Ziauddin Sardar on Travel in the Muslim World

Georgie Day in The Browser:

Mecca_0 What does travel mean for you?

Travel is both a physical and a mental exercise – it is about immersing yourself in another culture. Travelling is the process of letting go of yourself and immersing yourself into different ways of knowing and seeing. If you cannot do this, you haven’t travelled. It’s certainly not a holiday – travelling is not staying in five-star hotels.

Tell us about your first book recommendation, The Travels of Ibn Battutah.

Ibn Battutah, whose name can be translated as Son of a Duck, is my hero and is regarded as ‘the traveller of Islam’. He left his native city of Tangier in 1325 at the age of 21 with the intention of performing the pilgrimage to Mecca. But he continued beyond Mecca. Travelling by horse, mule, ox wagon, junk, dhow and on foot, he covered over 75,000 miles and visited over 40 countries. Wherever he went, he found it easy to get employment as a jurist, or a courtier or an ambassador. His journeys involve swashbuckling adventures and chases with concubines in tow. He is a riveting read. The interesting thing with Ibn Battutah is that travel for him was not just going from one place to another; it was living in a place. Wherever he went, he made his home. He had a house, he married and he got a job. This allowed him to learn about the place by living as a part of it. Then he would move on. It wasn’t until he returned to Morocco in his ripe old age, that he wrote down all his adventure. It’s got a wonderful title in full, The Precious Gift for Lookers into the Marvels of Cities and Wonders of Travels.

More here.