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Saray Capital of the Golden Horde

Hearing of the sultan of Delhi, Muhammad ibn Tughluq (1325–51), and his fabulous generosity to Muslim scholars, Ibn Battutah decided to try his luck at his court. Forced by lack of communications to choose a more indirect route, Ibn Battutah turned northward, again passed Egypt and Syria, and boarded ship for Asia Minor in Latakia. He crisscrossed this “land of the Turks” in many directions at a time when Anatolia was divided into numerous petty sultanates. Thus, his narrative provides a valuable source for the history of this country between the end of the Seljuq power and the rise of the House of Ottoman. Ibn Battutah was received cordially and generously by all the local rulers and heads of religious brotherhoods (akhis).

His journey continued across the Black Sea to the Crimea, then to the northern Caucasus and to Saray on the lower Volga, capital of the khan of the Golden Horde, Muhammad Özbeg (1312–41). According to his narrative, he undertook an excursion from Saray to Bulgary on the upper Volga and Kama, but there are reasons to doubt his veracity on this point. On the other hand, the narrative of his visit to Constantinople in the retinue of the Khan's wife, a Byzantine princess, seems to be an eyewitness record, although there are some minor chronological discrepancies. Ibn Battutah's description of the Byzantine capital is vivid and, in general, accurate. Although he shared the strong opinions of his fellow Muslims toward unbelievers, his account of the “second Rome” shows him as a rather tolerant man with a lively curiosity. Nevertheless, he always felt happier in the realm of Islam than in non-Muslim lands, whether Christian, Hindu, or pagan.

After his return from Constantinople through the Russian steppes, he continued his journey in the general direction of India. From Saray he travelled with a caravan to Central Asia, visiting the ancient towns of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Balkh, all of these still showing the scars left by the Mongol invasion. He took rather complicated routes through Khorasan and Afghanistan, and, after crossing the Hindu Kush (mountains), he arrived at the frontiers of India on the Indus River on Sept. 12, 1333, by his own dating. The accuracy of this date is doubtful, as it would have been impossible to cover such enormous distances (from Mecca) in the course of only one year. Because of this discrepancy, his subsequent dating until 1348 is highly uncertain.

"Ibn Battutah." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.
25 July 2004  <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article?eu=42852>.

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