Ramadan is a time for reflection, a chance for us to carefully consider our daily lives. We ask ourselves: How does my conduct affects others? Are my transactions pure? What is my relationship with God? Am I fulfilling my duties as Khalifa (caretaker) on earth?
In the year that sustainable tourism tops the UN’s travel and tourism agenda, it is time for us to seriously consider our impact on the world as we travel through it—literally. Sustainable tourism is a relatively new concept for many Muslims, but with Ramadan on the horizon, when better than now to recognise that indulging in something as self-serving as travel should be done responsibly?
Photo: Local crafts in Morocco. Courtesy of Tharik Hussain.
At the heart of sustainable travel are principles we all recognise: being mindful of our impact on the environment, using renewable energy, minimizing our carbon footprint, etc. But there are also specific aspects that we may not have previously considered, like seeking out accommodation and businesses that prioritise local economic growth; that is, those who employ locals and source all raw materials (food, drink, arts and crafts) from resident farmers and artisans. These are places that will also hire guides from the locality, promote and preserve local traditional cultures and businesses, and generally be conscientious and sensitive to the host community.
Such places don’t just put money back into the hands of locals; they also equip them with valuable skills and training. Now the question you are no doubt wondering is, do these places exist in Muslim countries? They do, and we love them, which is why we want you to embrace the true spirit of Islam when you travel this Ramadan and consider staying with, and thereby supporting, the following brave new lights in the Muslim world.
ATLAS KASBAH ECOLODGE, AGADIR, MOROCCO
Photo courtesy Tharik Hussain.
They preach six things at the Atlas Kasbah: conserve water, conserve energy, manage waste, buy locally, respect the landscape and educate about the environment. This could be the mission statement for all eco-lodges. Founded in 2009 by the inspiring Hassan and Helene, who live on-site, this kasbah resembles the ancient forts of the Maghreb and sits in a stunning location surrounded by mountains. Rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated in classic Moorish style, with spectacular views. Local Berbers are employed in roles from service jobs to entertainment and even as teachers delivering Berber language courses to guests.
Photo courtesy Tharik Hussain.
FEYNAN ECOLODGE, WADI FEYNAN, JORDAN
This award-winning desert dwelling has been featured in travel publications across the globe. Held up as a pioneer of responsible tourism in the Arab world, the Feynan lodge is fully powered by solar power, sources water from a local spring, and carefully manages its use by guests. All waste food is composted to make fertilizer, and even plastic bottle usage has been all but eliminated; the lodge instead serves water to guests in locally made clay jars. Even back when the ecolodge opened in 2005 to give the local Bedouin communities a much-needed source of income, the founders built it on an existing campsite to avoid destroying another part of the pristine landscape. Sitting along the ancient Silk Road in one of the oldest continuously inhabited spots on Earth, Feynan is also a dream for archaeology buffs.
NISHORGO ECORESORT, SREEMANGAL, BANGLADESH
Photo: A bamboo cottage at Nishorgo Ecoresort, Bangladesh. Courtesy Tharik Hussain
Awaken to the sound of the mynah bird at your window or the rustle of leaves on a banana tree as a cheeky monkey scampers back to the nearby Lawacherra rainforest. These stunning little bamboo cottages sit in beautiful, lush surroundings just outside the centre of Bangladesh’s tea-producing capital, Sreemangal. Part of the Nishorgo Support Project, the resort employs local people, sources food from fisherman and farmers born in the vicinity, and has a register of local eco-guides who know just how to tread carefully when out sightseeing. Each hut contains simple, traditional Bangladeshi decor and furniture, which is everything a musafir travelling in the true spirit of Ramadan needs: no more, no less.
Photo: Tea garden at Nishorgo Ecoresort, Bangladesh. Courtesy Tharik Hussain.
(This article is written by Tharik Hussain. Tharik is a freelance British Muslim travel writer, journalist, broadcaster and photographer specialising in the Muslim stories of Europe. Hussain’s first ever radio documentary, America’s Mosques; A Story of Integration, has been declared one of the world’s best radio documentaries for 2016. All his work can be viewed at www.tharikhussain.co.uk)
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