A first-person précis of the journeys taken by the Muslim world’s greatest traveler.
Originally published in Arabic, Sharafeddine’s recast tale takes the 14th-century Ibn Battuta on a long, looping course from his home in Tangier to India, then on to China and back for visits to Grenada and Mali. Aside from the occasional storm or hyena attack, however, “his” narrative is a wearying recitation of place names hooked to vague details—“Cairo impressed me with its mosques and hospitals”—and repeated mentions of visits to local “theologians and legal scholars.” Furthermore, dates in the narrative are taken from the Christian calendar only, and the prose is sometimes inexpertly phrased: “I hired a camel to continue my journey”; “After ten years, he made me the ambassador of India in China.” The illustrations, done in a style reminiscent of Persian miniatures, feature large-eyed figures in period dress and evocative glimpses of grand architecture. These scenes are, however, integrated into maps that are so stylized that it’s seldom possible to get a clear picture of where the lands and cities are. The abrupt ending leaves readers who want to know more about Ibn Battuta to their own devices.
A ho-hum outing next to James Rumford’s first-class Traveling Man (2001). (Picture book/biography. 7-9)