Narrator: Once in their lives, muslims are called upon to make an extraordinary journey.
To perform a series of rites that celebrate the prophet Abraham- father to Jews, christians, and muslims alike.
These rites are called the hajj.
For thousands of years, pilgrims have risked their lives to reach mecca.
Among them, a 14th-century law student from Morocco named ibn battuta.
Battuta: 3,000 miles...
Mecca is 3,000 miles to the east.
Some say it is too far.
But I am determined to make this journey as so many have in the past, and so many will in ages to come.
Some will come by sea...
Others on the backs of beasts.
Many more will arrive by foot.
Long ago the prophet Abraham was tested here, and his family nearly died, but their lives were saved.
In gratitude, Abraham built the holy ka'bah- the house of god.
Pilgrims tell me that to reach the ka'bah and stand before it changes the heart.
I am ready now to leave the safe shores of my home to see with my eyes what I have seen in my dreams.
Battuta: I flew on the wings of a giant bird to Cairo...
Up the nile...
Then across the red sea to mecca.
Hamza: You flew to mecca? On the wings of a bird?
Hamza: People do not fly, my friend- to mecca or anywhere else!
Why do you insist on making the hajj now?
You are only 21 years old.
Think of what you are giving up.
Your law career is just beginning.
Battuta: What I will learn can only help my career.
Hamza: You insist on traveling alone, and no one travels alone!
Battuta: If I am to die, let it be on the road to mecca!
Hamza: If you reach Cairo...
When you reach Cairo, you must seek out ibn muzaffar.
He's a friend of our family.
He's a powerful and learned man.
Give him this letter.
He will help you.
And tell him of your dream.
See what he has to say.
Battuta: I will.
On the day of my departure, my father gives me a magnificent horse, gold, and his blessing.
From my mother, I receive the lhram- two lengths of plain white cloth I will wear in mecca.
And then, as a bird forsakes its nest, I forsake my home and family, not knowing if we will ever see each other again.
I might have traveled in the safety of a caravan...
Or the comfort of a sailing ship- but I have the tools to navigate and find my own way.
The sun guides me by day, and the stars are my companions at night.
Travelers have told me that danger lurks at every turn on the roads to mecca.
But I believe those braving the greatest risk will receive the greatest reward.
Tuk tuk tuk tuk tuk!
You may go.
Battuta: If I am to die, let it be on the road to mecca.
Such boastful words I spoke to my friend Hamza.
Highwayman: You will return now to tangier?
Battuta: I will not return until I reach mecca, until I have performed the hajj.
Highwayman: Bandits lie in wait along every road.
You will need protection.
Battuta: From you? And your band of thieves?
Highwayman: I travel alone, the same as yourself.
Battuta: You must take me for a fool.
Highwayman: I make no judgments.
I simply offer you my protection, and you may pay me upon safe arrival in Cairo.
Battuta: You have stolen my money!
Highwayman: I gave it to the poor.
Battuta: How would I pay you?
Highwayman: You have rich friends in Cairo.
Battuta: I would rather die here in the desert!
Highwayman: Peace be with you.
Tell me, what does a young man such as yourself expect to find in mecca?
Battuta: The hajj is a way to see new lands.
To reach mecca and see the holy ka'bah is the greatest of all journeys.
Highwayman: And for this you risk your life?
Battuta: It is written in the qu'ran, "if god helps you then no one can overcome you."
Highwayman: And “if he abandons you, who can help you then?"
Much wisdom can be found in the qu'ran.
We leave at daybreak.
Highwayman: Get the horses down!
Stay behind her!
Man 1: As-salamu alaykum.
Man 2: Alaykum salam.
Battuta: After many months in the desert, we finally reach the nile river.
It excels in the sweetness of its taste and the treasure that lies at its end.
The mother of all cities, peerless in its beauty and bounty- a marvel of learning and charity: Cairo.
Muzaffar: Hamza writes me of your dream.
I flew to mecca.
Muzaffar: On the wings of a great bird?
Battuta: Is it a common dream?
Muzaffar: Tell me what you saw.
Battuta: I flew over deserts, up a great river and across a slender ribbon of sea.
Muzaffar: The red sea.
Did your dream end at mecca?
I continued on.
Muzaffar: You shall reach your destination if you heed the wisdom of those around you.
The prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, said "go in search of knowledge, even if your journey takes you to China."
Highwayman: Do you intend to continue on to mecca by way of the red sea?
Highwayman: And you have decided on this route because of your dream?
Battuta: Itis also the shortest way.
Highwayman: The shortest, certainly- not always the safest.
Battuta: I am behind in time.
Highwayman: War is being waged on the red sea.
Battuta: Wars are always being waged.
Highwayman: And are wisely avoided.
Battuta: My mind is set.
Highwayman: Please understand.
You may not find passage to mecca.
Battuta: A risk I must take.
Highwayman: A foolish risk!
Battuta: The hajj will not wait!
I will cross the red sea!
My mind is set!
Highwayman: I strongly advise that you go by way of Damascus and join the great hajj caravan.
Battuta: Our arrangement was for your protection, not your advice.
Battuta: I am no longer your responsibility.
The warnings of war do not deter me.
To travel by way of Damascus would add 1,000 miles to my journey.
I insist on the path of my dream- across the Egyptian desert to the red sea, where I will sail to the port of Jeddah.
From Jeddah, mecca is only days away.
Forgive my foolishness.
Forgive my pride.
Allow me to reach mecca and stand upon the mount of mercy.
I had heard the stories of pilgrims receiving help and refuge from strangers.
It is the Muslim way.
My pride, however, had never allowed this for me.
And yet I find myself in Damascus able to continue on to mecca because of a stranger.
Highwayman: Perhaps you could offer it to the poor.
Battuta: Will you not come?
Highwayman: Someday. God willing.
Battuta: Thank you, my friend.
Highwayman: In 50 days the caravan shall reach mecca.
Remember to pray for a sinner's soul.
Battuta: My own soul, you mean?
Battuta: The great Damascus caravan is a moving city of 10,000 with one purpose- reach the holy cities of Medina and then mecca.
There are architects, physicians, poets, and even beekeepers!
I could never have imagined such a community of the road.
There is a place through which we must pass known as the valley of hell.
One year, this boiling basin claimed thousands of lives.
This story is inscribed on the rocks, urging us to push on to Medina without rest.
We have been 40 days in the desert.
The caravan grows weak.
My body is ravaged with fever.
But I cannot give up.
I will not give up.
Horseman: I have seen Medina! I have seen Medina!
Medina the radiant- and within its walls, the tomb and mosque of the prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.
I turn to the evening sky and rejoice at the sight of the new moon.
We must now reach mecca in eight days when the hajj will begin.
As we depart Medina, I open the gift from my mother- two lengths of pure white cloth, and I'm reminded of their meaning: We are all equal.
Our voices ring out over every hill and through every valley until we reach the gates of mecca.
18 months ago, I bade farewell to my family.
The 3,000 miles required of me became 5,000.
Now I am but steps away from what I have dreamt of, what I have prayed towards all my life: The holy ka'bah.
I kiss the ancient black stone, the foundation stone laid by the prophet Abraham.
Astronomers have observed the circling of the planets in the night sky.
We mirror the movement of the heavens, circling the ka'bah seven times.
We move in Harmony, as if traveling back to the beginning of time.
I feel myself becoming one with those around me, with those who have come before, and all who will follow.
Before Abraham built the ka'bah, mecca was a barren desert.
After the trials he and his family endured here, the desert was transformed into a place of remembrance.
We remember the trials of Abraham's wife, hagar, by performing "the running."
For many days, hagar was alone in the desert with her infant son.
She began a desperate search for water, praying constantly while running between two small hills.
We run the same path as hagar, to honor her faith and determination.
Her prayers were answered with a miracle- the appearance of a spring we call the zamzam well.
Today we gratefully drink the same life-giving water that saved her child.
Pilgrims have come here in caravans from many faraway lands.
And yet clan and race no longer divide.
Rich and poor prepare side by side for the day of arafat.
In the morning I join a great procession.
Like a river, it flows toward the plain of arafat and the mount of mercy.
It was on the mount of mercy where the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, delivered his final sermon.
He called on us all to remember the virtues of Abraham- charity, friendship, and forgiveness.
After sunset, we walk to a place called muzdalifah, where we gather the small stones we will need tomorrow.
A pillar marks the place where the devil appeared to Abraham urging him to disobey god's command.
Abraham resisted the devil by stoning him.
We cast stones to remind ourselves that we, too, can overcome temptation.
For his faith, Abraham was rewarded with the gift of a lamb, which he sacrificed in gratitude.
Remembering the charity of my friend who guided me through the desert, I buy a flock of lambs and offer them to the poor.
To celebrate a new beginning, I cut off my hair.
Soon I will make my final circles of the ka'bah...
And say farewell.
My hajj is complete.
My heart is full.
The tests of my journey have humbled me and opened my eyes.
The caravans are leaving mecca.
Those traveling west would take me home.
But the words have remained with me-
"go in search of knowledge, even if it takes you to China."
Narrator: Ibn battuta's search for knowledge took him to China, India, and more than 40 other countries.
He would not return home to Morocco for almost 30 years, having traveled three times further than Marco Polo.
His legacy is one of the greatest journals of travel ever recorded.
Today, a crater on the moon is named in his honor.