Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Ottoman and European Women’s Fashion Exchange in the 19th Century

Brooklyn Wichmann, “Ottoman and European Women’s Fashion Exchange in the 19th Century”

HIST 4405-Modern Middle East
Idaho State University

Brooklyn Wichmann with her handmade garments, illustrating 
19th century European and Ottoman women's fashion.

The clothing a person wears is often judged by others and gives a first impression. With this in mind, clothing based on ethnicity and religious practice is often judged by those on the “outside” as exotic, peculiar, or even monumental. This occurs by both sides of the judgement. The Ottomans and Europe had been trade partners for centuries by the time of the Ottoman’s dissolution; and with trade of material goods comes cultural exchange. A particular aspect of cultural exchange that is often overlooked is the exchange of fashion. European women became fascinated with the Ottoman Empire’s dress as early as the sixteenth century. The fascination continued into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In this essay Ottoman and Western women’s fashion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the cultural influence on one another will be examined.
            European interest in Ottoman women’s clothing was a topic beginning with first contact. Historian Kass McGann states that the height of the fashion for the Ottomans was the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and that this was the Golden Age of the empire and a great time for women in general.[1] McGann’s Ottoman Turkish Women’s Getting Dressed Guide discusses the distinction between what clothing was for Ottoman women and what has now become costume.[2] Her guide lists what was worn by the women and in what order each piece was worn.  As stated this essay highlights the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but as Historian Jennifer Scarce points out “Women’s fashion did not remain static but continued to evolve at a steady pace . . .[and] changes are seen more in subtlety of detail rather than in drastic innovation of shape and cut.”[3] The primary pieces of clothing for Ottomans were the undershirt (gömlek), underpants (cakşir), trousers (şalvar), coat (kaftan), vest (yelek), interior garment (entari), and a long loose robe (ferace).[4] The importance of these garments was that they were simple in construction; all created using rectangles, triangles, or squares. There was little to no contours that revealed the shape of the body.[5]
 Scarce discusses that while the normal garments of the Ottomans consisted of simple shapes, there are surviving garments from the 1870s that show darts inserted in the waist of the  entari to create the fashionable European shape. In addition, this particular garment had a sloping shoulder seam not seen before, and a cut out armhole. These elements come together to form a more modern westernized dress that clung to the body.[6] Scarce illustrates that the fashion of Ottoman women naturally developed through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, but in the nineteenth century the European influence was starting to take shape. She continues that the European influence accelerated the pace of change and by the early twentieth century upper class circles had adopted the “smart European dress.”[7] In contrast to Ottoman women, European women’s layers were more conforming to the body. A European woman’s dressing guide lists the following components for women’s dress: chemise, drawers, corset, corset cover, petticoat, understructure, petticoats, bodice, and overskirt.[8] As indicated already, Ottoman women had fewer layers that were far less constricting. The less restrictive qualities of Ottoman clothing could indicate why exoticism developed in Europe.
Examining portraits of Ottoman and European women, helps discern the appeal of each regional style. These portraits of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna (left) and Abdullah Freres (right) show the quintessential fashions of both cultures.[9] These women were chosen because their clothing represents the epitome of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century fashion for their regions and cultures. Tsarina Alexandra is a well-known woman which illustrates European women participated in the public sphere displaying themselves through fashion. The unknown Ottoman woman illustrates that while the photographer may know who she is, society was not allowed to know who she was because women were supposed to remain hidden. The secrecy is evident in the clothing which covers the entire body.
Alexandra’s dress bodice is fitted to the waist with a fuller skirt, which was the style of the late nineteenth century. The gown Tsarina Alexandra wears is also formal court attire for Russia, which adds to the luxury that Europe portrayed to Ottoman women.[11] The unnamed Turkish woman wears a traditional costume of the Ottoman Empire. Since she is outside her home she is wearing the ferace, or oversized covering that was required by Islam. We don’t see what is underneath but the ferace itself illustrates tight-fitting garments were not the norm for the Ottoman Empire. Historian Julia Clancy-Smith discusses the image Ottoman women instilled in the minds of the West. The paintings and photographs of the nineteenth century portray women, Clancy-Smith argues, as exotic beauties hidden away.[12] As shown, the woman does appear hidden away through the veil and folds of fabric.
On the other hand, Alexandra is not hidden away. She exudes the imperialism of the West and the fashion of the times. Historian Onur Inal states that “European dress represented the extrovert character of British women by revealing more of the contours of the body than did the dress of Ottoman women.”[13] The statement reveals appeal of western dress to the Ottomans. It took a strong extrovert woman to wear a low cut, tight fitting bodice; and it took an even stronger woman to carry it well. This is not to say that the Ottoman woman were not strong, quite the contrary. The Ottoman women’s clothing were dictated by “sumptuary regulations based on Islamic Law and social norms, but susceptible to change.”[14] By rejecting the clothing society dictates to them was a direct rejection of cultural norms. In summary, the appeal of each style to its counter-partner was that it was different. It was a rejection of the clothing society dictated to them. In essence, it was a way for women to rebel.
Historian Einav Rabinovitch-Fox states: “the Oriental style marked a move from the S-shaped, frail look that dominated the Victorian period, towards a straighter, more comfortable, simpler style that promoted a more sensual ideal of female beauty.”[15] She continues that women’s rights activists were seeking a new look for women in the nineteenth century that would convey their ideals. She illustrates this point by discussing that these activists found that the Middle East was equated with feminine and the West masculine. By utilizing the fashionable Turkish trousers (şalvars) they could achieve their goals. The Turkish trousers were believed to be part of this new look for activists because it gave them comfort and movement but would still be regarded as feminine when using the west’s equation of middle east equals feminine. They would then not be portrayed as trying to be masculine and rebellious but instead embracing their sex and femininity.[16] Fox illustrates a monumental influence the Ottomans had on Western dress. The influence continues through important artists such as Paul Poiret and Leon Bakst.
Historian Christine Ruane discusses in detail the Ottoman influence on Leon Bakst in The Empire’s New Clothes. Leon Bakst was a Russian designer for the Ballet Russes during the late nineteenth century. Ruane states that he took trips to the Middle East to influence his designs. She continues that the hearts of Parisian audiences were stolen with the “Oriental” costume designs. She believes this to be another example of the West’s obsession with the East and its “binary oppositions – masculine/feminine, civilized/barbaric, familiar/exotic, rational/erotic...”[17] These “Oriental” ballets had a dual purpose, Ruane claims; to entertain and to act as intermediary between east and west, because Russia was both Asian and European.[18] The importance of Ottoman influence on Bakst is observed by British photographer Cecil Beaton, as he states it was “a fashion world that had been dominated by corsets, lace, feathers, and pastel shades soon found itself in a city that overnight had become a seraglio of vivid colours, harem skirts, beads, fringes, and voluptuousness.”[19]
Like Bakst, Paul Poiret was another European designer that took heavy influence from Ottoman women. Historian James Laver contends that Poiret used the wave of orientalism to establish a new modern women. Laver describes the scene as a sweeping away of mauves’, corsets, bell skirts and structure. In its place, Turkish trousers and draping gowns became the new norm for elite women.[20] Onur claims: “It is remarkable that at the same time when şalvar and entari became a fashion of high society in Britain, it was simultaneously replaced by European dress among the elite women in the Ottoman Empire.”[21] There is minimal scholarship on who designed what for the Ottoman women, but as Onur points out that foreign tailors and dressmakers took up residence in Istanbul to capitalize on their new audiences.[22] This was not only for the women of the empire but during the early nineteenth century Sultan Muhmud II embarked on reform for modernization that included clothing changes.[23]
Historian Serap Kavas discusses that twentieth-century Turkish Republican elites saw their style of dress as backward and wished to revive it according to modern fashion. He states that his study “investigates the crucial role of physical appearance in the path towards the development of the country.”[24] This modernization included banning the fez and veiling.[25] It is evident from Abdullah Freres’s photograph in the late nineteenth century that veiling continued. Onur also points out that Mahmud II’s reforms did not have any significant impact on women’s clothing.[26] Kavas counters Onur by stating that while there was no legislation dictating dress for women, the women still flocked to adopt western attire. He states this occurred first with the palace elite. There was even talk of adopting the corset, which was an unfamiliar item for the Ottomans. An article printed in an Ottoman newspaper stated: “Given how women dress in the civilized world, we will come to realize that the corset has become an essential component of a dress.”[27] The shift from traditional to western attire is evident in the following two photographs of Ottoman garments.

Westernization did take hold in the Ottoman Empire through clothing. The difference between men and women’s fashion is that women adopted by choice. As mentioned previously, aside from the veil no edicts were passed explicitly stating what women should wear, but there were edicts on men’s dress.
            In this essay Ottoman and Western women’s fashion during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and the cultural influence on one another have been examined. There are contradictions in the scholarship on women’s clothing in the Ottoman Empire. These contradictions include that some believed Ottoman women to fully retain their traditional clothing, while others state they quickly abandoned their clothing for European fashions. Written scholarship conflicts on the evolution of garments ,but extant garments similar to those from the Sadberk Hanim Museum in Istanbul are definite. Within elite Ottoman society more traditional garments were influenced by western commodities. The same is true for the West. Extant garments from designers like Paul Poiret illustrate the influence of the Ottoman women in Europe. There were some women who wore these designs but as Onur points out they were often reserved for fancy balls and masquerades.[29] Ottoman women in contrast fully embraced the western attire for their everyday attire. The influence was uneven between east and west, and illustrate that Europeans sought to dominate those whom they deemed culturally inferior to them.
Boasson, Frederick and Fritz Eggler, photographers. [Empress Alexandra Feodorovna,
Autographed Photograph], [1908] Image. Retrieved from,
feodorovna/. (Accessed April 05, 2016).
Inal, Onur. "Women's Fashions in Transition: Ottoman Borderlands and the Anglo-Ottoman
Exchange of Costumes." Journal Of World History 22, no. 2 (June 2011): 243-272.
Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 25, 2016).
Kavas, Serap. "‘Wardrobe Modernity’: Western Attire as a Tool of Modernization in Turkey."
Middle Eastern Studies 51, no. 4 (July 2015): 515-539. Academic Search Complete,
EBSCOhost (accessed March 10, 2016).
Laver, James. Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 5th ed. London: Thames and Hudson
ltd., 2012.
McGann, Kass. Getting Dressed Guide for Ottoman Turkish Women 1520-1683. Reconstructing
History, LLC, 2014. Kindle.
Rabinovitch-Fox, Einav. "[RE]FASHIONING THE NEW WOMAN: Women's Dress, the
Oriental Style, and the Construction of American Feminist Imagery in the 1910s."
Journal Of Women's History 27, no. 2 (Summer2015 2015): 14-36. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 10, 2016).
Ruane, Christine. The Empire’s New Clothes.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.
Sadberk Hanim Museum, Ottoman Women’s Costumes, Acessed March 15, 2016.
Scarce, Jennifer. Women’s Costume of the Near and Middle East. New York: Routledge, 2003.

[1] Kass McGann, Ottoman Turkish Women’s Getting Dressed Guide: 1520-1683 (Reconstructing History LLC, 2014), Kindle, loc 111.
[2]Ibid., loc68. 
[3]Jennifer Scarce, Women’s Costume of the Near and Middle East (New York: Routledge, 2003), Kindle, loc 1263.
[4]McGann, loc 136-208.
[5]Scarce, 1698. 
[6]Scarce, loc 1793.
[7]Ibid., 1558. 
[8]A. Bender, “Late 19th & Early 20th Century: The parts of a lady’s outfit in putting-on order,” La Couturiere Parisienne, copyright 1997-2012, . The chemise was similar to the gömlek in that it was usually a simple undershirt; the drawers are similar to the cakşir and were underpants; the corset sculpted the body to the proper shape of the decade; the corset over was usually embroidered or had lace that would show above the bodice; the first petticoat was closer cut to make sure nothing was exposed if the wind kicked up skirts; the understructure could have been a bustle, crinoline, but wasn’t present in the 20th century; more petticoats were added to smooth the shape and add fullness to the skirt; and finally a separate bodice and skirt were put on over top the layers.
[9] Abdullah Frères, photographer. [Turkish Woman, Full Length Portrait, Seated, Facing Front, Holding Parasol and Flowers], [Between and 1900, 1880] Image. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, (Accessed April 04, 2016.)
[10] Frederick Boasson and Fritz Eggler, photographers. [Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Autographed Photograph], [1908] Image, retrieved from,, (accessed April 05, 2016).
[11]Ruane, 64. 
[12]Ibid., 138-140.
[13]Onur Inal, "Women's Fashions in Transition: Ottoman Borderlands and the Anglo-Ottoman
Exchange of Costumes," Journal Of World History 22, no. 2 (June 2011), Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed February 25, 2016), 257. 
[14]Ibid., 263.
[15] Einav Rabinovitch-Fox, "[RE]FASHIONING THE NEW WOMAN: Women's Dress, the Oriental Style, and the Construction of American Feminist Imagery in the 1910s," Journal Of Women's History 27, no. 2 (Summer2015 2015): 14-36. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (accessed March 10, 2016), 15.
[16]Ibid., 17. 
[17]Ruane, 176. 
[18]Ibid., 177. 
[19]Ibid., 178. 
[20] James Laver, Costume and Fashion: A Concise History. 5th ed. (London: Thames and Hudson
ltd., 2012), 224.
[21] Onur, 270.
[22]Ibid., 268. 
[23]Ibid., 262. 
[24] Serap Kavas, 516.
[26]Onur, 262. 
[27]Kavas, 523-524. 
[28]  Sadberk Hanim Museum, Ottoman Women’s Costumes, Acessed March 15, 2016.
[29]Onur, 255. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Article in The Economist on The Emergence of Modern Shi'ism

Read the Article on The Economist

How Shiism evolved

Powers of persuasion

Modern Shiites have a long and complicated history

Zackery Heern, an American academic, is primarily concerned with the Shias, Islam’s second-largest denomination after the Sunnis. But he refreshingly teases out the parallels between the three movements, rather than their differences as most other commentators have done. He notes, in particular, their shared intolerance of alternatives in their pursuit of a single path to truth. “Sectarianism notwithstanding,” he writes, “Wahhabis, Idrisis and Usulis did have a common enemy in popular Sufism and each movement sought to suppress popular rituals that were thought to be un-Islamic.”  
Historians term the new movements, somewhat kindly, “revivalist”. Certainly all three upheld the right to challenge and reinterpret tradition afresh. Both the Wahhabis and the Usulis (unlike their Shia rivals, the Akhbaris) clung to their right to exercise ijtihad, or independent legal reasoning, rather than reliance on precedent. But whereas the Wahhabis limited ijtihad to interpretation of the sacred texts, Usulis insisted they could deduce rulings from rational arguments as well. Ibn Idris, the Sufi, relied on his intuition to revisit old texts...

WKMS interview on The Emergence of Modern Shi'ism

Listen to the full interview on WKMS

MSU History Professor on 'The Emergence of Modern Shi'ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq & Iran'

Murray State University Assistant Professor of History Dr. Zackery Heern says modern Shi'ism started with the "modernity" in general - around the 1700s, roughly the same time as the Enlightenment in Europe, birth of the United States and French Revolution. He's published a book titled The Emergence of Modern Shi'ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran. On Sounds Good, Kate Lochte speaks with Dr. Heern about his research and gains some context and clarity into the historical differences between Shi'ism and Sunnism...

Understanding the emergence of modern Shi‘ism

See full article on Your Middle East

Dr Zackery M. Heern, author of the new book 'The Emergence of Modern Shi‘ism: Islamic Reform in Iraq and Iran', has written a thought-provoking piece that helps us better grasp key developments in the Muslim Middle East.

I often complain that media related to the Middle East and Islam frequently lacks context. Indeed, news reports, related to the Middle East or otherwise, often assume that events occur without precedent and are unconnected to the past. Analysis, therefore, can be wildly misleading. The antidote for this absence of context is the study of history, which is why I tell my students that historians make good journalists. 
Unfortunately, however, history is often only invoked by pundits when the assertion is made that the Middle East has a long history of problems - violence, inequality, injustice, sectarianism, etc. These assumptions are biased in the worst way since they wrongly assume that the current state of affairs in the Middle East is identical to its seemingly unchanging history. On this faulty foundation, some analysts make doomsday prognostications that the Middle East will always be a problematic region since they assume that it always has been.
Instead of confining my contribution to this problem to exasperation, I wrote a book that situates modern Shi‘ism within the contexts of Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, and world history. In other words, the book is about Shi‘i Islam and its place in the modern world. By “modern” I do not mean the contemporary world, which is the domain of journalists and political scientists. I use the amorphous term “modern” in the historical sense. According to many historians, the modern world began sometime around 1750...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Thou Shalt Emulate the Most Knowledgeable Living Cleric: Redefinition of Islamic Law and Authority in Usuli Shi‘ism


Zackery M. Heern. “Thou Shalt Emulate the Most Knowledgeable Living Cleric: Redefinition of Islamic Law and Authority in Usuli Shi‘ism,” Journal of Shi‘a Islamic Studies. Vol. VII, No. 3, Summer 2014, pp. 323-346.

Islamic law, Islamic authority, Usuli Shi‘ism, Murtada Ansari, usul al-fiqh, marja‘ al-taqlid


To ensure that the actions of Shi‘is are in conformity with God’s will, Usuli scholars argued that all Shi‘is must emulate (taqlid) the rulings of the most knowledgeable (a‘lam) living mujtahid, who is the exemplar, or ‘source of emulation’ (marja‘ al-taqlid) for the Shi‘i community. Marja‘iyyah is the concept that a living mujtahid has leadership over the Shi‘i community. As Linda Walbridge puts it, the marja‘ is ‘the representative of the “general deputyship” of the Imam’ and ‘enjoys the dual role of chief legal expert and spiritual model for all Shi‘a.’ Although theories of marja‘iyyah have their roots in the pre-modern period, it is only since the nineteenth century that the concept has achieved traction among a sizable portion of the Shi‘i community in practice. In the contemporary Shi‘i world, marja‘s have become pope-like figures, who should theoretically be emulated (taqlid) by the Shi‘i community in matters related to the all-encompassing system of Islamic law.

The theoretical underpinnings for the Shi‘i concepts of jurisprudence (usul al-fiqti) and marja‘ al-taqlid were redefined by Shaykh Murtada ibn Muhammad Amin Ansari (1799-1864), who was one of the most influential Muslim scholars of the nineteenth century. Ansari systematically overhauled much of the socio-legal framework of modern Usuli Shi‘ism. Ansari’s supporters have referred to him as the ‘seal of the mujtahids’ as well as the ‘the Imam’s Chosen One and the Caliph in truth over all men in all judgments concerning what is permitted or forbidden, the Exemplar of both the experts and laymen.’ In his monumental work, The Mantle of the Prophet, Roy Mottahedeh rightly argues that ‘leadership in Shiah learning... found its highest expression in Sheikh Mortaza Ansari,’ and ‘more than that of any mullah leader of the past two centuries, his leadership celebrated his learning.’ Indeed, Ansari reached a pinnacle of both Shi‘i scholarship and leadership, achieving an unprecedented status in Shi‘i history as the widely recognized sole supreme exemplar (marja‘ al-taqlid al-mutlaq) of the global Shi‘i community.

In addition to redefining central theories of Shi‘i law and authority, Ansari modeled his new approach to Shi‘ism during his lifetime. Scholars debate whether Ansari was the first or second supreme marja‘ al-taqlid in Shi‘i history Regardless of who deserves the title of first marja‘, the concept of marja‘ al-taqlid did not exist in practice prior to the nineteenth century, even though the theory had been developed prior to this time. However, largely as a result of Ansari’s efforts, the marja‘ became a fixture of Shi‘i authority in the twentieth century. Ansari’s acceptance as leader of the Shi‘i community also greatly contributed to the establishment of Najaf as the dominant international centre of Shi‘i learning and authority until the mid-twentieth century when Qum emerged as a leading Shi‘i centre.

Abbas Amanat questions whether the notion of ‘marja'-i taqlid kull (supreme source of emulation)’ existed during Ansari’s time given that ‘the first explicit reference to Ansari’s supreme authority’ only appears in the twentieth century. Whether or not Ansari’s contemporaries viewed him as such, no other scholar has come to exemplify the office of marja‘ al-taqlid more than Ansari. He became the prototype and the icon on which the institution was built. Marja‘iyyah continues to be a defining feature of contemporary Shi‘i societies, even if no single marja‘ has obtained the same widespread support that Ansari once enjoyed.

The remainder of this paper argues that Ansari’s redefinition of key concepts related to Islamic legal theory and clerical authority increased the power of Shi‘i mujtahids. Ansari’s work was instrumental in establishing Usuli clerics as intermediaries between lay members of the Shi‘i community and traditional sources of Shi‘i authority. Ansari systematized the process of issuing and disseminating legal judgments. His conception of marja‘ al-taqlid required lay Shi‘is to emulate the judgments of the most knowledgeable living jurist. In fact, Ansari argued that following a mujtahid is legally binding in Islam...

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review of The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta

Book Review
David Waines, The Odyssey of Ibn Batutta: Uncommon Tales of a Medieval Adventurer
By Zackery M. Heern
Published in Al-Masaq: Islam and the Medieval Mediterranean, Volume 25, Issue 2, August 2013, pages 265-267

David Waines’s The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta is a palatable monograph on the legendary Moroccan Muslim traveler. Ibn Battuta’s travelogue, al-Rihla, has long been used as a source of information on Eurasia and Africa in the Middle Ages. Sex, culinary delights, miracles, and radical others are among the many themes of Waines’s book. Like Ibn Battuta’s travelogue, The Odyssey explores the sacred and the profane in equal measure.

In the opening chapter, Waines seeks to contextualize Ibn Battuta and his famous travelogue, which is the only book attributed to Ibn Battuta. Waines uses the English translation of al-Rihla by Gibb and Beckingham as his primary source of research for The Odyssey. After Waines makes the inevitable comparison between Ibn Battuta and Marco Polo, he attempts to defend the very authenticity of Ibn Battuta’s travelogue. Waines concedes that portions of al-Rihla are plagiarized and that the chronology of Ibn Battuta’s travels laid out in the text is “impossible.” Waines argues that even though Ibn Battuta copied portions of his travelogue (most notably from Ibn Jubayr), he still adds a fourteenth century eyewitness account on top of the accounts of previous authors.

As Waines periodically indicates throughout The Odyssey, Ibn Battuta’s al-Rihla generally conforms to the historical realities of the Middle Ages. Therefore, the question that scholars are grappling with is whether Ibn Battuta actually visited the places he discusses in his book or if his account is the product of his own research. Ultimately, Waines suggests that critics of Ibn Battuta, including Gibb, provide misleading conclusions. Waines argues that plagiarism among medieval writers was widespread, even if frustrating for the modern scholar. Although the plagiarism question consumes most of the first chapter, it is not the main thrust of Waines’s book. Waines is more interested in opening up the world of Ibn Battuta to a contemporary Western audience.

The remainder of The Odyssey is divided into four chapters. Chapter two dives into the travels of Ibn Battuta. The reader makes a pilgrimage with Ibn Battuta to Mecca, sails south to Yemen, travels to Anatolia, and heads east to India and China before returning to Ibn Battuta’s homeland of Morocco. Along the way, Ibn Battuta hears church bells ring for the first time, purchases two Greek slave girls, joins a military expedition, and receives a large cash gift from a Turkish sultan. Throughout this chapter and the remainder of the book, Waines is a good tour guide, providing historical or cultural context when necessary.

The themes of chapter three are food and hospitality. In fact, much of the discussion on hospitality focuses on food as well. Having written extensively on medieval Islamic culture since the 1970s, Waines is in his element when discussing food. In fact, Waines’s contribution to Ibn Battuta studies may well be his elaboration on food culture. Throughout the chapter, he gives detailed descriptions, even recipes of dishes that Ibn Battuta mentions. Further, Waines points out Islamic food laws when applicable to the stories he relates.

In my view, chapters four and five are the highlights of The Odyssey. Chapter four fulfills the promise indicated by the subtitle of the book. The reader is treated to fantastic tales featuring great religious and political figures. Waines does not disappoint in his retelling of Ibn Battuta’s experiences with fire dancing, snake biting, fortune telling, levitation, and other miracles. As Waines points out, Ibn Battuta’s travels can seem like “a medieval globetrotter’s guide to the cemeteries of the Muslim world” (p. 135). Waines argues that Ibn Battuta’s goal in visiting tombs of saints and other holy sites was to receive religious blessings and witness miracles (p. 121).

The theme of the fifth and final chapter is the “other,” for which Waines relies heavily on the work of Remke Kruk and Roxanne Euben. The first half of the chapter discusses Ibn Battuta’s treatment of women. Waines describes Ibn Battuta as “more of a serial monogamist than polygamist, except for his…sojourn to the Maldive Islands” (p. 158). In what follows, Waines describes a pattern in which Ibn Battuta would contract marriages during his stay in a given place and divorce his wives once he decided to travel to his next destination. Waines illustrates how Ibn Battuta reveled in the fact that marriage in the Maldives “is really a sort of temporary marriage,” (p. 163). However, as a judge on there, he tried to force women to wear Islamic dress, but to no avail. Additionally, Ibn Battuta chastised the immoral behavior of buying Greek slave girls for prostitution, but continuously purchased slave girls throughout his travels when he could afford it. Waines also points out that Ibn Battuta was scandalized by the fact that he came across matrilineal societies in sub-Saharan Africa, where women and men had platonic relationships.

In the second half of the fourth chapter, Waines discusses Ibn Battuta’s relationship with religious and racial ‘others.’ Waines illustrates a number of encounters between Ibn Battuta and practitioners of Islamic legal schools other than his own Maliki school. Waines includes an entire section on Ibn Battuta’s interaction with Shi‘i Muslims. Following the practice of Ibn Battuta, Waines uses the derogatory terms dissidents and Rafidis (lit. rejectionists) to describe Shi‘is. In all, Waines suggests that although Ibn Battuta detested the “extreme Rafidis,” he admired their piety and hospitality.

The Odyssey is a must read for Ibn Battuta enthusiasts, especially those who happen to be foodies and enjoy fantastical stories. The discerning reader is left wondering, though, whether the tales presented by Waines are a veritable portal to the medieval world or simply Ibn Battuta’s imagination of it. Either way, Waines has written a fascinating study of one of history’s most renowned world travelers.