Ibn Battuta left home at 21 and travelled the Islamic world of the 14th century and beyond. He covered 75,000 miles (120,000 km) in 30 years between 1325-1355, visiting 40 countries and crossing three continents.
On customs of the Massufah inhabitants of Iwalata
Conditions among these people are remarkable, and their way of life is strange. The men have no jealousy. No ones takes his name from his father, but from his maternal uncle. Sons do not inherit, only sisters’ sons! This is something I have seen nowhere in the world except among the infidel Indians of al - Mulaibar. Nevertheless, these people are Muslims. They are strict in observing the prayers, studying the religious law, and memorising the Qur’an. Their women have no shame before men and do not veil themselves, yet they are punctilious about their prayers. Anyone who wants to take a wife among them does so, but they do not travel with their husbands, and even if one of them wished to, her family would prevent her. Women there have friends and companions among men outside the prohibited degrees for marriage, and in the same way, men have women friends in the same category. A man goes into his house, finds his wife and her man friend, and does not disapprove.
An account of the coconut
This is the ‘Indian nut’. These trees are among the most peculiar trees in kind and most astonishing in habit. They look exactly like date palms, without any difference between them, except that one produces nuts as its fruits and the other produces dates. The nut of a coconut tree resembles a man’s head... and the inside of it when it is green looks like the brain... As for its aphrodisiac quality, its action in this respect is wonderful... This is what i lived on during my stay in the islands of Dhibat al Mahal for a period of a year and a half.
An attack on his party in India
When we made ready to set out from Abuhar, the main party left the town in the early morning, but I stayed there with a small party of my companions until midday. We then set out too...and were attacked in open country there by eighty infidels on foot and two horsemen. My companions were men of courage and vigour and we fought stoutly with them, killing one of their horsemen and about twelve of the foot soldiers. I was hit by an arrow and my horse by another, but God in His grace preserved me from them, for there is no force in the arrows. We carried the heads of the slain to the castle of Abu Bak’har...and suspended them from the wall.
Indians who burn themselves to death
The burning of a wife after her husband’s death is regarded by them as a commendable act, but is not compulsory; but when a widow burns herself her family acquire a certain prestige by it and gain a reputation for fidelity. A widow who does not burn herself dresses in coarse garments and lives with her own people in misery, despised for her lack of fidelity, but she is not forced to burn herself.
Travelling in China
China is the safest and best country for the traveller. A man may travel for nine months alone with great wealth and have nothing to fear. What is responsible for this is that in every post station is a funduq... which has a director living there with a company of horse and foot. After sunset or nightfall the director comes to the funduq with his secretary and writes down the names of all the travellers who will pass the night there, seals it and locks the door of the funduq. In the morning he and his secretary come and call everybody by name and write down a record. He sends someone with the travellers to conduct them to the next post station, and he brings back a certificate from the director of that funduq confirming that they have all arrived. If he does not do this he is answerable for them.
Above: Ibn Battuta in Egypt, an illustration by Léon Benett from a book by Jules Verne published in 1878 Reproduced with kind permission from The Hakluyt Society