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:: Journey To Mecca (IMAX)

Ibn Battuta is not someone I had heard of before. Yet, he travelled three times further than Marco Polo, reaching more than 40 countries, making his one of the greatest travel journals ever recorded. I am not alone in my ignorance of Battuta, however. Very little exists in cinema on one of the greatest explorers of the Old World.

The filmmakers behind Journey to Mecca, thus, felt it their duty to tell his story, largely unknown in the West, and explain the Hajj pilgrimage in order to create a bridge between the Muslim and Western worlds and develop an understanding of its ultimate purpose – peace.

This film depicts Battuta as a 21-year-old law student, setting out on an epic and perilous solo expedition to Mecca, some 4500km away, between the years of 1325 and 1326. It is the duty of every Muslim to visit the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia at least once in their lifetime, if possible, and continues to draw three million Muslims from around the world.

Journey to Mecca marks the first and only time an IMAX camera has been admitted into the most sacred sanctuary of Islam - the Grand Mosque in Mecca. As the Hajj is strictly for Muslims only, the directors were required to train Muslim cameramen to use IMAX cameras to allow them to film in the space. The film boasts breathtaking scenery, taking us to colourful souks and a hand-carved Cairo library, as well as joining pilgrims journeying across desert sands, with their livestock in tow.

Most of the audience at the film when I attended was Muslim, but people of all backgrounds would benefit from seeing it. It has received endorsements from leaders from many religions, including the Dalai Lama. The film is also dedicated to Chems-Eddine Zinoune, who played Battuta, but tragically died in a car accident last year following the movie.

Journey to Mecca opens at IMAX theatres, Sydney, on October 22.