamclottk lU1l1 XIV~ si~:ele .• " .M/i1Illtcsde t"/nsfllut' a' tmd~ ()·"a{£3 5 ~'9391: 013.

4 .. rb.n 'Khaldlll1ll. His"o;r~ des 8f,b~l't;t I dcs d nnsliesrnu.suJmOJft. Jt fAl"i'lUI stpr.entrio1lQJe, trans. Baron de Sllne ... vol5. I(P-li·i.s,. 1')2:5-.S6). 'yol ..... pp. - ;2.--66. vot :1, pp. 40~5.

S. Brunsd'lvis CBttblrft orientolc.vol. t .• p. 148f1) uggCSt Ihi' hypcnl1esi '. 6.1\ ... 'Che rbonni!l1 III , "NotiQ!: e' '!!!I~f JI du v ",I:' d··EI·AllJd~r)' 6 !mvcl'S t'.Alrique SCl'lclltriorudc .. ,1IJ VUe i~cle do I·HcgililC .". JoumDI A,iafique. S'Ih ser., 4 (UJ54)~ :158. My transl~ Ilion [rom the ·rench.

"I. The CVl;nts ofrhj- peri~1 ,re dC-SCfibed 'n lbtl KlmlduR, HislOi'F.t du fJtfib~rtJ'. vel. 2" PI". 45"7...66. ::nd BAln:schvil.8,[,'h~.rlt' orit',mait!·, \1'01. ~. flP. 144-5'0.

8. Brun..ii.C'h'Vf. ,8"rblri~' ,(JrltrUQ(:e. vol, L pp. JC6---S7.

9. (b,d •• vel, I. 'p. W,46n.

1.0. W . d." '1'01. 2. pp. JOIJ-02; ('lb, I/O!.. II, p. W3n.

1 J. Robcrt B~b~g •. "Ouclqu'~ lI\em.u:rquc hiS:t!oriqllU:s .ur les m~dell1ias de .. Rtl"Ut" TuniJfentl~ (] (19 ,I):. 2:6~ S. The colle,ge o:r the Boobeflerswas

b.own ~n Ambo (he M ·ridiyyol.

12. In tll.cRih/u' WI) rcm:~mhcn rriving,~n -11:')1 IIIdrio on S Apml 1326 (I .loma.da :11Z").~r'rbek I Ir .pp. 4J7- Ul) IlJFgucth;u the dale was more likely mid (R b' I 1U)an tlJC!I'D!:mds In I the uiip Iba'm TripolJi ~o JeJ;lUldria shouldl nOl IUI'lIe II . en the' 'l'hre.e months, Ibn l_ltU'L all t:s ~o i'I. 0011 iderilli1,g (mn 110 major dCI.a.y':"R nu!:ed.Hrbck 511 ·cst ~hal I'he joumney p-,lob!:!Jbly uX!k . ~o 4S da)'5 anti that, occiP1nct: of om~_ rller aniv .11 d H! 1111 le.:cand'na bclpslO !s.oh,C' cbtonolqgjica1 pI:' blem.· ~h 1 ri e later on.

3 The Mamluks

As fOT the dynasties of' OlD" time. the greatest of them is the" of the Turks in Egypt .. , I

Ibn Kbarndu:n

Of the' dozens of International ports Ibm Battuta visited in the' course of his travels. Alexandria irnpressed bhll ,8 among 'the fiv'e raost ma:gfllifioeo't, There was not: one h.arbor but two, theeastern reserved for Christian ships. the western for Muslim, They were divided by Pharos Island and the colossal lighthouse which loomed over the port and ,could be seen several miles ()U~ 'to sea .. . Alexandria bandied a great variety of EgY1Ptian products. ineluding ~he woven sBl<.. cotton .. 21i111.d linen from its, own thriving textile shops. But more' important. it was the most west,edy situated of the arc of Middle Eastern cities which funneled trade between the Indian Osean and the Mediterranean.

From the beginning of the Islamic age ('he flow of goods across the Middle East had followed a number of different routes, the relative importance of each depending em tbe prevailing con .. figurations of poti.tkall power and social 'Stability. Ibn Battuta hadthe' good. fomme to make his first and lengthiest vis it to Egypt at a time of high prosperity on the spice route running from 'the Indian Ocean to rhe Red Sea and hence down the Nileto 'the ports of the delta ..

Contributing to E.gypfsaffluelmice was the firm rule of the Bahri ,Ma:mJuks .. the Turkish-speaking warrior caste who had governed that country aad Syria. asa united kingdom since 1260. Over tbe second half of the tbirteenth century the Mamluks had been ob[igedto go to war several 'times t,o prevent the Mongol armies of Persia from overrull,illlg. Syria and advancing to the Nile. It is, to the credit of MamJuk cavalry that they stopped the Tatars and saved Egyp't from eatastrophe by the skin of its teeth. Thus the cities of the Nile were spsred the fate of Baghdad. which the Mongols laid waste in l258 and reduced t'o the status of a provincial market town ..


42 The Mamluks

Map 4: Ibn Battuta,"s Itinerary in Egypt, Syria an,d Arabia, 1325-2,6

TIt'e Mamluks 43

AUhougb the Mongo~ tnreat to Syria. did not end until about IllS. Egypt entered the fourteenth century wmtb a.finngovernment. a g,e:l'1I:ell'aUy s~:able social order, and bright epportunities to exploit the commerdal potential of its geograpbwcall position. Under the meticulous supervision of soldiers and eustoms ,officers. the products of Asia were unloaded at the port of 'Aydha.b half wa.y up the Red Sea, moved overland by camel train to the Nile. then carried down the river on lateen-rigged vessels to Alexandria and the warehouses of 1tal:ia:I!I!~French. and Catalan traders, Symon Semeonis, an Irish cleric whevisited Alexandria in 1323 OM his way to the Ho~y Land. experienced the Mamluk custom s bureaucracy ,lit work:

On curaroval m the port, the: [European] vessel. as Is the custom, waa unmediately boarded by a number of Saracen [Muslim] harbor officials, who hauled down the sail, and wrote down the names of everybody on board. Having examined all the merchandise and goods in the ship. and havtn.g made a careful list of everything. they returned to the city t.aldlilg. the passeng,ers with them ., . They quartered us within. the first and second gates. and went o~ff to report w.hat they had done ito the Admiral of the city, wi thout whose presence and permission no foreigner 1S allowed either to enter or leave the city ,and :DO goods can be imported."

Ibn Battnta spent several weeks in the busy port, seeing the sights (including the Pharos Lighthouse and the third-eentury marblecolumn known as Pompey's Pillar] and fraternizing with ~he men O'f lettersin the mosques and colleges. In Egyptthe Maliki school of law was mot nearly so widedly used as the Shafi'i code .• bum Malikism. was dominaa; in Alexandria owing to the large representation of North Africans and Andalusian refugees among the educated population. 3, In the Rihla Ibn Battuta reCOUlI't:S the achievements and miracles of several scholars and mystics of the city, most of them of Maghribi origin,

At one point during these weeks he spent 3 .. few days as the guest of one Burbaa al-Din the Lame, a locally venerated Sufi ascetic, Among tile special ta.lents of more enlightened M:lIIsUm divines was the gift of fOJietellljng the future. It was in the company of Burhan all-Din that the young pilgrim got a first inkling of his destiny. The holy man perceiving that Ibn Battuta bad in his heart a. passion for

travel. suggested that hevisit d'liree of hisfellow SUlJfis" two ofthem in I.ndia .the third iin. China. Ibn Bal1uta,rocaJl~s the.illl1Jcident: '''1 was amazed at his prediction. ,and tae idea of going to these counrries having been cast into IlTIymind, [my wanderings never ceased until I bad met these 'iliroolbat he named and conveyed his greeting to them .'

For the moment, however. Ibn Bartuta was content 10 wiarnder in the valley of the Nile. AJie:x:mdlria was Q.ot, located on tbe river but ~~nked Ito wI bya can ali". eonstraeted a few years before his arrival, w:hic'b raneastward to the Rosetta Branch at 'me town of iFUWW3. Most commerdaJ traffic to the interior w,en~ b~ river vessel through thecaaal and from there upstream to Cairo. which Lay about 140 miles hlll~and at the ,a,pex ofthe delta, ajoamey of fi've to seven days with the: usul favorable northerly winds.

Ibn Bartuta was in no particular burry at this POli,Dt. however, since the nextseason of the hajj was stillabout seven Montbs, ·off. most youngscholars might have made a beeline [Of Cairo" the great m.eoropoU_s"tbi:spil,grim:~a1lreadY' disp.laying his characteristic zeal to see everything. spent about three weeks, probably duri:ll:g A.pril 1326,. w3.lIJdering the rich com m erci all ad textille-prodilJlong towns of the de~la ~ Damanhur, FU'WW3. lbyar., Damietta, Samanaed, and others." A10ng the way be sought out and lodged in the hOQses. of numerous judges. savants, and Sufi sAaykh!S, irnduding a celebrated saint of Fuwwa who also P'~ phesied the young man would one day wind up in India. He continued to support himself with the gifts and hospitality of the pions, eottae teastor his benefactors being the Mamluk gove'mol of Damietta, who befriended him and sent him several coins, It might be presumed that Ibn Battuta was trav,eIJ!Jng ~m the Delta ~n the company of the woman he had married ~JIl Libya. except that she is never mentioned. in the R'ihla again ..

Am Samannud Olll the Damietta branch of the river be boarded one of the higb-mast,ed ships which thronged rbe river and sailed directly upsltt,e:am toward Ca~fo. Numerous Christian. and Jewish travelers - mercbants, ambassadors Holy Land pilgrims ~ sailed the Nile between the coast. and Cairo during the fourteenth and fifteentb centuries I and few of them (in the narratives they later wrote) fat~led to marvel a't the crowded colorful, ever-blooming life ofthe river. Symon Semeonis extolled its natura'! wonders:

This river is most pleasant for navigating. most beautiful in aspect, most productive in fishes, abounding in birds. and its

water Is most wholesome and pleasant to drink. never harmful or offensive, but wen suited to man's needs, Many other excel .. len.t ~hin,gs migbt be said about it were it not the retreat 'OiC a bigbly noxious animaJ. resembling the dragol" which devours both horsesand mea if it catchesthem inthe waiter 0 r on the banks, .. s,

Ibn BaUula aminority ,amoli1g travelers in his [wl,Ulre 10 mentien tile crocodiles. was impressed by the heercrush of humanity aJOMilg the banks, a de'.lilsity of habitation in startling contrast to what be~ bad seen crossing Nortb Africa:

There is no need for a rraveler on the Niletotakeanyproeisien wjth him becs'wev.'lIlenever he wisbe to descend on tbe b'aak be may do so. for ,ab~utions.praye~,. pu:rchas,iImJg,proYlisions, or any oilier purpose, There is a, continuous seriesof bazaars from the city of Alexandria to Cairo .. .itiesand villages. succeed one another a~ong its bank without interruption ud have lila equal in the inhabited world. nor is any river known 'whose basin is so int,e,rn:sivelycultivated as that cf the . He. There is DO river on. earth but. it which j called a sea.

For all their te,eming life. rhe market towns linimg. the lower Nile were but pe~ly refleetlons of what the wayfarer 'beheld OJ] reaching cair;o,,[tIie ,gfeates~ bazaar olr them all, Travelers of the time, wha,tev,e'.rlhe:ir origin. stood bedazzled at the city's overpowering size. '~·ThiiS. cit of CaitrO' has ,3 population greater than tbat ofam~ Tuscany,' wrote the J:ta.~ian gentleman Freseobaldi .of his 'vis;it m 13 ' '. "and there is a street wbi,ch has by il~:se~f more people than aJ~ of Aorence. ~,6

M,ode.~n scholars ,sl!Igg:estth.epopul,ation of Cairo in tJ1e first half .of the fOllr~,eentb century rna.)' have been between "'OO.OOD sind r600.0()O. or :sixtirnes lIMIer' than Tuais and fifteen times larger tha.rli London at thesame period." A convergenee Qif mstorica.l 'factors explains the pbeno:menal ,growtb of the ciill)"kom the ~a~er thirteentb to the mid fOJuFteentb century. One was its statu as Icapital of the :Mamlu,k. kingdom udcbief residence of virtually tbe' eneire Turk.isbruUng class, around whom Egyptian poli tica: I and economic Ute: turned, Anotbe:r was its position as tl1e.£ers,ect~ng point o',{ the, prospeeous Red See-to-Nile spice route and the trade 8!fI,d pilgrima,ge reads from. the Maghri'b alld.s.ub~Sahara)1l1J West.

46 The.M amluks

Africa. A lbird was the happy fact that its rulers had rep'ul'sed the Mongol horde and p,robab~)' saved the population from being massacred. Indeed Cairo became a permanent ,refuge in the later thirt!! century far' tbousands of' peop'h~ from Iraq and Syria. whoRed lh,e app:ro,acb 'of the Tarars in panic.

Ahhough Cairo WSJi spreading physically in several. directions in ~be early fourteenth ,oentury I tbe majotilyof the population, indudilng ro're;ign visitors and refugees, lived packed iiCil.side the walled cit)', which lay about ,3 mwle and a hal,f east of the river, Th~s was Cairo properly termed~a'I~Qahir,ah (The Victorious). It was, founded by the f,at:imid dyna,t)' illl the tenth century asa royal residence and g.arr:ison and tll1e'T,eafter e olved as tbe center of commercia] and in teU.ectualllife for the grea ter urban region, even .. tuaJly5uperseding in this respect the older Is I 3111f1.ic city., known as. Fushmt or Misr. which was I,oeatedsome t,o the south.

Habltarien within walled Cairo was so dense alJd tll,e surge of humanity so frantkth,BI[ the <City had fbe appearance of be~lIlg drastically overpopulated. The crush olf people, camels, and donkeys. in the central commercial district was so' grea'l tha.t Ibn Battuta Might have fOllmna a tourist's stro,~~ down the Bayn at .. Qasray:n.~be m,ailIlJ a;~lefl'lJe,B tboroogbJy eerve-readiag experience, There were thousands of shop in the vicinity of the avenue, aswem~ as more than thirty markets, eachone a eoncentration of a particular craft or trade - butchers, goldsmiths., gem dealers, candlemakers, carpenters, ironsmiths, slave merchants. Armies of peddlers and food vendors 81:so jammed tll1ie streets, hawkingvkt.uaJ:s. to the Cairene citizens, almost none Q'f wholm had the facilities to cook at hom,e. The' centers of inter· national trade: in the city were the ,ca.ravansade'i ealledfrmduqsor khans.. These were sometimes huge and spl,endid'ly decorated structures bl!lilmaround ,a! central courtyard and containing rooms on the ground floor [Of s!oring goods and upstairs for lodgil1il8, merchants. Some .khans were constructed for' particular groups 0" foreign traders, • such as M,aghrl.bis. Persi,ans~or uropeans. A caravansary for Syri,aA merchants built in the twelfmb. century had 360,abovetbe storerooms and enough space for ,4.(}(I()

.' 1:1

guests at a tane,

'Th.B affluence of Cairo ja the 132tJs was a refteetien O':f the eempeteaee of the Mamluk government. indeed. of a system, o:f po Udca I, nd social' orgamz.s!tio1n that 'Was working lin .he ,eady fourteenth century about as wen as, it ever would. Wb:en Ibn

Th.e Mamluks 47

B,attuta. entered the Ma:mhlk cilom.ain. be felll. under a political authority whose rei a .. tionsh ip' to the general populatienwas quite uBlike what he had knOWJJI at. Do,me. Wherea.s the Mariuidls of Morocco were of Beliber s'[ock. etDnica[ly ondifferentia,'ted from most ofthe local pOp'uliatio.n, the Mamluks were, i1Itbeir Central Asian ,ori,giws, Turkish language, and mim~uuyetbos. utterly ,alien 'to their native Egyptian subjects. At the heart of the Mamluk govem.ment was, the practice of recruiting the members of the 'fulling miiUta.ry and administrative elite frOID amomg young men of Turkish tribes in. the 'steppe ,lands north of tbeB~ackand Caspian Seas. These youths entered Syria and Egypt as slaves, or in Arabic "mamluks." They were then converted to Islam, ,educal,ed in the fundamentals of religion, taillight the ana of mounted warfare, and fin.aUy given their freedom and positioa of serviee in the Mamluk state. It was from among tbe nJlllks of these allien .. born cavalrymen that the top go·vernnH~.nlcomman:ders (amirs) were chosen ..

Though the: day to' day marragemens ef the realm requited QO!l]staJn~. oonraet aad intertwining of interests between M,armh.d{s and native: E)'ptiaDs~ the .ruling minority nonetheless stood as ,81 casteapart in its monepoly of "power ,aid physical force ... Ordinaryfo~k were not even permitted to ride horses. rmdeed~ ilie purpose of rhe M,a:m~.'Uk . ystem of recruitment and social insulation was not only to build and perpetuetean a:rmy of rugged Asian soldiers..,LmeqllllivocaIlyloya~ to the state, but also to preserve the inte,grity and esprmt de corps of the 'Wh.o~e governing establishment by .Iocking the subjec~ peoples, even tbe I."leall}:, born sons of 'Mamluks,. out Q,r it entirely. The ever-looming sYRI.born of Marnluk dominaece a midi ,exdusivhy was the Hadel. a.J!m awesome complex o.fpaJace .rnesques ,offices" Ilivli1wg, quarters, DLfld stables that stood on a roc'ky prminence 25 feet above Cairo, Here the sultan resided with an elab rate court ande.Yeral regiments of DilOI!mted troops eut ,o,II, to whatever degree he wished, from ~he 'com:moncrsllrongi,liII'g the streets below.

The origins ,of 'thi.s "'oLiga.~c.hyo'f ilos~ children." as one historiallil bas characterized the Mamluk:s 9' are ~j,lJked to' the tumultuous

- ._. -_. _. - - . - - - - - .

events ·I)f the eleventh century, when Turkish steppe warriors swarmed! over tile IMidd~e East. seized power almosteverywhere, and .fiUed the politic3l~ void left by 'tbeoolapse ()f the ciassicsl Abbacsidem,pi:re centered on: Baghdad. Although by the twe~ffil centu.ry tbe IimD~ty 'of the Middle' E.asit was shattered. Turlri_sb.

48 The M'amluks

warlords made accommodaticns wirh local Arab and Persian populations and. with the a~d of their comrades-in-warms and a continuing flow of slave recruits from CefJtr,all Asia. succeeded in restorjng lawand order over faidy extensive areas of the Middle East and Asia MilfilOf and rounding a series of llliIili(ilI:ry dynasties.

The Age of the Turk descended en Egypt in ]250' when a corps of slave-soldiers in the service of the decrepit Ayyubid dynasty staged a CO'tIP d',etat and took power. 1:.11 the course ofthe following half century tile Bahri Mamlu ks, so named for the fact that they were ori,giDaHy qil!l:art:ereclon an island jlJlJj the Nile [Bahr al-Nil), consolidatedtheir rule over Egypt. conquered greater Syria, expelled the Latin Crusaders. and repeatedly beat back Mongol assaults from Persia. By the time Ibn Battuta arrivedin Cairo the: Mamluk empire had expanded to embrace mot only Egypt, Syria" ilmd Palestine, but also southeastern Asia Minor and tile Red Sea rirn.

Although the Mamluks often lived up to their barbarian origins in their treatment of the native population (crucifixien and the severing oflimbs werecommon punishments for crimes against the 'state). they nevertheless worked out 3, routine standard of cooperation with rhe 'utama and notability, who embodied Arab elvillzaticn. It was, after all, nly through tbeeducaeed elite. as l~terate spokesmen for the lower orders of society and as interpreters of the Sacred Law, that the Turks were able to make [:Ille social accommodanons necessary to ensure the steady BllIld tranquil flow o·f tax revenues fromagricultural land and commerce. In turn, the s:ctJolarly class net only accepted the fad ·of Mamluk power as the onl.)I alteraative to chrenic instability but. willingly stepped forward '1.0 make the government work" serving under Turkish cornmanders as judges, scribes, tax-collectors .. market inspectors. chiefs of city quarters, hospital administrators, as, well. as vpreachers, teachersvand Sufi shaykhs.

The rise of the Mamluks was alsothe achievement .of the inrelligenr, ruthless. and surprisingly eivilized men: who. wore' ~he black satin robe of the sulsanate during the first century of the empire. Ibn Battuta had me luck to arrive in Cairo a~ ~he triumphant mid point of the reign efal-Nasir Muhammad ibn Oala'un, 'who, ruled (with some brief wrnterruptions) from 1293 to 1341.long,er than any sultan ~Jn the 267 years of I,he Mamluk lI'e,gime. Suctli longevity was in fact a remarkable achlevemeat, since the Turkish elite, appearing cohesive and fiercely fraternal from without. \' ere quarrelsome andfacliom .. ridden. within, Power

The ,Mamluks 49

and position in. the bier,archy depended I.argely om personal ability and pluck . obliging any offioer WilUl ambition. to compete viciously against h~s; fellows for the bigb offices (in,cludin,g tbe: sultanate itself) and the stupendous personal gr,cillnts of ,agricultl1W:ral I:and revenuesthae went with them.

The reign of al-Nasir Mubammad was the age lof Cairo at its most resplendent, when the city blossorned into maturity as the world capital of Arab art and letters, While the Mongol borde ransacked its way through the Middle East. devastating Baghdad and plundering Damascus (1299,-·]300)., Ca.i.rooffer,eda SJeCUTe haven for scholars. craftsmen. and rich merchants who were nbmble enougb to escape across the: Sinai Peninsula. taking: 'with tbe.1l the: knowledge, artistic skills, and wealth that helped make Cairo' the most cosmopolitancenter of civilized culture anywhere

• the Dar al-Islam ..

MamJ.u1: officers were not granted agricultural estates outright but Oily rights to revenue fr-om the I,and' productiviiy. They did Gom nonnally live on '!!heitr rural holdings and chose, if they could" to live in Cairo. Consequently, rents and taxes from. thousands of peasant villages poured .to the dty and were [.av~s'ldy expended 011 religious endowments. as wellas on palaces. khans, racetracks •. canals, and mansoleums, prcducing in aU the most energetic surge of building that Cairo had ever known, Moreover, Mamluk arebltects chose Increasingly to build in stone rather than the brick and plaster of earlier generations, and so their monemeats have en .. dared, The skyline of domes and minarets which impresses the eye of the modern tourist ill 01d Cairo Is for the most part the skymtne t» the fourteenth and fift,eetltb centuries ...

Durinlg his stay ()~ about a month in the city HI Ibn Battuta toured the monusnents of the B,ahJrj Mi1LIllI1Uks as well as the mosqaes and mauso.le'u.m:s of earlier dynasties. Since a disastrous, earthquake in [303 had destroyed many pubHe bujldilJg8.11 be must b,Bv'e seen numerous construction projects gO'tog 0I1i1 while be was there. SUl~tao al-Nasir was not only .8 geeerous patron of religious institatioas, building some thirty mosques ~m, the course of his reifln~ he. also sponsored nameeous civic enterprises, 1111- cJll!lld~:ng a canel which ran between the waned eity 311ldthe river and opened an extensive new area to urban settlement.

Am,ong, the structures which most impressed Ibm Battuta was. the Maristan, or hospital. built by Oala'ua .• the father andpredecessor ofal-Nasir. Today ,31 sad shell ofcrombling walls, it was one of tbe

fmestarclbitectural creations of the age, "As for the Maristan ' ." Ibn Battuta reports. "no description is adequate toits beauties." .A modem his~od,an describes its operation. showing that however br,awUng and unhea~thy life in the' aarrow streets of the city might be, Cairo's charitable institutions were sanctuaries of civilized caJm.:

Cubicles fOJ:" patients were ranged round two courts, and at the 'Sides i(Jf another q!uadriilllgle were wards.Jecmre rooms, Ilib.rlltry. baths. dispensary and every necessary a ppllanee of those days o:f surgical science, There was even music: to cheer the :SlLlLffere£s~ while readers of tbe Koran afforded the consolarions of the fa.ith., RidmJ and poor were treated alike. without fees, and sixty orphans were SuppoJ1ied and educated in the neighborin.,g school. IZ

If the credit for such enlightened plli~a.ndnopy 'Went to the sultans and ,am.i1's who paid for it, the inspiration and management were the achievement of the' educated community of Cairo, amon,g whom Ibn Battuta would have spent most of ais rime. He offers in the ,Rihla 3. brief Who·s Who of the city's ~eading lights. but he gives no indication that be pursued systematic study witb,(toy of them, as in fact he would do in Damascu» later that same year, It 'seems likely. though, that he attended lectures in some of the madrosas.

The colleges were the vital centers of Intellectual and civic tile wherein the religious, social. aad cultural norms gover:nm,g Egyptian society were taught and exemplified. A madresa was lo, fact a, mosque, though one designed primarily for teaching rather than fo.r congregational prayer. It was Saladin wbo brought the madrasa idea from Iraq to CaiTO in the 'twelfth cennrry with the spc'cmc intendoml of fou.ndimg SUFI.oi sebools to combatiU1ld suppress the Slt~'i do ctrinesof the preceding Fatirnid dynasty, As the city grew and prospered new colleges sprang up ole after another. enough of them by the fourteenth century to elicit Ibn Battul[:a·s"commen.l that "as for the madrasas in Cairo, they are too many for anyone to count." The colleges of the Mamluk age were designed oa a ;crucifonn.plan with a relatively small open courtyard, in. contrast: to the vast spaces within the chief congregational, or frid.ay mosques, Opening onto the court were four vaulted halls. or liwanJ, where classes were IlO[ma~~y held,

The MamJuks 51

"This was the classic madras« fOm!. of Ibn B.aUuta·s tiqe~ p~oviding in fact the model for MariJridcoUegie building in :MOfOCCO.

The college curriculum offered in Cairo would have been ptrfe:ctlyfatmiliar to Ibn Battuta as it was largely identical to wbat was preseeted in North Africallsc;hoo~s. except that the Shafi'.i system of ~aw was domin.ant rather than theMali~ki.Asin Tunis, Fez, or Tangier ~ education turned on the revealedand linguistic sciences, espeda~lly law. Stud~es in medicine, astronomJ". matbemadcs and philosopby were also available, tboogb the t'eachill1g was I!!Ilsually conducted privately rather than imil the madrasos. Cairo in the MamJuk age did not nurture men of creatiive originaJjty (with the notable exception of Ibn Kbaldun, who was a Tunisian bot moved permanently to Egypm in 1383), but it did produceilieologioos., jurisprudents histcrians, encyclopedlsts. and biographers of spectacular erudition and nimbleness of mind .. It was these men Ibn Battuta .•. and hundreds of scholars ~Mke him from. throughout the Arabic-, Persian-, and Turkish-speaking Islamic world came to the great city to see and hear .13 .

Ibn Battuta might wen have remained in Cairo much longer than ,3 month, since at tile endof [hat time (mid May 1326) therestill remained more thanfive mont~s before the start of tae hajj i,iwails in Mecca. The official Egyptial1l caravan, which traveled to the Hi] az across Sinai under the protection of tile Mamluks, did not normally leave Cairo until the middle of themonth of Shawwal, in that year mid September .. L4 But Ibm Battuta had an impetuousness about him (as he had already demonstrated in his journey across North Africa)., aad he was not inclined to wait for caravans or reUow travelers far very long. In faer he decide-d 101 proceed to Mecca 0[1 own. no~ by the Sinai: route at all, bu~ by way of Upper Egypt to the Red Sea port of 'Aydhab and fromthere by ship '(:0 Jidda 00. the' Hijaz coast. traveled boto the northern and somhern Fowles [out of Cajr,o ~lIltbe 'first half .of the' fourteenth century. The Sinai road was the shorter of the two • 31Ild it was relatively more secure because the swnms SlJonsored annual caravans and dispatched armyunits to maintain. and police the IOIJI.te. The souther:Jy track to 'Aydhab and Ji~dda was longer and there was no officially organized caravan. B,l!Jt this 'Was the rou~e of the spices •. in Tho B,attnta 's time one of the busies! and s:tfategiclUy mOSt Important .~anes O'f inter-

52 The Mamiuks

national trade in the Afro-Eurasian world. T!1:e commercial infrastructure of' trails I river transport, cameleers, khans. and markets was extensively developed and elaborately organized, affording the wayfarer a normally safe joumey from Cairo to 'Aydhab.

Moreover. a pilgrim could normally expect to travel aU the way ~o that town located [lear the modern. Sudanese border, without passing beyond the reach of Mamlnk law and order. The sultan posted garrisons in Qus~.ldfu, Aswan, and other importam towns on the river and, when the situation called for it dispatched punitive expeditions against the Arab Or Beja tribes of the desert and! Red Sea. Hills, These unruly herdsmen, in norma] times collaborators in the transit trade as guides and came] drivers, were quick to despoil caravans or defy Mamluk authority 'whenever the opportunity was lOO tempting to re's]s~' ~ a fact of Egyptian politics [lot, as we shall see. to be lost on Ibn Battuta,

The yOWlg pUgrim's two- to three-week journey up the Nile valley to the town of Idfu W.IlS accomplished without much adventure. He traveled by land rather tl1.,8111 on the river, and at several points along tile way he lodged in the homes, colleges or lodges of scholars and Su.fis..15WhiJe passing throughthe town of Minya, be became embroiled in a minor incident. interesting for what it reveals of his high sense of civilized propriety _" as well as a Iess appealliirng inclination to sanctimonious meddling:

One day I entered the bath-house hI this township. and found men init wearing no covering .. This appeared a shocking thirng to me and 1 went to the governor and informed him .o:f it. He told me not to leave and ordered the lessees of (all] the bathhouses to be brought before him. Articles were formally drawn op (then and there) making them subject to penalties If any persoll should enter a bath withouta waist-wrapper, and the governor behaved to them with the greatest severity. after wh ich I took leave of him.

A grateful governor and an annoyed corps of bath operators behind him. he continued on to Idfu .. , one of '[he principal transshipment centers: for the overland bal1~ to the coast. Here lie crossed to the east bank of the river. hired camels, and set out for 'Aydhab inthe company of a party of bedouin Arabs. Their trek southeastward through the desert and then over the bare and

The Mamlub 5.3

smmlddering Red Sea Hills took ]5 days, :31bo~t the aormaltime for the trip.16

Although Ibn Banuta's brief descriptien of "Aydli1ab _. its mosque, its men of Iearaing.somecu 'toms of the mllilabitants ~ is factu-al and detaehedva traveler coming out of (be desert would be Lik.ely to react to the town with a d~scomfit~'og ambivaielc!e. 00 the one hand it was a nOlWf~sllln.g pon, its warehouses crammed 'With pepper. cloves, Ivory, pearls, textiles. Chinese proeelaia and all manner of exotic goods from Asia and tropical Africa, as well as the Illl/en'l silk coral, sl!lg,ar. and precious metals of Egypt and the Medirerraneam, On (be other band I, the fiery Climate .. the barren su.rroumdings. and [he country crudenes of the local hill folk made 'Aydbab one of the mos,t Ii1nin'Viting transit stops anywhere from tbe M'ed~rerranea,n to China. Thousands passed through. but 0.0 orne stayed ,a moment longer than reqwred. Ibn Juba,ym-. the celebrated pil,grim and .rihlu\vriter of the twelfth cennilry. desp~sed tb.e place. After :noUng in bis book that the town was rich and of greatccmraercial ~lmpoIilatnce., be fervenl.lyad'rised pi.lg,rims to get to Mecca, by orne other w,ay if tbey possibl),cou,td::

U is enough for you ,of Q place where ev,erytbing is imporred., even w,ater; and ~hi' . becauseof U'S bith~'rDess) is. less agreeable then ttrirst.W[e bad lived betweenair that melts the body and water thal turns, the stoml3.cb :from appeti:te fur food .. He did no iiejU'stice_t this town wb ang,.·.BrackJisbo,f water and ,Haming (),f air ." 11

Ibn Jubayr also took pains 'to wam 'travelers against the avarice of the shipcaptains, no loa.ded their vessels widi! pilgrims "until they it one on top 0,' the other so that. 'they' are like chickens cramlm.ed in 8,0 p."16 Somebo,\V enduring thie'se in.cilignitlies,. not to :l11I'iI.enlion dela s and storms, Ibn Juba:yr had managed to reach .lidda. ,after a week under sail and so continued Ion to Mecca, Ibn B:8!ttuta~asit happened. was not so' lucky. When earlier he had passedtbrougn therowe of HiJw (Hu) on the Nile, be peidavieit to a sahuly sharif (descendan t of 'the Prophet), one Abu Mu,hammadi "Abdallah al-Hasani, Upon hearisgofthe young man's .intcmti,C)n to go 1[0 Mecca. the ,shari! warned him to rerum to Cairo .. pIIOph esyimg, thathe would not makehis 'first pil.,grim8s,e excepl by the road 'tnrou,gb Syria. Ignoriog the omen. Ibn Batnna bad eontinued on ,b~s, way south:ward. Reaching'Aydha.b, :he discovered mucb tOI

.54 The MamlukSi

:his c'hagrm dirat the ~ocaJ ,rufutg family a dan, of the Beja people who inhabited UJ,e hills behind the lcity. were in revolt aga:inst, ilieMamJuk gove'rnOJ. I'~' The rebels had sunk some ships in the harbor, driven out 'the Egyptian garrison. and in, this; climate, of violence no Que was lIiIoistin,g sai~for Jidda. H be were to be assueedof rea,chmg lhe Hijaz before the start of tII'iI,e hajj. Ibn iBattuta had ['1.0' real choice to retrace his steps to Cairo and continue :from there bY' one of the Il.onme:m routes.

Fortunatelylhe trip back did not tate ~ong. The NilJe W,3S reaching summer flood stage, and so after crossing the desert agairmand rejoining the river a.t Ous, he boarded a ship and returned to the capital in eightshort days, arriving then::, he recamlli~, in midJuly.

Perhaps during his voyage down 'the river. where be bad the 1~eis_e '10 think out his plans, mme came to the conclusion that, if he did not 6ng~,r ill Cairo ~e eould reach, Syria ill time to catch the hafj caravan which liIor:mmUy I'eft Damascusoa or about lliO Sffiilawwal CIDO September of tbat year). or about: two w,eeks earlier than tlime departure of the pilgrims from Cairo. 30 It may have, been .his, rather bappy~gO'-lucky impetuosity that was drivmg mm. or perhaps be thought it prudent to heed the word of the sna.rif of Hiw that be was destined to reachMecca by way of Syria. In ,any case be stayed in Cairo, astcnishinglyenough, only one 'night before setting out for Syria. tbe Asian half of the Mamluk empire.

The main route from Cai ro 'to Damascus was the royal road. of the kingdom l' since Damascus was a kind of second capita], responsible for the militarygevernance of Greater Syria and for the defense of the eastern marches agamst the, 0'( Persia. The sultan himself frequently traveled to. Damascus, usually in the company of an army, Moreover, Damascus was as great a dty as Cairo in the production of luxury goods. The military lords of Egypt depended heavily 011 the caravans from Syria 'for their fine silks and brocades. their ceramics and glassware. theirmagnificent tents and horse-trappings, allof these a,rtides traded mainly for Egyptian textimes and grain. Damascene artisans, such as masons. marble workers, and plasterers. frequently accompanied the caravans to Cairo to work m the construction. of palaces, mausoleums, and mosques. For both eommereialaad political reasons, then. the Mamlluks, were assiduous illl. protectwDg 8!nd provisioningthe Cairo-Damascus artery , hemming it with garrison posts and builmmg bridges and caravansaries to facilitate the passage of men and goods.

If Ibn. Battut,fJj. had gone to Mecca with the E,gyptiMl. hajjcaravan" he

The Mam/r.t/u SS

w,onld have t'F veled dueeast across the peninsula to Aqaba" then

'Illb'ward ,into tl1:e Hijaz. [mstead" be set a northeastward eourse lbrough time mnnin,g towns of tbe east,em deltaarrd frcm there along UF smldy MeditlelTanean plain to Oaza, .• tne desen ·porta1t.o P'a~e ,fitlll1.~.We hov,e no idea with wbom he may have been u~ave:~in -I, iliol!l:gb he refers ¥81g~ely in 'the Rill la' '[01 ··Itho,se who were with me" on 'this stretch: ef hjs jioll1lmey .. AJm along this trail tbe~ government pn)vided pubLic caravanseries wliJJer1e,., accofdiOgto the:

Rihla,,'°trav,eler: ,a]iglllt with their beets .. and out ide each ,khan is a public wateringplaee and 3: shop at which the Ucaveh~r may buy what he requires for him .. elf and his beast," At Qa.tY31. a station located several m~mes east of the modem. day I .uez Canal. the stale malntained ,8 customs house where officiats, examined passports and rnerehendisa and collected a bonanza we duties from the' mercantile ca.rava.ns, moving between Syria aad Egypt. Symon. Semeonis, who p,assed mllfOlilgh Q,al'ya ~11 1323,. describes, Mamluk police techniques:

The village .. . is entirely surrounded by the desert and is furnished with neither fiortificalio'lls nor natural obstacle ,of MY kJndtWiat might Impede t~e passage of travelers, Every e,venmg ,a.fter SUlnset a straw .. nuJi1' or carpet is drawn at the tail o:f a bone, sometimes near the viUage" sometimes far from. it, now in one place. now in another transver e~y te the route, f'Or adistanoe of six or eig!hm iRilrules.more or tess, according to the Admiral's orders .. This renders the sand 'so _month that~t is i .• ,possible for' eitbc1I" Rllsn.or beat to pa without leaving, traces to, expose their passa e, : very morning befere sanri e 'the p~a,inis scoured in all direcdoos by' peeLllyappoinred horsemen. and whenever any traees f pedctrian, or of: horsemeaare discQver1ed, the gu,-rdsha L n in pursuitand those who have passedare arrested as, tnm:s res rs of the Sultan's re,gu.lations andare severely puaished .,1,1

.t _Uil Ibn Battuta tum d off me he,B.viJy traveled road leading to the Levantine parl and headed . tward intothe h:igb country 'of Judae • havinG in mindt - vi-iIUle'ac::red cities 01' Hebroa l(aJlQalU) md Je,ru-ale.m before continuing to DaDllasrus.12: The traiJl ,al Ing the bin}' backbone . f Palestine, from Hebron to the Galilee, was not an imprtanloo.mmen:ialraad bu'l j't was a rou~eof pilgJimase fo·r aim three monodteistic faiths. Ai1,e'r the wars of the

Crusedes ended in the 12908. increasingnumbers of Latin pilgrims 'traveled to the Ho,ly Landin small groups,. by way of either Bgypit or the Le'V8iOE. AlItb.ougb they were frequently harassed: and inva.dably overcharged, us.uaUy by local Muslims of tbe me:aner sort. lbe Mam1Iulkauthoriti:es,. particulMly in the fourteenth century, generally saw to 'it that they were protected from bodily harm.

Hebron was special 'to Muslim, Christian, and Jew alike because it was [he buriaJ place of 'the fathers of monotheism: Abralsam, Isaac, sed Jacob, as wellas their wives and Jacob's son Joesph .. In Ma:miuk times onJ,)' Mu:slims were permitted 'to enter the mosque. bUUf originally as a Crusader church, that stood over [he tomb cave thatcontained cenotaphs of th.e three Patriarchs. In the Rihla Ibn Bateuta describesthe :mosque. a massive stone structure vof striking beauty and imposing hei,gllilt •. ,' as well a'S tile cenotaphs standing inside, as a traveler of any fa.wtb might see them today. He also offerslearned testimony to the troth of the madition tbat the threegraves do ~nde:ed tie beneath the mosque ,ac tradition verified by Frankish knights, who opened the cave in 11I9 and discovered what were presumably the bo~y bones.,23

The distance from Hebron to' Jerusalem through the terraced Judaeaa hills, was only 17 mUes,> and Ibn Bartutaprobably made the trip, including a brief look around Bethlehem, in a day or two. Jerusalem plays so solemna part in the reIigiousand cultural heritage of Western peoplesand commands SOl much attention him contemporary world politics that we are inclined. to assume it was always one of the great urban centers of the Middle East. 111 fact the Jerusalem of the fourteenth century was a rather sleepy town of no great commercial or administrative importance. Its populaticn was ou1y about 10.000,.24 and it was ruled as a sub-unit of 'the Province of Damascus. Its defensive walls were ill ruins. part of its. water supply had to be: carried in from the surrounding countryside, and. it was ~ociIDted on none of the important trade routes running through Greater Syria ... From the point of view ofa Mamluk official or an international merchant. it was a city of eminently provincial mediocrity, What kept it alive and sustained its permanent population of scholars clerics, shopkeepers, and guides was tile endless stream of pilgrims that passed through. its gates. Jerusalem was a place of countless. shrines and sanctuaries. For Christians the spiritual focus of the' city was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, for Jews ~t was theWeseern WaH of the temple (the Wailing Wan), and for M:us!,ims it was the Haram al-Sharif,

the Noble Sanctuary., revered as the third most blessed spot in die Dar al~~sIWil1.after the Ka'ba in Mecca and the tomb of the P'r,opbet: i1II Med~JI1a,.

During his stay ~D the dty of perhaps a week, Ibn Batnrta probably spem,t a good deal of bi,s time in the Harem, an, expansive trapezoid-shaped area bounded by buildings aad city waUs and do:milllatin,gt:be southeastern qaarter of the eity, Theentire Karam. w,es itself anenermousmosqae open to the sky., though mlthin it stood several sanctuaries ,baving specific re~igious significance for MlllSms. The mest veeerated of these was the Kubbae al-Skhra, the Dome of the Rock. a wondrously beautiful building set in t1,e rertlltlsr ofmbe Haraeion the site of It be ancient TempleotSolomon. This slrine. datin,g from the seventh centuy. is In the shape of ,1:) regular octagon, :sumptuolllslyomanl.ented 'With interwoven Arabic scripturaJi quotations and geometric designs and surmounted by a massive dome. Inside the sanctuary and directly benesth the dome ~ies, embedded im the earth tllme blessed Rock of ZiOD. It was :from here, it is told. that the' Prophet Muthammad.ttallsported speed from Mecca to Jerusalem in lillie company of the Aagel Gabriel. was, carried on the back of a great winged steed up to the Seventh Heaven of Paradise, where be stood in the presence of God. It .is illll eommemorarion of Muhammad's Nrn'ght Journey that Mus)imsent'er sbe DOl11le. make a, circuit of the Rock. and descend to the little grotto beneath it.

Ibn .BaUIlJUl mentions in the Rihl« a number of tbe scholars and divines resident in Jerusalem. One of these, a. Sufi master IOf the Riifa':i brotherhood named' Abdal-Rahman ibn Mustafa. took a special interest in the young manand W,llIS: apparently impressed enough by mmis siacerity and learning to give him a khirqa ; the wcclen, patch-covered cloak worn by Sufi disciples as a 'sign of their allegiance to a. life of God .. searching' and self-denial, 1_0 the few days, that Ibn Battuta stayed in. Jerusalem he obviously could not have gone through any of the rigorous spiritual training required of Initiates prior to receiving their khirqas. A master could, however, bestow a lower form of investiture upon a person whom he wished to encourage in the mystical path. 25 The incident seems to be one more bit of evidence that Ibn Bartuta's piety and knowledge of Sufism were conspicuousenougb, even in his youth, to p~ace him-on occasion in the graces of the most august saints and wise men. even though he- bad no plans to give himself wnoleheartedly to the mystical life.

58 The Mamluks

Innis time Sufism was becoming intricately melded into the everyday religious life of Muslims. Although there were those who adopted asceticism or celibacy as methods personally suitable for drawing closerto God, Sufism was lin no general way "monkish" or confined to a spiritually mllitantminoriry, Rather it was the intimate i:rnwa,rd .. turning. God .. adoring dimension of Muslim faith, complementing outward, public conformity to the ritual and moral duties of the: Sacred Law, It could take expression, depending on the individual's personal. inclination, in everything from ,3 life of mendicant wandering to occasionalattendance at brotherhood meetings where mysticallitanies were recited. Sufi masters" such as Ibn Batruta's friend in Jerusalem.jrarelylirnited their patronage to their formal disciples, but rather gave freely of their guidance and baraka to ordinary men and women wbo needed the solace or healing that only a surer feeling of God's presence could provide, Although Ibn Battuta's life of worldly adventure had little ill COM.InOn witfl. that of a cloistered dervish, he associated with mystics whenever he could ,as if to fortify himself with a deeper calming grace before taking to the road again.

Jerusalem, however, was Dot to be the place for a devotional retreat, for the hajj season was drawing nearer and Damascus beckoned. Ibn Battuta's exact route northward is uncertain, but he very likely traveled through Na!b~us~ Ajlun, and the Galilee and from there across 'the Golan Heights to the Syrian capital.26 This journey was probably accomplished wn a few days time since the entire trip from Cairo to Damascus, if the dates he. gives us are correct, took no more than 23 days. By his Own reckoning he arrived in Damascus on 9 August 1326 ('9 Ramadan 726).

[Damascus] stands on the place where Cain killed his brother Abel. and is an exceeding Doble, glcrioes, and beauteous city .• rich in .aJ.1 manner of mereha ndise, and everywhere delightful, ... ' abounding in foods. spices, precious stones, silk, pearls, cloth-of-gold, perfumes from India, Tartary l EgYPit. Syria, and places on our side of the Mediterranean, and in all precious things that the heart of man can conceive, n is begirt with gardens and orchards, WB watered both within and without by watersv rivers, brooks. and fountains, cunningly arranged, to minister to men's luxury, and is incredibly popuJO'IJS, being inhabited by divers trades, of most cunning and

The M:am/uks 59

noble wor.kmen. meebuics. and. merehants, wbtile wru~bln the: 'walb j[ isadorned beyond belief by baths., by bi'rds that sin,g aD the year roumd, and by ple.asun~s.rlefresbments and ,amusements of all kinds.

Thus wrote Ludolpb¥on a German priest whovisited the city on his way home from tle ",oily Land in 1340-411. Musli.s bonored Damascus ,as,~he'ea:rdtly equivalent of Paradise, and S(J it must. have seemed to amJ)'m1Iagga.rdpi~grim ~:ramping, o:ulof the:

Syrian waste. Quite unlike Jerusalem, bone dry on ~ts craggy bill DiI .• ascus layin ,ani oasis of extravagaet g{ll~enmess. a garden, io the ,geshy phrases, of Ibn Jubayr. "bedec:kledil tbe brocaded ve:s'tmentsof flow.ers ." 28 Although bordered by desert Omi! three sides, and by the MO'llIil'tains of Lebanon 011 the west, whicb aU but blocked rain .. bearing douds from the Medirerranean the city drew life bam the river that flowed down the slopes of th.e Anti-Lebanon and onto the plain. where Damascene farmers dis~ tributed ~ts waters to tlilJecnam.nets that fed thousands otorchards and gardens. Because the mountains prevented easy communi· cation with the coast, Damascus was not in a choice geographical position to handle long .. distance trade between East 3J'Id West. But it prospered as an intematicnal emporium. in spite ofthis, owing to the profuse fertility of its, oasis (al-Ghata), whieh supported a population of about 100,000,2.9

Indeed Ibn Battuta saw Damascus 'in the flush of a. new prosperity .. During most of the preceding half century. hostilities be, .. tweeD. the Mamluks and the Mongol Ilkhans of Persia had weakened Syrian trade links to India, But the: Mongo~ threat bad dissipated by i113L$. Diplomatic relations between the two states improved and trade routes from Damascusto Iraq and the Persian Gurur were opened once again .. Furthermore, the lcity had de .. velopeda thriving trade' with Asia. Mjllor and the B~ack Sea fegi~l:D. specjally in horses. furs~ metals and slaves, ~ncl.wding,. of course I,Mamiuk recndt:s.

The visible splendor ef Dsmaacus.howeeer, was 3 refleetioa not so' mUlch ,Oif' itdemationalt:radeas of the dJ~y's status as theM,amluk cap'it:aI~in~Asia with its enormous garrisenand tli1emagnificent housebolds of the ,ru.P commanders. The :royala:rmies" p,assin,1 conlinuailly m. and out of dire ciity • reqsired the preductton of huge quantitles of provisions and wea:pmlS~ while the rrui.nleli(le; together' wj,l.b theil" counterpaets in Cairo, :kept Damascene

60 The Mamiuks

craftsmen busy day and night turning out exquisite wares and finery.

Saif ,al-Din. Tankiz, viceroy of Damascus from 1313 to 1340" was 110t only a man of exceptional administrative abili~y (Ibn Battuta refers to IJjm as Ira. governo:r of the good and upright kind"). but a builder and city planner whose imagination and energy rivalled tnat of his sovereiga lordal-Nasir Muhammad. Mirroring the sultan's work in Cairo, Saif al-Din undertook a vast program '[10 beautizy and. improve his city. endowing numerous mosques, madmsas, and other pious institutions. widening streets and squares, directing the expansion of residential areas outside tbe walls. and even wagirng an obsessive: war against the surplus population of stray dogs. JIt The Damascus that Ibn Battuta saw in 1326 was like Cairo, a city :in the process of transferming itself under the stimulus of a political regime that. at least for the time being. had struck. a congenial balance between harsh, swaggering authoritarianism and a love of civilized taste and comfort.

The guardians of Damascene highcuiturc were of course the Arabic-speaking scholars, who, Like their colleagues, in Cairo, affiliated with numerous religious, educational, and philanthropic foundations scattered throughout the city.,eas Cairo had no pre-eminent center of learning in the fourteenth century, Damascus had its Great Mosque, caled the Mosque of the Umayyads after its eighth-century budders, Around it all the other pious institutions revolved as, satellites.

During part of his stay in the city. Ibn Battuta boarded in one of the three: Maliki madrasasthere, (M,alikism was the least Importantof the fourlegal schools in Syria and was represented by fewer colleges. than the others . .) But be may have fairly wen lived m the Great Mosque sitting beneath [be marble columns of the golden-domed sanctuary. all around him the mumarring voices of lecturersasd Koranic readers and children in circles reciting their sacred lessons. The prayer hall, a. tbree-aisled nave, more than, 400 teet long, was, open Oil its northern side and joined to a spacious court rimmed by arcades where, according to tile Rihla. "the people of the city gather ... in the evenings some reading, some' conversing, and some walking up and down .. ~j The staff of officials attached to the mosque was huge, including, Ibn Battuta tells us 70 muezzins (prayer callers) 13 imams (prayer Leaders), and about 600 Koranic [eaters. He describes the sanctuaryas a place OfCOIltinUO'US religious and educational activity a never-endingcelebration of God's glory and beneficence:

TIt'e Mamluks 6'1.

The townspeople assemble in it dai~y. immediately att,er the da.wn prayer, to read a seventh part 'of the Koran ... In this mosqllile also there are a great m.any "sojeurners'' who. never leave it occupyinglbemselves WlremittiIllgly in prayer and reci.tationof the Koran and litlu'gies .. " Th.e town folk supply rtbeir needs of food and clo:thing" although sojourners never beg for anyt.hln,g ,of the kilmdEro'ffi, them,

Ibn Battuta was oae among this tluong 'o,f wandering seekers ,and it was during his 24 days in Dama eus waitin.g for the hajj caravan to depart that be undertoek 1IIis fi1'sl fOI[JDa!1 stucies abroad. Next to Cairo ... Damascus possessed the: greatest concentration of eminene tlleologj,an,g and jurist ill'll tiJe Arabicspeaking world, many 'of '(hem refugees from Ba,g]1Jd,adud other Mesopotamian or Persian cities who had flied the Mongol tide., So the young scholar had before him a galaxy of I umin aries from which he' might choose his teachers.

In the advanced curriculum the profe 's13r usually read and offered commentaryon a. classical book. then tested his s~udents" n.bility 'to recite: h as well as understand its meaning. He awarded those who performed competentlyan ,ijaz,Q. or certificate, which entitled ~,bem to teacb the' same text to others. In the Rihla ThE! Barmta ctaimsilo have tak.ellil in trucrionand received ijazQS from no less l'hSJIiI J.4 dwffereru teachers. He Mentions in particular his uhearing" one o . the most venerated texts in Islam, the .Book of Sound Tradition IOf the Prophet (mile Sahih) by tbe great ninthcent'twy scbol:aur al-Bukhari, He also details, the essential infermadoll1ll written on hiija:ztJ': th,echa:il1ll of pedagogical authority lilWkillllg his own teacher through 'fljumerol!lS generations o,f sages back 'to a1-'B,lJ.Ikhari bimselr. This particular course' of study. be~,eUs us" took. place in tbe Great Mosque and was completed in '14 daU.y sessions,

Not.hwithstandil!lg me young .ao,'s. appetite fOIl:'k:now~ed8e .• 'it stralas rhe imaginaUo,n Ito see how he could ba.vecar:riied to' completion ] 4 diuffereI1ltcourses in the space of 24 days. JI He could not have devoted .bi.s every waking moment te his studie - since be was by no' means free of more mundane concerns. For onetrung" his entire stay in Damascus took place diuJri,ng the monthof R,amradan. when Muslims are required to fast during daylight hours- a. strenuous obUga:tio,fI, til3t upset the normal routine - cf daHy Hfe . . He aliso ,adMits in the ,Rihla that be was down. with fever during a.

62 TheM:arnluks

good part of his sta.y and livmg as a house guest with one of the MaJikm professors .• who put him under ,;1 physician's care, Om top of that, he found time during this fleeting three and a half weeks. to get married agaei, this, time w the daughter of a M-oroccan residing In Damascus. Givten these preoccupations, we can surmise that he exaggerated the extent of his studies, that, he: undertook them during, subsequent visits to Damascus 'without making that fact clear in the narrative, J20r that some of the ijazas were awarded, bi,m as was, often done, m recegnition of the piety and scholarly potenrlal be demonstrated rather than as diplomas for books master1ed_33 But there is still no re,3SOI1 to doubt ~bat despite illness and nuptial cares, be' spent long Au:gus~ hours ill the coolof the ancient mosque. absorbing as much learning as be; could and gathering credentialsthat would contribute several years later to !lis appointment as a q'adi to the Sultan of Iudia .


1. Ibn K11aJdull. The Muqaddimtll~. 2nd edn .. '(II'IlM. 'F. R,o!, 3t vels, i(P'rincc'loll. NJ .• 1%,1) .. \101. l, p. 366.

2. Sym,QI1 Semeoais, The Journey of Symar; SemeoniJ from to rhe Holy Llilltl, trans, and ed. Mario Esposito (.oubllin .• 1960).p. 6,1.

J. "AI .. I:ska.ndaciyya:· Elz• "101. 4. p. [34.

4. Gibb (Ob. vol. I, p, 33:n) states l:haL (8, [probably did no[ vislll all the tOllol,ns of 'n:l1e Nile Delta thar be claims to have seen during his, [irs I' uip tMol.I,gh the area. Allhough [he p,aScsed. thro'ug;11 the della. a~ leas ~liuee more Ilimes o,ver (h~ Clours:e of litis rravels,.nhe lUhla bunches d~s(:rip(iomi of .p13~5 ~nd persons intothe ina:rrative of tile first visit Md p:resents almost 111,0 new detat~ ill con!1J1~'c[ion w,ilh sulbsequern ldps. T,l\is, mel hod of erganizing me Story was i.11i Ifact .alilleraTjr dCVitcc used in a aumber of POlllltsln lhe RIMa. h nmkes for several knOtlypro'blcifiS '0£ idncr.;t'f)' and c.hro.l1ology (II var:ious stages of the nan-Siti ... e. In [h,e case at hand. Oibb's argl.!meru rests: on: the f3-C~ lhm. 18 mentlons 3i dare (2:9 Soh,Q,'bani. 31 JlIdy IJ26) in assodalion w,i:tbt his, visit to, the 10WI] of [byar (Aby:u) m:lu CSinfl.Olp05sibiy be corteet, since by the end of Ju.lyl1e was pre::miiIulbly on his way to Damascus. IHlrbek (Hr, pp. 4L8- 20) disagflJqS, poJI:l1hnS.OUI, tlJ~t despite the,y ofLhe date pcnainilllig to [byar. other evidence (d(lte:s oOlilnecl:e:d with named persorlages ill various delta tOWIil::l)tend!i [0 confirm LB,'s statemenl tllat lilc visited the places he says he did during Ihlsf'i.rst [oumey, Oibb and Hrbek do agree lhaf InccolJj:d not have been i.11 the delta 00 II July.

S. Symo.n Semeonis .. }(mmey. p, 67.

~ .6. ,Po rl.Dopp" ':Le Cairo' V1.l: par les ~oy~ge!.!fS QccideritiluX du Moyell Age. ~ Bul/etm de /0 Socilt~ .Royal de' 04og.fllp!n€ d eg!lpre 23, (1950): 135.

1. Severa] scholars have sugGested thtsgeneral estimate: o( tbe popubtion .. lhougl!J more re'celldy Andre: Raymorn,d argues fOIr' ::I much lower founeenth-ceasary (plie-.BI:ack Dea:th}lpopula.tion of about 250.000~ "La papu.lati.oll dl!lCair:t, di;i M"".qrizi ~ Is Description de I'Egyp,te,," BulleJi):l_ d:Eludes Or"ie,rtl'a.les UI (1975): 2J4.

8. Stan]cy Lane-Poole, The Story of Cairo (Loadon. 19(2). p. 270.

9. (l [001 Ilel. Cairo: Cit)" of An and Comml!.l'CI r -OllmaD"Okta •• 1 l], p. 68.

10" An eslmmlc' in ,_~rd witb "fI.!iibek·s o-eralllchronologi'cal reconstruction ,of [8:' ,(i:nd viii'! toEgypl.. Hr, ,pp. 4lJ)..,n.

1'1. IK. ,1\. C. CN~U.'fht! Ittwtim AtdliJtClU.1~ of EIYl't. 2, vofl.. (Odord., 1952, 1959')., !Vot 1. pp. 66, 78. \'01.2. p. m95.

12. Umc:·Poole, SIDT)' of CaitO p. 212.

B. millie cosmopoli'lanismor the leading colleges of 'Cama in A.I],uuy. '~~ Ca:r~1 E, PetT)'. Tht cr ilitt1!! Elite of Ci1imindze lAt.,. MiddJt! As'll (PtinccloD" N.J .• , 19fU).

'14" 'AbduUah'A.nkawi, "The 'Pilgrimage to McOC3I in MamJuk TImes." 4"\mb&m ,Studl'eJ I ('l914)~ 147 .

.IS. 10, hi travels om lnitw Nile Ibn Bauyt:g ha.!i very .liw!: to say abo'lilt the ,ruins or Ilncien', EgyptcaUed in Arabie ba.rbasJ. lfis brief desc:ripl.:ion of !:be Py,m:mids. locslcd jiusl aeress rhe ri,vcr l'romCairo, is v,ague aad puna!!y din,g Oibb'iUl [ftc ool'idus.ion 'IlI.ill he n~wl;r txnilered to .... isitthem persomdl,'y ~Ob, vel .. 1" p. Sln)l. f[ must be' rcmembcredlhJmepurpo&e of the Rill/a was to Itdl'i'Fy literate Muslims on the pl.a ees , pe,rsor:udi'l~es.and marvels ·of the islamic world or 'their d:D:Y mild not 0", tb~ llI'cllilrC'1I!1ur:c ,of pagan temples,

1.6.~ir. p. 421.

17. Um, Jubnyr. T.~le Travels of Ibn Jubayr, b'uns.R. J. .. Broodhul'Sl (London" 1,952 • I". 67.

18. IiIl!1 Jubayr., TUJ'III!.I:9, p. 65.

19. 1111" MllmJlJlk g,Dvemmcr; jJ, policy 'Of hElriD, Ihe 'ltcmn11ercial duties, of Idle fOrt wl~h ~lbe 11:0001 out. cf s~r.o.'l.egic J1[cc:essi,ty, bUI. it fr'eq]oe.lldy feU I.n~o ollercalion5 with! them over the jU5~ distribution of Llu: revenue. S.ce Yus[ Fdl Ii n, flu: Arab,s and the Sudan from ,'Ill! S('~, _,,,,J, 10 tI!:~ Eml'· S'lzle1911tl:

Ctmuri !S(di.nbYr-gh. ~'(7). pp. 7.3-79', -

%0. ·AmkBwi. "Pi!grimage to Mecca~" p. 149. 21. Symon Scmeoru:s" la.lURey. p. 1Q3..

U. He may have' traveled [fOro Oms (0 Asqalonl., II. rro.ined port sevcrnW mOJic mil~ up tl1~ OOllSt. befan: ~g inll1n.d In ~!ebfill)n. Hr. p. 425 ..

23. Guy LA: S[range., .,amtifl~' ufld~, rhr l\'1ostrms (.Bein.n. 196.5). pp. 31t,....1'7.

24. Nimla A. Ziadeb. UrbtJn' U/tin Syria lunly ih~ Ear')! MamJI1Ks (:Seinn. 1953)1.,p. 97.

25. ".Kh;irlta," Ell. \''01. S, IPp. 17-18; Ob, vol. L p.: 1iJ.

U,. 11 is .ill lhis point. in ~hi Rarrauwc lnal dte readel'encoanl.ersi:he Ifirsl major di.s:crepancy ~tw,ei£;[!1 iline:rary and IdImnology. Aecording [0 m.e' ,R.iJrla. fB traveled eI',en:s.i'O',dyi.n allie3tle~ S,yria follo\llli1)Sbis d'epaJ1'1He [rom,'USa!cm •. ~tin,g more

man ~ _ eml.)![OWillS and dries before lI\ea.d:ting Damasms. SiDrA: he ,couJd not ~bl

Itm'lC lmad ~d!. a oompU¢ar~d nip w1lbillthe 23 days he allets for tJbe entire joumeyrlriom Cairo toDa.mBlSaI5. 'bam G~bb and Hmek ha CI;OD~huted lbal lite 'illinmlf)1llfle:1I' J!:'~ .. ,bui'g~lmrtifid.aJ. I-iIrbek 0'[f~ various hil.l f infernal !c\ii,delilCC IiO momaluls 1!Ii IP.tuticuJar IplBce5im Syria Imust Ih:a,ve' cn pla~ dumg 'u~quml trips. tic' flUtber !iugg,es:ts (and Oibb agrees) thE m look a d:iRdi .. I'OUle Irlolllhward .from J'emusale.m 10 IDaIIIIasrns U.JJ.pp. 42.t .. ZS'i O:b. \lot mp. Rln)I,1 ha.'c -:ooqned the pro'b 'Ie mu,te IUbek. w,ggels. thDUgh tiI..' :conjectnn.L Andll hill.¥~ ~nsl:nlCled .m" S,yri_a.n itimerary Oil me-premise dila, he did Iilot ltavel e)([tuisivcl. ,in LhCrt.giDn in lJ26\.

17. LudoJpb vtlDlS'uCbe-m, I..wJ.olph' von Suchmt's Dtserlprir:m a/me' tlo( lAmi. and (Jf'Ih.~ Wa Th.illl~r. tm.m. AuhlfiC)! Sl!~ 1.00doo. mS) •. '" ~29.

, ;. Ibn luonyr. Tl"tllItls., p. 2'71. La.rge Joc" of :m' description of Dam~

IVtlc(C[akcn (rom the rthW of 'Ibn Jubai)'f. '\\'00' -, there: in 'J ~:B4. HOWI!\!£! [a,

updates, tbi! mnterial and adds vmous obwrr.mQ'n- of litis . '11.

29. Ziade:II" UTlJon Sm. II'. 97.

64 The M:amiuk3

,30. llli':Ulupidus., Muslim Cities ,in rh:e LAte,. Middle Ages (Cambridge. Mass., 1967), pp. 22, 70. 12. 75.

31., He may have stayed :W' days, depen.dirng on whether the hajj carnvan lefl D,amascuson the lsi ,orlbe 10th of Sha'WWa.L See Chapter 4. note 3.

32. Though m no I!xplicit mentien of it., sgme evidel'l.Ce su,gge::s,ts that he: :spentume lin Damascus in the ~3.[~ mOD'u'b:s of 13JO. If so, Ills marriage and some of hi, sfudiem.ight have occurred then. OnLbis, chronological proliJlem see Chapner6, note 2.

JJ. Soe Marshalll O. S. Hodgson. TheVelUure 0/ Islam.], vels, (Cbkago. 1974). '\'01. 1. p, 444.

4 Mecca

The 'first House established (o'r the people was [ha,t a~ [Mecca), a plaocboly, and aguj;danc.e ~oarnll be~ogs. Therein are clear si,glillS - the station of Abraham, and whosoever eaters it is, in se'c:uri.ry. It is, the duty of all men towards God 'to 00 me to the' House: a pilgrim" if he is, a bleto make his way there.'

The Koran ~ Sura IU

Ibm Battuta gives no indication of how many people like himself were g.a'therin,g in Damascus ill 13,26, !o join title hujj caravan to Meoca,. but it, y,ery likely several dlmwsand. Frescobaildi. the Floreatine nobleman who was in Damascus in 1384 a:~ the start of the pilgrimage, estimatedthe camp.y at 2 ~OOl2ln fact the size ofthe caravan varied greatly from year to year depending on a. whole range of factors ,aBectil1g :i:ndmvidua1 decisions whether to attempt the trip - political .Bndeoo.nomiJcoo:nditiOlmls, at home. 'wea:ther, prospects for troulb~e the route. For most pil,~s Il.he jmmill.ey was a sphituall~y gladdening adventure; but 1t was also an extremely arduous one, requiring a sound body and careful! advaace preparations. Ev:ery participant was obliged to secure provisions for the rotmdl trip, as, well as, a mount, though MamJuk authorities did set upcharitable .fLWmw to provide 'food and animals for the poorest among the tm":ave~ers,. Unless a pilgrimcarried most of his 5uppUes along with him tile ,jlourneycould mm out to be extremely expensive •. especially since the dl1tizelilS of Medina and Mecca .. desert-bound as they were and b:eaviJy dependent on the hajj trade for tbeir SuMvaJI, cheerfutlllJy exacted the, highest prices they could get for food, lodging. and various services, Ibn Bat.tum himself was rnml bad financial straits toward the end ofbis stay in Damascus and might (lot have been able ~o set out that y·ear had it mot been for trele generosi ty of the MaID<.i jurist with whom: he: .stayed wlUle he was sick, This geatlemaa ,. he tells us in tbe RiJrla. "hired camels for me and gave me traveling provisions. etc .• and money in additiom. saying t!O me, ·'It will 'come in useful for anything of importancethat you may be m 'need of - may God rewardhilm.'''


Tbegalbedng of the 'p,illgrims, at Damla:scus was a decidedly political event, Both tbe emf and Dam· seuseaeavansset fo.r1IrI, under the nag of tbeMamluk '118~e . Their : d ty en Irol,leand their umel.yanival in Mecca in advance of the dailies ,ofthe ,appointed .rituals reOectedon ~he capacity of the regime Ito maintain law and order ;n rile' realm. Moreoyer. iml the ~aner hal'f o:f the [tli,rlcen.t:h: cemury the Marnhlks had impo'cdtheir p litical suze.rai.ntyovc:r the rulers of :MteccaandMediw3. The former were a dynaty of Arabien Hasmtid shtlTi/s •. tha.r is. deseendaats or Hasan, son of'AJU andgrandson 'of the Ptf,opbet. The latte.r were al'so,shtJ"I!iJ but the 'progeny of Hue)'n. 'Ali's ,other sen, Th annu ~ arrival of the ,hajj ,caravans at Mecca was ,00!1111 occasion fo.r the ruling Sharif, called the Amir, toreslffirm. through an exchange ,o,fgtfts and tribute, tris ~ealty t [he sultan ud bi, recognition of Mamluk protectorship, of the lolly Places", a Ire'S:ponsjb~1ity carrying great prestige' in the:

Muslim world.

I~ the polli1uca'l pecking orderof hajjgrioups, ~be Cairo cara.van w,a ' pre-emiaent. .Eacb year the sultan appointed an amlr {J'l·hajj from among litis favorhe offioers to lead the tcaraV,an, ,anell ito act as ,hws representative In Me,cca,. AlEbe bead ·of the procession. went 'the mahmal.. a green, rich~y decorated palenquin, whicb 5!y"1bolized the su:]Utn's (OM1aJ auth nit)'. though IlIO o.erode inside il. The Qmi1'QI-luljj was, also, placed in eharge 'Of the kiswa, the hU,e b~ack doth tbat WSSWOVCJJI and inseribed each year in.

airo and carried 'LoMecca to be draped over the Ka'ba. Thougb the Syriu caravan also had its amir ,aI-hajj ,appointedeiti1,er by the sul,tan or his viceroy, hesteed <I.own &om the' Caireae ~e'3deli during eeremoaie ~ a,t ttle Holy Places. He was expected either to :rern;3!il neutral or t'OI follow the lead of btis .Egyptian aoleaguem negetiations at' disputes 'with the sha.rijs or with tbe caravans .fr-o.m, Iraq or [be Yemen.

A Dumber of other officiatsacco.mpamliedlbe Cairo aad Damascus cat3vans tokeep order ,alllllClliIg thepitlgrlms andsee to their special needs. Some of these principals 'were M·amJuk5 .• , others were educated Arabs. They included a .qadi. an ilnam~ ,3, muezzin. m il~e.lI1Idant of liDte~alf'e affairs I(to,take' charge or and reeord rhe :propedy ,olf pillgrims 'who died alongthe n:nJ.te) a 6ecret_ary to tbeamir ai-hajj, medical oftice'rs~ Arab ,gu_ldes. amd a muhrasib. 'wbOpQticedi business tnl.nH.ctl.ons aad publle morality.

On. 1 Seplember 13,2,6 or w~ ma,y have been the lOlhf' lbn lB,alluta set mit. now for the secoad time in fou.r mOllths. 'lofuUiU


'that "desire long~eberi'Sbed" in bis heart, (As later events wou~dI show he left benin,Q,a.nd presumably divorced 'the 'Womallillli,e badl married in Damascus a smorttime earlier.] 'The staging ground for tbe caravan was the ~i~lage ,of al-Kiswa a. few miles south of (be city. Here the main body IOf 'pilgrims fro:m the dty waited a few days 'or stragglers [to catch UP', whl:le the ,Q_m:il' al·hail completed Ithe job ofo,[g,f1[1lItzing thevarious groups of travelers in a fixed

- - -

order of march,

The distance from Damascus to Medina was about 820 miles. and thecaravan 'normally covered wt in 4S to' 50 days. The ~tine,rary varied somewhat from year '(0 year, but it coincided ge~,ermWly with the route of the' now abandonned Hijaz Raiwaj.. which the Ottomaa Turks bumt as far as Medina before W:orld 'War 1. From Damascus, the traU ran souehward along the fringe of the Syrian Desert: to the oasis ,afMs'an., located on about the same latitudeas Cairo. From there the route turned s~.ightly somheasrward.veerlng away from, the GlJILlf of Aqaba: and running through tbe interior h:i,gbJands amomg the eastern flank of the Hijaz mountains. At Tabuk, the northern, gateway to Arabia. the caravan stopped for a few days, whilethepilgrims rested and watered their camels before ve.nh.nillg into the fierceland of nude mountains and vast. black lava fields that lay between there and Medina.

Ibn Battuta thought the northern Hijaz a "feassome wilderness. n and indeed it was at any season of the year. Tile trek through it was a physical trial for the stoutest of pilgrims, and the odds ag.ainst calamity in one devilish fo~m or another were not encouraging, Some pilgrims inva.riab~y peri sh ed along 'the way every year from. exposure I thirst i flash flood, epidemic" or even attack by local uomads, who seldom hesitated to disrupt the Sacred Journey 'for what it might bring them. in plander, In 1361 100 Syri,a1!1 pilgrims d~ed of extreme winter cold; in 1430 3 0001 Egyptians perished of heat and th~rst.4 'Ibm Battuta recounts in, the Hilda that a, Icertain year the pilgrims, were overcome south of Tabu..k by 'the violent desert wind known as tie SQmum: "Their water suplles dried up •. and the price of ,3 dnak of water rose toa thousand dinars, but: both buyer aDd seller perished. ,.'

He does not report that any unusual tragedies befell his own. caraven, ,3.od we may suppose tbat the company kept to thenormal selle,dule,. He tr.a.v,efed, be tells us, ~n the company of ,a corps, of Syrian Arab tribesmen.who m.ay have been serving as gUl~des. He a1S() made the acqllJlailumce of a number of educated travelers 11k.e

\.,: '-.~ -:·~f. -:1-:-- 0-:-, th-em· a M1alildi "''''rll'lfro. rn Dam ~l:t"'CI'~S and 0::;' 8··Ii'.fI' fro cc

HlilmseJ. iIlmung ",', ,_ .... ,.,' ,. 1.... ., '. '''. ""'." w ,'." Q _ U I _ m

Granada whom he would mc'etagailll several years later ln India, He also struck u.1P a friendshlp' with a gen,t~eman of Medina. who 'made him ibis guest during thecanntan 'four-day visi:~ to that city.

Medina, C.irty of the Apasde ,o,f Ood, was t~e mo-t bountiful of the little is~ands o,f fertj]jty scattered a~(Ullgthe imru',edo:r slopes of tW1e Hijaz mounrains, a green spo~ of hab~tation, exisLing in 'Uneas" symbiosis with the bedouin of the cesen, Before Islam, it was but one' of sever,iI, commerc~alstopovers onthe camel rou~e U:nking lite Y.emen with 'the:

Middle East. bl 622 A. D. Muhammad and his tiny band of converts, retreating from a bostile and uncomprehending Mecca· moved nortb to Med~lla. whjch in the ensul ng 34 yemenjo'yed ~ts brief moment lof political gllory as the capital of the rapidly expanding Arab empire. After the center of M,usillimil power 'shified to Kufa, and them Damascus, Medina lost its political and military importance and would have been relegated once again to the back ridges of hislory were j~ nor that the grave of the Prophet, who diedt'her,e .n 632, becamean objeet of veneration second oulytolirle Ka'ba,

The Mosque of [:he Prophe~ wh:icb shelteredrb.e sacredto:mb as well as, those ef his Fatima aad the Caliphs Abu. Baler and 'Umar, became "al-Haram," a place of inviohibitity, lJn the Middle' Period Medina was as much a city of pilgrims as Mecca 'was'; even th.e Illative townsmen, were largely of non .. Arabian origin. A Journey to 'the, Mosque 'of the Prophet was not obliigato:ry .foJ Musl~lDs, aspal11 olf the ,L,'" ell! - . " 'N" onethel ~, few - il- , ..... failed (0 viS~1 M" edin - V ~ -

"QJJ-UI1e5.---- _cess, _ . p_ gnms __. ' _e _na" e en

though they may have reached the Hijaz fro. the west or 'south and would not pass through the oj~ except as a special di,y,e:rsion from M,ecca.

ODilthe evening of the same day that the caravan made camp out . ide the wans of the city. Ibn Bannta and his companions went to the mosqee, "rejoicingat this most s~gnal favor., .. IP:raising G . d Most Hi,gb tor our safe arrivalar the saered abodes, of His Aposde.·' The san.cmary was m the form ofan open coert surrounded on all sides by colonnades. At tlie southeast comer am.i:disl' rows of marble pilillars stood the peruagonal tomb of Muhammad and here Ibn Battura repaired 'to pray and give thmb, .. Dudog tbe foUow,illlg four days, he tells us in, ilie Rfhlo.

wespent each mghtm the holy mosque, wllilc'reeveryone [engaged in pfoucxerrues]; some • having formed circles • ~he court: and Ut a. quantity of candles. and with book-rests in their midst [om! which

were p~ac:edvohwmes:]1 of the Ho~y Koran were reciting from it;, some were intoli'll1Jg bymns of praise to God' others were ,oocupied in: contemplation ·of the Immaeulate ~o:mb (God in,,, creas it in swee'(llCss' wnile 00 ever)' : ide were singers ,cbalilting in eulogy of the Apostle of God.

Durin.g, the days. be und:oubted~y foundt.i:m.e to vru it other mos:ques ,and venerated site in and around rhe cit :lllilcludill;g Itbe cemetery' (al-H,aq:i] ea -t efthe walls llla,[oontained [he graves of numerous kinsmen and nmpuions, orr the Prop:bCI. H_ lobo WCely to have made apoinm of -ilw"the UUI d med :tombof' Malik ibn 'Aaas, the ,grea'leilghth-century juri sand 'Dunder Df the MaliJd school: 'of la,w,

IllJl. the modernage eharter buse wh:j 'Ii, pilgrim mJngthe played higbwayc(}Ioo,ectlin.g Medina with Me,oca. but Jb:n lauu'la amdhis fellows faced .200 ,more miles ,olf fii.ery de olatioa b'Jorerlcachi.nG, thegcal Qif their hope . 'Yet this 'final stag- etthe journey was differiern:: haggard w3yfuers b-ecame eetebrants. uplifted and renewed" and the whole dust company was, t'ransforme into a joy01J.mS white·f,o'bed procession, The chang toek plac ,at Dhu ~Hulaifa, a tiny serttement ju 't five mile ,01 ng ilbeouthb und road out of Medina. Dlis was on.eaf the suui os ,(mMcars) 010 the five IPrwncipa~ trails lead.i.ogto ~Mecc 'where pilgriims were required to enter iru.o 'the state ,o;fcooSe'Cr3[tilonl,caJh=d iJzram. Here ma,le' off ~he[ir II.ra'Ve'lingc'Iothe_., washed 'them-

elves, prayed .. 8ndfiin.any donned the special garme:ot.a.lso c_Med ilJrom" which tbey wou.ld continoet,o w'eaJ until after they entered the Holy ~tyan I if ~~. were the time of' the G.realerPUgrlmage. pe:rfQmrlJcd the rites of hajj. The garmenrconsisted IOf two la.rge. :p1.ain. unstitc'he<il sheets of white cloth .one ·of 'whi,ch was wl"a!p:ped around ~hew3Iiist. reacbilg to the ankle. the other .,atheredl ,oroundlhe upper pa:rt of the b dy an.d draped over the left should,e'f. Nothing, was wo:m over or beneath ~he ihrQffl. and feet 'we~e' ~e~l bare or sh ~ d ealy in sondals without heels .. Worme.nd~d not' put om these gaf111icnts, but dressed modestly and !plainly., 'colverin,gtheir head' blimt leaving their faces unveiled, Once' we piJ,grim,a.:sumed the: ihr:tll11'.ym,1 olwng t.he equaUay of aU men before God. he w8sNl:quired 'to behave in. a maaner consistent with lhetale' ofJ1ctUy .ill1~ 'which be had VOh.lDtarilly e.m te red •. The ProJlh t am'ed:""TIl .Pilgn01l3lge L illl monltbs weU-kllllYwo; 'wliloso,undcrltaJke the dUll of Pil;rimage inlliem sball net go into

1'0 Mecca

his womeufomk nor imdtdge in ungodliness and disputing in tile Pilgrimag'B.Wb'atsoever good you do, God knows it. .. 5

After fildfilling the ceremonies of ihram, the caravan set. forth once again J the pilgrims walking straighter :DOW' and shouting God's praises into the: grea~ Arabian void. The route fonow>ed a sout.hwestedy course across low ridges of the Hljaz ~ill~s and then down to the plain bordering the Red Sea. The compaIDy reached the coast at Rablgh, iastatioJiJ about 9$ mnes north of Jidda. where the routes frollil Syria and Egypt finally eon verged and where the Egyptia.n pilgrims took the ihr:am . Fromhere tbe caravan turned into the desert again, marching now southwestward along the coastal plain. Probably seven days after leaving Rab.igh6- they arrived in the morning hours at the gates 'of Mecca, the Mother of Cities.

It was mid October 1326. Twenty-two years old anda yearand four months the pilgrim-adventurer , Ibn Battuta rode triumphantly into Mecca'snarrow I brown valley and proceeded at once to the "illustrious Holy House," reciting with his COmpWl.10nS tbe prayer of submissioa to tile Divine wilt

What Is 'Thy Command? I am bere, 0 God! What is Thy Command? I am here!

What is Thy Command? I am berel

Tb·. . .. .' .L,.· ........•.. I .•. ou art without cornpamom

Wh t '. Th C- . . d? 'I . ~ 1... eli' .. a. !s . '. y Q'mm.aflr..1 am w,er ~ .

Amomtg, the cosmopolitan cities of Ibn Battuta's time. Mecca was in one sense pre .. eminent. From the end of Ramadan and throtlgilo,u,t the months of Shawwaland Dbu l-Oa'da, pilgrilills from ,every Islamie land gathered 1111 the city to pTa)' iIIl the Sacred Mosque, and, Oil theninth day of the month. DIm l-Hijja, to stand in fellowship on the plain o.f 'Arafat before tbe Mount of Mercy. As [slam expanded into more distant parts of Asia and Africa during the Middle Period, the call to the .h:aji embracedaneverlarger and more diverse range. of peoples. in the ritesof the perambulatioes arouad the Ka'ba.jhegreat ssoae cube~Jtail: stood 1.n the center of the mosque Turks of Azerbaijaawalked with M;allmke: of the Western' Sudan, Berbers 'of the Atlas with Indians of Gujerat. The grand mosquevcalled dae Haram, or Sam=tuary. was tbe one place ~o the wodd where tbeadhereats of the ·fo'ut

Mecca 71

main meg/a! schools. plus Shi'is, Zaydis, "Ibalttis. and other sectarians, pray;ed 'together woue ptalce ,according to tkeir s]j,~dy varying, rima] forms. Though there was a fixed order of prayerm the mosque for rtbe four schools reports Ibn Battuta.

at: tile sunset praye.r they pray all at tbe same time, each imam te.admghis owncongregation. Ia consequence of this the people are invaded by some w_dering of attention ad confusion; the Malikite I[worshipper] often bows in time with the bowing of the Sbafi~i:t,e1 and the Haaafite prostrates himself at the prostration. of the Hanbalite, and YOH see them. IistemiImg attentively each ODe to the voice of the muessin who is cban:fuJ:g to the eongregation of his rite so that be does not fall victim to hi'S in a.tlleJl~ion .

Bialek Muslims and white Muslims. Sunnis and Shi'is all came to Mecca wlltih the single declared purpose to fuJfiJ) a holy du1)r' and to worship tile. Oae God. But they alsocame, incidentally to trade, Pilgrims almost a~.ways brought goods with them 10 sell. sometimes whole caravan loads. The bedouinand oasis-dwellers of the Hijaz and the Yemen hauled in huge quantities of foodstuffs to' feed the multitude, Ibn Jubayr wrote of his visit. in 1183:

AJtbougb there is DO commerce save in the pilgrim period, nevertheless, since peoplegarber in it from east and west, there will be sold in one day, .. precious objects such as pearls, sapphires, and other stones, various 'kinds of perfume such as musk. cam ph or, amber and aloes? Indian drugs and oilier articles brought from India and Ethiopia. .• the products of the industries of Iraq and the Yemen, as well as. the merchandise of Khurasan, the goods of the Maghrib. and other wares such as it is 'impossible to enumerate or correctly assess .. a

Though Mecca's own inmte!fl:and was a stony desert Ibn Jubayr fOUl1ld the market street "overflowing' witb "fig,s,gra:pest pomegranates, quinces, peaches, lemons, walnuts, paJm~fruil. water-melons, cucumbers and all the vegetables.?"

[f Mecca 3l.t the season of the hajj was a microcosm of all the peoples and all the wares of a good partof Africa and Eurasia, its cosmopolitanism was 1U other respects. shaUow., It was a eosmopolitaaism derived from a unique annual event and 'Dot from

72 ecca

title e ~ f might • UfOS,1fI ~ edccatienal or philanthropic in-

tituulion a WBS the rca ith, airo or Damascus. When the

pit'rim r ~,Ied up their pra r mats and headed back eo their ,h m, lands m the latter part f O:bu l-Hij] ". the' city reverted to the m re p: . aie activiiti,e o:f - du ~ western Arabian town. Though tore 00 trade r " eh 0,1 a: , nd tranded po 'T folk were to be seen mn: th cil all through the ' ear, the pulation dwindled quickly

he nl lh ~ fea Ida' . ere ' \ er. Mecca had no, ubstanrial

rieultural b' a i,_ ~ n nd wa ailmosl comp~e[eJy dependent

n n ii hb rin I a nd untries : or its ustenanee. In tho e

c nditi ns Meccac uld ne er boa e grown lint I a rnetr polis or supported majestic e Ilh!l}e-. khan.s. and palace of the sort '[hat d,j,stri:nguw hed [he mature urban centers of I lam. Though the 'cit had ~ts coil ges, most of them were m adest, and (leaching, was largely conducted in 'the Hararn.!"

If privation and remotenes finally doomed Ieeca 1(0 ec ndrate dry-hood, those ery conditioes -uited it p. de II , a. Iplace for spiritual retreat and acetic e ercise. I impl t, Ij tbere f r

h rt time was an act of self·deI'l1al- at lea I it~' as befn the ag of automcbiles, public toilets and air conditione . , be cit)' lies. not like' Medina, in the midst of an oasis, but at (he nom ran arid depression surrounded by a double range: r ireele mountain, From the north, the south. and the. UU1Wt: "t. three ravine le'ad the visitor down into ·'t:his breathle pjt end ad' I

aU of rock."!' where 'Summer temp rasure ,ar I 16 I e Tee

Fahreoheit, Before modem techn logy re lu i nize the

1ogistica~, pects of the h(Jjj~ water and hou wng ran chr 'nicall~ short, epidemics broke cu'~ among the pllgrima, and f1I:F 111 flood raged nddenly down the entral streets of 'the town, on several oceaslon filood~ng the Haram and severely damaging ihe a'ba, - et like ,a11 de en '. the Meccan wilderness p . sessed ,ill! pure' and terrifying eaut s « an imm III .ity' f light and had 'IN that hinted at the orki1og of (he Infinite. n though th~ land was unyieldingly grim, if inflicted it d n rand di c mforts on all equally, redacln 'to .liivialffil di er II1C,e" race and cIa s and driving rhe pilgrims together in the knowledge' that only . od is great.

Whatev,er a pilgrim m,Y h _ uffered on lbe road to Mecca, his e onal care were quickl enou ah or '. tten as InI entered ehe c wt :f the Hararn all1lt d I fore the 're t granite block nveloped in i black v il, '" he contemplati n f... the venerable • u e.' w ( [In Jubayr. "is, an awful sight which

Mecca 73

distractsthe senses in. amazement, and ravishes the heart and mind ." n Even the infidel Englishman Richard Burton, who visited the mosque in disguise in 1853, declared that "the view was strange. unique" and "that of all the worshippers whoclung weeping to the curtain, or who pressed their beating hearts to the stone, none felt for the moment iii deeperemotion than did [1]. "D

Generations of rulers have made numerousalterations to the Haraai and the Ka' that the structures look substantially different today from the way they did whenIbn Bertuta saw them, In its modem mIm. the Ka'ba is in the shape of a slligbtly irregular cube, set almost ill the ceeterofthe court and risiogto a height of 50 feet. The walls ofblue- grey Meccan stone are draped year round with. the kiswa, made of black brocade and embellished with an encircling band of Koranic inscription in gold. A single door. set about seven feet above the ground and concealed by its own richly decorated covering, gives entry ~o the windowless interior of the sanctuary. There are norelics inside. simply three wooden pillars supporting the roof. ornamental drapes along the waJ.llis,.lamps ofsilver andgold hanging from the ceiling." Wild a copy of the' Koran. At the eastern. corner of the exterior of the Ka ba is. embedded the revered Black Stone. which measures about twelve indies across andis set in a rim ofsilver. The surface of the stone ffi worn smooth end no one can be certain of its composition. In Koranic tradition Abraham built the Ka'ba, a wooden structure as; it originally stood, to commemorate the One God. Though in pre- Islamic times the sanetuarywas a home of idols and its precinct a. place of pagan rites, Muhammad restored It to its original purpose as a temple consecrated to the primordial monotheism of Abraham.

Wllen a visitor arrives in Mecca, whether or not be intends to undertake the hai;'. he must as his very firstact perform thee tawof. the circumambulation. He wailes around the Ka'ba seven tones counterclockwise, stepping ql1ickfty the first three times, then walking m oresl owly • all the while reciting prayers special to the occasion .. Each time be passes the eastern comer he strives to kiss or touch the Bla .. ck Stone, not. because some wondrous power is invested in it butbecause the Propbet kissed it. During the less congested months of the year, the pious visitor may perform the lClwa/and kiss the stone at his leisure several times .3 day. But in the hajj season the mosque becomesa revolving mass. of hnmanlty, giving the illusion that the very floor of the courtyard is turning round the Ka'ba,

Facing the northeast fa~ade of the shrine is, a small structure (today m the shape 'Of a tittle cage surmouated with a golden dome) called the

74 Mecco.

Maqam Ibrahim. fuside lies the stone said to be. the footprints of the Patriarch. who used t:1itemck as a. platform wben he eonstructed the upper portions of the House. When the pi~grim bias completed his lawaf. he goes to the Maqam where he p.ra:ys, a pra)"er of two prostrations. Near lheMaqam, is ~he blessed 'well of Zamzam. Here the AlIlgel Gabriel {according to one tradition) miracu~mwsly brought forl1l a :spring m.o quench the thirst of Hagar aad ber little scm Isma'il after her husband Abraa,m had gone off into the desert. From the Maqam the pilgrim moves to the wen to drink. which in Ibn Bau11mta's time was enclosed in a, building, of beautiful marble. The sacred water is sold in the cloisters of the mosque and i:n ilbe streets of the city. During their SOjO'llD!I the pilgrims perform their :litua~ ablntioas with it and -ome~ despite the heavily swine taste, drink profuse amounts for 1ltS reputed beating qualities.

When the pilgrim has drunk. from. the well, be may [eave the mosque by the southeastem gate and proce-ed several yards toa little elevation. celled al-Safa, which lies. at one end of a Meccan street From tbe steps of al .. Safa be walks or jogs about a quarter ofa mile along tile street to another small eminence called ,11- Marwa. He repeats this promenade seven mimes. reciting prayers along the way to commeenorate Hagar's frantic search for water along the grOllilld lying between the two bill1s. This rite is called the sa "y t tha t is, title Runmng. Wifb 'the performing of it the pilgrim bas completed the preliminary rites of the hajj and may at last find his lodgings and begin to introduce himself to the city .

The Syrian caravan of the year 1326 (726 A.H.) arrived at the western gate of Mecca sometime before dawn .. Though probably exhausted frORI a night's march. Ibn Batruta and his companions madetheir way at once to the center of the city andentered the Haram by the gate called al-Salem. Praising God who vhath rejoiced our eyes by tine vision of the illustrious Ka'ba," 'they performed the lawai of arrival:

We kissed the holy Stone; we performed a. prayer of two' bowings at the Maqam Ibrahim and clung to the curtains of the Ka'ba at Ule 'MuillJtazam between the door and the black Stone. where prayer is answered; we drank of the water of Zamzam . . .: then. having run between al-Safa and al-Marwa, we took up our lodgimg there in a house near the Gate of Ibrahim,

Mecca 7S

The "house" 1110 Battuta repairedto was in fact a Suo hospice (he uses the term ribtll) ca:J.1edaJ-Muwaffa,cib located aear the soljJlhwes~erA side of the mosque. In his usual fashion he quickJy s,lIruck up acquaWltanoes, witb the pious residell1tso,f the: lodge" some of them Ma.gbribis. W'e may suppose tha'i he put to goodl advantage the three weeks he: had to ~liimself before the start of the hajj festival, expl~o:riDg the secondary shrines and histeric si~.,es 'Of the Prophet's birthplace, rummaging throughl the wares • the market street, and perhaps climbing to the top of one of the boly mountains whose barren slopes roughed out the comours of tile town .. He aliso formed anopinion of the local citizenry., judging them, generous, kindly, and proper.

The Meecans areelegant ,awd dean in their dress, and as they mostly wear white thew garments always appear spotless and snowy. They use perfume pain~ theireyes with kuhl, and are constamly,g ~heir teeth with s~ipsof green arak-wood. The Meeean womellll. are of rare and surpassing beauty, pious aadchaste ..

The use of perfumes, oUs~ and makeup wOIJ~d of course have been out of fashion for everyone dwing the days preceding the hajj 1 wben personal frippery was forbidden, Ibn Battuta himself, keeping' to his ritual dedarat.ioli of illte~tion to complete the rites of the pilgrimagein astats of eonseeration, continued to weal his white ihramgarb from the time he assumed it IOn the road from Medma until his hajj was fulfilleda month later. He also." we :may presume obeyed with, precision the special taboos that attended the state of ihrom .. 10a11 certainty he did not get into arguments or fights" kill plants or animals, engage in sexual relation8~c:ut hi'S hair or nai:ls, wear sewn garments, or adorn himself with .jewelry.,l4,

We can also be sure that during these three weeks he :spent the better pan of his, days and. probaely some of his nights in t.h.e Haram, where he performed addlitiona]etlwais (always meritorious in the sight of God),. drank hom the weD" and made cenversation 'witb new aequainraaees The great mosque was inde,ed the center of all publie life in Mecca. The streets, of the town. winding tbrou,gb the ca,nYQnsand downthe slopes of the enchding, hills, a11 converged on the Haram - whose court formed the very bottom of the alluvial depression, The: mosque was, iin the shape of am irr,egular p.ara.IIel,ogran'iJl •. the roofed-over POrtiOfll of rilestru.crure

76 Mecca

between the outer w,affils aid theccurt being suported by a fo'rest of marble coiumns (411 of them by Ibn Jub,ayr's count). Nineteen gates IOn all :four sides gaveaccess to the: eolonaades and court, and fi'Vemmarets surmounted the mosqeev foer of them at the ,oornlcrs.IS

'The Harem was netonly the place of tilepiJgrim. stations but also the center for daily 'prayers. Koranic reading andeducation. In 'the shade o·f the, cloisters. lor :io the court when the sum was low. sat rings 0'( learners ,31lld listeners~ while copyists 1 Koran, readers, ,udi even tailors occupied benches set up beneath the arches of the colonnades.t'' 'When -pray,en were not in session or the crush of pilgrims not 'too great Mecean children played in the court, and the people of the city streamed back and forth through the gates. routinely using the sacred precinct as a short cut between one part IOf town. and another, For :poorer pilgrims the mosque. was home. "Here,' wrote John B urckh arch. another nineteenth-century Christian who penetrated the Haram incognito, "many poor Indians, or negroes, spread their mats, and passed the whole period IOf their residence at. Mecca. Here they botheat and sleep; but cooking is not aUowled .. " 17 There was Rota single moment day 0'( night througillOut the yen.r so says 'the tradiition" when at least a few of the. faithluJ were mot c.ircling the Ka'ba .. ] n the evening the square was, ligbted with dozens oftorches and candles, barhin.g the 'Worshiippers and the great cube iJ1l a n.kk,ering orange glow.

When. ,3 pilgrim reached Mecca and citrcu.itled the Ka 'ba he stiU had in an important religious sense, twe~ve miles to g,o before he would terminate his sacred journey. No Mus.lim was privileged to elainsthe title "al-Hajj" until he had traveled through the desert r8ym.oes, east of the C1:ty to the plain of • Araf8lt and, om, the nln tb day of Dhu l-Hij]a, stood before the Mount of Mercy, the place where Adam prayed and where in 1632 Muhammad preached his farewell sermon to his pristine congregation of believers, This annual reItreat into theMeccan wllderness embraces the complex of eeremoaies that makes up the hajj proper,~ or Greater Pilgrimage" which :Muslims regard as separate from (though also, including) the 'rituals of the tawaf and the .sa) .. The Meccan rites, performed alone and at any time of the year) are ca~.led the 'umra, that: is. the:

Visit or Lesser Pilgrimage,

Before Islamv Mecca was thecenter for a, yead)' pilgrimage iQf Arabian tribes that was purely pagan. The Prophet retained some of those rites but uUedy transformed their purpose into a

Mecca 17

celebrenon 0·:( A.braham"s unyielding . monotheism. The ceremoaies rested OIJ' the authori~y of the Koran and 0'01 the tradidonaUy accepted practices of'the Pro;phet. AJtbou;gb minor details O'f the procedures vary according to the dtfierenltt jllridi,caI schools (such as Itba·t. male S.hafi'is have their beads shaved at a different poillIDt in tbe sequence of rites, than do members, of the _oilier m.adlrhabs), the h.ajj is the supreme expression ofltbe u,nity of Edi befievers, Indeed. when on the of Dhu l-Hijjaeach pilgrimlilUs a goat or sheep lli1I remembrance of God's la:st-milITlu~e instruction to 1'0 sacrifice a ram rather than his own son, Mus1ims the world over do the same, thus uniting ehemselves sym bo~ican y wit~h thei r brothe rs and sisters ill ~ be Arabian desert.

Today, a mmjon and a half Muslims commonly ani Vie ill Mecca. each year and set out for ., Arafat iIDl awhile-robed horde on the' eighthand nInth days of the sacred month. Many wa~k, but others travel in buses and cars aJong the multilane hwghway wbkhwinds out from the city. Saudi government bellcopterscireleo erhead and crowd control experts monitor the proceedings from dosed drcu:it television centers. First aid stations line the veoute, eropdusters spray the plain against disease. and an army of vendors. greets 'the tired pilgrims at. their destination with soft drinks and barbecued chicken .. In Ibn Battuta's time the journey was OfCOIJTSe far less agreeable. even dangerous if the local bedouin took the occasion to plunder ~be procession .. Those who could afford the price rode in enclosed camel-litters. Bu1 most of the pilgrims walked the hot stony trail; the pious did wt barefoot,

IB,y tradition the pilgrims spend the night otrhe eighth day at Mina, a settlement :in a. narrow valley four miles east of the city. 'On the following morning they go on to the "Arafat pllain and range themselves in a great circle around the jagged little bill called the Mount of Mercy .. A city of rents and prayer mats is, qll.lickJy unfurled, At noon begins the Standing. the central and absolutely essential event of tbe lu~jj. Throughout the afternoon and until the sun sets the pilgrims keep vigil round the Mount,(u' on its slopes if they can find! room, reciting the pnl' er of obeisance to God (,"Whatis Tfuy Command? I am Here!") and hearing sermons preached from the sl!IIl11mit.

Precisely at sunset the Standing formany eoncladesaad the throng immeiliate;~y pscks up and starts back in the direction ,of Mecca. By tradition tile' pilgriim must not perform his sunset pra .. er at "Arafar but at Muzc!lalifiah,,,a point three miles bact along the

78 Mecca

road to Mima. And equaUy by tradition ,everyone whois 'physically ~abl!e races 'to get there as fast as he can. In ibID Battuta's time tbe "rushing" to Muzd!alifah migbtbav,e brought to mind the :miJJelJDiat charge of some gigantic army o{ wbite,.-<;:la,d dervishes. TOM,), i,t has more theeharaeter of atitaaie Cali:~orniaoornmuhu rush, meticu1,ouSty orchestrated bY' tie Saudil authorities ~O' prevent hopeless traffi.c jams . Once arrived at MuzdJaJjfab mo,st ef'the pilgrims bed down for the night. 't.ho'ugb womeu, chi~dfen., and the i'ltlinn mayeontinae l.mmedialte~l)' on to ofthe erowd,

On the morning of the tenth tbe pillgrims assemble at MUlJa fur the start of the Feast o,f tbe Sacrifice (,Id a'l~Adba), four days of celebration and desacralizing rites that: brin,g the Mij to eonelusion. Mina"s 'sacred ],andmarks are three modes; stowe pillars whi,cb stand at intervals from dIe eastern to the western cod of the \Cn~V' A' bOs filfst 3.C[ tbenUgrim m UiS I. take a b,an.dfnlof . -bbl ~

a c .. ,. '. 11. __ ._ ~ _ --1:"-- ~ .'~ _ _ . __ __ _ _~ __ _ _ pe as

(which. he Ilsu.any picks up a'iong 'tile road from 'A.Jl'afat and cast seven of them at the western pillar 0 Just as the faithful Abraham threw stones at the devil to repulse his mesmeric suggestionsthas the little ISOla j] need .lot after all be sacrificed. so the _piJgnm Must take ,aiM at the devi1,~p.iU ar as witness to his personalwar againstevil in general, When, he bas completed the lapidation be buys 3! sbe,ep or goat (0;1' even a. eamel if be is ri,cb) 'from. aJlly 0;£ the vendors who have collected tlITloll!lsands of animals for the occasion. He sets the face of thecreaturein the direction of the Ka'ba and kills it b:y cutting ir's throat as Abraham, did after God me:rcifully reprieved his soa.Thisact brings tcanend the periedof ihra111. The pilgrim must flnda barber (dozens. areon bandjand have his head shaved. or at least some ~ocl~s then he is free to exchalge hi,s ritual garb 'for his everydayclothing. As SOOI!lLS the rites of M:ina are acco.plisll:J:ed be returns, to Mecca to perform [the tav.tal once ag/am. now released fromall prohibitions save for sexual intercourse.

From the tenth to the thirteenth the solemnities of the Standing give way to jubilatioa and fellowsb~p. The pilgrims return to Mina forhY:o lor sometimes three IDgflts. They tlluow pebbles at all three of the devil-pillars each day sacrifice additional anhnals. and socialize with coulltrym,enandlJew-fl.luncil friends. On the twelftJil the first groups of hajjis begin for 'home, taking care to perform the .lawai of farewellas their n:nal ritualact,

F om t· ... - f-ol-rt-:~,e'filt.1l clentu"". to 'to d a'- time fu cdc ~. ual 0--·

_ rom ne. U e~ --~'_J __ . y rLa.en.. ~ere

monies of the hajj have beenaltered only in the merest de~,ai~s,., Ibn

Mecca 79'

Battuta's own brief and matter .. of .. fact recounting of these events in the Rihla might be startlingly familiar to some young civll servant 100f' Tangier" making die sacred journey by Royal Air Maroc,

The -,-!:I najority '.:f -il' ,_._, who strer ed out tn it:nhtl..-

egre,3! maJon, 0 P _gnms 0 S __ anJIje __ _ u_ w!fOU&" we

Meccan gullies in mid November 1.326 were beading back to the prosaic lives tbey had. temporarily abandoned to make the holy journey. Some of them would take many months to reach borne, working their w,ay along, getting stranded here or there, or taking time to see the great mosque and college cities of the Middle East. Ibm Battuta does not teU us in the Rihla just when be decided that be would. not. for tbe time being, retarn to Morocco. When he left Tangier his only purpose had been to reach the Holy House. Once there, did the Meccan bazaar, the exotic faces" the stories of strange sights and customs set his mind ~o some master plan for exploring the hemisphere? Was it there rhat he made his, imposs~ ible vow to roam the world without ever retracing his steps? Had he begun to realize the possibilities of traveling thousands of miles in. tevery direction nom Mecca without ever going beyond the limits of the {amUiar society of men who shared bis!e,s" his habits. and Ibis language'?' Whatever soul-stirring effects his first hajj" may have bad on him. he was certainly no longer the hoy who stood forlornly in the center of Tunis with nowhere to go and no oneto talk to. After a year and a half away from borne, he had already seen more of the world than mostpeople ever would, be was cultivating a circle of learned and mternationally minded

f . .. d· dl he h . d . . .... thetitle ·.f '''aJ .0 •. ·' " ' .. ·)·f .. . ~

:nen :5" aD_ . ,e - if_ won e tit e' 0 ._-.lI.~laJJ .Itse· an entree to

respect among mfluentia1 and well-traveled men. When be set off for Baghdad withthe Iraqi pilgrims on 20 Dhu l-Hijja, one fact was apparent. He was no longer trave~jng to fulfill a religious mlssion or even to reach a particular desrination. He was: going to Iraq simply for the adventure of it. It 1:S a t this poiat that his gJobetrouing career really began.


l. Arthur 1. Arberry, The KQrar1. i'rllerprele(/ (New York. ]955). 'P. 86.

2. The.oph:ilus Be.lllorini.ill'l.d Eugene Baade. eds, and trans., Visil ,,0 the Holy Piaces of Egypt •. Sinai .. PU1'e$1i.n.(!ul'!'d .syria: in 1384 by rreSccob,aldl, Gucci and Sigol! (Jerusalem, 1:948)., p, 23.

80 ,Mecca

3. The s,yriane,aravllII] norma'IJy let'~ Damescus on no Shawwal. OT' to September ,m lJ26.'.Abd1.1lIah'Ankawi, "'The Pilgrimage to Mecca in Mlamhlk TImes," A,rab,ial1 Studtts ] (19'14): 149. Since :~llIe Rihla is sometimes given to. rounding off significant dates at tbe firsl day or the mOlJith. Ibn Battnta may well have left on or ,about 10 ShillW'Wa'l r31hcli !han the [st.

4,',Amka,wi. "The rngrimage ~o Mecca.," :pp. :160-61.,

5. ArbcD)', Kor411. I"', ;54-55.

6. Uti ,gives lhctraveling time fram Rabigb 'h:1I Khl.llais(a palm grove on tbe li',mue) as [hree :l1igbUS. Ib:11 J'l.!bayr made 'nbe trip from Mecca to Kilulais iOrOllf days. The TI'DII.e/J of {bn Jrw:ayr. trans, R. J. C. Bro:adi1urst (London. 19:52). pp.,

188-91. '

7. A pilgrimage p[ayertratns~:aJt,ed in Ahmad Kamal, The Sacred Jo!mley (Lundoll. 19(1)" p. 35.

8. Ibn Jubayr. Trtweis, p,p. H6-17.

9. £bid .. 'P. J H.

10. C Snollik Hwgmnje' .. MecctJ in .d:r.e' Lcllt:er .Part' of ~lre Nin:eliumth Century (l.eideo, .. 1931),pp. HJ-72.

1 ~. Eldon Rutter, The Ho/)- Ciri£s of Ambia. 2 voJs. (London. 19'28). vol, 1. p. 117.

12. Unl, Jubayr. Trav:els. p. 80.

B. Richard Burton. PersoRal Narrolive at a .Pilsrimage lO EI·Medillahartd Meccall, 2 vols. (New "('art. i 9(4), voL 2, p. ~'61.

14. m states In tbe Rfflla tha.t when he assum.ed tbeih:ra'11' gl11lmel1l1s Iile declared Ills in[,entio~1l of performing tine rites ofl:tl:e Greater 'flg;rimage (ham without 'Ilite Lesser Pilgrimage (·uml"li:. Oli' vtstl.). The latter, CO.l11priSed eS5eI1Hatruy or (he 1,(Jiil:aJ a:nd the sa~y. could be pcrlorm.e.d 8'1 .3t1yl.:i'me of Ihe year. When 11 MU!'l'limen'~ered Mecca at a lime other than the hajj season, he !;;ould decensecrate him5clf following the ralVa! and ~l1e SQ'y of :lmyati. He 'would then, bl): ~o a SI . .[l[(l called ,:ahfalfIi". meaning that he could enjoy a noma1IUe and weareveryda)' elcrhes u,ruil, l,'he st:aJrl of the hajj. if in fact he' planned 1'0 rem!Bi1l'l in the II.QWfI untillhc;fl. IB. However, vowedto perfo.rnn the hajj .. w:llicb iaeluded the IQwal and ,s(ll'y plus the rites of the walk to Ararat. without lnternrptlag the state of ih,om. Therefore. Wu:: Wa'S reqiuired to wear hiswhi.te cloihes and abe)' Ihelll.tlen.d8ln'l prohibilioM un[ill1lis, hajj was completed. See "Hadjdj:' Ell, vel, 3. p, 35.

is. Gb, vol, l, p. 203 .Ill • .IB, counts five minarets .. 'but. Ibn Juba)!!" (T:r;Qve/s. p. 87) says there were seven, which, agrees wl'~b [:1.ine~ce:ml'H:'tmury ob ervers. Tbere Me S~Ve!l today. though tile precise locmtions of the ~awers have varied over the oonll.lri~,s.

[6. Ibn . .Iuba),r. Trave.ix, p,. 86.

['7, BurckhaJrdn.. Travels, vol, I. p, 213.

5 Persia and Iraq

He also said,; "After us the descendants of our dan wUI wear gold embroidered garments, e31~· rich and sweet food" ride fine horses. and 'embrace beautiful women but they will not sa.y that tbey owe aU this to their fathers andelder brothers. and theywill forget us and those greattimes. ... I

The Yasa of Genghis Kahn

When Ibn Battuta made his first excursion to Iraq and western Persia. more 'than acearury bad passed since the bm:rtb of the MOlngol worldempire, For a Moroccan ,lad bore HI ~,304 the story of Gen,gms Khan and the holoceusrbe brought down on dvUb:ed Eurasia was something mo be read aboll.l!t in theArabie version of Rashid ai-Din's History ,of lhe Mongols. The Tatar storm blew closer to England than i~did 10 Morocco' aiild had no repercussions on life' in the Islamic FarWe:st that ]bn B,aul!m'ta's greet gr,and,father was likelyto bave noticed .. For the inh:a.bitsJl1Irs oif' Egypt BJld tbe Levant the Mongol. explosEOIi had been a brush w~th catastrophe, m.ercifully averted by Mamiuk victories but im.agwned lin the: dark tales told by fugitives, from the dead and flatteeedcities that were olee Bukhara, Merv, and Nishaput. For the Arab MId Persian peoples of the lands east of the, Euphrates the terrible events of 1220-60 had been a nightmare of violence from which tbey were sUH struggling to recover in the fourteenthcentury ..

hWith one stroke," wrote, the Persian hist'orian JlJlvoiniof tile Mon.go.linv3,sion 0·£ Khunlsan. ~'a world whieh bi.Uowedwitb fert~ljty was laid desolate, andthe regions thereof became a desert, and ~he greater part of the living dead. and their skin and bones, crumbling dust; and the: mighty were humbled and immersed in tbe calamities of perdition .• ,2 The Mon,gols wreaked death and devastation wherever 'they rode from China. to the plains of Hungary but nowhere more so than in Persia, where most IOf the great cities of the northern region of Khurasan were demotish.ed and their inhabitants annihilated, A modern historiaa lestimate:s tbat the total population of Khurasan, Iraq. and Azerbaijan ma.y


Persia ,and' I,aq'

p ,5;:


.. ..








-, I





200 MI.

Persia and Iraq .83

have dropped tempo['a:ril~Y from 2,500.,000 ~.o 250.000 as a result of mass extermination and famine .. ) The thirteereh-century chronicler Ibn a~-Athir estimated that the Mongols killed 700;000 people jn Merv alone." That figure is, probably a wild exaggeration. but it ~sl!lgg.ests the eontemporary perception of those calamitous eVC:.mts.

The Mongol terror did nut proceed from some Nazi-like ideologicaJ design to perpetrate genocide. Nor was it a spontaneous barbarian rampage. Rather it was one of the coolly devised elements of the greaser Genpis for world conquest. a 'fiendishly efficient rom binationof military l5e~d tactics and psychological warfare designed to crush even tbeposswbiliityof resistance to Mongo] rule and to demoralize whole cities ~:f1JIO surrendering without a fight, Once the armies bad overrun Persia and set up garrison govenanents. wholesale ,carnage on the whol:e came to an end. Even the most rapacious Tatar general under .. stood that the country could not be sys~e'matkaUy bledover the long term. if there were no more peepleleft, After about ,~260~ and in some regions much earlier. trade resumed, fie~ds were p'l, towns dug: themselves out, and remnants of the educated and artisan classes plodded back to their homes. Some cities, such as Tabriz, opened their gates to the invaders. andso were ~sp:lH'ed destruction, Others, Kerman and Shiraz for example, were in. regions far euough to the south to be outof the :patb of the' storm; tbey !Iater acquiesced to :Mon.go~ overlordship while preserving a degree' of political autonomy ..

And yet for the mass of Arabic- or Persian-speaking farm.e:rs. on whose productive labor the civilization 'of Mescpotamia and the Iranian. plateau bad always rested. tile disaster was chronic .. Over the long run the mlUta.J.iY cris~s was, [lot so much an invasioa of Mongom aI'JJlJ.ies at it was the last great trek ef Turkish steppe nomads from Central Asia into the Islamic hearalaad, a. re-enactment and mdeed a continuation. of the eleventh-century mi,grati:ons that had populated parts of the Middle East with Turkish tribes and put their captains ~n political control of almost all of it. Gewghjs Khan could never have done more than fouad some unremarkable: tribal stare in Inner Asia were ~1It mlO~ for his SIlJOC1e5S al 'in.corporating I.Olt10 his war ma.chine numerous Turkish cL3i[1~S inha:hitiimg the grasslaeds between Mongolia and the Caspian Sea. Tur.k.ish warriors trooped to 'he flag of Genghis by the tensof thousaads .• pal1Iy becsuse the Mongols had deteatedthem, partly

84 Persia and Iraq

for the adventure, partly because rain feU more O'ftltH'W and grass grewtaller progressively as one moved west and south. Turks far outnumbered ethnic M.ongols in the' mounted armies that attacked Persia. and they broug~.twitfu tb.em their wagons. tbeir families, and their enormous herds ofboFSes and sheep, which fed their way 'through Khura:san and westward along the flanks of the Albun: MOWlltati;I1S Ito the th~ck pastures of Azerbaijan,

Altbough ma.n)' of the Turkish invaders had tbemsctves been converted to Sum:l'i Islam in the preceding centuries as. a result of contact wi'm.b urba~ merchants and missioaaries from Khurasan" they joined ea,g;er~y in the violent d ismembering of Persian society, ridding the laad of die farms, crops, irrigation works and cities tbat obstructed rhe free movement. of their herds. Over several decades thousands of Iranian peasants were killed, enslaved" and chased off their land. To make matters worse" the early Mongol rulers, beginning. w~th Genghis Khan's grandson HIJ~eguin 1.256. could not quite make up' their miads whether to carry through policies designed to reconstruct the ccuatryandrevive agriculture or to treat the [land as pennaroent enemy territory by taxingthe peasants unbearably and permitting commanders triball cEDefs" and state "messengers" to devour ~be countryside at tbe sligMlest sign of agrariaa health.

Ghazan (l295-1304).. the seventh Ukfuan (or "deputy" of the Great: Khan .• as the Mongol, ,ru~ers of Persia were called) , made a determined ,efiOI1 to improve [be adlill1limstrative and fiscal system iim ways thee wouJJd UgIlItell. the peasants' rax load" relieve them of indisc.rim.mate extortion OJ]] the part of state officials. and restore !their will.1 to pmduce, The reforms had modest success! but: they dlid not deive the economy decisively upward. owing to the petuJlant resistance of officials and war lords and tbe faiJure of Ghazan's successors to persevere with sufficient energy, The strength and well-being of any civilized soCliety depended oathe prosperity 'of its agriculture, and in this respect Persiaand Iraq entered the fourteenth century still cb"aggjng the chains of me Mongol invasion. "Therecan be no doubt," wrote' the Persian historian Must-awfi in 1340 "that even if for a thousand years to come no evil befalls thecountry, yet will it not be 'possible completely tOI repair thedamage, and bring back the 1and to the state in whlch it was fo.rmerly. ,-5

''Vet if the umders,tl'u:cluI:<I::l of the Persian economy was weak. the MOD801s succeeded remarkably well ,at paving over their ownwork

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