Travel Writing inspired by Hajj

Ibn BattutaThe pilgrimage to Mecca gave rise to a rich genre of travel writing.

Pilgrims kept journals of their travels thus providing interesting details about everything from food and clothing to architecture. One of the most fascinating travel accounts is the Safarnama of Nasir-i Khusraw (1004c.-1072), who journeyed to Cairo through Nishapur, Rayy, (both in Iran), Aleppo (Syria) and Jerusalem (Israel). From Cairo, he made two pilgrimages to Mecca before returning to Central Asia as the chief dai (missionary) for the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Mustansir billah (r. 1036-1094).

The Arabic version of the pilgrimage-travelogue is known as the rihla. The genre was developed by the Andalusian Ibn Jubair (1145-1217), who wrote a famous account of the two-year journey he made starting in February 1183, to Mecca. His narrative provides information about the countries and cities through which he passes, and is an invaluable source of information about the political and social conditions of the times. It served as a model for many narratives, most importantly the rihla of the greatest of all Muslim travellers, the Moroccan Ibn Battuta (1304-c.1370) whose journeys took him from his native Tangier to China to sub-Saharan Africa. By the time the travelogue of Ibn Battuta’s journeys was written, the rihla genre had already become well established among the educated people.


Malise Ruthven and Azim Nanji, Historical Atlas of Islam (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004)

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