The legendary journeys of the 14th
century Muslim traveler Ibn Batuta were monumental to say the least.
In 1325 he set out on the Hajj pilgrimage from his native Tangier.
After performing his Hajj he continued his journeys in West Africa,
Spain, China, the Maldives, India, and elsewhere. He returned to his
native land 29 years later and dictated his travelogue which
continues to be a classic. No wonder a crater on the moon and a mall
in Dubai is named after him as a tribute. Now a part of his journey
is captured on the giant screens of IMAX theaters in 'Journey to
IMAX documentaries which have so far
covered subjects as varied as Mt. Everest to the deep sea top outer
space has accomplished a unique feat in making the sights and sounds
of 14th century Islamic civilization to the present day in the
making of Journey to Mecca. Shot in Saudi Arabia and Morocco in both
English and Arabic the movie is a visual delight right from the
beginning. The film begins with a dramatic cinematic capture of Ibn
Batuta's dream on a starry night seeing the entire Muslim world by
traveling on the back of a huge bird is a sight to be seen.
After consulting his friends and
family he sets out on his journey determined to travel alone and
obtain the highest of rewards. . As he sets out towards Egypt he is
attacked by robbers only to be freed by their leader who takes into
consideration his status as a pilgrim. The robber offers him
protection for a fee but later on turns around and becomes his
friend. When he urges him to take the easy route Ibn Batuta remains
adamant that he take the road less traveled. "The greater the
hardship the higher the reward," he says. Finding the sea route
closed he eventually joins a pilgrim caravan through Syria.
Along the way he encounters the full
sights and sounds of the 14th century Middle East. The colorful
spice laden bazaars, the never ending camel trains of pilgrims, the
wise old scholar, and the background Arabic and Berber sounds
provide a breathtaking experience. The film ends with Ibn Batuta
finally reaching Mecca and performing the Hajj. The film ends with a
close-up look at contemporary Hajj showing a whirlpool of pilgrims
in all their majestic simplicity. The domed screen of the IMAX
theaters adds up to a unique experience.
The narration of the movie is
masterfully done by Ben Kingsley, of 'Gandhi' fame. The role of ibn
Batuta is faithfully played by the Moroccan actor Chems Al Deen
Zinoun. Sadly, he died in an accident last year.
Journey to Mecca opened in Abu Dhabi
last year and has since been on screen in theaters in Detroit and
Toronto. It's Toronto debut, at Ontario Science Centre, has been
such a success its showing has been extended for another four