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Ibn Battuta

Born: 25 February 1304

Died: 1369

Nationality: Moroccan

Ibn Battuta or Muhammad Ibn Battuta (Arabic: محمد ابن بطوطة‎) sometimes referred to as “Islamic Marco Polo” was an explorer of Berber descent, who is widely recognised as one of the greatest travelers of all time. He is known for his extensive expeditions; his accounts were published in the Rihla (The Travels). Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited most of the known Islamic medieval world as well as many non-Muslim lands.

After receiving an education in Islamic law, he chose to travel. He left his home in June 1325 when he was twenty-one years old on Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca, a journey that took him 16 months. His journey was mostly by land. He first began his voyage by exploring the lands of the Middle East. Thereafter he sailed down the Red Sea to Mecca. He crossed Arabian Desert and traveled to Iraq and Iran. In 1330, he set off again, down the Red Sea to Aden and then to Tanzania. In 1332, Ibn Battuta decided to go to India where he was given a job as a judge. He stayed in India for a period of 8 years and then left for China. In 1352, he went south, crossed the Sahara desert, and visited the African kingdom of Mali. Finally, he returned home to Tangier in 1355.

Ibn Battuta often experienced culture shock in regions he visited. The local customs of recently converted people did not fit his orthodox Muslim background. Among Turks and Mongols, he was astonished at the way women behaved and how they were given freedom of speech. Near the end of his life, he dictated an account of his journeys, titled 'A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling' (تحفة النظار في غرائب الأمصار وعجائب الأسفار usually simply referred to as 'The Travels' (الرحلة, Rihla).

This account of his journeys provides a picture of medieval civilisation that is still widely consulted today. Ibn Battuta was one of the great utopians for his service in providing accounts of 14th century society and culture in the places that he visited: accounts still used in the present day.

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