Over at Patreon, I’ve posted my second podcast (for subscribers) on Ibn Battuta. This one offers a brief overview of the chaos of the 13th century in North Africa and the Middle East, from the breakup of the Almohad Caliphate to the rise of the Mamluks in Egypt and Syria and the Mongolian invasion of Iran/Iraq. We’ll be covering the ramifications of the 13th century in more detail here at the blog as we move along (and as my workload lightens up a bit, it’s been ridiculous lately), but I thought a quick run through the main points would help provide some context and also offered a good way to incorporate another podcast into the project. I hope you enjoy it!
We’ve gotten a lot more followers, especially on Twitter, over the weekend (my thanks to Chapo Trap House for letting me promote the project in my most recent appearance). If you still don’t know who Ibn Battuta is, start with this post. This is a great time for people to pick up the story, because Ibn Battuta’s arrival in Egypt is really when his narrative begins, but if you want to go back and start from the beginning there’s not too much that you need to cover to catch up. Anyway here’s the quick summary for new arrivals on how you can follow along.
My plan moving forward is to try to do make these travel accounts shorter and more frequent than they were for the trip across North Africa. There’s more to cover now that we’re in Egypt because Ibn Battuta is much more expressive about what what he’s seeing than he’s been up to this point. As always you can follow the journey with more frequent updates on Twitter and somewhat less frequent updates on Facebook, but these posts will go into more contextual detail about the places Ibn Battuta visits and may incorporate a few more quotes from the text of his Travels.
Last time we saw Ibn Battuta through the Kingdom of Tlemcen, which at the time was at war with the Hafsids over control of the city of Béjaïa, or Bougie. Béjaïa is today a mid-sized city in north-central Algeria, but at the time it was the western capital of the Hafsid dynasty. Its site had been occupied at least since Carthaginian times, but gained in importance as a port city after the Arab conquests. It became the capital of the 11th-12th century Hammadid dynasty and retained much of that prominence under the Almohads and then the Hafsids. In the late 12th century, a young Pisan boy spent a good chunk of his youth in Béjaïa with his merchant father and became interested in mathematics. His name was Leonardo Fibonacci, and later on he would introduce Hindu-Arabic numerals as well as the concepts of zero and the decimal point to Europe. No big deal.