Ibn Battuta in Tangier

At my more ambitious moments, I tell myself that we are retracing the footsteps of Ibn Battuta, the great traveler of the 14th century who made it his life’s work to travel the full extent of the Dar al-Islam and write about it. Like Marco Polo before him, Ibn Battuta made use of the Pax Mongolica to travel from his home to points as far flung as now Mali and now Indonesia, with extended stays in India and repeat visits to the Middle East. In some ways, of course, our itinerary is deficient–we cannot visit Mecca, in some ways a base of Ibn Battuta’s many journeys–but in others our travels are even more extensive, as we have visited places that were not part of the Muslim world in the 14th century but are very much a part of it now, such as the Indonesian islands of Nusa Tenggara (Ibn Battuta only had to go as far east as Sumatra) and Bosnia (where Islam arrived in the fifteenth century).

“Ibn Battuta Stayed Here” plaque, Timbuktu, Mali

And so, it is with a sense of pilgrimage (one of two pilgrimages here, see other post of the same date) that I arrive in Tangier, Ibn Battuta’s birthplace and home.

Somewhat sadly, or perhaps not surprisingly given the passage of several centuries, there are few Ibn Battuta landmarks in Tangier. But I thought I would identify those that I did find.

Deep in the heart of the Medina of Tangier, on a small rise, is located the small tomb of Ibn Battuta. Whether it is truly the place of Ibn Battuta’s interment is not known for sure, but the street it is on has also been named for him.

A pension named after Ibn Battuta.

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