Ibn Battuta and The Silk Road

The “Dark Ages” in Europe were not the only game on the globe…  For those of you distressed about the apparent decline of the West these days, consider moving… There is no reason to go down with the sinking ship.  As the example below illustrates, even if things are bad in one area, they will be well worth experiencing in another:

The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century.

Battuta’s story begins in 1325, when at the age of 21, he left his home in Tangier, Morocco. Battuta was off to make the pilgrimage to Mecca. But his journey did not stop there.

Battuta did not see Tangier again until he was 45 years old. Until then, he chose to wander the globe. Battuta crossed over 40 modern countries and covered over 70,000 miles. He became one of the greatest travelers the world has seen. He left behind a travelogue of his life’s journeys filled with details on the places, people and politics of medieval Eurasia and North Africa.

His adventures revealed the formation of dense networks of communication and exchange.  These networks linked in one way or another nearly everyone in the hemisphere with nearly everyone else.

From Ibn Battuta we discover webs of interconnection that stretched from Spain to China, and from Kazakhstan to Tanzania.  Even in the 14th century, an event in one part of Eurasia or Africa might affect places thousands of miles away.

The Mongol states allowed merchants to travel freely in their realms, regardless of religion or origin. This led to the creation of a worldly, prosperous and traveling elite, transmitting ideas as well as goods across countries. For these traders, the focal point was not countries, but cities.

Needless to say, it was a time of great growth and trade. Households enjoyed porcelain from China, pottery from South Arabia, gold and ivory from Africa, animal skins from India, rice from the Ganges Delta and much more. Ships sailed the Volga, their holds filled with grain from the steppes, timber from the mountains of Crimea and furs from Russia and Siberia, along with salt, wax and honey – all carried by a hodgepodge of peoples: Egyptian traders, Turkish nomads, Greeks, Circassians, Alans… even Florentines and Venetians.

China, too, played an important role. The huge Chinese junks, the ocean liners of the day, expanded trade across the Chinese seas to the Bay of Bengal. Populations soared. Cities multiplied, along with a vast network of canals and roads.


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