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Reviews of The Travels of Ibn Battuta to Central Asia

“Ibn Battuta’s Travels are justly famous, enjoyable and useful in the classroom, and not readily available in a convenient edition for teaching. Because of this, a new edition, an excerpt of his travels through Central Asia, is to be welcomed (a sort of companion to Markus Weiner’s Ibn Battuta in Black Africa, edited and translated by Hamdun and King). Ibrahimovich, former professor, dean and rector at Tashkent State University in Uzbekistan, offers insights both into the Russian and Central Asian traditions of scholarship on Ibn Battuta, as well as the history of the region itself with a familiarity that few western scholars can match…

“The translated section is particularly interesting and useful in teaching for its descriptions of the devastation of Central Asia by the Mongol invasions, and cultural and institutional patterns in what one might think of as the semi-Islamic Khanates of the fourteenth century. The translation ends with Ibn Battuta’s journey through present-day Afghanistan to the Indus River. Along the way, the anecdotal enlivens the text — his visits to local rulers, particular events, practices, and settings (political conflicts, bandits, judicial decisions, Islamic religious practice and institutions, stories of traveling, gardens, cities).

“The introduction and Chapter 1 describe the full scope of Ibn Battuta’s journey. There may be more than is needed for a survey course, but it is available should it be needed and puts the Central Asian section in full context. Chapter 2 discusses Russian and Asian traditions of scholarship, which should be well received by the English speaking audience. Again there may be more than is needed, but it is a reminder of our limited perspectives and the questions that are asked in different traditions. The chapter concludes with a discussion of Ibn Battuta’s method or pattern of observation and inclusion, and recognizes his idiosyncrasies and accomplishment. After a very helpful comparison with other contemporary or near contemporary historical sources, Ibrahimovich concludes convincingly that while Ibn Battuta does not offer deep analysis of political conflicts, for example, his descriptions convey reliably what he experienced and the broader cultural character of the time.

“Ibn Battuta’s Travels intrigue the reader because of what they include, what he describes and his judgments, and by what he misses and misinterprets. This volume provides a welcome entrance into Central Asian history and into how we understand historical sources. It will be useful for many college-level, and perhaps high school, courses covering Central Asia in the Middle Ages, the Mongol invasions, and the varied cultural patterns of Medieval Islam.”
— Stephen Varvis, World History Bulletin