The long journey of Ibnu Battuta travelling to Mogadishu City In 1331.
History of Mogadishu “The long journey IBN Battuta to Mogadishu” In the spring of 1331, Ibn Battuta traveled south along the East African coast from Aden to Mogadishu, Mombasa and Kilwa. He left Aden by ship in mid-late January 1331.
His first landfall in Africa was the city of “Zaila,” four days journey from Aden (The modern city of Zeila is 40km southeast of Djibouti along the coast). He described the inhabitants as “Barbara,” Muslim blacks who were followers of the Imam al- Shafi’i, although Battuta notes that the majority were “rejectors,” i.e. (Shi’ite) people who rejected the first three caliphs.
They herded camels and sheep.
From Zeila to Mogadishu, the land was all desert and the [overland] trip took two months. The city of Zeila was “a big city and has a great market but it is the dirtiest, most desolate and smelliest town in the world. The reason for its stink is the quantity of fish and the blood of the camels they butcher in its alleyways.” To avoid the smell, Battuta spend the nights on his ship, even though the water was rough.
The next leg of the sea voyage lasted fifteen nights and brought Battuta to Maqdashaw (Mogadishu). He described the town as “endless in its size” and mentioned the large number of camels and sheep slaughtered there. Mogadishu was also famous for its cloth, which was sold as far away as Egypt.[COMMENT: If the sea voyage took fifteen days and the land voyage took two months, then a ship traveled four times as fast as a person could walk.
The distance along the coast from Zeila to Mogadishu is about
1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) and the overland distance is
about 800 miles (1,200 kilometers) so a boat covered eighty miles a day and a caravan covered thirteen miles.
Upon arrival in Mogadishu harbor, it was the custom for small native boats (“sunbuqs”) to approach the arriving vessel, and their occupants to offer food and hospitality to the merchants on the ship. If a merchant accepted such an offer, then he was obligated to lodge in that person’s house and to accept their services as sales agent for whatever business they transacted in Mogadishu. According to Battuta, “there is profit for them [local people] in this custom.”[COMMENT: This was a way for the local people to benefit from long distance trade that passed through their city. Because Battuta was a learned man and not a merchant, he was invited directly to the house of the “qadi” of Mogdishu.
An Account of the Sultan of Maqdashaw
The sultan of Mogadishu was Abu Bakr ibn Shaikh Umar. He was Barbara amd spoke the local language of Mogadishu, but he also knew Arabic. Battuta was introduced to the Sultan by the “qadi” Ibn al-Burhãn, an Egyptian. After sending a message via a student to the Sultan, the student returned with a plate containing betel leaves and areca nuts, and a sprinkler that contained Damascas rose water.
The Sultan ordered Battuta to stay in the house reserved for Islamic students, and sent him food. Battuta described the food in detail as rice topped with butter (“ghee”) and a sauce containing meat, chicken, fish and vegetables. They also served unripened banana cooked in milk. sour milk with pickled lemon, bunches of pickled chillies with vinegar and salt, green ginger, and mangoes.[COMMENT: Butter (ghee) was the best method for preserving milk in areas that had no refrigeration.]
Battuta noted that the people of Mogadishu ate as much as a whole group from Arabia, and they were “extremely large and fat of body.” During the three days that they were the guest of the Sultan, they were fed thrice daily.
On the fourth day of their stay, a Friday, the Sultan sent clothing for them to wear to the mosque. The clothing consisted of a silk wrapper (trousers were unknown), “an upper garment of Egyptian linen with markings, a lined gown of Jerusalem material, and an Egyptian turban with embroideries.”
They went to the mosque and prayed with the sultan in his royal enclosure. After the service, the Sultan stopped at the grave of his father, and then greeted his “wazirs”, “amirs”, and the commanders of his soldiers. Battuta observed that the customary greeting resembled that used in Yemen: touch one finger to the ground, then to one’s head, and wish “May God prolong your might.”
Battuta described the procession that accompanied the Sultan from the mosque to his house, which was nearby. In addition to men who carried four canopies over his head, there were crowds of barefoot people, groups of soldiers, and musicians who played drums, pipes and trumpets.
Once he arrived at his house, the Sultan held court in the council room. He was first to enter the room and then the others followed in order of precedence: wazirs, amirs and commanders, who were then seated. The “qadi”, “faqihs” and “sharifs” were seated together on mats. During the afternoon prayer (the “`asr”), the soldiers joined them and stood in lines according to their rank. Battuta observed that whenever the drums, flutes and trumpets played, no one dared move.
On Saturday, the Sultan (Battuta called him a “shaikh”) held audience at his home and people came to wait outside. Religious leaders occupied the second council room where they sat on wooden platforms. The “qadi” had his own platforms and each of the other groups–“faqihs”, “sharifs”, “imams”, “shaikhs”, and “hadji”–had their own platform. Guests were seated to the right of the “shaikh”.
A meal is served and it is a sign of honor when people were invited to join the meal. Afterwards, the court session began. The Sultan retired to his house while the “qadi” heard cases involving the “shari’a” (religious law) and the council of ministers (“waziers” and “amirs”) heard civil cases. When the Sultan’s opinion was required, the court sent a written request and he replied by writing on the back of the note and returning it.