In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta

Arts & Entertainment
On Tuesday, December 15, 2009, organizers at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History screened the film Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta in the Samuel C. Johnson IMAX theatre.

Organizers invited educators and community leaders, Muslim and Non-Muslim, from across the region; about 120 people attended the screening.  The purpose of the screening was to give community organizers, leaders, and educators and opportunity to view the movie before its area release so that they can then help to spread the word about it.

The film, produced by Cosmic Pictures in conjunction with SK Films, depicts the treacherous 3,000 mile journey of Ibn Battuta from Tangiers, Morocco to Makkah, Saudi Arabia in 1325 to attend the Hajj.

Ibn Battuta, a historical figure, is best known for his vast world-wide travels, the distance of which exceeded that of Marco Polo.  In the film, he is a young man in his twenties determined to go for Hajj, despite others telling him he’s young and still has time, and in spite of the difficulties of the journey. 

The first half of the movie focuses on Ibn Battuta’s journey to Makkah – including the perils he faced in the vast desserts of North Africa, his encounter with thieves, and a friendship he formed along the way. The IMAX technology used in the production of the film enhances the viewer’s feel of the culture and atmosphere of 1300s North Africa and the Middle East. 

The second half of the movie focuses on the rites of Hajj that Ibn Battuta carries out once he reaches Mecca.  The Hajj scenes were very captivating because they were set in the 1300s which is very different from the modern day Makkan pilgrimage. Some of the shots of the Hajj rites were shown in great detail giving the feeling of being among the pilgrims. Throughout the Hajj scenes, the narrator explained each rite and its purpose, providing those unfamiliar with the Hajj a good explanation to this pillar of Islam. 

The movie is about one hour long and was well-received by the audience.  Viewers commented that it was “a very positive, beautiful film” and “an amazing movie, so well-done.”  After the screening, Sam Martin, a member of the production team, answered questions and talked about the purpose of the movie, which he explained was to educate non-Muslims about an aspect of Islam, the Hajj, that is focused on Prophet Ibrahim alayhisalam, thus creating a link between the Abrahamic faiths – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  He also described the film as an opportunity to provide a positive message about Islam in the face of so much negative media coverage.

Organizers at the Natural History Museum are offering several educational and cultural programs (some free and some at a cost) in conjunction with the film.  The organizer of the screening, Kadian Pow, “hopes it provides an opportunity for people to come together and learn about Islam.  [There is a lot of] negativity in the press, but not [many media outlets] want to provide the education.”  The move opens to the public on January 14, 2009 at the Natural History Museum.  Tickets cost $6.00 per person and special pricing is available for groups of 50 or more. 


To learn more about the movie, please visit

Trailer of Journey to Mecca