HIST 215
Modern World History
Go Back to the Syllabus ADMN 200
MWF 1:45 PM — 2:50 PM

Excerpted from: Medieval Sourcebook

Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354. Selections from Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354, tr. and ed. H. A. R. Gibb (London: Broadway House, 1929)

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

detail from map in World History Atlas, Prentice Hall

Ibn Battuta travels to meet Uzbeg Khan

We then prepared for the journey to the sultan's camp, which was four days' march [to] a place called Bishdagh, which means "Five mountains." In these mountains there is a hot spring in which the Turks bathe, claiming that it prevents illness.

We arrived at the camp on the first day of Ramadan and found that it was moving to the neighbourhood from which we had just come, so we returned thither. I set up my tent on a hill there, fixing a standard in the ground in front of it, and drew up the horses and waggons behind. Thereupon the mahalla approached (the name they give to it is the ordu) and we saw a vast town on the move with all its inhabitants, containing mosques and bazaars, the smoke from the kitchens rising in the air (for they cook while on the march), and horse-drawn waggons transporting them. On reaching the encampment they took the tents off the waggons and set them upon the ground, for they were very light, and they did the same with the mosques and shops.

The sultan's khatuns [wives] passed by us, each separately with her own retinue. The fourth of them, as she passed, saw the tent on top of the hill [i.e., Ibn Battuta's tent] with the standard in front of it, which is the mark of a new arrival, and sent pages and maidens to greet me and convey her salutations, herself halting to wait for them. I sent her a gift by one of my companions and the chamberlain of the amir Tuluktumur. She accepted it as a blessing and gave orders that I should be taken under her protection, then went on. Afterwards the sultan arrived and camped with his mahalla separately.

Uzbeg Khan

The illustrious Sultan Muhammad Uzbeg Khan is the ruler of a vast kingdom and a most powerful sovereign, victor over the enemies of God, the people of Constantinople the Great, and diligent in warring against them. He is one of the seven mighty kings of the world, to wit: [first], our master the Commander of the Faithful, may God strengthen his might and magnify his victory! [the sultan of Morocco]; [second] the sultan of Egypt and Syria; [third], the sultan of the Two Iraqs; [fourth], this Sultan Uzbeg; [fifth], the sultan of Turkistan and the lands beyond the Oxus; [sixth], the sultan of India; and [seventh], the sultan of China [the emperor].

The day after my arrival I visited him [Uzbeg Khan] in the afternoon at a ceremonial audience; a great banquet was prepared and we broke our fast in his presence. These Turks do not follow the custom of assigning a lodging to visitors and giving them money for their expenses, but they send him sheep and horses for slaughtering and skins of qumizz, which is their form of benefaction.

Every Friday, after the midday prayer, the sultan holds an audience in a pavilion called the Golden Pavilion, which is richly decorated. In the centre there is a wooden throne covered with silver-gilt plates, the legs being of pure silver set with jewels at the top. The sultan sits on the throne, having on his right the Khatun Taytughli with the khatun Kebek on her right, and on his left the khatun Bayalun with the khatun Urduja on her left. Below the throne stand the sultan's sons, the elder on the right and the younger on the left, and his daughter sits in front of him. He rises to meet each Khatun as she arrives and takes her by the hand until she mounts to the throne. All this takes place in view of the whole people, without any screening.

Ibn Battuta meets Uzbeg's wives, the khatuns

On the morrow of my interview with the sultan I visited the principal khatun Taytughli, who is the queen and the mother of the sultan's two sons. She was sitting in the midst of ten aged women, who appeared to be servants of hers, and had in front of her about fifty young maidens with gold and silver salvers filled with cherries which they were cleaning. The khatun also had a golden tray filled with cherries in front of her and was cleaning them. She ordered qumizz to be brought and with her own hand poured out a cupful and gave it to me, which is the highest of honours in their estimation. I had never drunk qumizz before, but there was nothing for me but to accept it. I tasted it, but found it disagreeable and passed it on to one of my companions.

The following day we visited the second khatun Kebek and found her sitting on a divan reading the holy Koran. She also served me with qumizz.

The third khatun Bayalun is the daughter [almost certainly an illegitimate daughter] of the Emperor of Constantinople the Great. On visiting her we found her sitting on a throne set with jewels, with about a hundred maidens, Greek, Turkish and Nubian, standing or sitting in front of her. Behind her were eunuchs and in front of her Greek chamberlains. She asked how we were and about our journey and the distance of our native lands, and wept, in pity and compassion, wiping her face with a handkerchief that lay before her. She ordered food to be served and we ate in her presence, and when we desired to leave she said "Do not sever relations with us, but come often to us and inform us of your needs." She showed great kindness to us and after we had gone sent us food, a great quantity of bread, butter, sheep, money, a magnificent robe and thirteen horses, three good ones and ten of the ordinary sort. It was with this khatun that I made my journey to Constantinople the Great, as we shall relate hereafter.

The fourth khatun is one of the best, most amiable and sympathetic of princesses. We visited her and she showed us a kindness and generosity that cannot be surpassed. By the sultan's daughter however we were treated with a generosity and kindness that no other khatun showed us; she loaded us with surpassing favours, may God reward her!