Each year, Muslims from all over the world travel to Mecca, the site of the Ka’bah that was built by Abraham and Ishmael, to praise and give thanks to God, to ask pardon for their sins, and to renew their spiritual commitment through an elaborate series of rites and rituals. One of the five pillars of Islam, the pilgrimage to Mecca, called the “hajj”, is required of all Muslims who can manage it at least once in a lifetime.
The events of the hajj have long remained veiled from non-Muslims, who are forbidden even to enter the holy city of Mecca. But in 2003 a team of Muslim filmmakers gained access to Islam’s holiest place at the peak of the pilgrimage to document the holy event for National Geographic Television.
National Geographic‘s documentary, “Inside Mecca”, follows three Muslims, all with different geographic backgrounds, as they head out on an epic five-day reaffirmation of their individual and collective faith in Islam. Their final destination is Mecca, but this is more than a physical journal. The film, through unique tales of the hajj, follows the three men on not only a physical quest but an emotional and spiritual quest. “There is something ultimately universal about hajj. … Something different types of people can relate to,” notes Anisa Mehdi, the film’s producer and director. “It is a search for the divine and a search for self. It is a quest for absolution and for meaning in life. It is a chance to get a lot off your chest and to replenish the reservoir.”
The viewer is exposed to the smells, touches, extreme crowding, grandeur, and ultimate spiritual uplift of the largest yearly gathering of Muslims from around the world. Through the eyes of three men, we see the full scope and healing power of a pilgrimage and ultimate reunification.
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