Now Petachiah had travelled in most costly attire, and in Persia the rule was that if a Jewish traveller died, the physicians took half his property. Petachiah saw through the real danger that threatened him, so he escaped from the perilous ministrations of the royal doctors, had himself carried across the Tigris on a raft, and soon recovered.
"Dress shabbily" was the general Jewish maxim for the tourist. How necessary this rule was, may be seen from what happened to Rabbi Petachiah, who travelled from Prague to Nineveh, in 1175, or thereabouts. At Nineveh he fell sick, and the king's physicians attended him and pronounced his death certain.
Jewish travellers often describe the scenery of the parts they visit, and Petachiah literally revels in the beautiful gardens of Persia, which he paints in vivid colors. Then, again, few better descriptions of a storm at sea have been written than those composed by Jehudah Halevi on his fatal voyage to Palestine.
Of course, the traveller would also bring genuine news about his brethren in distant parts, and sober information about foreign countries, their ways, their physical conformation, and their strange birds and beasts. These stories were in the main true. For instance, Petachiah tells of a flying camel, which runs fifteen times as fast as the fleetest horse.