on…’The Travels of Ibn Battutah’

Posted: 21/03/2011 in Literature, Review
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Epic Travel, Islamic Style

In contrast to the numerous modern travel books which seem to focus on the ‘personality’ of the writer or trivial observations, this is an epic in every sense of the word. The scale of the journey is immense in both distance and time, IB stayed to work as a Qadi (Islamic Judge)in several places along the way, this means that you really get a deep sense of the politics and the people in each destination. This depth is unlike some of the more superficial accounts of present books which rely on novelty and humour. Although the travels is not without humour itself.
I like travelling and read travel books frequently, so it’s no suprise that I enjoyed the descriptions of distant lands and strange customs. However, the biggest suprise for me was the journey into the Islamic culture and lifestyle. I think it’s the first account I have read from an Islamic perspective, and a Medieval one at that. With this in mind I think this is a perfect book to open the mind about other cultures and other ways of seeing the world. To get the most from this journey it is important to read ‘Travels with a Tangerine’ and ‘Hall of a Thousand Columns’ By Mackintosh-Smith in which the modern scholar traces the original journey of Battutah.
I hope this reworked classic inspires other translators and archivists to unearth other works from centuries gone. On a final note I am deeply envious of anyone who understands Arabic as they can read the original.

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