Haj celebrated on film and in print

Kraken Opus, a publishing house, unveils plans for an illustrated book while a special screening served as a fund-raiser for Gazans.

Still from the IMAX film "Journey to Mecca." Courtesy Cosmic Picture   (EDITOR'S NOTE NO "S' ON PICTURE) *** Local Caption ***  IMG_7454.JPG
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Rym Ghazal ABU DHABI // On the eve of the world premiere of Journey to Mecca, the epic film celebrating the haj, a high-quality publishing house has announced it is to produce a lavishly illustrated book documenting the Muslim world's most sacred journey. "There is something about a photograph and how it captures the soul of the moment," said Karl Fowler, the chief executive of Kraken Opus, as he unveiled plans for the large-format book. "The Journey to Mecca Opus will be a lasting tribute and historical record of what for millions of people around the world is the greatest and most treasured journey of their life on earth." The film Journey to Mecca, which cost US$10 million (Dh36.7m) and took four years to complete, was shot in the ultra-high resolution IMAX format on location in Saudi Arabia and Morocco. It follows the famous 14th-century Arabian explorer Ibn Battuta on his first holy pilgrimage of haj in 1325. The film is narrated by the actor Ben Kingsley. Tonight's world premiere is being shown at the Emirates Palace hotel. The English version will be shown at 6.30pm, with doors opening at 6pm. An Arabic version will follow at 8.30pm. The film was produced by Cosmic Picture, SK Films and National Geographic and is presented by Imagenation, in partnership with Abu Dhabi Media Company (ADMC), the King Abdul Aziz Public Library and the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies. ADMC also publishes The National. Last night a special VIP screening was held. Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, was among the guests and Sheikh Saif bin Zayed, the Minister of Interior, also attended. Volunteers from the Palestine Children's Relief Fund collected donations for the children of Gaza. "It is a great opportunity for us to be here," said Tanya Zabaneh Hourani, a volunteer for the fund. "People have been very generous and, at the invitation of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, we will be here for the next few nights, gathering donations." The publishing project, which will chronicle and illustrate the movie's dramatic content in print form, was announced before last night's private viewing. It is a new venture for Kraken Opus which has previously focused on sports related topics, such as the Manchester United Opus. It intends to produce a high-quality book with more than 2,500 photographs as well as poetry and artwork related to the haj. The project will cost more than US$3 million (Dh11m) and will take up to a year to complete. It will be published in English and Arabic and, breaking with Opus tradition, it will not be a limited edition. The price is yet to be set but is estimated at around Dh15,000 (US$4,000). "Our aim is to have a Journey to Mecca Opus in every mosque around the world," said Mr Fowler. "It is such an important story with global interest that we feel everyone should have a copy." Mr Fowler announced that there had been a pre-order of 150 copies of the Opus for secondary schools in Britain. Kraken Opus, together with the Abu Dhabi-based Shawati Publishing, will covert IMAX images from the film to the printed page, as well as including four two metre-wide "gatefold" pages depicting epic shots from the film. DVD versions of the Journey to Mecca Opus will also released. "It would be best described as a high definition book on haj," said Bassem Kudsi, the director of communication for the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. "Quality on this issue is very important for Abu Dhabi as it will be held accountable by the rest of the Muslim world," he said. The first copy of the book will be auctioned off for charity, with the cause to be announced closer to publication. In 2007, $1.5m was paid for the first copy of Manchester United Opus for the benefit of Dubai Cares charity. Taran Davies, the chief executive of Cosmic Picture, said: "We have produced a film that sheds a new light on Islam, to help people understand haj in a new way. "Peace, friendship and equality is the message from the movie. Opus provided us with an opportunity to move the message from the giant screen to a giant book." rghazal@thenational.ae