Tim Mackintosh-Smith, author of the erudite and entertaining Travels With a Tangerine, knew Ibn Battuta so well that he took to calling him "IB" throughout his 2000 update of the 14th century traveler's work.
Today, 25 February, is the birthday of Ibn Battuta, Tangier's most famous son, but one who most 21st century Tangerines would be hard-put to define. He was born here, that much is for sure. Whether his tomb, hidden away in a particularly difficult-to-find corner of Tangier's medina, is really his burial place – that is less certain.
But no matter. Tangier's airport is named after him, he's graced postage stamps, and he continues to give that other late medieval traveler, Marco Polo of Venice, a run for his money. In fact, IB's travels far outstripped those of his Venetian counterpart, who was mostly content with getting to, and safely back from, China.
IB did that, and much more, and wrote about it in his Rihla, or Journey. You can get a sense of his writing and the amazing extent of his travels from this Saudi Aramco World article, or in this Fordham University "Medieval Sourcebook."
We want to, in a sense, "bring IB back" to Tangier, and hope to do so by showing Journey to Mecca, a sterling docudrama, shot in Morocco and using dialogue from the Rihla. Subtitled In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta, the screenplay was written by veteran travel writer Tahir Shah, who knows the Legation.
We've been working on this since I saw the film when it first was released in IMAX in 2010, and we're getting close. Stay tuned.