Journey to Mecca (2009 film)
Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta is an award-winning IMAX
IMAX is a motion picture film format and a set of proprietary cinema projection standards created by the Canadian company IMAX Corporation. IMAX has the capacity to record and display images of far greater size and resolution than conventional film systems...

 ("giant screen") dramatised documentary film charting the first real-life journey made by the Islamic scholar Ibn Battuta
Ibn Battuta
Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Battuta , or simply Ibn Battuta, also known as Shams ad–Din , was a Muslim Moroccan Berber explorer, known for his extensive travels published in the Rihla...

 from his native Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 to Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

 for the Hajj
The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of great moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person's beliefs and faith...

), in 1325.


The 20 year old Muslim religious law student Ibn Battuta (1304–1368), whose full name was Abu Abdullah Muhammed Ibn Abdullah Al Lawati Al Tanji Ibn Battuta, set out from Tangier
Tangier, also Tangiers is a city in northern Morocco with a population of about 700,000 . It lies on the North African coast at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel...

, a city in northern Morocco, in 1325, on a pilgrimage to Mecca, some 3,000 miles (over 4,800 km) to the East. The journey took him 18 months to complete and along the way he met with misfortune and adversity, including attack by bandits, rescue by Bedouins, fierce sand storms and dehydration.

Ibn Battuta spent a total of 29 years travelling and covered 75,000 miles (117,000 kilometres) before he finally returned home. He travelled "further than any writer before him [...] covering most of the known world", through Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...

, Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 and the Maldives
The Maldives , , officially Republic of Maldives , also referred to as the Maldive Islands, is an island nation in the Indian Ocean formed by a double chain of twenty-six atolls oriented north-south off India's Lakshadweep islands, between Minicoy Island and...


On Ibn Battuta's return the Sultan of Morocco requested that he relate his experiences, and this was to become what the Saudi Gazette referred to as "one of the world's most famous travel books", the Rihla
Rihla is a medieval book which recounts the journey of the 14th-century Berber Moroccan scholar and traveler Ibn Battuta.The oeuvre was written by Ibn Juzayy after he was commissioned by the Marinid Sultan Abu Inan who was impressed by the story and journey of Ibn Battuta.The term Rihla is a...


Film synopsis

With narration by Ben Kingsley
Ben Kingsley
Sir Ben Kingsley, CBE is a British actor. He has won an Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards in his career. He is known for starring as Mohandas Gandhi in the film Gandhi in 1982, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor...

, the film, which is "bookended" by scenes from the contemporary Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 pilgrimage, chronicles the first 18 month-long leg of Ibn Battuta's journey, to Mecca. It was filmed in Morocco and Saudi Arabia in English and Arabic, with Berber
Berber languages
The Berber languages are a family of languages indigenous to North Africa, spoken from Siwa Oasis in Egypt to Morocco , and south to the countries of the Sahara Desert...

 in the background.

On the way to Mecca, riding alone on horseback, Ibn Battuta was held up by bandits, robbed and nearly killed, but when the leader of the bandits realized that he was a pilgrim, feeling ashamed, he offered to escort Ibn Battuta to Egypt (for a fee). It was a difficult journey by camel across the desert and they were faced with fierce sandstorms, before taking to boats to navigate the Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

. Reaching Egypt, he handed a letter given to him by a friend to a Sheikh
Not to be confused with sikhSheikh — also spelled Sheik or Shaikh, or transliterated as Shaykh — is an honorific in the Arabic language that literally means "elder" and carries the meaning "leader and/or governor"...

, and based on a Hadith
The term Hadīth is used to denote a saying or an act or tacit approval or criticism ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad....

 (an oral tradition) of the Prophet Muhammed, he was advised "to seek knowledge to China", hence his further extensive travels.

Ibn Battuta had intended to continue his journey to Mecca by sea, via the port of ‘Aydhab
‘Aydhab was an important medieval port on the west coast of the Red Sea. The abandoned site of the town is located in the disputed Hala'ib triangle.- History :...

 on the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

, but war and the dangers that posed made him travel by land through Damascus
Damascus , commonly known in Syria as Al Sham , and as the City of Jasmine , is the capital and the second largest city of Syria after Aleppo, both are part of the country's 14 governorates. In addition to being one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, Damascus is a major...

 instead, joining a 10,000-strong caravan of fellow pilgrims along the way, staying with them until they finally reach their destination, Mecca.

Leading actor

According to The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post
The Jakarta Post is a daily English language newspaper in Indonesia. The paper is owned by PT Bina Media Tenggara, and the head office is in the nation's capital, Jakarta....

, "The lead, Chems Eddine Zinoun, was born in 1980 in Casablanca
Casablanca is a city in western Morocco, located on the Atlantic Ocean. It is the capital of the Grand Casablanca region.Casablanca is Morocco's largest city as well as its chief port. It is also the biggest city in the Maghreb. The 2004 census recorded a population of 2,949,805 in the prefecture...

 [Morocco] and studied classical ballet and the piano. He died in a car accident on 11 Nov. 2008 in Casablanca, where he lived. His portrayal of Ibn Battuta shows a depth of feeling that will remain with audiences long after watching Journey [to Mecca]."


Big Movie Zone described the film's genre as docu-drama, whilst a review at that site, remarking that it was the most unusual giant screen film the reviewer had yet seen, called it "a biopic guised as a documentary".


According to a review on the National Post
National Post
The National Post is a Canadian English-language national newspaper based in Don Mills, a district of Toronto. The paper is owned by Postmedia Network Inc. and is published Mondays through Saturdays...

in Canada, the IMAX format is best suited to the vast landscapes which Ibn Battuta crossed and less so for the close-ups and market places. As for the Hajj itself, this has been described as "stunning footage". The reviewer writes that "Journey to Mecca succeeds best in capturing the wonder, pageantry and beauty that are the hallmarks of any religion's central celebration. Though it is arguably impossible to catch an image of the Almighty on film, this doc comes as close as any."

Ann Coates, reviewing the film at Big Movie Zone, stated that with very little narration, unlike other giant screen productions, this helps the dramatic portrayal of Ibn Battuta and "his dangerous trek". Ross Anthony, also reviewing at BMZ, is of the opinion that the early special effects are nice and moody, though the desert is barren and unappealing. However, "once in Mecca, the images shine." The reviewer finds the acting "very good for the format".

Bruce Kirkland of Sun Media in Canada described Journey to Mecca as a "beautifully wrought film ... meticulously researched ... everyone, no matter their faith, should see it". Trade Arabia in the UAE wrote: "A powerful, larger than life cinematic experience that has the power to educate both young and old. Its message of tolerance and respect will resonate strongly with audiences." The Detroit Free Press in the USA said: "...dramatic desert landscapes ... unprecedented access to the Great Mosque ... breathtaking aerial views ... a cosmic experience"; and Nick Meyer wrote in The Arab American News that the film was a "... Breathtaking ... Beautiful, inspiring (story) with many visual delights ... Highly recommended."

Martina Zainal of The Jakarta Post writes that "the photography is stunning and takes us to dizzying heights over grand scenes, and directors of photography Afshin Javadi, Ghasem Ebrahimian and Rafey Mahmood have helped show us a side of Islam that is rarely seen in today’s news. It is a film worth seeing by Muslims and non-Muslims alike."


The film was officially endorsed by Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

n Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud al-Faisal, the youngest son of the late King Faisal
Faisal of Saudi Arabia
Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud was King of Saudi Arabia from 1964 to 1975. As king, he is credited with rescuing the country's finances and implementing a policy of modernization and reform, while his main foreign policy themes were pan-Islamic Nationalism, anti-Communism, and pro-Palestinian...

, former Director General of the kingdom's Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah
Al Mukhabarat Al A'amah
The Ri'āsat Al-Istikhbārāt Al-'Āmah , or the General Intelligence Presidency , is the primary intelligence agency of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.- History :...

 (General Intelligence Presidency (G.I.P.)), former ambassador to the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 and Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, and former ambassador to the United States who wrote, "Not only does the film represent an accurate and respectful portrayal of Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

, it provides a wonderful opportunity for Muslims to celebrate a revered hero in Ibn Battuta and to honor our faith."


Journey to Mecca won Le Prix Du Public Most Popular Film
at Le Géode Film Festival, Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, 2009, and a prize at the Tribeca Film Festival
Tribeca Film Festival
The Tribeca Film Festival is a film festival founded in 2002 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert De Niro and Craig Hatkoff in a response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the consequent loss of vitality in the TriBeCa neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.The mission of the festival...

 in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...



(as listed at the Internet Movie Database
Internet Movie Database
Internet Movie Database is an online database of information related to movies, television shows, actors, production crew personnel, video games and fictional characters featured in visual entertainment media. It is one of the most popular online entertainment destinations, with over 100 million...

 and Big Movie Zone)
  • Director: Bruce Neibaur
  • Writers
  • Carl Knutson
  • Bruce Neibaur
  • Tahir Shah
    Tahir Shah
    Tahir Shah , né Sayyid Tahir al-Hashimi is an Anglo-Afghan Indian author, journalist and documentary maker. He lives in Casablanca, Morocco.-Family origins and life:...

  • Cast
  • Chems-Eddine Zinoune (Ibn Battutah)
  • Hassam Ghancy (Highwayman)
  • Nabil Elouahabi (Hamza)
  • Nadim Sawalha (Ibn Mustapha)
  • Narrated by Ben Kingsley
  • Produced by
  • Dima Alansari (co-producer)
  • Dounia Benjelloun (co-producer)
  • Zain Al-Sabah (co-producer)
  • Jonathan Barker (producer)
  • Dominic Cunningham-Reid (producer)
  • Taran Davies (producer)
  • Jake Eberts (executive producer)
  • Daniel Ferguson (line producer)
  • Hamid Herraf (executive producer)
  • Diane Roberts (supervising producer)
  • Tony Thatcher (supervising producer, Morocco)
  • Directors of Photography
  • Matthew Williams
  • Afshin Javdi (Mecca)
  • Ghasem Ebrahimian (Mecca)
  • Production Designer: Mike Fowlie
  • Art Director: Philip Murphy
  • Editor: Jean-Marie Drot
  • Costume Designer: Emma Bellocq
  • Distribution
  • The film is distributed by SK Films and National Geographic

External links

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