Ibn Battuta was, without doubt, one of the world's truly great travellers. Born in 14th century Morocco, and a contemporary of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta has left us an account in his own words of his remarkable journeys throughout the Islamic world and beyond: journeys punctuated by adventure and peril, and stretching from his home in Tangiers to Zaytun in faraway China. Whether sojourning in Delhi and the Maldives, wandering through the mazy streets of Cairo and Damascus, or contesting with pirates and shipwreck, the indefatigable Ibn Battuta brings to vivid life a medieval world brimming with marvel and mystery. Carefully observing the great diversity of civilizations which he encountered, Ibn Battuta exhibits an omnivorous interest in such matters as food and drink, religious differences (between Christians, Hindus and Shi'a Muslims), ideas about purity and impurity, disease, women and sex. Recounting the many miracles which its author claims to have experienced personally, his "al-rihla" or "Travelogue" is a fascinating mosaic of mysticism and reportage offering a prototype magic realism. David Waines discusses the subtleties of the al-rihla, revealing all the wonders of Ibn Battuta's world to the modern reader. This is a gripping treatment of the life and times of one of history's most daring, and at the same time most human, discoverers. David Waines is emeritus professor of Islamic studies at Lancaster University.
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