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Ibn Battuta's Journey by Land and by Sea: Investigating Cultural Landscapes

Paula Ranciato

Contents of Curriculum Unit 07.02.07:

To Guide Entry


The unit Journey by Land and Sea: Investigating Cultural Landscapes will allow my students to put faces on individuals who had the courage to challenge themselves take risks and transmit knowledge of another culture through their writings and observations. The unit will focus on the travels of Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta. When Ibn Battuta was 21 he began his pilgrimage or hajj to Mecca some 3000 miles from his home. He returned to Morocco in 1355 after visiting 44 countries and traveling approximately 75,000 miles. By walking in his shoes, students can demonstrate how the world was interconnected rather than disconnected. The unit is written with a wide range of abilities in mind and would meet the needs of students from 9th to 12th grade; some sections could be modified for use with middle school students. The unit will focus on map skills, reading and interpreting primary source documents, using visual resources and constructing visuals from the information they have gained.

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My goal as the social studies teacher for the High School Credit program at New Haven Adult Education is to guide and facilitate learning. This teaching experience is by far the most challenging and yet the most rewarding of my life. My students live, work and in some cases raise their family in an urban environment. I've taught students of many cultures, mainly African American, Latino and Asian. Some are recent immigrants to the United States, and have difficulties with understanding, reading and writing English. Others have large gaps in their educational experience due to poor attendance.

In recent years the population of adult education has been increasing, and the ages of this increase has been between 16 and 21 years old. My classes are heterogeneously grouped and the reading levels range from third grade to twelfth and beyond. Therefore, for my students to be engaged and vested in their education they must experience some connections to their everyday lives. Their learning must include a variety of strategies to meet many different learning modalities. All of my students have withdrawn from high school and they are considered under-achievers. Besides academic problems my students face a plethora of problems outside of school such as: altercations with the law, probation, teen pregnancy, substance abuse, homelessness and lack of structure in their lives. Unfortunately, many of my students' attitudes toward history is jaded, "history is a done deal," "winners write it," "losers live it without a voice," and "all I need to do is memorize it for a test." Soon they realize what is needed is more than memorization: critical reading and writing skills.

How do we as teachers develop historical thought in our students? Every student enters school with some historical knowledge, often from their family history, vacations to museums and historical sites, and of course the mass media. If you teach in an urban or even rural setting you soon discover that many of your students do not share common experiences such as vacations, access to mass media, or even a family history. Students' thoughts about the past are also shaped by their cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This is reflected in the ways they understand people's motives and the importance of certain events in history. As teachers we facilitate historical thinking by guiding our students, hoping they can make the connections concerning how economics, politics, and the forces of society cause people to behave the way they do.

One of the main goals of my classroom is to help students develop the ability to think historically, while at the same time become critical readers. My students have a wide range of reading skills so it is essential that the focus of our studies is learning how to become "strategic readers." When students read they must do the following: construct meaning from print, understand, analyze, and interpret text. Many students have great difficulty understanding expository text in all content areas. They must be reminded to think about their own thinking and ask themselves questions such as "Do I understand it?"

Metacognition allows students to determine if they understand what they are reading. This skill is one which needs to be modeled and practiced. My students need to use strategies before they read, during the reading process, and after reading. This process involves class discussion and writing exercises. These discussions and writing exercises allow the students to become active learners. Some strategies which I use and have found to be helpful in developing good readers are:

Allow students to imagine:

Visualize a scene from their readings, create a graphic, and imagine how it would feel, taste, or smell. Exercises based on imagining place allow the students to set the scene this enhances their reading comprehension. To experience Ibn Battuta's journey by sea use the activity from the Mariners Museum located at www.mariner.org/.

Making connections by using their prior knowledge:

Can the students make any connections from the text to themselves or from one text to another and from the text to the world? Any of these connections allows students to make more sense of their reading. Here, read to the students, The Travelers of Ibn Battuta, and then ask students about their travels or any other travelers they may be familiar with.


Can the students recognize cause and effect relationships? Can the students think about what could happen next? Practice with cause and effect, as well as predictions helps the students become better readers As you are reading the story, Traveling Man stop and ask questions, such as, what do you think will happen next?

Clarify the meaning of the text:

Do the students need to re-read, read aloud, take notes, or underline the text? Ask students to complete a summary of what you read to the class.

Through the reading process, students begin to connect what is unfamiliar with the familiar. To help build upon their prior knowledge, teachers must plan and identity what concepts and skills our students need and provide instruction with a wide range of variation in the classroom.

Students in my classroom fall into three categories of learning styles: Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic. Each style has its own characteristic as follows:

Visual learners: Examples-use overheads to display images of Africa, the Middle East and different modes of transportation.

1 Like to sit up front in the classroom
2 They are the students who take good notes
3 They enjoy illustrations, paintings cartoons, and videos

Auditory: Examples-ask students to summarize or use the strategy called Round Robin; hand out a worksheet with 12 squares on it and ask them to fill in 3 with information they learned. Next, have them fill in the rest of their worksheet with answers from their classmates. They may not use the same answer twice.

1 They enjoy reading aloud
2 They often verbalize to themselves
3 They sit where they can hear but sometimes seem to not be paying any attention

Kinesthetic: Examples-make jewelry, paint, listen to music, the CD Iberian Garden: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Spain, Vol. 1 would be an example of music Ibn Battuta would have heard on his travels.

1 They need to be active
2 When bored, they have a tendency to move around the classroom
3 They enjoy learning by doing--examples include cooking, construction and art work
4 They enjoy performance--music and drama

To meet the needs and provide opportunities for success and achievement a teacher must understand and identify student's needs. Because of the abilities and the needs of my class, incorporating direct instruction and differentiated instruction has allowed my students to collaborate in their learning experience. This has proven to be a stimulating, and enriching experience for the students. When preparing a unit it is important to consider:

Content--what the students learn

Process--how will they learn, is it flexible, are activities varied

Product--assessment, what did the student understand

Classroom--are directions given clearly, have expectations been defined, are there varied resources.

My curriculum unit will be designed to motivate students and provide excitement in the classroom through activities involving map skills, primary source documents, development of written narratives and short interpretive essays, and analyzing visual arts such as illustrations and paintings.

The unit will begin with students answering questions which focus on reasons why people travel, such as: How do people travel? How long does it take for people to travel from one coast to another? Why do people travel? What do people return home with after they have completed their journey? In order for the teacher to understand how far from home many of our students have traveled the teacher should ask for volunteers to discuss where they have traveled to and what they learned on their travels. This is the point where many teachers discover how isolated some of our students are even if they reside in a large urban center.

During this unit students will be individually assessed and will participate in group projects. The beginning of the unit will include an overview of Ancient Africa and Eurasian history. Students need to know who occupied these areas, what were the peoples' belief systems, their political structure, how were they connected to their neighbors. This is where the class will develop mental maps of the area and investigate the Catalan Map. The website for information regarding the map can be found at

www.henry-davis.com/MAPS/LMwebpages/235mono.html. A series of slides can be purchased from Chicago's Newberry Library bookstore for classroom use, www.newberry.org/smith/slidesets.html.

Landscapes change over a period of time. This transformation can be caused by a number of reasons: political, altered trade routes, climatic, and in some cases religious reasons. Students will be placed in groups and asked to plot out Ibn Battuta's routes of travel (see student bibliography).

The questions students will focus on include: Who was Ibn Battuta and why did he travel? During his travels did he fulfill the Five Pillars of Islam? What was there when Ibn Battuta traveled and what now remains? Why did these landscapes change? Why does this change occur?

As we continue with our journey students will be introduced to reading narratives, primarily by Ibn Battuta. The use of primary sources allows students to get up close and personal. They respond to the person, to how that person responds to their everyday life, how they solve their challenges. The importance of the narrative in a social studies class is the ability of our students to examine and explore people's dreams and experiences in a social and cultural context. Here students will analyze primary source documents by responding to the following questions: How can Ibn Battuta's story reflect the events of his day? What are the differences between what Ibn Battuta writes and what you know about the regions known as Africa and Eurasia? Did he leave out any groups of people you are familiar with? Why? Did Ibn Battuta stereotype any groups of people? What purpose does the narrative serve? Thinking about your own personal experiences with travel can you make any connections between Ibn Battuta's experience and yours? What are the links?

During the unit students will be introduced to Islamic Art and African Trade Beads. When we think of Islamic Art we often think of Calligraphy, Arabesques and Geometric Designs. Each student will create their own geometric design. African beads were used for a number of reasons, such as, for trade, money and even weddings. By investigating beads and art work students can visualize the importance of material culture in societies.

As they are working on their projects we will journey on-line to the National Gallery of Art to view an on-line exhibit of Islamic Art (www.nga.gov\education\index.shtm). After the students have gathered some background knowledge we will continue our journey at the Yale Art Gallery to view Islamic artwork and African artwork. The importance of beads in Africa can serve as a connection to the real world of today.

After my students have completed their own beading and have written the story behind their beading the students will hold a "Beadwear Party." In an effort to enhance community development and subsistence in Uganda the organization, "Bead For Life" was founded, 75% of its profits are returned to Uganda. The profits from our party will be used for food, rent, medicine and school expenses by Ugandan women and connect my students to the continent of Africa. Here they will read primary sources and reflect on the plight of the women in Uganda.

To conclude the unit, students will work in groups and complete a visual route of Ibn Battuta's journey to be placed in the hallway of the school. The students will work together in groups to cover a portion of his journey. The students will share their knowledge by acting as docents at the Ibn Battuta museum and take staff and other classmates on his journey.

My curriculum unit will be designed to motivate students and provide exciting experiences in and out of the classroom. As Plutarch has written, "The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited."

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Importance of Islam


Islam began as the religion of the Arabian Peninsula and spread to regions along the North African coast, Arabia, Persia and into India. The rise of Islam could not have occurred without the Prophet Muhammad and the network of early trade routes; these major trade routes were located along the Mediterranean coast from southern Arabia to Syria and then Palestine. Merchants extended trade routes from the area of Baghdad to eastern Africa (Egypt). The Prophet Muhammad was born in Mecca about the year 570 CE. Muhammad married a young widow who ran a caravan business. In the years following his marriage he became a prosperous merchant. At the age of 40 troubled by the lack of morality in society he went out to a desert cave to meditate. Muslims believe here the angel Gabriel spoke to him in the desert and Islam became a religion. In Arabic the word Islam means submission and God is Allah. Many did not accept Muhammad's teachings especially his fellow merchants who believed they would not become successful without the pilgrims who came to worship idols in Mecca. In 622, Muhammad faced threats of death because of his beliefs and fled Mecca and journeyed to Medina or the "City of the Prophet" (www.islam.101.com/dawah/pillars.html)

The first year of the Muslim calendar is 622 CE which signifies the adoption of Islam by the people of Medina. Muhammad's journey became known as the Hajj. He became Medina's ruler and lawgiver. From Medina he sent out Muslim forces to attack caravans traveling to and from Mecca. The Meccans were defeated and in 630 CE Muhammad returned to Mecca. Once in Mecca he destroyed all idols and united the Arabs under the religion of Islam (www.islam.101.com/dawah/pillars.html)

Islam is a monotheistic religion based on the belief of one God. The Quran is their sacred text. Islam has no official priests who mediate between the people and God. After Muhammad's death Islam spread from the Arabian coast to the Indus Valley.

A Way of Life

Islam is more than a religion; it is a way of life for Muslims. Today Islam is the 3rd largest religion in the world and its language Arabic is spoken by approximately 246 million people and Arabic is the official language of 23 countries... (www.beliefnet.com/story_20723_2.html). Islam religion is based on five principles known as the Five Pillars of Islam. They are:

1. Faith and belief in the Oneness of God
Statement by the faithful to Allah and his Prophet Muhammad.
2. Daily Prayers known as Salah
Pray 5 times a day toward the direction of Mecca and in a Mosque the Imam leads the prayers. This is the link between the worshipper and God.
3. Giving charity or Zakah.
An important belief of Islam is that everything belongs to God and humans hold possessions in trust. Originally a free-will donation, it is now required to give to needy Muslims or for any religious purpose.
4. Fasting or Sawm
During the month of Ramadan Muslims abstain from food, drink during the day. They eat at night. This is regarded as a form of self-purification and restraint.
5.The Hajj or Pilgrimage

Every Muslim man or women who are physically and financially able should try to make it to Mecca once in their lives. During the Hajj all participants wear simple white clothes known as Ihram which represents the equality of all people.

The Hajj

The Hajj recreates past events for the Muslim people which occurs over the span of 10 days. Over two million people return to Mecca each year to perform the Hajj. According to Islamic tradition they must refrain from sex, haircuts, wearing jewelry and arguing to remain in a spiritual mode (www.islam-guide.com/sh3-16.htm). They reenact these past events:

1. Tawaf: Circle the Ka'ba counterclockwise seven times which symbolizes Abraham, Hagar, Ishmael and Muhammad.
2. Touch the black stone of Ka'ba which signifies:
3. Sa'y: Running 7 times between hills and drinking from Zamam spring to recall Hagar's running for water.
4. Throwing 49 stones at the 3 different pillars to signify Abraham's stoning of Satan.
5. On the 8th day pilgrim's move to the desert, live in tents and stand in prayer at the Plain of Arafat and the Mount of Mercy.
6. They participate in the Feast of Sacrifice where lambs are slaughtered and the meat given to the poor.
7. They return to Mecca for the second circling of the Ka'ba.

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Major art forms

What you may see on your Hajj?

During the Middle Ages, Muslim artists from Spain to India created many forms of art. These art forms were influenced by people the Muslim world came into contact with often by trade. They would include Greeks, Romans, Persians and Indians. Muslim art encompasses many forms, metal work, calligraphy, arabesques and geometric designs. Islam developed in a Nomadic Arab culture which relied on an oral tradition because the religion believes in words rather than icons. Calligraphy is used to communicate the words of the Quran. Calligraphy became a major Muslim art form because it reflects the meanings of the Quran. While the majority of the Islamic world is a hot desert environment Arabesques illustrate patterns of plant and floral life as Muslims believe paradise to be. Geometric patterns satisfy the Islamic principle of unity, order and balance. Muslims believe in the word of the Prophet Muhammad. For this reason and as a sign of respect his face is not depicted in Muslim art. The Quran condemns the worship of idols so humans and animals are not portrayed (www.nga.gov\education\index.shym).

Islamic art and decorations are displayed in wall paintings, murals within palaces, in textiles, metalwork and most importantly in manuscript illumination.

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Ibn Battuta's homeland

Africa covers one fifth of the Earth's land surface. Africa's geographic features have had an impact on its development. Tropical rainforests cover less than 5% of the land along the Equator yet dense rain forests make this land unsuitable for farming. Its most populated region is the Savanna which has good soil but is susceptible to a lack of rainfall which can cause droughts. In the north lies the world's greatest desert the Sahara. The Kalahari and Namib deserts located in the south are smaller. The Mediterranean coast and the tip of South Africa are the most fertile areas yet they lack good harbors. Africa's rivers can be traveled but many contain rapids and cataracts. Despite all the hazards of travel people did migrate and trade developed (Reader John.A Biography of the Continent Africa. New York: Vintage Books, Division of Random House, 1997. pgs.30-31). The Red Sea and Indian Ocean were important for they linked East Africa to the Middle East and Asia and the Mediterranean linked North Africa to the Mediterranean coasts. Muslim merchants settled in trading communities and spread the Islamic faith. In a continent with such hazardous geographical features how could Muslim merchants spread Islam and develop trade routes? This was accomplished by domesticating the camel. Around 200 CE camels were brought to North Africa from Asia. They revolutionized trade across the Sahara.

The camel was able to travel 10 days without water and at the same time carry a large load. The camel gave Muslim merchants the ability to travel across Africa and out of Africa carrying valuable trade goods such as gold, salt, ivory, kola nuts and slaves (Collins, Robert.Africa a Short History. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers 2006. pg.56-58).Muslim merchants were able to settle into trading communities spread the word of Islam.

As communities developed along the coast Muslim merchants were in a geographical position to dominate trade routes. Coastal communities linked the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean which then linked Europe, Asia, and Africa. From the coasts Muslim merchants took advantage of the trade winds (Monsoons) to travel toward India across the Arabian Sea in the winter and then wait for the winds to continue their journey. Regions of Africa benefited from Islam and Muslim merchant cities such as: Cairo in Egypt, Fez and Marrakech in Morocco, Mogadishu in Somalia, and Kilwa, Tanzania which became commercial centers along the African trade routes.

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African Trade Beads

Beads signify cultural and in some cases social status. The earliest archaeological evidence of beads was found in Ghana. Carbon dating dates these locally manufactured beads to around 2000 BCE up to 1800 CE. Early beads were formed from stone and shells. Cowie shells were the most important and also used as currency. Movement of beads across Africa follows early trade routes (www.mbad.org/context.html). The patterns and material used to make beads begin to change as traders from other countries arrive. Beads serve many purposes in Africa. Besides their use as ornaments they represent age, class, rank and social status. Materials from the local environment were used to produce beads including seeds, sea shells, bone, ivory, teeth, stones, coral, bronze, silver, and gold. As Europeans colonized Africa large amounts of glass beads were introduced. Beads were used in exchange for goods, services and also slaves. Two areas of Africa that were influenced by Islam and developed beads were Mauritania and Mali. Kiffa beads were produced by women in Mauritania using powdered glass beads. Around 1200 CE the people of Mali produced beads referred to as Nila which is the Arabic word for blue and they became part of the material culture with the spread of Islam.

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Ibn Battuta and his journeys

Abu Abdallah Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Mohammad ibn Ibrahim al-Lawati ibn Battuta was born in 1304 C.E. in the city of Tangiers, Morocco. During the medieval period Arabic names were a source of information; they included their fathers name, sometimes a line of ancestors, a nickname and any honorific name (www.bankersonline.com/tools/namingconventions.pdf). His family were descendents of the Lawati Berber tribe and many members were judges or lawyers. He learned to read and write Arabic by memorizing and copying the Quran by the age of 12. Ibn Battuta studied Islamic scared law called Shari'a which guided the Muslims to live in harmony and be guided by God. His training to be a qadi or judge would have enabled him to hear and decide cases of sacred law.

Ibn Battuta traveled many roads through Dar al-Islam, home of Islam. His journey began during the period known as Pax Mongolia when Mongol Khans were converting to Islam. This period of peace allowed for increased movement, expansion of commerce, the arts, literature, law and government. On camels, horses, donkeys and boats Ibn Battuta was determined to visit the Islamic world. A man of meager means he was fed entertained and cared for along the way by royalty, merchants and Mongol Kings. The Muslim practice of granting hospitality to pilgrims journeying to Mecca fulfills one of the Five Pillars of Faith. Ibn Battuta traveled in search of knowledge. His account of his journey known as Rihla or book of travels has contributed to our understanding of the geography and social history of his time. At the request of the Sultan of Fez, Ibn Juzayy an Andalusian scholar transcribed Ibn Batutta's stories. Ibn Batutta provided descriptions of flora and fauna, leaders, ships, marriages, Mecca, the Hajj and the dangers that he faced in his travels.

1325-1327 - Morocco to Mecca

Ibn Battuta first journey during the years of 1325 and 1326 was to the holy city of Mecca by way of North Africa, Eqypt, Palestine and Syria. Upon arrival in Tunis he felt homesick (Dunn, Ross. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, A Muslim Traveler in the 14th Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. pgs. 36-37) and (Gibb, H.A.R. Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325-1354. New Delhi: Musnshiran Manoharlal Publishers, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1986.pgs.44-45) but he did not turn and head back home, he proceeded with his journey.

1327-1330-East Africa and back to Arabia some travel by boat

After a 2 month sojourn in Tunis (Dunn. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pg.37) he completed his 1st Hajj (Dunn, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pgs.66-79) he then decided to visit Iraq and Persia. After completed of his 2nd Hajj, Ibn Battuta sailed down the eastern coast of Africa to the area of Tanzania (Gibb.Ibn Battuta, pgs. 106-115). Ibn Battuta never wanted to travel the same route twice so his return to Mecca involved sailing to Oman, the Persian Gulf, then an overland caravan to Arabia and Mecca.

1330-1333-To India by way of Anatolia and Asia

Around this time in his life he needed employment and learned that the Sultan in Delhi, India was seeking learned men for employment as qadi's (judges) to interpret Islamic law. In 1330, off he went to India by way of Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor (story of Princess Bayalyn, (Dunn.The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pgs. 166-173 and Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs.151-159).

133-1341-Ibn Battuta becomes qadi for Muhammad Tughluq

He then traveled across the Black Sea to West Asia and on to Constantinople. Ibn Battuta returned to West Asia still making his way to India (postal service Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs 183-184) he reached the Indus River Valley around 1335. He found employment and spent 8 years working as a qadi.

1341-1349-Moves from India to China and encounters many adventures

The Sultan of Delhi appointed Ibn Battuta to lead a mission to the Mongol emperor of China (Chinese boats Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs.234-235). Ibn Battuta's travels did not always proceed without danger. During his journey to China he was shipwrecked off the coast of India all was lost, the Sultan had entrusted Ibn Battuta with valuable goods. Fearful he would not be forgiven for these losses he did not return to India but traveled to southern India, Ceylon and the Maldive Islands (pirates, Gibb.Ibn Battuta, pgs.239-240 and Dunn. The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, pgs. 195-196, 215-216, 246-247). In the Maldive Islands he was employed as a qadi and married for political reasons (Dunn.The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.233-237and Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs. 250-253). In his writings he comments on women's dress and customs of the islands all the while being rewarded for completing his duties with money, land and slaves. He remained on the Maldive Islands for approximately 3 years and set out again, this time to China (Dunn. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.256-258 and Gibb. Ibn Battuta, pgs. 282-286). He traveled by sea and visited Bengal, Burma and Sumatra.

1349-1354-Begins journey home, visits Grenada and then takes his final adventure to Mali

He returned to Mecca in 1346 to perform the Hajj one more time. When he completed his duties in Mecca he began his journey home arriving in Fez in 1349. By 1350 he was on the move again this time to Grenada on the Iberian Peninsula. Still not completely satisfied that he had traveled all of Dar al Islam he joined a caravan to cross the Sahara to visit Mali (Dunn. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.301-307 and Gibb. Ibn Battuta pgs.324-332) In 1355 he finally returned home.When writing his Rihla (travel book) Ibn Battuta used the Muslim calendar, therefore, depending on your source dates will vary (Dunn. The Travel of Ibn Battuta, pg.xiv).

What can we learn from Ibn Battuta? His journeys for the most part followed important trade routes which linked the continent of Africa to Eurasia. He provides us with a view of the expansion of Islam. Ibn Battuta was a 14th century long distance traveler, yet we learn from him through his writings about hospitality, companionship, customs, the 14th century job market and the dangers of travel whether by land or sea.

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After completion of the lessons students will:

1. Analyze and interpret primary source documents (analysis).
2. Identify different regions in Africa and list resources found in the regions (comprehension & knowledge).
3. Identify different regions in Asia and list resources found in the regions (comprehension & knowledge).
4. Identify maritime routes and overland routes which Ibn Battuta traveled (knowledge).
5. Describe dangers Ibn Battuta encountered in his travels in Asia and Africa (knowledge and evaluation).
6. List and explain the 5 Pillars of Islam and identify Ibn Battuta's fulfillment of these duties from selected readings (knowledge and comprehension).
7. List the duties of participants at the hajj. Compare and contrast Ibn Jubayr hajj experience to experiences at the hajj today.
8. Develop map and research skills.

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Lesson Plans

lesson plans are written for 90 minute periods

Lesson 1

Taking a Walk

People travel for many reasons and many leave their imprints on earth as Ibn Battuta did. Geography is interaction between people and their environment. To make connections to their past the class will examine their surroundings and discuss what is present now and what could have been there before.

Goal: After completing this lesson students will compare and contrast places they are familiar with and list changes that have occurred over time.

Introduction: Using the overhead projector display an image from your community's past. Ask students what they see. Can they recognize where the image is from.


- Take the class on a walk around the neighborhood of your school. As they are walking answer the questions listed below.

Questions for students:

Clues from the past--as we walk take a look around. The landscape of our community has changed over time can you identify any of these changes.

____Is the soil sandy

____Is the soil good for farming or building

____Gardens--Do the plants and trees look natural or do they seem landscaped

____Water--Are there any streams, rivers, ports, harbors

____Landforms--hilly or flat

____Any old schools, houses, roads or cemeteries

____Is there a town green or common near by

____Any sites were there was early industry, mills or foundries

____Any railroads, signs of tracks, stations, railroad yards

____Can you see any signs of population movement, economic distress

____Any state parks, city parks or recreational areas

____Any major health centers

____Any clues as to what may happen in the near future in our community

2. Discuss types of interviewing, such as a job interview for a specific topic or for personal information. Ask the students what type of questions they would ask if they were interviewing an older person about their neighborhood. Place students in groups and have them generate the questions. Class discussion follows and the class comes to a consensus on which questions should be asked. Place the agreed upon questions on the board.


Student generated questions are used to interview an older person. The answers are discussed in class and the class completes a Venn diagram. In their social studies journal students answer the question, what was the most surprising fact you discovered? Explain why?

Lesson 2

Catalan Map

The Catalan map was completed by Abraham Cresquer a Catalonian Jew of Majorca. He was a mapmaker to King Peter of Aragon. In 1375 it contained the latest information about the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Asia, and African coastline. It is a medieval map consisting of 6 panels.

Goal: After completion of this lesson students will identify features of the Catalan map and analyze why these features are important.

Introduction: Write the world map on the board. Have students respond and answer what comes to mind when they see the world map. Place answers on the board.


Using the overhead projector allow the students to view a copy of the Catalan map for 10 seconds. Once the projector has been turned off ask the students to describe what they think they saw. Since the Catalan map consists of 6 panels, place students in groups and only hand out to each group 1 copy of a panel. Have each group answer the following questions:

1. What natural features are represented on the map?

2 What cultural features are represented on the map?

3. Are any boats represented on your section, describe them.

4. Does your map depict any symbols of resources, what are they? Where are they located?

5. Are any people represented in your section? Who do you think they are? What do you think their social status is?

6. How many continents are represented? Why?

7. What do you think is the purpose of the map?

8. Your group will add a 7th panel, your focus will be New Haven-include the following in your panel; use symbols to represent natural resources, cultural resources and people who you might meet.


In your social studies journal answer the question; why is the Catalan Map a valuable document today?

Lesson 3

Map skills

The African continent is often misrepresented in texts from the descriptions of its size, regions and the various people who live on the land. Ibn Battuta travels through many regions in Africa so it becomes necessary for students to review or gain more background knowledge about Africa.

Goal: After completion of this lesson, students will identify important geographic features of Africa and create mental maps.

Introduction: Ask students to complete a KWL chart. Students then share their charts and the class completes one which is placed on the board. A KWL chart consists of 3 columns one for what you know, one for what you want to know and the last one is for what you have learned.

Activity: Using the "How big is Africa?" curriculum guide students investigate regions, agricultural diversity and the population of Africa.

Assessment: 1. Students are asked to develop a mental map of Africa.

2. Students are asked to refer to the Lesson 1 activity, "Taking a Walk" and re-write 6 of the clues from the past to reflect Ibn Battuta's journey in Africa.

To purchase the "How Big is Africa" guide contact:

Boston University

African Studies Center

270 Bay State Road

Boston, MA 02215


telephone: 617-353-7303

Lesson 4

Map skills

China is one of the oldest civilizations and it is considered one of the four great cultural hearths. (Greece, Egypt, Mesopotamia). One-fifths of the world's population lives in China. China is bordered by 11 nations. The topography, climate and natural resources of China's regions influenced culture, economy and lifestyle of its inhabitants.

Goal: After completion of this lesson, students will describe and explain different regions of China.

Introduction: Ask students to write down 3 facts about China. Place a T-chart on the board on one side write, how many facts are the same on the other side how many facts are different. Then ask the question, what does this tell us about our knowledge of China?

Activity 1: Teacher uses a large map of China to show the extent of landforms, climate and varied agricultural of China. Students take notes.

Assessment: Students create a graphic organizer of China's geography using Inspiration Computer program. (available from www.inspiration.com)

Activity 2: Students view video, "Three Gorges of the Yangtze River" (International Video Corporation)

Assessment: In their journals students evaluate the importance of the Yangtze River to the Chinese people.

Lesson 5

Museum visit-African and Asian art

Museums offer students the experience of observing artifacts from the material culture of a society. New Haven is fortunate to have the Yale University Art Gallery. Yale's art gallery possesses the largest African art collection of any other American university.

Goal: After completion of this lesson, students will describe and explain the significance of art to African or Asian societies.

Introduction: The teacher has visited the museum prior to the field trip and taken photos of various artifacts. The photos are viewed either by computer or made into overheads. Students then guess what they think the object is or how the object could be used.

Activity: Field trip to the museum, when the class arrives at the museum they complete a scavenger hunt. Examples of questions: What is a major issue with the collection of African Antiquities? Find the carved relief from Nigeria, what is it made on and what figures are carved on it? Find and describe 2 funerary masks. Find an artifact that displays the influence Europeans had on African societies?

Asian art: View the art work from the manuscript of the Battle between Rustam and Arasiab, describe what you see, find two statues of Buddha and describe their posture and facial expressions. Are they the same or different, why?

Assessment: Four salespeople (students) from the Yale Art Advertising Company have been asked to develop an ad campaign for the new African/Asian exhibit. Your group's job is to produce a bumper sticker, a thirty-second prime time TV ad and a newspaper advertisement for the exhibit. When you are finished your group will present your ad campaign to the class.

Lesson 6

Ibn Battuta's journey

I often read story books to the class and ask questions. The questions are asked to determine if my students can make text to text connections, text to world connections or text to self connections. For this exercise I will read, Traveling Man, by James Rumford.

Goal: After completion of this lesson, students will complete library and internet research on Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo and write a 5 paragraph essay.

Introduction: Think of the most exotic place you would like to visit. In your journal write down the name of the place and state why you want to visit there.

Activity: Teacher reads, Traveling Man, and asks questions.

Examples of questions- Have you ever heard of the Ocean of Darkness or the Ocean of Ignorance? This question may lead to a discussion of stereotypes. Was there ever a time in your life when you were homesick? Have you read about people who have traveled long distances? If Ibn Battuta was a man of meager means, how was he able to travel so far? What dangers did he face?

Assessment: Students research Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo, after completing their research students write an essay to answer the question; If Ibn Battuta traveled 75,000 miles and visited 44 countries and Marco Polo traveled about 25, 000 miles, why did Marco Polo become famous and only a few geographers and historians know about Ibn Battuta?

Lesson 7

The Hajj or Pilgrimage

One of the Five Pillars of Islam is the completion of the Hajj; the religion asks every Muslim man or woman who can afford to travel to complete the pilgrimage to Mecca.

Goal: After completion of this lesson students will list the duties of the Hajj and compare and contrast a pilgrimage made in the 14th century to one made in the twenty-first century.

Introduction: Show overhead transparencies of ways people travel now and in the past, then ask students the reasons a 14th century traveler would endure all the hardships?

Activity: Students watch, Inside Mecca, (National Geographic video). Students use a simple 4 column worksheet to take notes on the travelers and duties of the hajj. (Note: this video may not be suited for middle school, teachers need to preview). After watching the video they read excerpts from Ibn Jubayr's travels in 1183.Ibn Jubayr provides a detailed description of the hajj (Broadhurst, R.J.C.. The Travels of Ibn Jubayr. London, 1952, pgs. 158-195).

Assessment: Students complete a Venn diagram.

Lesson 8

This lesson will take 4 to 7 days to complete

Ibn Battuta Exhibit-Culminating activity

Goal: After completion of this lesson, students will illustrate, investigate and analyze the impact of pilgrimages on regions in Africa and Eurasia.

Introduction: Journal write-Tell students to image they are preparing for a long journey in the year 1325, what you would take, how would you get where you needed to go, what dangers you could face. Students share answers.

Activity: Teacher places a map of Ibn Battuta's travels on the overhead and traces his route (National Geography, Ibn Battuta pgs. 12 and 13). Place students in groups and divide his route into manageable sections, each group receives a section. Students are given large sheets of paper or if the teacher prefers a tri-fold (Staples).

Assessment: Your group has been hired by the local museum to complete an exhibit on Ibn Battuta and to explain why his travels are important. Each group must answer the following questions:

1. What major cities are on your route? Select 3 cities and describe what was there when Ibn Battuta visited. If you visited these cities would you see the same sites today?

2. How have the regions of Africa and Eurasia changed since he traveled?

3. Describe in detail two groups of people he may have met on his travels. What did Ibn Battuta say about the people he met?

4. What mode of transportation did he use?

5. Trace a trade route on your section, what was traded?

6. What dangers did he face (Dunn. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, pgs.195-196, 215-216, 246-247 and Gibb, Ibn Battuta, pgs. 239-240).

7. Each group member must select one of the following to complete, create a geometric design (Discovering Geometry, pgs. 16 and 17 or Scholastic Art, Islamic art edition, Dec.2005/Jan.2006) or make African bead jewelry (www.afrodesign.com/history-trade-beads-a-17.html).

8. On your own, each group member must answer the following question in detail, how did the study of an Islamic traveler contribute to our understanding of people's interaction and the spread of Islamic culture during the 1300s?

Exhibit and the class connection to Africa

Students will act as docents and present the exhibit to other classmates and faculty members. During the presentation, students will conduct a campaign to raise awareness of the problems of women in Uganda. Using BeadforLife an organization which provides income to Ugandan women and their families, students will hold a "Beadwear Party." Their website, www.beadforlife.com includes information about the individual beaders and how this program helps women to overcome poverty.

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Abercrombie, Thomas. "Ibn Battuta, Prince of Travelers. National Geographic, Dec.1991, Vol. 180, No. 4, pg. 2-50.This article is very informative, it provides detailed information.

Abraham, Henry and Pfeffer, Irwin. Enjoying Global History, Revised. New York: Amsco School Publications, Inc. 2006.

Broadhurst, R.J.C. The Travels of Ibn Jubayr. London, 1952.Translation of his travels, great details, interesting reading.

Collins, Robert. Africa a Short History. Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006

A quick read with many facts.

Dunn, Ross. The Travels of Ibn Battuta, A Muslim Traveler in the 14th Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986.

Ebray, Patricia, A Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, 2nd.edition, Free Press, New York, New York, 1993. College textbook

Falk, Toby.ed. Treasures of Islam. Tabard Press. New York, New York, 1985. Great visuals, discuss the formation of Islamic art

Gibb, H.A.R.Ibn Battuta, Travels in Asia and Africa, 1325-1354.New Delhi: Musnshiran Manoharlal Publishers, Oriental Books Reprint Corporation, 1986.If you read any book on Ibn Battuta this is the one with the most concise information.

Hamdun, Said and King, Thomas. Ibn Battuta in Black Africa.Princeton: Markus Wiener Publishers, 2003. The focus of this book is his travels in Africa.

Lewis, Bernard. A Middle East Mosaic Fragments of Life, Letters and History. New York: Modern Library, 2001. This book is very interesting it presents various primary sources and also provides examples of stereotyping.

Mackintosh-Smith Tim. Travels With A Tangerine From Morocco to Turkey in the Footsteps of Islam's Greatest Traveler. New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2001.Enjoyable story of one man's journey as he follows in Ibn Battuta footsteps.

Quammen, David. Africa.National Geographic, Special Issue. Sept. 2005, pgs.2-122.

Reader, John. A Biography of the Continent Africa. New York: Vintage Books, Division of Random House, 1997.Historical information on African, great reference.

The Travels of Ibn Battuta in the Near East, Asia and Africa 1325-1354. Translated and Edited by Rev. Samuel Lee. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications, 2004. Could not use, a long read.

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Student Bibliography

Azzan, Abd al-Rahman. Ibn Battuta Son of the Mighty Eagle. Hood Hood Books, London, 1996.

Azzan, Abd al-Rhaman. Ibn Battuta in the Valley of Doom. Hood Hood Books, London. 1996.

Azzan, Abd al-Rhaman. Ibn Battuta and the Lost Shadow, Hood Hood Books, London

Azzan, Abd al-Rhaman. Ibn Battuta and the Tartar Princess. Hood Hood Books, London, 1998. This series of books are not very accurate, yet they are an easy read and could be used in the classroom as a comparison to Ibn Battuta's primary source material.

Calliope, Vol.9, Number 8, April 1999. This issue focuses only on Ibn Battuta

Chanek, Sherilin." National Geographic Reading Expeditions", World Regions Africa, National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., 2003. Easy read covers the Sahara, Savanna, Rain Forest and Great Rift Valley

Eskin, Force Eden. "National Geographic Reading Expeditions". West Asia People and Places, National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C., 2003. Focus on cultures of West Asia from India to Turkey contains a great map

Haskins, James and Bensen, Kathleen. African Beginnings. Harper Collins Children's Book, New York, New York, 1998. Easy read for students, traces and explains Africa's


Henderson, Robert." National Geographic Reading Expeditions". World Regions, West Asia, National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C.2003. Topics include Land of the Monsoons, Himalaya, Arid West Asia and Inland Seas this could help students understand the dangers of a 12th century traveler.

Howlett Margaret, M. Richard Robinson editor, "Scholastic Art", New York, New York, Dec. 2005/ Jan. 2006.Details the importance and meaning of Islamic art

Meade, Deborah. "National Geographic Reading Expeditions", World Cultures Africa People and Places, National Geographic Society, Washington, D.C. 2003. This magazine is considered with modern Africa.

King, Wayne and Lewinski, Marcel. Experiencing World History. American Guidance Service, Inc., Circle Pines, Minnesota, 1991. Class textbook

Kurlansky, Mark. The Story of Salt. G.P.Putnams Sons, New York, New York, 2006.

Interesting book on history of salt, could be used as a read aloud

Masoff, Joy, Mali,Land of Gold and Glory, Five Ponds Press, Waccabuc, New York,2007. Presents the story of Mali and Mansa Musa

McKissack, Patricia and Fredick, The Royal Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay, Life in Medieval Africa, Henry Holt and Co., New York, New York, 1994. Concise and accurate information on the kingdoms of early Africa

Rumford, James, Traveling Man The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354. Houghton Mifflin Company, New York, New York, 2001. Delightful book used as class read aloud

Serra, Michael, Discovering Geometry, An Inductive Approach, Key Curriculum Press, Berkeley, California, 1993. Math textbook with instructions on Islamic art

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Web Resources


Information on beadwork from many countries


Iberian Garden: Jewish, Christian and Muslim Spain, Vol. 1, wonderful music


Great site for teachers, lesson plans, faculty guides, interactive materials


Antique maps of Africa, dated 1534 exhibits European view written in French

www.bu.edu/africa/outreach Boston University's program on teaching Africa

Boston University's program on teaching Africa, lots of lesson plans


Catalan maps, site works well with computer and projector, if access to a board is available the students will be able to interact with the map


Covers major epochs in world history--provides facts


Explains the Five Pillars of Islam


Historical information on African beadwork


Slides of Catalan map which may be purchased


Links to many good sites on Chinese history


National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


Online magazine with information about Islam

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The following are the Connecticut State Standards that apply to lessons in the unit.

Content Standard 1: Historical Thinking

Students will develop historical thinking skills by:

a.) gathering and analyzing historical information from primary and secondary sources

b.) using primary source documents to analyze multiple perspectives

Content Standard 3: Historical Themes

Students will apply their understanding of historical periods, issues and trends to examine:

a.) examples of visual arts, music and architecture and explain what they indicate about the valves and beliefs of various societies

b.) the multiple forces and developments that helped connect the peoples of the world

Content Standard 4: Applying History

Students will recognize the continuing importance of historical thinking and historical knowledge by:

a) being active learners at cultural institutions, such as, museums and historical exhibitions

Content Standard 9: Places and Regions

Students will use spatial perspective to identify and analyze the significance of physical and world regions by:

a) explaining that regions are interconnected and may overlap

b.) analyzing ways different groups in society view places and regions differently

Content Standard 15: Economic Interdependence

Students will demonstrate how the exchange of goods and services by individuals and groups creates economic interdependence and how trade results in change by:

a.) explaining why trade encourages specialization and trace medieval African and Asia trade routes

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