The Spanish Muslim geographer al-Kinaani
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On September 1, 1145 AD, the Spanish Muslim geographer, traveler and Arabic poet, Abu’l-Hussain Mohammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Jubayr al-Kinaani was born in Valencia. Son of a civil servant, he served as secretary to the governor of Granada (Gharnata in Arabic), but left the post for the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca, which began in 1183 and ended with his return to his homeland, Muslim Spain, in 1185.
He has written a lively account of his journey, titled “ar-Rihlah” (translated into English by R.J.C. Broadhurst as The Travels of Ibn Jubayr). It is a valuable source for the history of the period, containing descriptions of voyages across the Mediterranean and of the lands he passed through. In describing Cairo, he has given an account of the seizure of Egypt ten years earlier from the Fatemid Ismaili Shi’ite Muslim dynasty by the Kurdish adventurer, Salah od-Din Ayyubi, and the Muslim victories in the Levant over the European Crusader invaders.
On his return journey to Spain, Ibn Jubayr passed through Sicily, which a century earlier had been lost by Muslims to the Christian invaders, and makes several observations on the hybrid Islamic-Norman polyglot culture that flourished there. He has given eyewitness accounts of the Red Sea port of Jeddah, the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, and of Iraq and Baghdad which he also visited. He made two more voyages, with the third ending with his death in 1217 in Alexandria, Egypt at the age of 72.