When he crosses the river of Jawshir, Ibn Fadlan talks a lot about the culture of the area, especially when they are in the company of the “King of the Saqaliba”. Fadlan accounted for every move the King made, from when he greeted them and “dismounted [from his horse] and fell down with his face to the ground to give thanks to God, the All High, the Almighty,” (25) to when they are all sitting down having dinner. Although they stayed in tents, it was interesting to see all the formal interactions they had during dinner and the exchanging of gifts. When Fadlan gives the king and his wife gifts from his home, I was curious about the money is scattered everywhere in response, and wondered if there was a deeper significance than simple gratitude. Fadlan also points out the way in which they have to eat. Noticing that the King eats first before serving everyone, he goes on to mention that this was their culture; “no one touches a dish unless the king has served him. As soon as he receives his share, a table is brought,” (27). However, these little traits Fadlan decided to point out however may differ from that of the common people, as opposed to someone who is of a higher status.

Later on, he also talks about all the “uncounted marvels” he saw in the area. With the northern lights, Fadlan talks about how he saw the horizon “turn a brilliant shade of red and in the upper air there was great noise and tumult,” (31). He describes it as men from two different sides clashing against each other; because they have never seen such a spectacle, Fadlan and his men began to pray. Another set of marvels he mentions is the howling of the dogs, and how “the people of that land consider the howling of dogs as a great blessing,” (33) as well as the many snakes about the place. He also talks about all the food they make (and how they make it) and the kinds of trees and things that they were surrounded by that he never saw before—as well as the kinds of social expectations that they have (punishments, taboos, family dynamic, etc.).

From the ways in which he focuses on certain details and customs of the people he met in this area, Fadlan seems to be most concerned with how different they are from his own people and customs. He notices how they eat, cook, and dress differently, as well as how their fraternal customs are a bit unorthodox to him. I believe he is noting all these differences in order to better understand the culture in this case. He does not seem to be judging them too much, apart from his usual outbursts of disgust or disbelief when he witnesses something he doesn’t like. However, overall Fadlan seems to just be taking in all the information he is given, and using it as a way to know the people better.