Famous foreign travelers to Central Asia

Info Shymkent - Famous foreign travelers to Central Asia

Central Asia has always been a popular destination for foreign adventurers, explorers, and travelers. Info Shymkent provide you with the most popular people who wrote about Central Asia in the past.

We tried to order the most famous foreign travelers to Central Asia from past to present and mention their most popular book they published about their visits in Central Asia.

Giovanni da Pian del Carpine (1185 – 1252)

The Italian diplomat and Franciscan Giovanni da Pian del Carpine received a mission from Pope Innocent IV. to find the Great Khan of the Mongol Empire and to hand over an offer to the Great Khan to stop the attacks to Europe and to fight together against the Islamic Expansion in the Middle East in April 1245.

He traveled through Kyiv, crossing Volga river and passing by Aral Sea and following the Syr Darya river. Near the place where is today city Shymkent he followed the Tian Shan Mountain range to the East. He found the encampment of the Great Khan Güyük Khan near Karakorum in Mongolia in July 1246 right at the moment of the enthronement of Güyük Khan.

He received a audience to meet the new Great Khan but he was afraid and didn’t hand over the message. He received instead a message from Güyük Khan to hand it over to the Pope that he and all European leaders has to swear allegiance to him.

Disappointed Giovanni da Pian del Carpine went back to Europe in the Winter 1246/47. He also didn’t handed over the letter of the Great Khan but wrote down his memories of his journey in his book Ystoria Mongalorum.

Rabban Bar Sauma (1220 – 1294)

Rabban Bar Sauma was a Turk-Chinese or Uyghur. Sometimes he is named as the Chinese Marco Polo. He was born in 1220 in the historical city Zhongdu located near Bejing in China. He became with the age of 20 years a monk of the christian Nestorian Church of the East.

Rabban Bar Sauma started a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1276. He travelled from Bejing via Kashgar to Talas (today’s Taraz in Kazakhstan). Here he received the travel permits to cross the country from Talas to the Syr Darya river save. He went through Khorasan, Maragha and arrived the ancient Ani – in this days the capital of the Kingdom of Georgia.

He learned that it was to dangerous to continue his journey to Jersualem. So he changed his plans and went further to the west to Constantinople (now: Istanbul), Rome and Gascony (now: Bordeaux).

After meeting Edward I in Gascony he went back to Rome and from there to Bagdad. Rabban Bar Sauma stayed for his last years of his life in Baghdad and wrote down his experiences during his journey from China to Europe and the Middle East in a manuscript. The book was rediscovered during the 19th century and translated at the end of the 19th century in French and later in English language with the title The Monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China or The History of the Life and Travels of Rabban Sawma, Envoy and Plenipotentiary of the Mongol Khans to the Kings of Europe, and Markos Who as Mar Yahbh-Allaha III Became Patriarch of the Church of the East in Asia.

Niccolò (1230 – 1294) and Maffeo Polo (1230 – 1309)

Niccolò and Maffeo Polo were Italian merchants and explorers who traveled through Central Asia in the 13th century. They are best known for their journey to China, which was documented in the book The Travels of Marco Polo, written by Niccolò’s son, Marco Polo.

The Polo brothers set out on their journey in 1260, traveling from Venice to Constantinople and then on to the Black Sea. From there, they journeyed overland through Central Asia, passing through Persia, Afghanistan, and other regions before reaching the court of Kublai Khan, the ruler of China, in 1275.

Piccolò, Maffeo and Marco Polo spent several years in China, where they established a trading network and became advisors to the Khan. Marco Polo, who was just a teenager at the time, accompanied his father and uncle on their journey and documented their experiences in his famous book.

The Travels of Marco Polo provided detailed descriptions of the people, customs, and geography of Central Asia and China, and it helped to introduce Europeans to the wonders of the East. The book was widely read and admired, and it had a significant impact on European exploration and trade with Asia.

Ibn Battuta (1304 – 1369)

Ibn Battuta was a 14th-century Moroccan explorer who traveled extensively throughout the Islamic world, including Central Asia. He was born in Tangier, part of the Marinid Sultanate in these days, in 1304 and set out on his first journey in 1325, when he was just 21 years old.

During his travels, Ibn Battuta visited cities such as Samarkand, Bukhara, and Khiva in Central Asia. He marveled at the architecture and culture of these cities, describing the intricate mosaics, beautiful gardens, and bustling marketplaces in his writings.

In addition to his travels in Central Asia, Ibn Battuta visited many other parts of the Islamic world, including North Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, and China. He spent a total of 29 years traveling and wrote about his adventures in his book Rihla which means just Journey in Arabic.

Ibn Battuta’s travels are important because they provide valuable insights into the medieval Islamic world, including its social, economic, and political structures. His writings also offer a glimpse into the cultural diversity of the regions he visited, and his observations of local customs, beliefs, and practices continue to be studied by scholars today.

Alexander von Humbolt (1769 – 1859)

Alexander von Humboldt was a 19th-century German explorer and naturalist who is known for his extensive travels and scientific discoveries. In 1829, he embarked on a journey from the river Neva in Russia to the Altai Mountains in Siberia.

During this journey, von Humboldt and his team traveled over 10,000 kilometers, documenting the flora, fauna, geology, and climate of the region. They explored the vast steppes, crossed the Ural Mountains, and navigated the Ob and Irtysh rivers.

Alexander von Humboldt was particularly interested in studying the Earth’s magnetic field, and he used his journey to collect data on magnetic variations across the region. He also studied the indigenous people of Siberia and their way of life, documenting their customs and beliefs in his writings. He wrote down his experiences in his book The Russia expedition. From the Newa to the Altai.

Humboldt‘s journey to the Altai Mountains was one of his many expeditions, which also included travels to South America, Mexico, and Central Asia. His scientific contributions to the fields of geology, botany, and climatology were groundbreaking, and his writings continue to inspire scientists and adventurers today.

Thomas Witlam Atkinson (1799 – 1861) and Lucy Atkinson (1817 – 1893)

Oriental and Western Siberia: A narrative of Seven Years’ Explorations and Adventures in Siberia, Mongolia and part of Central Asia (Thomas Witlam Atkinson) and Recollections of Tartar Steppes and their Inhabitants (Lucy Atkinson)

Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky (1827 – 1914)

Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky was a Russian explorer and geographer who conducted several expeditions in Central Asia and the Tian Shan mountains in the 19th century. He is best known for his explorations of the region’s mountains, rivers, and deserts, as well as his contributions to the study of geography and geology.

During his expeditions, Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky mapped out the Tian Shan range and discovered several peaks, including Khan Tengri and Pobeda. He also studied the glaciers and rivers of the region, and made valuable contributions to the fields of glaciology and hydrology.

Pyotr Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky was also interested in the culture and history of Central Asia, and he conducted extensive research on the region’s ethnic groups and languages. He wrote several books about his travels and research, including Travels in the Tian’-Shan’ 1856-1857 and Geography of the Chinese Empire.

Semyonov-Tyan-Shansky‘s contributions to the exploration and study of Central Asia and the Tian Shan mountains were significant, and his work continues to be studied and admired today. He was also a member of several scientific societies, including the Russian Geographical Society and the Imperial Russian Academy of Sciences.

Ármin Vámbéry (1832 – 1913)

Ármin Vámbéry was a Hungarian orientalist and traveler who explored Middle Asia and Central Asia in the 19th century. He is best known for his books and sketches documenting the region’s geography, culture, and history.

During his travels, Vámbéry visited cities such as Bukhara, Samarkand, and Tashkent, where he studied the local languages and cultures. He also traveled extensively in Iran, Turkey, and other parts of the Middle East.

Armin Vámbéry’s most famous books are Travels in Central Asia and Sketches of Central Asia, provided a detailed account of his experiences in the region, including his interactions with local rulers and his observations of everyday life. He also published several other books on topics such as Persian literature and Ottoman history.

In addition to his writing, Vámbéry was also a respected scholar and teacher of oriental languages. He held positions at several universities, including the University of Budapest and the University of Istanbul, and he was widely regarded as an authority on Turkish and Persian language and literature.

Armin Vámbéry’s contributions to the study of Central Asia and the Middle East were significant, and his books and sketches continue to be studied and admired today.

Vsevolod Krestovsky (1840 – 1895)

Vsevolod Krestovsky was a Russian diplomat and explorer who visited the Emir of Bukhara, Nasrullah Khan, in the late 19th century. Krestovsky was sent to Bukhara by the Russian government to negotiate a treaty with the Emir and establish better relations between the two countries.

During his visit, Krestovsky documented the architecture and culture of Bukhara, which was a major center of Islamic learning and scholarship. He also met with Nasrullah Khan and other local leaders, and discussed various political and economic issues. He wrote down his impressions of this visit in his book On a visit to the Emir of Bukhara.

Vsevolod Krestovsky’s visit to Bukhara was significant because it helped to establish a more stable relationship between Russia and the emirate, which had been marked by conflict and tension for many years. The treaty that Krestovsky negotiated paved the way for increased trade and cooperation between the two countries.

In addition to his diplomatic work, Vsevolod Krestovsky was also an accomplished explorer and geographer. He conducted several expeditions in Central Asia and wrote extensively about the region’s geography, natural resources, and culture. His contributions to Russian diplomacy and exploration continue to be studied and admired today.

Eugene Schuyler (1840 – 1890)

Eugene Schuyler was an American diplomat, writer, and explorer who traveled extensively through Central Asia in the late 19th century. In 1873, he set out on a journey to explore the region, which was largely uncharted at the time.

During his travels, Eugene Schuyler visited cities such as Turkistan, Shymkent, Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, documenting the architecture, culture, and history of the region. He also met with local leaders, including the Emir of Bukhara, and wrote about their interactions in his book, Turkistan: Notes of a Journey in Russian Turkistan, Khokand, Bukhara, and Kuldja (Volume I + II).

Schuyler’s writings are important because they provide valuable insights into the political and social structures of Central Asia, a time of great changes triggered after the conquest of Central Asia through the Russian Empire. His observations of the region’s natural resources, including its cotton and mineral reserves, also had a significant impact on Western economic interests in the region.

In addition to his travels in Central Asia, Eugene Schuyler also served as a diplomat in Russia and Romania, and he was instrumental in negotiating the first treaty between the United States and the Ottoman Empire. His contributions to American foreign policy and exploration continue to be studied and admired today.

Gottfried Merzbacher (1843 – 1926)

Gottfried Merzbacher was a German explorer and geographer who conducted several expeditions in Central Asia and the Tian Shan mountains in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1902, he led an expedition to explore the previously uncharted glaciers of the Tian Shan range.

During his expeditions, Merzbacher documented the geography, geology, and glaciology of the region, and collected valuable specimens for scientific study. He also studied the local culture and language, and made contact with the Kyrgyz people who lived in the area. He wrote down his experiences in the book The central Tian-Shan mountains. 1902-1903.

Gottfried Merzbacher expeditions had a significant impact on the scientific understanding of Central Asia and the Tian Shan mountains. His contributions to the fields of glaciology and geography continue to be studied and admired today.

Franz Xaver von Schwarz (1847 – 1903)

The German scientist Franz Xaver von Schwarz was invited in 1974 by General von Kaufmann to join him as a land surveyor during his conquests in Turkestan. After the war he became Head of the observatory and meteorological station in Tashkent.

During his time in Tashkent he made many expeditions into Turkestan region and the Tian Shan mountains. But he went serious ill in 1889 and went back to Germany.

Back at home in Bavaria Franz Xaver von Schwarz started to write down all his knowledge he gathered during his time in Turkestan in a book. It was published in his late years, in 1900 with the title Turkestan – the cradle of the Indo-European peoples. After living in Turkestan for fifteen years. and is about the peoples, the climate and the nature of Turkestan region.

Ella Maillart (1903 – 1997)

Ella Maillart was a Swiss adventurer, travel writer, and photographer who explored Central Asia in the 1930s. In 1932, she set out on a journey to explore the region, which was largely uncharted at the time.

During their journey, Maillart traveled across the Kyzylkum Desert and Tian Shan mountains and visited Alma-Ata (today’s Almaty), Samarkand and Tashkent. She also encountered numerous challenges, including harsh weather conditions, difficult terrain, and political unrest.

Maillart’s writings and photographs from her journey were later compiled into her book, Turkestan Solo: A Journey Through Central Asia which is considered a classic of travel literature. Her observations of the region’s landscapes, people, and cultures continue to be studied and admired today.

In addition to her travels in Central Asia, Maillart also explored other parts of the world, including Europe, Asia, and Africa. Her adventurous spirit and contributions to travel literature continue to inspire explorers and writers today.