Traders from Arabia travelled to and traded with Roman and Asian empires and this Nabataean Sea Merchants article. How far did Arabian traders travel - where was the furthest extent of their expeditions, particularly in Asia (or maybe Australia)?

  • What centuries are you asking about? Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 9:50
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    Am looking at around the 10th to 15th centuries
    – user2434
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 10:09
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    It is often though that the legend of the roc was inspired by the sight of ostrich and emu, due to their resemblance to eagle chicks in appearance. Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 5:15

1 Answer 1


It's not a full answer, but if you're interested by medieval Arabic travels, the unavoidable reference is Ibn Baṭūṭah. In his Rihla, he describes three travels he made during the 14th century :

  1. from Tangiers to middle-East, with a travel along the East coast of Africa, down to Zanbar and Kilwa. (map here)
  2. from Mecca to Beijing, and back, through Eastern Europe, Central Asia, India and South-East Asia. From the way you phrase your question, it's probably the travel which interest you more. (map here and below)
  3. from Mecca to the Mali Empire and back. (map here)

Ibn Battuta's travel to Asia

This text has been translated in many languages, so you probably can find a version in your preferred language. There is a French translation in la Pléïade, and a 19th French translation freely downloadable at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi; I haven't found (yet) an English translation available on the web.

He mainly used the commercial routes, but he probably didn't to "the furthest extent of [Arabic] expeditions. According to the wikipedia page on spice trade, the route went as far East as Molucca.

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    Hi Frederic, I am sure that you can find some useful references for Arabic travelers in Eastern Africa, i.e. Somalia, Kenya and South as far as Zanzibar and Madagascar (at least). I have remembrance of reading about Arabic merchant trading with these people when I studied Hanno the Navigator. +1 Anyways
    – astabada
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 14:42
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    By the way, traveling as far east as Khanbalik (=Beijing) was already possible Eastern Christians in the Middle Ages, who knew China as "Tzinitza". In fact, it was a Christian Bishop that helped translating the Buddhist sacred texts into Chinese.
    – astabada
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 14:45
  • So you're saying that Ibn Batutah is a "canonical" reference point for this issue? +1
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 17:10
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    This reference, particularly the map has answered one of the main queries I had in my initial question - about the outside possibility of visits to the Australian mainland, I can see how very unlikely this was.
    – user2434
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 20:24
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    @TomAu I'm not qualified to say whether Ibn Battuta is a canonical reference point on the maximal extension of the Arabic trade route networks. All I know is that his travels are a classic of the Arab travel literature. Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 21:25

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