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World Explorers: Ibn Battuta

5 minutes

(female narrator) The Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta is known as the greatest Muslim explorer in history. His extraordinary travels took him as far from home as India and China, and his narrative account of his 30-year journey is unique in Islamic and medieval history.

(Describer) Titles: PBS Education. World Explorers. Ibn Battuta.

(Describer) As a map focuses on northwest Africa, a pointer on a timeline settles on 1301.

Ibn Battuta was born in 1301 in the town of Tangier in present-day Morocco on the coast of Northwest Africa. His family was of Berber descent-- a nomadic desert people of camels and horses, tents and trade. But his father settled his family in Tangier and became a scholar of Islam, raising his son likewise. Islamic faith had its roots in Mecca, and spread over several hundred years to become a religious empire, stretching over three continents. Muslims-- followers of Islam-- emphasized prayer, charity, and the study of Islamic law as part of their daily devotion to God, or Allah. Ibn Battuta had learned as much as he could about Islam from the scholars in Tangier. He longed to know more.

(Describer) Quote:

(Describer) A line crosses Africa.

He set off on horseback for the great learning centers of his time-- Alexandria, Cairo, Damascus, and Mecca. In Alexandria, Egypt, he met a mystic who made a startling prediction-- Battuta would travel to even more distant lands-- Persia, India, and China-- where he would meet and study with great religious thinkers and leaders. These words stirred Battuta's imagination. He signed up to become a traveling judge in a caravan heading for Cairo, Egypt. There, he increased his knowledge of Islamic law and continued on to the Horn of Africa and back, settling local disputes and building his reputation along the way. He made his first pilgrimage to Mecca at the age of 27. For Muslims, this pilgrimage, called a hajj, to the most sacred city of Islam is one of the essential five pillars of religious life. Battuta would perform this sacred duty four times during his 30-year rihla, or journey. Everywhere he went, Battuta recorded his experiences and observations. He encountered danger and adventure along the way-- attacked by thieves, nearly drowned in a sinking ship, and almost put to death by an angry ruler. In all, he covered about 75,000 miles from Mecca to Persia-- now modern-day Iran-- to present-day North and West Africa, Pakistan, India, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, and China-- almost all under the governments of Muslim leaders. Battuta was enlisted as an ambassador by princes and kings many times, conveying important messages of greetings and policy throughout the lands. He fulfilled the vision of the mystic in Alexandria, visiting all the places and people he had been predicted. Battuta finally ended his lifelong journey back in Tangier, nearly 30 years after he started out, and dictated accounts of his journeys to Ibn Juzayy, a scholar and poet. These are known as the famous "Travels," or Rihla, "of Ibn Battuta." His accounts contributed greatly to knowledge about the Islamic world, then and now. He died in 1369, the only known medieval traveler to have visited the lands of every Muslim ruler of his time.

(Describer) Titles: PBS Education. World Explorers. Ibn Battuta. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Ibn Battuta was a Moroccan scholar and explorer who widely traveled the medieval world. He is known as the greatest Muslim explorer in history. Over the course of thirty years, Battuta recorded his adventures from Africa to Southeast Asia. Part of the "World Explorers" series.

Media Details

Runtime: 5 minutes

World Explorers
Episode 1
5 minutes
Grade Level: 4 - 8
World Explorers
Episode 2
5 minutes
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Episode 3
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Episode 4
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Episode 5
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Episode 6
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Episode 7
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Episode 8
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Episode 9
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