This fact is in similar vein with Sugabelly’s post on sexual license in Igboland particularly Awka but is based in present day Mauritania during an earlier period (the 14th century). I have been reading the accounts of the Moroccan traveller ibn Battuta and while he was in Iwalatan (the first district in the ‘country of the Blacks’ inhabited by Mandes possibly) he noted that (emphasis mine)
Women there have friends and companions among men outside the prohibited degrees of marriage and in the same way men have women friends in the same category. A man goes into his house, finds his wife with her man friend, and does not disapprove.
Interesting eh? Apparently ibn Battuta paid a visit to an Islamic judge and found an ‘exceptionally beautiful’ woman with him and was embarrassed but she just laughed at him and the judge explained saying ‘she is my friend’. Ibn Battuta was shocked because the man was ‘not only a jurist but a Hajj’. In another anecdote ibn Battuta paid a visit to a Abu Muhammad Yandakan al-Massufi who laughed at him when he suggested that the man be worried about his wife’s man friend. Abu Muhammed said; ‘The companionship of women and men among us is a good thing and an agreeable practice, which causes no suspicion; they are not like the women of your country.’ Ibn Battuta was so offended at Abu Muhammad’s ‘stupidness’ that he never visited him again. LOL.
These people were definitely matriarchal, ibn Battuta further notes that the ‘men have no jealousy’ and that ‘no one takes his name from his father, but from his maternal uncle’ and that ‘sons do not inherit, only sister’s sons!’ which to me are signs of a matriarchy.
Most importantly according to him, ‘the women are of outstanding beauty and are more highly regarded than the men‘ (again emphasis mine). I am amazed at the degree of (sexual and other kinds of) freedom women have (had?) under the matriarchal system. Even more perplexing (to me) is that he made sure to note that the men were not jealous, they did not have a problem with this at all.
History is a very interesting subject, it reveals things that many will prefer to be hidden.
*The travels of Ibn Battuta, A.D. 1325-1354, Vol. IV, translated with revision and notes from the Arabic text, eds C. Defrémery and B.R. Sanguinetti by H.A.R. Gibb (The Hakluyt Society, London, 1994)