5th March 1046: Persian poet Nasir Khusraw’s 7-year journey through the Islamic world: The Safarnama

Hello, and welcome to HistoryPod. On 5 March 1046, the Persian poet and philosopher
Nasir Khusraw began a seven-year journey through the Islamic world that he recorded in the
Safarnama. Khusraw was born in modern Tajikistan in 1004
and worked for the Seljuk sultanate as a financial administrator until 1046 when he was inspired
to undertake the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Departing on 5 March he did not return home
until October 1052, almost seven years after he set out, by which time he had compiled
a detailed journal of his travels through the Islamic world. Khusraw’s 19,000 kilometre journey saw him
travel to the Islamic holy city of Mecca four times, in addition to visiting the major cities
of Jerusalem and Cairo. In Egypt he became particularly drawn to the
Shi’a doctrines of the ruling Fatimid dynasty and, although he attempted to introduce these
beliefs on his return to Persia, he was met with significant opposition from the Sunni
population. Having settled in Yamgan in the Badakhshan
mountains of present-day Afghanistan, Khusraw set about compiling his extensive notes into
the Safarnama. Known in English as the Book of Travels, Khusraw’s
travelogue is respected as one of the most influential pieces of Persian travel writing
and remains a valuable historical source for its detailed descriptions of the places he
visited. Written in eloquent prose, rather than the
verse that makes Khusraw one of the most important poets in Persian literature, the Safarnama
presents accounts of both the architecture and the daily life of the places he visited. Interspersed with both anecdotes and spiritual reflections, the book is still read by modern-day Persian speakers.

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