Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo both are considered as the greatest explorers in history. They left their homes at an early age to explore the world and face the unknown. When they began traveling there were no modern means of transportation and communication. Imagine how tough it would have been to travel in pre-modern times.
Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo are sometimes compared to each other. They are similar in a way that they both covered many of the same countries. But as a matter of fact, both had different motives for traveling.
Background of Ibn Battuta:
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta is one of the greatest Muslim explorers in history. He was born on 25th February 1304 in Tangier (part of modern-day Morocco). He was born to a family where men were legal Muslim Scholars. Ibn Battuta also had to follow the tradition of his ancestors and had to become a legal Scholar. He was raised with a focus on learning and education, so he decided to leave his hometown as there were no Madrassas for higher learning.
He had a desire to travel all around the world to learn more about Islamic laws. Being born into a family of Muslim scholars, he also had an immense desire to go to the Holy city of Mecca to perform Hajj (pilgrimage).
So, when Battuta was only 21 years old rode on his donkey and set off from his hometown Tangier all alone.
Background of Marco Polo:
Marco Polo is famous as the long distance traveler of Mongol times. He was born into a Venetian family in 1253 in Venice, Italy. A merchant, explorer, and writer Marco Polo is one of the most well-known people who traveled the Silk Road in Medieval times. His father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo were merchants who already had traveled a lot for trade purposes. So when Polo was young, he started traveling with his family. It is said that Polo was only 17 years old when he started traveling. The traveling journey of Polo continued for almost 24 years.
After completing his journey, he returned to his homeland that was at war at that time. Polo participated in the war and was imprisoned.
Ibn Battuta vs. Marco Polo:
Ibn Battuta and Marco both are history’s greatest travelers. Both had a passion for exploring the world. Despite a few similarities in both travelers it is not fair to compare them with each other. Both had different motives for traveling. Ibn Battuta covered the distance of almost 75000 miles which is indeed more than the distance Polo covered. Ibn Battuta wanted to travel because he was interested in learning more about Islam and other cultures. Polo traveled for trade purposes. When Battuta started his journey, he was young while as Polo was a teenager. Battuta set off from his hometown on his very first journey all alone. When Polo began his expeditions, he was with his family. Both the travelers gained high posts during their voyages. Ibn Battuta was offered the post of Islamic legal scholar. Polo’s stories spread all across Europe and the world when he was in prison. He used to narrate his stories to his cell mates.
Polo won the trust of the Mongol emperor Kublai Khan by his storytelling abilities. It is also said that sometimes his stories included exaggerations as well.
On the other hand, Ibn Battuta spent thirty years of his life traveling and exploring the world. He came across challenging situations many times during his voyage. He would not have enough money when he left his hometown Tangier. Battuta traveled a lot and saw different cultures. Ibn Battuta’s travel tales spread through his book “Rihla.”
After spending three decades wandering, he returned to Morocco where the ruler offered him the post of Qadi. He described his traveling stories. The ruler asked him to write down his travel tales. Battuta asked Ibn Juzayy to write down his travel account.
Ibn Battuta or Marco Polo Who was the best? After taking a look at the journeys of both travelers, we conclude that both were the best in their own ways. Both the travelers did not have the same purpose of traveling, but they introduced many new things to their hometowns. Polo kept a record of his traveling while as Battuta did not. So much is not known about the greatest Muslim explorer Ibn Battuta. All the information people have today about him comes from his book “Rihla.” Ibn Battuta told the world about the Abode of Islam at that time.
Both the travelers followed their passion and did not stop. After spending many years exploring the world, they returned to their hometowns. Today, after so many years of their deaths people admire and appreciate what they did.