A secretary to the Almohad governor of Valencia in southern Spain, Ibn Jubair set out on pilgrimage seeking both expiation (for the sin of drinking wine) and his roots – his ancestors came from his destination, Mecca. His travelogue is vivid, crammed with telling observations of the sights and people he encounters. He is also fair: while he is disgusted by Christian Acre, ‘filled with refuse and excrement’, he praises the ‘Frankish landlords’ of the crusader kingdom for their benign treatment of Muslim subjects. He lauds Saladin, the ruler in Egypt, while excoriating his Fatimid predecessors (who his travel-writing forerunner, Khusraw so admired). His social observations in Christian Sicily are acute, noting both the Islamic acculturation of the Norman rulers, and the Christian accommodations of their Muslim subjects. He made two further expeditions, dying in Alexandria, whose wondrous lighthouse he greatly admired.
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