To Timbuktu--A Journey with Ibn Battuta
Teacher Notes | Task | Step-by-Step | Learning Advice | Project Time Line | Evaluation Criteria | Conclusion | Reflection | Group Evaluation Form
Ibn Battuta (1304-1369) is to this day known as one of the great travelers of all time. His journeys covered the entire Moslem world of his day plus Ceylon, Byzantium, China, and southern Russia. The length of his travels is estimated to be 75,000 miles. His last trip was to West Africa, across the Sahara to the Kingdom of Mali in 1353. This journey lasted until 1355, when he returned to his home in Morocco to stay.
Scenario for Students
The following sign has been spotted near the Moroccan home of Ibn Battuta:
Wanted: Four strong young travelers of good character to accompany the great Ibn Battuta from here to Timbuktu. Travelers will be expected to keep an account of their trip in the form of a journal which will include descriptions of the peoples, climate, and geography encountered as well as maps for others to follow. Be prepared for a journey of two years.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." (Ancient Chinese proverb perhaps heard by Ibn Battuta when he visited China in 1345.)
At the end of this journey you will present to your class an account of your travels in the form of a written journal complete with maps. This journal will include the following:
A biography of Ibn Battuta. Who was he? Where had earlier travels taken him? What interesting things had he discovered along the way?
Descriptions of the land through which you are traveling. What does it look like? Do we have a name for this type of land such as desert, savannah, etc.? What vegetation do you see? Is it natural vegetation or crops grown by farmers? What is the weather like when you are there? At other times of the year? Where does water come from for this place?
Descriptions of the peoples you meet. How do they live? Are they farmers or nomads? Do they engage in trade? What do they use for trade? Can you comment on any local customs or traditions? How do they prepare their food? What do they wear? Is theirs a matrilineal or patrilineal society? Who is in charge? Do they have a written language?
Maps for others to follow. Include an overall map of your journey along with more detailed maps of local areas. Illustrate your maps with pictures or drawings of architecture, scenery, animals, and people. Include keys for climate zones, trade routes, population density, or anything else you think would be important to fellow travelers.
Step 1: Meet with your group and decide who will be in charge of the following elements of the task:
1. Who will be responsible for coordinating the entire project.
2. Who will research the people you meet along the way.
3. Who will research the geography you will be covering.
4. Who will write which parts of the journal (journalists).
5. Who will draw which maps (cartographers).
Step 2: Gather information.
Discuss what resources you will use and how you will divide the work. It is not necessary for each person to use every resource. Assign members to standard references (encyclopedias, atlases, etc.), other print resources (books and magazines), and the computer. Each person in the group is expected to contribute to the efforts of others in the group. Be prepared to help someone else when asked to do so.
Time on-line in the classroom or in the library will be limited. When it is your group's turn at the computer, use your time as efficiently as possible. When you find something you think will be useful to you, print it out for later analysis. Do not tie up computer time by trying to read everything on-line.
Note: With your teacher, please review your school's acceptable use policy for work on the Internet. Also, links to the Web often change. Tell your teacher when you find a poor link in this guide.
Step 3: Writing and mapping.
You may wish to create a time line to represent the two years of your journey. Then, knowing when you are where, organize the information you have for each place along the way and begin writing your journal.
While the journalists are writing, the cartographers are creating their maps. Cartographers should check the following Web site before beginning any work:
Coordinate your efforts with the journalists so that your map doesn't, for example, illustrate the dry season at a place when you are there during the wet season. Remember, your map should reflect the style of maps done in the 14th century. Check the maps in the Catalan Atlas for ideas.
Step 4: Plan your presentation.
Remember that the focus of your map and journal is West Africa in the 14th century. When you arrive in Mali and are resting in Timbuktu, be sure to explore the influence of their great king, Mansa Musa. People will still be talking about his trip to Mecca and the impact it is having on their lives. What has happened to Mali since Mansa Musa's death?
Here are some web sites which may prove useful. Brainstorm with your group for key words to expand your search.
For information on:
The Catalan Atlas--14th Century maps
Project Time Line
Plan your time to adhere to the following schedule.
Decide who will be responsible for which part of the work.
Groups meet to share information and plan further reshearch.
Library reshearch as needed. Groups meet to organize information and begin writing. Cartographers decide on materials needed to produce maps.
Journalists finish writing first drafts. Cartographers key maps to journals.
Groups meet to critique map and journal drafts and suggest changes.
Complete final drafts of journals and maps.
Plan presentations. Brainstorm questions to ask other groups during presentations.
Both your teacher and your classmates, using criteria agreed upon prior to the beginning of the project, will evaluate your work. You will be graded on:
This project has been designed to provide an opportunity for you to learn more about the medieval trading kingdoms of sub-Saharan West Africa by "traveling" with one of the great travelers of all time, Ibn Battuta. I hope you increased your knowledge of the geography and climate zones of the area, as well as the people and places and their history.
Write a brief (one page or less) reflection on this project. Discuss what you learned.
What did you find most interesting?
Why do you say so?
Is there anything you would like to know more about?
How will you find out about it?
Also discuss what you learned about working with your group.
Did your group work well together?
Did you have some problems but worked them out?
How did you solve problems?
Did your group not work well together? Why not?
What did you do best?
What would you have done differently?
Technical questions on the website to: firstname.lastname@example.org