Ibn Battutah was born in Morocco, on the northwest coast of Africa, in 1304, and became one of the greatest travelers in history. As part of his religious duty as a Muslim, he set off on a pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia in 1325. On this journey, Battutah felt the first thrill of what would become a lifelong love for travel. Vowing to “never take the same road twice,” Battutah trekked more than 75,000 miles over the vast Islamic Empire, which stretched from Spain to India. He wrote down his experiences in the ROW’, one of the most famous travel books ever written.
Battutah stayed in Mecca for three years, studied law, and set out for Baghdad in Mesopotamia. Leaving Baghdad he traveled south to Yemen and sailed down the east coast of Africa. He established trading contacts and grew wealthy. He turned north and journeyed into Turkey, where local rulers welcomed him as a Muslim scholar. Battutah then moved east, crossing through Iran, Georgia, Armenia, and Afghanistan. Harsh weather and the biting cold did not deter him.
At one time, he had to wear three coats and two pairs of trousers. The bulky clothing made him so unwieldy that he had to be assisted onto his horse. He traveled through the Hindu Kush mountains and entered India. The ruler of Delhi made him ambassador to China. Battutah loaded a ship with gifts for the Chinese Emperor, but he was shipwrecked, and his gifts and his possessions were scattered into the ocean.
He eventually reached Peking, but the emperor was no longer there. Unbowed, Battutah explored Ceylon, Bengal, and Java before finally returning to his home in Morocco, where he was received as a hero. He spent the last years of his life relating his extraordinary travels to a scribe. He died peacefully at the age of 73.