RPCV Jim Rumford writes historical novel about Afghanistan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: The Peace Corps In Afghanistan: RPCV Jim Rumford writes historical novel about Afghanistan

By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, October 05, 2001 - 4:37 pm: Edit Post

The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354 by Afghanistan RPCV Jim Rumford


Sep 30, 2001 - Dayton Daily News Author(s): Meredith Moss

AUTHOR JIM RUMFORD hopes his new picture book will help its readers on their journey to understanding.

Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354 (Houghton Mifflin, $16), reflects Rumford's lifelong love of Islamic mapmaking and Arabic calligraphy. It is the story of a 14th century traveler who wrote of his incredible journey from Morocco to China.

Ibn Battuta's trip spanned almost 30 years and 75,000 miles.

The author could never have fathomed that the story would be published just weeks after a horrible tragedy that would reflect upon both the Arab world and Islam.

`This kind of book could go both ways,' worries Rumford, who lives in Hawaii. `People could react negatively to it.'

What he's found thus far, however, is that the reaction has been favorable.

`If they knew nothing about Muslim or Islamic culture, this book at least introduced them to that culture,' he says. `Maybe they will think about that culture in a different way.'

Rumford was first introduced to Arabic calligraphy and cartography when he was a senior in high school in California and became fast friends with an Iranian boy who came to his high school.

`He introduced me to the Persian language and its various writing styles,' Rumford says. `A few months later I saw an issue of National Geographic in which there was an Arab map of Sind (now Pakistan).'

In college and graduate school, Rumford made a giant map of the world and hung it in his bedroom, marking the places he dreamed of visiting.

When he and his wife joined the Peace Corps in 1971, he traveled to Africa and Asia and worked in Afghanistan for a year. It was there that he bought reed pens used for Arabic calligraphy and studied with a master calligrapher.

`It's so incredibly sad to look at the pictures of the city of Kabul, where I lived in the '70s, and see it reduced to rubble,' he says. `To know that these people who have faced such incredible hardships are now faced with total annihilation. . . . If it isn't from the Taliban, it will be from starvation, or it might be from war.'

The couple also lived in Saudi Arabia, where Rumford spent his weekends buying books on Arab geography, mapmaking and calligraphy. It was during that time that he found an English translation of a book by Ibn Battuta.

`Traveling,' wrote Ibn Battuta, `offers you a hundred roads to adventures and gives you wings.'

Rumford, who has traveled the world, retells Ibn Battuta's story in words and pictures - adding ancient Arab maps to the mix.

The book has lovely drawings of faraway places, including Marrakesh, Sumatra, Constantinople and Morocco. It will introduce youngsters to Arabic writing and traditional dress.

Rumford's other picture books for children include Seeker of Know- ledge: The Man Who Deciphered Egyptian Hieroglyphs, The Island Below the Star and The Cloudmakers.

Last spring Rumford traveled to California and visited a school where he read an early draft of the book to children there.

He says students often asked if he could read the Arabic. When he said he could, they were obviously pleased.

Once, he says, two girls who were from Afghanistan came up to ask the question.

`I then continued in Afghan Persian,' Rumford reports. `One girl burst out crying. She was only 10, but she was so moved that someone knew enough about her culture and her language to speak to her.'

Months ago, in preparation for his book's publication, Rumford wrote that he hoped Traveling Man `will open up a long-needed dialogue between Muslim-and-Arabic writing peoples and their fellow Americans.'

By Anonymous (cache-mtc-aa04.proxy.aol.com - on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 4:52 pm: Edit Post

I am doing a Ibn Battuta report for school and i do not find this site to give enough information about him at all.

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-44-58.balt.east.verizon.net - on Tuesday, September 20, 2005 - 8:13 pm: Edit Post

Check out the entry in the wikipedia.

Best regards,


By Anonymous (pool-71-102-12-208.plspca.dsl-w.verizon.net - on Sunday, January 27, 2008 - 7:28 pm: Edit Post

Wow Jim....so great to read more about you and your adventures....keep up the good work. Aloha, Harriett and Nancy

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