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Morocco: Journey to Mecca - In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta
Global Arab Network - - Rabih Serrai
London - Drama and documentary feature: "Journey to Mecca: In the Footsteps of Ibn Battuta" was screened in London, during a spectacular reception chaired by Morocco's Ambassador to the UK Chrifa Lalla Joumala Alaoui.

The reception, which took place within the framework of the 12th Mosaiques Festival of World Culture, was notably attended by H E Abdulrahman Ghanem Almutaiwee, the UAE Ambassador to the UK and Ambassador of Saudi Arabia Prince Mohamed Ben Nawaf in addition to eminent political, artistic and diplomatic figures.

Speaking on this occasion, Journey to Mecca's producer and CEO of Cosmic Picture Taran Davies said that Morocco is not only a land of tolerance and coexistence, but also a privileged destination where several world cinema masterpieces were shot.

Journey to Mecca details the epic journey of Ibn Battuta, the famed 14th century Moroccan explorer, who started his adventure in 1325 from Tangier to Islam's holy city of Mecca. By the time he returned 29 years later, he had traveled the world from West Africa, Spain and India to China and the Maldives, covering some 120.000 kilometers, three times further than Marco Polo.

The film, which was shot in Morocco and Saudi Arabia in English, French, Arabic, and Amazigh, depicts Ibn Battuta's perilous journey to perform his first Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) between 1325 and 1326. It presents a colourful picture of Islamic civilisation during the 14th century.

The story is book-ended by a close-up look at the contemporary Hajj, which annually draws three million Muslims from around the world to perform rituals that have taken place for over 1,400 years.

Journey to Mecca features breathtaking aerial views of the Hajj from a helicopter hovering 60 meters above Mecca, and an unprecedented access to the sacred Grand Mosque in Mecca.

Co-producer Dominic Cunningham-Reid told MAP that the film's shooting team found the needed infrastructure in Morocco, adding that Moroccans knew how to develop an "extraordinary" know-how in cinema.

He said the movie sends a message of dialogue between cultures and civilizations which is required notably after September 11, 2001.

Islam is a religion of peace and coexistence, he underlined, noting that Ibn Battuta's experience highlights the importance of dialogue, one of Islam's distinctive features.

Journey to Mecca also aims to tell the story of Ibn Battuta's journey to the west with a view of building bridges between the Muslims and westerners and promoting a better understanding of the the Hajj.

The reception, which was marked by posthumous tribute paid to the Moroccan actor Chemsdine Zinoun, was held by Morocco's Ambassy to the UK in partnership with the British Film Institute, SK films, Cosmic Pictures and Morocco's tourism office (ONMT).(MAP)

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