October 2, 2004

The power of nostalgia

I was talking to YuXin about the power of nostalgia and how I often use it to endear myself to people I meet in my travels. I thought it would be good to give her a demo. We picked up a book about the 14th-century Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta. Ibn Battuta travelled medieval North Africa and Asia, all the way to Hangzhou, which was then the capital of Ming dynasty China. Incidentally, YuXin is from Hangzhou. Armed with this new knowledge, we went to a Moroccan cafe in Singapore’s Arab Street area.

Enjoying the spicy Moroccan sandwich

YuXin casually asked the owner about his home. We chatted a bit about the recent happenings in Morroco and the culture in general. YuXin broached the topic of Ibn Battuta and told him that she is from one of the cities that Ibn Battuta visited. The owner’s eyes lit up. He was so surprised that she knew about Ibn Battuta. It seems that she was the first person from China that he had met, who knew about Ibn Battuta. The owner was so happy that whenever other Middle Eastern customers came into the cafe, he proudly introduced YuXin to them. Sure enough, we got free refills for the rest of the night.

Further reading:

The book that we had with us Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s Travels with a Tangerine. The author traces some of Ibn Battuta’s travels in this book.


China Morroco Book


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The Attic, memoir of a Chinese landlord’s son I always ask my friend’s parents in China about the life in the 1950s, the 60s and the 70s. I love looking at old photographs from those days. I am