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Sun, 02.24.1304

Ibn Battuta, North African Scholar born

Ibn Battuta

*Ibn Battuta was born on this date in 1304. He was a North African Maghrebi traveler and scholar of Berber origin.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Battutah, his full name, was born into a family of Islamic legal scholars in Tangier, Morocco.  Born during the reign of the Marinid dynasty. His family belonged to a Berber tribe known as the Lawata. He studied at a Sunni Maliki madhhab (Islamic jurisprudence school) in North Africa as a young man. Maliki Muslims requested Ibn Battuta serve as their religious judge. On Rajab 2, in the Muslim year 725 Anno Hegirae or June 14, 1325, at the age of twenty-one, Battuta set off on a hajj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca, a journey that would ordinarily take sixteen months.

He was eager to learn more about far-away lands and craved adventure. No one knew that he would not return to Morocco again for 24 years. Ibn Battuta visited North Africa, the Middle East, East Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, China, the Iberian Peninsula, and West Africa for thirty years. 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, commonly known as The Rihla.

Battuta traveled more than any other explorer in pre-modern history. There have been doubts over the historicity of some of Ibn Battuta's travels, particularly as they reach further East. The largest themed mall in Dubai, UAE, the Ibn Battuta Mall, is named for him and features both areas designed to recreate the exotic lands he visited on his travels and statuary tableaus depicting scenes from his life history. He died in 1377.

A giant semblance of Battuta, alongside two others from the history of Arab exploration, the geographer and historian Al Bakri and the navigator and cartographer Ibn Majid, is displayed at the Mobility pavilion at Expo 2020 in Dubai, in a section of the exhibition designed by Weta Workshop. Tangier Ibn Battouta Airport is an international airport in his hometown of Tangier, Morocco.

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