Ibn Battuta was a Maghrebian of Berber descent, his hometown was Tangier. On his way to China he visited Sri Lanka, the island known as Serendip to Arab traders. Ibn Battuta is the most famous Muslim traveller, his travel report “Rihla” is a source of utmost value for modern historians, much more reliable than the stories of Marco Polo. Over a period of thirty years, Ibn Battuta visited many different parts of all three old-world continents. His journey started 1325 as a Hadj to Mecca. But instead of returning home he decided to continue his journey to Persia, which was a Mongol Ilkhanate in the 14th century. Later on Ibn Battuta travelled to Somalia and the Swaheli coast, where Arabs had founded seaports all along the coasts of the Indian ocean. His third journey from Mecca led him to the Crimean Peninsula, Constantinople, Central Asia and then via Afghnaistan to Southern Asia, where he visited Sri Lanka.
Ibn Battuta landed in the Puttalam Lagoon in 1344. His “Rihla” describes pearl fishing in Puttalam. A Masjid built near the spot where Ibn Battuta is said to have landed, is now a landmark of Puttalam.
Ibn Battuta intended to go on a pilgrimage in Sri Lanka, too: Adam's Peak. It is well known, this mountains is sacred to Buddhists and Hindus, for on the very summit is a depression in the rock in the shape of a huge footprint. It was left by Buddha, say the Buddhists. It was left by Shiva, is the belief of Hindus. However, Muslims venerate the footprint, too. For them it is the footprint of Adam, the first step he left on earth after he had to leave paradise. He is said to have been standing here for a thousand years before meeting Eve. For Muslims, Adam is not only the first human being, but also the first prophet. When Ibn Battuta arrived on the island, he managed to meet the Buddhist king of a town he called “Battala”, who supported his pilgrimage. Ibn Battuta and his local companions spent three days of prayers on the top. After he returned to the coast, the king supported him by providing him a ship to continue his journey to China. But due to a violent storm the ship sunk. Ibn Battuta, who could not swim, was rescued by a vessel in the last minute. He could save his belongings, but later on he lost them, when this vessel was attacked by pirates.
After returning to Calicut in south-western India he travelled to the Maledives where he finally managed to find a Chinese junk, that took him to Chittagong. In 1345 he arrived in Aceh, Sumatra, at the northern end of the Strait of Malacca. After a break in Vietnam he arrived in China in the same year.
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