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Book Review: Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka

January 11. 2024 (LBO) - When a dear friend mentioned to me that a prominent professor had recommended she read a recent book on Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka, I was instantly intrigued.

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Having read my grandfather HAJ Hulugalle's book "Ceylon of the Early Travellers" many times, I have for years been interested to know more about the great Moroccan explorer who came to Sri Lanka as early as the 14th century. After being gifted the book in short order by the above mentioned friend, I was ready to indulge my curiosity.

According to Wikipedia: "Ibn Battuta travelled more than any other explorer in pre-modern history, totalling around 117,000 km (73,000 mi), surpassing Zheng He with about 50,000 km (31,000 mi) and Marco Polo with 24,000 km (15,000 mi).[8][9][10]"

Being one of the greatest explorers the world has ever known, and the certainly the most important from his region, his documented journey in Sri Lanka is of significant historical importance.

Ameena Hussein's "Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka" documents his journey from the day he landed in Sri Lanka till the day he departed. The author even attempts to travel along a similar route, scouring for any traces of the famous traveler's visit.

The book travels through villages and religious sites, and explores legends that are slowly being forgotten/transformed with the passage of time. There are many stories of deities from all cultures that still linger on today. Various mythical figures and their powers are no stranger to this country.

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Sri Lanka continues to be a place of great intrigue and mysticism, with rituals and vows embarked on to gain favor from higher powers. Its stories are mysterious and have transcended in some form through the centuries.

The book also explores some of the history of Islamic culture in Sri Lanka, and is extremely informative, particularly to the reader like myself who has not explored this subject before.

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"Ibn Battuta in Sri Lanka" is a story that will not only teach you about Ibn Battuta, but also of Sri Lanka. It ties together history and geography into readable tale with a modern context.

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