DISCOVER DXB: The amazing history inside Dubai’s Ibn Battuta shopping mall

Dubai Week follows in the footsteps of a famous 14th century Muslim traveller

 

No matter how much you try to fight it, the draw of Dubai’s malls can be too good to resist. They are after all one-stop shops for so many activities. But not many people would think to head to the mall for a history lesson.

The name may of course be a giveaway but Ibn Battuta Mall, near Jebel Ali, is not just a popular place to spend your spare dirhams, it is a great place to learn more about the most renowned Islamic travellers to have ever lived.

There are more than 50 installations spaced throughout the mall that chart the travels of the famous Ibn Battuta – who is the only medieval traveler who is known to have visited the lands of every Muslim ruler of his time. IMG_0600

But despite being the namesake of the mall, the installations also cover so much more from ancient music, the history of the game of chess, the history of trade, the devastation of the plague to shipbuilding of the Chinese empire, fashion of the 13th century and important early Islamic scientific and astronomical discoveries.

Even though some of the screens were inactive when Dubai Week explored the exhibits (we were informed by Mall information that they were being repaired) here’s what we learnt:

  • According to Ibn Battuta a Dar al-Islam camera caravan would average about 1,000 camels. Ibn Battuta would often join these camel trains for security.
  • In 29 years, Ibn Battuta walked, rode and sailed over 75,000 miles through more than 40 countries.
  • He would have travelled on medieval dhows, which were stitched together, with the hull board being sewn together with fibers, cords and thongs.
  • The origins of chess are shrouded in mystery. Historians believe it came from either India or Persia. The number of possible games of chess that can be played outnumbers the number of atoms in the universe.
  • When faced with an army fronted by seemingly invincible warrior elephants – Tamlane managed to prevail by lighting a straw on the back of his camels and driving them into the elephant charge. It spooked the elephants who trampled the rival forces in retreat.
  • The Islamic Quadrant is an invention that allowed travellers like Ibn Battuta to measure angles in the sky with great accuracy.

 

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