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The Travels of Ibn Battutah
by Ibn Battutah / Edited by Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Ibn Battutah was just 21 when he set out in 1325 from his native Tangier on a pilgramage to Mecca. He did not return to Morocco for another 29 years, traveling instead through more than 40 countries on the modern map, covering 75,000 miles and getting as far north as the Volga, as far east as China, and as far south as Tanzania. Officially marrying at least 10 women along the way not to mention entertaining himself with prodigious numbers of slave concubines and siring five children. He wrote of his travels, and comes across as a superb ethnographer, biographer, anecdotal historian, and occasional botanist and gastronome. With this edition by Mackintosh-Smith, Battuta's Travels takes its place alongside other indestructible masterpieces of the travel-writing genre.

Tim Mackintosh-Smith, 41, proposed retracing Ibn Battutah's steps. Except for the marriages, that is, because "travelers never fall in love because love is connected with stasis," he said. He wanted to unearth what traces of Battutah's spiritual and physical world survive and to his delight, he found men along the way who could quote whole passages from Ibn Battutah's "Travels" and came upon certain scenes that might have been lifted from it wholesale. The task proved somewhat too daunting for one book, however, so this first episode covers Morocco , Egypt , Syria , Oman , parts of the Crimea and Turkey . "You end up in the middle of bloody nowhere and you think you could do this forever..." he said.

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