I’ve always liked going to Cagliari, or going back, I should probably say, since it’s my birthplace where I lived the first three years of my life. Not that I remember much of those days, but every time I go, Cagliari conveys a sense of openness and space. So much openness that it was conquered by no less than everybody, or better, I should say it let everybody conquer it.
Its strategic position made it naturally the best link between Europe, North Africa and the Near East, plus an invaluable departure point from where to “borrow” the island’s multiple resources of minerals, wood, agricultural products.
Obviously not all who came had the aim to conquer or loot Sardinia, many were just my ancest0r’s commercial, political and even military partners, such as Etrurians coming from central Italy and Phoenicians from Lebanon.
In all this coming and going, also a reputable traveler stopped by, Ibn Battutah, Islam’s first travel writer, a little like their version of our Marco Polo. I was happy to see in his journey map also a stop in Cagliari, likely a short one because on his way to Maghreb from Andalusia, or al-Andalus, as he used to call it. Troubled times, Muslims and Christians were fighting (already), conquests and re-conquests were happening and travelers weren’t sleeping very tight.
This is what Ibn Battutah reported on his Travels: “We reached the island of Sardaniyah, a Christian island in which there is a wonderful harbour with huge beams of wood around it and an entrance like a gate, which is opened only with their permission. In the island are fortresses, one of which we entered and in which there were many bazaars. I vowed God Most High that if He delivered us from this island I would fast for two months, because we had learnt that its people had resolved to follow us and take us prisoner when we left. But we departed from the island in safety, and after ten days reached the coast of the Maghrib.”
A real testimony of that time here, right from the words of who lived it.
The “wonderful harbour” is obviously Cagliari’s port, probably the same I still admire every time I go, and the “many bazaars” were probably where the Mecca of the shopping is today. We Sardinians have a knack for claiming resilience against mdoernization, so I like to believe that although we changed the “look”, we kept the original layout of the city pretty much unscathed.