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The voyages of Ibn Battuta 1325-1355

This map is part of a series of 16 animated maps showing the history of The Age of Discovery.

Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier in 1304, half a century after Marco Polo.

At first, he was just a pilgrim who travelled in accordance with Islamic rituals. He also accompanied caravans in trading journeys.

In 1325, Ibn Battuta went on his first pilgrimage to Mecca. This allowed him to explore North Africa, the Valley of the Nile, Syria, Iraq and part of Iran. He was very impressed by the city of Damascus, saying: “If Paradise exists on this earth, then it is Damascus and nowhere else”.

For his second journey to Mecca, Ibn Battuta travelled towards Yemen, and then to the eastern coast of Africa as far as Kilwa. He returned to Mecca via the Strait of Hormuz and Oman.

For his third journey, Ibn Battuta explored Turkey, where he was surprised to see that women were well treated among the Kurdish tribes. He crossed the Black Sea and travelled across Central Asia, and reported that “Samarkand is one of the most magnificent cities in the world”.   

After several years spent in Delhi, Ibn Battuta continued his voyage via the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Bay of Bengal, Malaysia and Sumatra, before travelling as far north as Beijing. In China, he was particularly surprised by the use of bank notes. They were as yet unknown in Europe and the Middle East.  

During his return journey through India and the Middle East, Ibn Battuta saw with his own eyes the terrible impact of the plague known as the Black Death.

On his return to Tangier, he did not stay long and set off again to visit Muslim Spain, before setting out on another journey across the Sahara in order to visit the Mali Empire and the River Niger before finally returning to Morocco.

Ibn Battuta dictated the story of his travels, known as the Rihla, to the secretary to the Sultan of Fez. It took three months to write the manuscript, and it was completed in 1355. His travel stories are often more precise than those of Marco Polo, but they also contain passages describing supernatural beings which were purely imaginary.