Imagine a larger-than-life journey, so great and exciting that it only makes sense to present it on a larger-than-life screen. Journey to Mecca takes us back to 1325, when a young Moroccan law student, the real-life Ibn Battuta who is played by Chems Eddine Zinoun, sets out from Tangier, Morocco and on a 5000 mile journey to Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage. In a world of religious mistrust and defamation, this film does the exact opposite: it enlightens and engages.
It would take Ibn Battuta 18 months to travel the 5,000-mile route to Mecca. Battuta, who would eventually become the best-travelled person in antiquity, would not return home for 30 years. His journeys total three times those of Marco Polo. He would visit 40 countries and revisited Mecca five more times to perform the Hajj. Ibn Battuta sought out knowledge in his breathtaking journeys and eventually compiled his experiences in The Rihla, one of the most significant travel books ever written.
Ibn Battuta did not join a caravan, which was the normal way to perform pilgrimage 700 hundred years ago. At that time, there weren't cars, airplanes, hotels, and air conditioning, luxuries afforded to today's Hajj pilgrim. It was only you, the desert, and the sky above you.
Ibn Battuta decided to take the most difficult path to Mecca, as he had seen it in a dream. The voyage was not an easy one. Battuta sets out alone and is soon set upon by bandits who rob and almost kill him, until their leader recognizes his quest. "Pilgrim," he says, "you may go." He even offered to protect Ibn Battuta from additional bandits, however, for a fee. During his travels, the main character is attacked by bandits, dehydrated by thirst, rescued by Bedouins, and forced to retrace his route by a war-locked Red Sea.
As a viewer you will find yourself thrilled and enchanted by this beautiful piece of art. The detail, in everything from clothing to architecture, is meticulously researched. The re-creation of the storied Damascus camel caravan that took pilgrims across the desert to Mecca for centuries is so well researched that for a moment, it feels as if we too are there. The film runs for about 45 minutes, so don't expect it to provide some groundbreaking insight into Islam; however, religious consultants ensured that the filmmakers accurately represented the Muslim faith.
In one of the final scenes, a close-up view of millions of pilgrims performing this year's Hajj appears to be something similar to a human whirlpool so amazing and yet so intense. It's at this moment we come to realize how much Journey to Mecca succeeds in capturing the everlasting wonder, pageantry, and beauty that are the symbols of any religion's rituals and events. The true achievement of this film is that it takes us from the 14th century and ends up in modern times. The audience is able to live through his dream in a relatively short film, thanks to the aerial filming and profound dedication of the cast and crew of this film.
Islamic Insights Recommendation: This is a great movie that everyone regardless of his/her faith must see. The film's main actor Chems Eddine Zinoun died in a car accident before the film was released, and in honor of his fantastic work, we should all see this film. The only complaint is that the film is too short and leaves you hungry for wanting more. Both history enthusiasts and your everyday popcorn lovers will enjoy this film.