Ibn-E-Battuta – The Man behind Travel Writing

Ibn-E-Battuta – The Man behind Travel Writing

If you have seen the above quote before, then you need to know about the man who said it, Ibn-E-Battuta.

Born in Tangier, Morocco on the 24th Feb, 1304, Ibn-E-Batuta established the science of Travel Writing. He was a medieval Moroccan Muslim scholar and traveler who set out on his journey at the age of 21. When he left Morocco in 1326, little did he know that he will not be seeing his country for the next 24 years. What should have been a simple 16 month pilgrimage to Mecca, called the Hajj, took him to different corners of the world. He is widely recognized as the greatest travelers of all time. All his travels are documented in his journal called ‘The Rihla’ which translates to ‘The Journey’. A journey spanning a whopping a 30 years. His travels covered most of the Islamic world. His journeys included trips to North Africa, the Horn of Africa, West Africa, Middle East, South Asia, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and China.

Travel Map
source : http://i.imgur.com/ToIlX.gif

‘I set out alone, having neither fellow-traveler in whose companionship I might find cheer, nor caravan whose part I might join, but swayed by an overmastering impulse within me and a desire long-cherished in my bosom to visit these illustrious sanctuaries. So I braced my resolution to quit my dear ones, female and male, and forsook my home as birds forsake their nests. My parents being yet in the bonds of life, it weighed sorely upon me to part from them, and both they and I were afflicted with sorrow at this separation’

During those times merchants used to travel wide a far to sell their goods and make business but Battuta was one who made his living off travel. His trip to Mecca and Medina set course for the great traveler he became. 3 years in Mecca and he set out to Yemen, then to Somalia. He wanted to work under the ruler Mohammed Bin Tughlaq in India. Well he had to pass through many other countries to reach there. In 1334, he reached the iconic city Constantinople and shared a good bond with the ruling king over there. Then he set out for India via the Hindukush Mountains which was  a popular passage used by many travelers.

‘I proceeded to the city of Barwan, in the road to which is a high mountain, covered with snow and exceedingly cold; they call it the Hindu Kush, that is Hindu-slayer, because most of the slaves brought tither from India die on account of the intense cold.’

He somehow reached the Delhi Sultanate and met Sultan Tughlaq. His status of a scholar gained him the post of a judge and an expert in Islamic Law. However after working for 6 years in India, he got fed up and was finding it hard to practice Islamic law in a country where most of the people are Non-Muslims. He fell out of favor with the Sultan because of the erratic behavior of Tughlaq. He tried escaping Delhi with the excuse of going for another Hajj but was turned down by the Sultan. But soon an offer came his way when he was appointed as the ambassador to the Sultanate in China and he was finally able to get away from Delhi. But his group was attacked by a group of bandits on his way to China. He was robbed and almost lost his life, but still managed to find his companions in 10 days and together sailed off to Calicut in South India. Enroute Calicut, his fleet was caught in a storm and he was again separated from his fleet. Still determined to reach China, which was the destination he had set off for, he decided to take a detour via Maldives.

In Maldives he spent 9 months. He was appointed the chief judge and even got married to the royal family. But the local politics got the better of him. So he decided to leave again and set out for Sri Lanka which led to another shipwreck and this led to him returning to Maldives again. From there he boarded a Chinese junk ship still intending to reach China. This led him to Bangladesh where he trekked across mountains to met Shah Jalal, who was a celebrated Sufi Muslim figure. After spending few days with Jalal, he decided to resume his journey to China and sailed to Sumatra. He met the Sumatran King and after spending a few days there, loaded up his supplies and sailed off to Malacca, then Vietnam and then Philippines. Finally from there he sailed and landed in China at the Quanzhou port.

In China, he met many wealthy merchants and spent his days exploring the country He traveled inland as far as Beijing before returning back to Quanzhou. He documented all his observations in his book. He wrote extensively on the Chinese lifestyle.

In 1346, he set course back to Morocco. He witnessed the rages of the Black Death on his way back. He returned home after 24 years.

There were still a few countries unknown to him. After spending some days in Morocco, he again set out for Spain and North Africa. By the end of 1353, Batuta decided to hang up his Travel Boots and decided to settle back in Morocco. He was offered the office of a judge which he he held until his death in 1368. He had narrated his journeys to a writer Ibn Juzayy which was published for the public as ‘The Rihla’.

His wanderings took him over 75000 miles and do note that this was done before any steam power was invented. A remarkable feat considering the development in transportation during that time. There were a few minor discrepancies in his book as there was no evidence to prove his visits to a few places. But he is considered as one of the greatest travelers of all time, cheating death on many occasions and not letting anything come in way of his dream. He never tried to impose his beliefs on anyone, instead learnt the different beliefs people have around the world and accepted life as it came to him, which has put forward a true picture of himself and his times.

That is a lesson on history for everyone who loves travelling, about the strong willed man who made his dream come true against all odds.


I have indeed—praise be to God—attained my desire in this world, which was to travel through the Earth, and I have attained this honour, which no ordinary person has attained.

82 thoughts on “Ibn-E-Battuta – The Man behind Travel Writing

  1. Wow! He did have a serious case of wanderlust, and embraced slow travel I see. Its fascinating the adventures he got into – having to sneak out of India, marrying a royal, etc. It’s interesting that after 24 years he decided to go home – you would have thought he’d been gone so long he’d just have stayed somewhere else.

  2. Wow, I am always amazed about these early travellers. They went away for year, had the greatest adventures, the most difficult times, were the early ‘travel bloggers’ and travelled through the most harsh conditions. And we just jump on a plane (and some people still complain) 😀
    Very interesting story!!

  3. I’ve seen the quote everywhere recently but didn’t know the origin until now. He travelled an incredible distance and saw so much, makes us realise how easy it is for us now.

  4. I read the quote so many times and every single time I stand still and just take a moment of silence. But I never knew that there’s such a wonderful man behind this quote!

    Knowing myself and my curiosity I’ll spend some time, digging in his life and doing some research for no particular reason.

    Because it really made me a storyteller. I also feel so greatful being able to travel in a time like this!

  5. Just imagine a world in which he was living and then wanting to travel far & wide ! He would not have any “tools” to plan except for other peoples stories about more important places. He clearly had been bitten big time by the travel bug.

  6. Whenever I search for inspirational quotes on travelling, I always stumbled upon his name “Ibn Battuta.” His quotes are really impressive and upon knowing his history, I can say that he is a man of valor. His experiences were superb. I dream of globetrotting too. Maybe not now but someday I will. This is such a great and informative post. 🙂

  7. I knew the story of Ibn Battuta but I did not know that the quote on the first picture (and one of my favourite cones) was his! Nice post, hope to see more great travelers’ bios here

  8. This is such a great thing – I mean, we passionate travelers and bloggers all use quotes, we know many of them, to open or finish our newest piece with that inspiring wow! line. But looking behind what actually made the author say so, what moved him or her to find such words – nice, thanks for the info 🙂

  9. This is such a great post! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve either read that quote or published it on my own Facebook timeline. I love the story behind it, and it’s certainly going to make me think twice about the people who are actually saying these inspiring quotes. I’m going to have to start looking into their histories more often! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  10. Thank you for introducing Ibn-E-Battuta. He had a great journey and spending 30 years of your life traveling was a superb experience.
    His life is so inspiring for thousands of travel bloggers today. I love this phrase “He learned the different beliefs people have around the world and accepted life as it came to him” Indeed, he was one of the greatest travelers of all time.

  11. What a refreshing post and so different from the typical I stumble upon. I had heard the quote, too, but did not know where it came from. Your post is so informative. I am ready for a Jeopardy question on this subject. Fascinating stuff!

  12. Its amazing to think what people achieved back then, I mean here we are boasting about visiting X amount of countries on an airplane and back then there was so such way to travel!!

  13. Must admit that I have never heard of this guy, but as someone who loves travel writing, I definitely need to check his centuries-old work out. What he did was truly inspirational and the quote at the top is beautifully evocative. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  14. Ibn Batuta is an inspiration… I am curious about his travels as I only know he is a traveler.
    I’ve been trying to research about him and oh, I bump to your well-written post, thank you. The way you wrote his travels made me feel I followed his journey as well…

    1. And by the way, if anybody will visit Dubai, UAE… There’s an Ibn Batuta Mall which is clearly named after him. The mall is themed and designed from different places like Persia, India, Morocco and many others which depicts the places where this traveler had set foot 🙂

  15. I never think who are the people behind the quotes. I keep picturing how all the places he visited could have looked back then. Nice little history lesson 🙂

  16. This guy was the real deal 🙂 What an inspiring (and true) quote. As a blogger, the places I go need to be seen by other people so I write about them! Great story.

  17. I have heard the quote before but had no idea the real story behind the author. What a fascinating history Ibn had! It is so true that traveling turns you into a storyteller. It’s too amazing not to want to share it!

  18. What an interesting story! How the hell does one just get to meet and hang out with all the kings all the time though?! Haha! Sounds to be the very first and very adventurous traveller. What an inspiration! Thanks for sharing his story!

  19. I didn’t hear or know anything about Ibn-E-Battuta before reading your article. What an amazing story, leaving in a 16th month trip and ending up traveling for 24 years. His adventures are incredible, it’s impressive that he worked close to so many country leaders and even married a royal from Maldives. I’d like to know more about him, his soul was truly a free and wild one.

  20. That quote of Ibn Battuta was one of the reasons I started to blog and write about my experiences. Memories last forever but it’s definitely nice to reminisce it through your own writings when you grow older.

  21. The story of Ibn-e-Batuta would be so inspiring to read…wondering how to get hold of that. Just imagining this forefather of travel writers, chasing his wanderlust all over the world, (or whatever he knew of it) is giving me goosebumps.

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