Arabia 3D (2011) Movie Script

Scalded by the desert sun,
the waters of the Red Sea
would cook most corals.
These reefs have
had to adapt to survive,
just like the Arabian people.
Over the last 2,000 years,
this desert realm has sparked
two eras of enlightenment,
two Golden Ages.
Just to survive in this desert
is an accomplishment.
Who would ever think that the seeds of
knowledge could sprout here and grow?
Only 80 years ago, most people
in Arabia lived in tents
or in houses
of coral rock or mud.
But in a matter of decades,
all that changed.
Saudi Arabia is now a nation
of some 30 million people.
The capital city of Riyadh
and the holy city of Makkah
have been transformed.
A modern district has grown up
around the Grand Mosque.
Five times each day, Muslims around the
world turn towards Makkah to pray.
And in the busy coastal city of Jeddah,
educational horizons are widening.
Thanks to the wealth
from the oil boom,
Hamzah is one of 80,000 Saudi
Arabians studying abroad.
He is a film student at
DePaul University in Chicago.
I've lived in the U.S. for
seven years, going to school,
but I'm still really close
to my brother, Saleh.
He usually wears the white thawb
because it's part of tradition,
and most men wear it every day.
After 9/11, many of my friends in America
got the idea that we're all extremists.
And we're not.
As my mom says,
we're not perfect.
But we've had a glorious past.
And I can't wait
to travel around the country
and make a film about who
we are and how we got here.
My first stop was the old
section of my hometown, Jeddah.
The houses here haven't changed
much since I was a kid.
But it's amazing, all my country
is progressing so quickly.
Like many other religions and cultures, we're
trying to balance the old and the new.
Tradition and progress.
It's important to maintain
the old values,
and I'd like to capture
some of that balance on video.
The freedom to change is really
important to my generation.
The Arabian Peninsula
is not all sand.
We have mountains, valleys
and even volcanoes.
I headed into the desert to
document a vanishing way of life.
Just like the American cowboy,
the Bedouin is a cultural hero.
To survive out here, the Bedouin
have to live by a strict code of honor,
based on fierce family loyalty,
hospitality and trust.
A true Bedouin kept his word and passed
all these values on to his kids,
and to us.
They say camels are
sweet-natured, unless they're not.
Camels are designed
for the desert.
They have an extra row of lashes for
protection, just like sunglasses.
And a third eyelid that works
like a windshield wiper.
One thing I never expected to see
here was a bunch of baboons,
but I guess it makes sense.
Most of our animals
originated in Africa.
Twenty-five million years
ago, when the Red Sea formed,
it trapped animals
that were originally African.
As lush vegetation vanished
and Arabia turned to desert,
these animals adapted.
I went looking for more
clues to our past underwater.
We only found iron shipwrecks.
But that's what my guide,
Housam, looks for.
Every time we'd find a modern-day
ship, we'd find an ancient one, too,
because they hit the same reef.
A long time ago, wooden ships
carried all kinds of things,
such as ceramic jugs
filled with olive oil.
Archeologists are continuing
to find undamaged artifacts,
like this ancient amphora.
Even tiny broken pieces
can speak worlds.
All I found
were old pottery fragments.
But they led me to a civilization
that was completely new to me.
Where were they from?
I contacted the leading
archeologist in Arabia.
Dr. Daifallah al-Talhi.
And I think the secrets of Madain
Saleh, the secrets of the Nabataeans,
lie underneath
a settlement area.
Dr. al-Talhi couldn't date my
fragments, but he did something better.
He took me to his
research site in the desert.
Dr. al-Talhi studies the early settlers
of this region, the Nabataeans.
The Nabataeans created the first
Arabian Golden Age, 2,000 years ago.
The first thing you need to
have a Golden Age is wealth.
The source of the Nabataeans'
fabulous wealth seems unlikely.
Their huge fortunes literally
grew on trees, Boswellia trees.
The bark oozes the sap needed
to make precious frankincense,
the same frankincense
mentioned in the Bible.
The Nabataean traders started at the
southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula,
and carried frankincense north.
From there, the frankincense
was shipped to cities
throughout the vast
Roman Empire.
At that time, the Romans
worshipped over a dozen gods,
in thousands of temples, each
perfumed with precious frankincense,
up to 3,000 tons a year.
And the Nabataeans
controlled every ounce.
When a trader approached a Bedouin
camp, he faced a crucial question,
"Friend or foe?"
The answer could be
a matter of life or death.
Hospitality had a purpose.
This Bedouin was collecting the most
valuable trade good of all, information.
Because many Bedouins died in
battle, women outnumbered men.
The code of honor
called for modesty.
It was a tribe's duty
to protect widows.
Even today, once you make friends with
an Arab, you're friends for life.
Only the luckiest traders
made it to the Mediterranean
to sell their precious
cargo of frankincense.
Many centuries
after its decline,
the outside world had nearly
forgotten this ancient kingdom
until the late 1800s,
the era of great
exploration by Europeans.
Explorers knew about the
spectacular rock city of Petra.
But the other main Nabataean
city remained a secret.
Arabia, at the time, was hidden
behind a veil of mystery,
off-limits to foreign travelers.
And the Arabian deserts were deadly,
sweltering hot and without water.
Nearly impenetrable.
Huge storms of dust and sand
could last for several days
and swallow travelers
without a trace.
But finally, explorers found the
abandoned city of Madain Saleh.
Here, 130 elaborate tombs were carved by
the Nabataeans into tall sandstone cliffs.
But how did these isolated nomads
become master stonemasons?
From ancient coins early
archeologists found at the site,
we know that the Nabataeans
had frequent contact
with some of the best
architects in the world,
the Greeks and the Romans.
The work of these early
archeologists was not easy.
Centuries of decay
pervaded the tombs.
Inside this tomb, notches were
carved right into the rock walls.
Each one is a coffin.
The Nabataeans helped develop the script
that became the modern Arabic alphabet.
Frankincense made this one of
the richest kingdoms on Earth.
But when the Romans adopted Christianity
and worshipped only one god,
they no longer needed
temples for 12 gods.
The demand for
frankincense collapsed.
And so did the Golden Age
of the Nabataeans.
Dr. al-Talhi told me
that after centuries of decline,
Arabia was about to be reawakened
by something powerful,
the divine revelations
of Prophet Mohammed,
who inspired the whole region
with a thirst for knowledge.
Mohammed was born in Makkah
around the year 570,
but he lived much of his life
here in the city of Madinah.
The Prophet's mosque
in Madinah is huge.
Yet you can almost feel
his presence here.
The Quran, our Holy Book,
contains God's revelations to
the Prophet Mohammed in Arabic.
Just like Christians and Jews,
Muslims believe in one god,
the god of Abraham.
And we also revere the biblical
prophets, Abraham, Moses and Jesus.
The Quran urged followers
to read and gather knowledge.
This simple instruction
to understand the world
had a huge impact and led
to a second Golden Age.
The tribes were unified
by their belief in one god.
Once they stopped fighting each
other, they became a potent force.
They conquered more territory
than the Romans
in about half the time.
While much of Europe lapsed
into its dark age,
lslamic scholars translated the works
of the ancient Greeks and Hindus.
The first seed of the Golden
Age was sown on Arabian soil.
Soon, the new thinking spread
from Persia to Spain,
eventually reaching
lndia and lndonesia.
By weaving together many ideas, Islamic
scholars came up with algebra.
The foundation of science was strengthened
when Ibn al-Haytham came along.
His theories of gravity and momentum
preceded lsaac Newton's work
by 700 years.
In over 200 books, he
revolutionized physics and optics.
Ibn al-Haytham built the
world's first camera obscura.
He was the first to explain
how the eye sees.
And his pioneering work in optics led
to telescopes and cameras like mine.
Lbn al-Haytham
conducted experiments
to find out how things
really work.
He has been called the father
of the scientific method.
In the world's
first universities,
hundreds of scholars explored
the boundaries of science.
After Jabir ibn Haiyan
cooked up chemistry,
Abu Rayhan Muhammad
ibn Ahmad al-Biruni
calculated the circumference of
the Earth with great precision.
These innovative scholars
were the catalyst
that ignited the European
Renaissance centuries later.
There has never been anything quite
like this Golden Age of lslam,
which lit up three continents for 800 years
and changed our understanding of the world.
But invading armies and dwindling
trade chipped away at the empire
and led to the slow decline
of the Golden Age.
When the empire collapsed,
Arabia lapsed into an age
of stagnant isolation.
Well into the early 1900s, Arabia was
a patchwork of quarreling tribes,
but one man changed all that.
His name was
Abdul Aziz ibn Saud.
With a skillful blend
of force and diplomacy,
Abdul Aziz united all
the towns and tribal lands
and created the kingdom
of Saudi Arabia,
named for his own family.
In the 1930s, when the new king invited
the Americans to explore for oil,
they found the largest deposits on
Earth, 25% of the world's reserves.
After only 13 years as king,
Abdul Aziz met with President
Franklin D. Roosevelt
and formed an alliance
that endures to this day.
...Saudi Arabia to a
conference with President Roosevelt.
The Saudi Arabian king
and American president
discuss mutual problems of trade
and relations with Saudi Arabia.
Near Riyadh, I visited the king's
ancestral village as it was being restored.
I felt the weight of history
in this mud palace.
But in the 50 years that King
Abdul Aziz has been gone,
a lot of things have changed.
Nearby, in our
capital of Riyadh,
the old ways are getting increasingly
comfortable with the new.
The discovery of oil changed
not just Arabia's economy,
but the economic balance
of the entire world.
Today, oil is our frankincense.
And it gives us a chance to make
education our first priority,
much like it was centuries ago.
Recently, King Abdullah started a
revolutionary university of science,
with the sixth largest
endowment in the world.
When I left for the U.S. seven
years ago, this was unthinkable.
I photographed the king
at the dedication ceremony
where he introduced the faculty,
the best and the brightest
from all around the world.
This university will be a think
tank of creativity and innovation.
It will emulate the spirit of the
Islamic Golden Age of science.
Drawing students from all over the
Middle East and around the world,
men and women will study and
carry out research side by side.
It's a huge leap forward.
Education is a source
of hope for many Saudi women,
like the celebrated poet,
Nimah Nawwab.
Poetry here harkens back to
our deep-rooted oral traditions.
Because Bedouins moved from
grazing area to grazing area,
they couldn't carry
books with them.
So our stories and history were memorized
and often told through poetry.
Nimah loves horses.
They inspire her to write.
The Arabian horse is one of
the oldest breeds on Earth.
With their small noses and arching
tails, they're magnificent creatures.
Women here are
balancing the old and the new.
Over the years, tribal ways of
life impose restrictions on women.
As Nimah can tell you, 60 years ago,
women rarely attended school here.
But today, more women
than men earn college degrees.
We've seen quite
a lot of progress.
The king, for example,
has recently promoted women
to higher levels
of his government.
But for some,
the changes are too slow.
We follow a strict code of
conduct, especially in public,
when we're expected to convey our
modesty by wearing an outer cloak,
known as the Abaya.
But we have more serious
and vital issues to address.
Until recently,
women were not able
to travel or study without
gaining male consent.
While we have a long way to go as
women, what gives us hope is our faith.
Muslims don't worship idols
or objects. We only worship God.
We pray directly to him and it's
not through a priest or anyone.
Near Makkah, this huge
tent city offers hospitality
to pilgrims from 160 nations.
For three days, three million
pilgrims converge on Makkah
to reaffirm their faith,
during the holy rite
known as the Hajjj.
It's a lifelong dream
for many Muslims.
Here, religion
is a family affair.
The Quran states that one time in our lives,
we should all try to perform the Hajjj.
It is by far the largest annual
gathering of people in the world.
Makkah is the heart of lslam.
Over a billion people
all across the world
turn to face this spot five
times a day when they pray.
The Hajjj opened me up to all my
fellow Muslims and worshipers.
It just made me more accepting
of them and their ideas.
We're told that our sins
are forgiven during the Hajjj,
so we come out reborn.
Here where the temperature sometimes
soars above 120 degrees,
shade can feel like
the soothing hand of God.
For Muslims, the Ka'ba
or the cube, is a holy magnet.
The very first house of God.
Muslims believe it was built by Abraham,
patriarch of the three religions,
Muslim, Christian and Jewish.
Nimah has written
something that I really love,
it says that we're all
sons and daughters of Adam,
that the three faiths
are interlinked.
We walk around
the Ka'ba seven times,
and we become one with all
the human beings around us.
We touch the Ka'ba
because it's the house of God
and we feel close to Him
when we touch it.
It's our touchstone.
We feel the flow of the Earth's
celestial turning around the sun.
It's a never-ending circle that's
continued through the centuries.
Performing the Hajjj helps us feel
that we are part of one community,
the human community.
We're all one.
Surrounded by desert,
the corals of the Red Sea
have had to adapt to survive.
Just like the people of Arabia.
I left Makkah
and headed home to Jeddah.
After one month of filming,
I was really struck by the
relaxed spirit of my hometown.
I love it.
Nimah taught me
that words matter,
that ideas can
change the culture.
Many women agree with Nimah,
including my mom.
I set out on this journey to discover
who we are and how we got here.
I came away inspired
by the Nabataeans.
They were able to build
great things out of nothing.
To survive in the desert, families had
to be really close with each other.
And we're still that way today.
I asked my dad
for advice on my film
because that's how we do things. All
decisions are family decisions.
The strength of our
culture is our family.
And from this strength,
we'll build our future.
It's much too soon to say
if a third Golden Age
could be happening here.
The recent opening of the new
university of science and technology
is just a first step.
But four more majjor research
centers are soon coming online,
whole communities
devoted entirely to learning
and the exploration of ideas.
The Prophet Mohammed
encouraged people to learn,
gather knowledge
and explore the world.
I'm starting to see that
same spirit take hold here.
And that, more than
anything else, gives me hope.
Twice, our ancestors built
Golden Ages, and we can, too.