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.


The Task

"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:




Learning Advice

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

Ibn Battuta



Saharan Nomads


Project Time Line

Plan your time to adhere to the following schedule.

Day 1

Decide who will be responsible for which part of the work.

Day 2

Library reshearch.

Day 3

Library Reshearch.

Day 4

Groups meet to share information and plan further reshearch.

Day 5

Library reshearch as needed. Groups meet to organize information and begin writing. Cartographers decide on materials needed to produce maps.

Day 6

Journalists finish writing first drafts. Cartographers key maps to journals.

Day 7

Groups meet to critique map and journal drafts and suggest changes.

Day 8

Complete final drafts of journals and maps.

Day 9

Plan presentations. Brainstorm questions to ask other groups during presentations.

Day 10


Evaluation Criteria

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:

  1. The quality of individual written work. Is it detailed, complete, and correct as to form? Have you been historically accurate? This is an individual grade, not a group grade.
  2. The quality of the group product. Does the project contain the work of every member of the group? Is it well organized and neatly presented? Is required documentation included?
  3. The quality of your presentation to the class. Did you present your part of the project? Were you able to answer questions from the class? This is an individual grade, not a group grade.
  4. Your participation in your group. This grade will be issued by your group members, individually and confidentially using the Group Evaluation form.



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.


Technical questions on the website to:

Last Revised: 3/17/06