“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Saint Augustine
August is the world’s busiest travel month. You are invited to join us for an “off the beaten page” evening with travel writing from around the world at our next Bonnections book club meeting on August 3rd. The multilingual reading is free of charge and everyone is warmly welcome!
Travel is in our blood. People have always been traveling and traversed the globe looking for new places, people and adventures. We will follow the journeys of famous explorers, poets and writers – from Odysseus, Ahmad Ibn Fadlan to Charles Boudelaire and Jack Keourac – and discover together unknown authors and contemporary nomads.
“Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta
We will hear, for example, about the epic journey of 14th Century Moroccan scholar Ibn Battuta, who has been called the Marco Polo of the Orient. He explored much of the then known Islamic world, travelling alone and three times as far (in distance) as the Venetian explorer. Ibn Battuta started on his travels in 1325, a year after Marco Polo’s death, when he was 21 years old.
He set off from his hometown Tangiers to go on a Hajj, or a Pilgrimage to Mecca, but his odyssey went on for 30 years covering about 75,000 miles. He visited the equivalent of 44 modern countries on three continents, including West Africa, the Horn of Africa and China.
Near the end of Ibn Battuta’s life, the Sultan of Morocco insisted that he dictated his travel accounts to a scholar (or ghostwriter). The full title of the manuscript is A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling, but it’s mostly simply referred to as the Rihla, or “The Journey”. Ibn Battuta’s work was unknown outside the Muslim world until the beginning of the 19th century when a German traveller-explorer acquired a collection of manuscripts in the Middle East, among which an abridged version of Rhila.
Tim Mackintosh-Smith, a British journalist and Oxford-trained Arabist, spent decades following in the footsteps of the Moroccan explorer and filled a total of 2,990 notepads that culminated in the trilogy Travels with a Tangerine, The Hall of a Thousand Columns and Landfalls. The final volume was published in 2010.
On Ibn Battuta and his relative obscurity in the West, he told the Abu Dhabi-based TheNational in an interview: “He’s becoming better known – partly because of my histories. Always what I want to put across about Ibn Battuta is that he’s just an ordinary bloke – he was extraordinary in his feats of travel, but his character was very ordinary, and very flawed. He talks about diarrhoea, about getting ripped off, almost boasts of it in the way a backpacker travelling today might. It’s this that makes him a hero.”
In a five YouTube part series, Sarah Head retraces his journey across the ancient world.
Erich Follath, a German journalist and DER SPIEGEL bestseller author, also followed the footsteps of Ibn Battuta in his new book , “Jenseits aller Grenzen. Auf den Spuren des großen Abenteurers Ibn Battuta durch die Welt des Islam”, that was published in early 2016. Here’s a trailer in German.
The intercultural Bonnections book club meets every first Wednesday of the month at 6 pm (18h) at Bonn’s Central Library (Mühlheimer Platz 1, 53111 Bonn). www.bonnections.de