Discussion on Moroccan adventurer’s ‘The Rihla’ highlights its impact to this day
Sharjah, November 13, 2022
A 14th century book, The Rihla, penned by Moroccan adventurer Ibn Battuta was the focus of a powerful discussion at the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair at Expo Centre Sharjah.
“It’s a masterpiece, a treasure from which we can take information about each and everything,” said Dr. Claudia Maria Tresso, Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, who translated The Rihla from Arabic to Italian in 2006.
She added: “Ibn Battuta is one of the greatest medieval travellers of the Muslim world. He has even mentioned style of fashion in each country. He mingled with both the rich and the poor, and with everyone - he cared about the masses. He was interested in telling the next generation what he saw during his travels.”
“He has even written about the problems people were facing, such as black death. It is very rare in history to find people who are not interested in power or politics. Ibn Battuta’s book focuses on Arab heritage and researchers from all corners of the world are still using it to learn about Islamic culture,” said Dr. Tresso, who spoke in fluent Arabic throughout the session.
Born in 1304 in Tangiers, Morocco, Ibn Battuta left home in 1325, with the aim of going on a pilgrimage to Mecca. When he started travelling, Battuta decided he must visit as many places as possible and is believed to have spent nearly 30 years covering 75,000 miles across Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia.
The word Rihla means ‘journey’’ in the Arabic language.
Emphasising that it is in the nature of human beings to want to travel, Dr. Layla Al Obaidi, Professor of Arabic Language and Literature in Tunisia, explained a pertinent difference between a travelogue such as Battuta’s and an ordinary voyage.
She added: “When we read his book we get anthropological and historical information about that period in time. Ibn Battuta was a globetrotter. His narrative is unique and special, he describes what people are eating, how they are dressing. A true traveller travels from one country to another and conveys everything he sees in a truthful manner.”