R03f_Ch.15: lbn Battuta’s description of the salt mines of Taghaza
Then I traveled at the beginning of the month of God, Muharram, in the year ‘fifty-three [753 A.H., 18 February A.D. 1352] with travel companions whose leader was Abu Muhammad Yandakan al-Massufi, may God have mercy on him.
In the company was a group of the merchants of Sijilmasa and others. We arrived after twenty-five days at Taghaza. It is a village with no good in it. Amongst its curiosities is the fact that the construction of its houses and its mosques is of rock salt with camel skin roofing and there are no trees in it, the soil is just sand. In it is a salt mine. It [Salt] is dug out of the ground and is found there in huge slabs, one on top of another as if it had been carved and put under the ground. A camel can carry two slabs of salt. Nobody lives in it except slaves of the Massufa who dig for the salt and live on dates brought to them from Darca and Sijilmasa, and on the meat of camels, and on *anli *which is brought from the land of the blacks.
The blacks arrive from their country and carry away the salt from there. A camel load of it is sold in Iwalatan [Walata] for from eight to ten mithqals, and in the town of Malli for twenty to thirty mithqals, perhaps the price reaches up to forty. The blacks exchange the salt as money as one would exchange gold and silver. They cut it up and trade with it in pieces. In spite of the insignificance of the village of Taghaza, the trading in it comes to the equivalent of many qintars of gold dust.
Source: Said Harndun and Noel King, Ibn Battuta in Black Africa, Princeton: Publishers, 1994, pp.30-31.
Questions to Ponder:
1. What appears to be the author’s estimation of the village?
2. What, if anything, amazes Ibn Battuta about the village?