While many people know about Ibn Battuta, the Moroccan scholar who travelled the world before European invasion of the continent, many do not know of his Somali counterpart called Sa’id.
Known as Sa’id of Mogadishu, he was born in the city in 1301. At the time, Mogadishu was the capital of the Ajuran Empire, which dominated trade across the Indian Ocean in the Middle Ages. Not only did it boast of a centralized administration but also a strong military strategy that saw them resist the invasion of the Oromo and the Portuguese.
Little is known about Sa’id’s childhood and pre-teen years. He, however, left Mogadishu as a teen and went to Mecca and Medina where he studied various subjects for the next 28 years. During his time, he became a renowned scholar, gaining audiences of the Amirs of the region
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Aside from his scholastic work, Sa’id travelled the world, including visiting Bengal and China. He also went to India, where he stayed in a mosque and met Ibn Battuta.
Scholars say the two were able to have a conversation, with Sa’id telling Battuta of his travels in China including how the Yuan Dynasty’s political landscape and succession worked.
It is said that Sa’id was the first Ambassador for Africa in China and is considered the first African to study Mandarin and to translate works from the language to Somali. He was also accredited with making Somalia the leaders in trade between Africa and Asia.
His sojourns to China is not the only recorded trip as China and Africa had trade and diplomatic relations well into the present, and there are photos to prove this.
Sa’id is said to have died on 1361 or 1365.