National Geographic : 1991 Dec
nearly perished in the wilderness before he was rescued by his Muslim troops. He installed his great embassy in four large dhows at Gandhar on the Gulf of Cambay and sailed down the cosmopolitan Malabar Coast to Calicut, which, he notes, "is visited by merchants from China, Sumatra, Ceylon, the Maldives, Yemen, and Fars [Persia]." He engaged three Chinese junks for the long pas sage to the East-two giant vessels with 12 sails and crews of nearly a thousand for the royal presents, and a smaller ship for himself and his retinue. On departure day Ibn Battuta lingered on shore for Friday prayer, when disaster struck. A sudden, violent storm forced his fleet to flee the shallow harbor; the clumsy junks grounded and broke up, scattering treasure and drowning all the slaves and horses. As he watched, the smaller ship with all his worldly goods and his slaves, one of them carrying his child, tacked desperately out to sea, never to be heard from again. Ibn Battuta was left on the beach with ten dinars in his pocket and his prayer rug. The age of steam relegated this monsoon coast, roughly India's Kerala state today, to charming obscurity, leaving its ports steeped in many cultures.* The spice center of Cochin embraces Hindu temples, mosques, a Dutch palace, a synagogue, and the Portuguese church where Vasco da Gama was buried *Peter Miller wrote of "Kerala, Jewel of India's Mal abar Coast," in the May 1988 GEOGRAPHIC. "Every time he said any encouraging word to me, I kissed his hand," said Ibn Battuta of his first meeting with the Delhi sultan Muham mad Ibn Tughluq, believed buried in the ruins of Tughluqabad (left). Such fawning helped him survive seven years as a judge under the sultan, an unpredictable tyrant who decreed three days' public display of those he executed. Ibn Battuta'sfriendship with a defiant Sufi nearly cost him his life; yet within months Ibn Tughluq named him ambassador to China.