Looking for an Eid or summer getaway? Add these 4 destinations to your travel list
- 30 May 2018
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Many of us have the travel bug these days, and being bombarded with photos of beautiful destinations all over our social media feeds doesn’t help, either.
But though it may not be healthy for the bank balance, it’s great to see that destinations are becoming more Muslim-friendly, which means fewer worries about halal food options or prayer rooms while travelling the world.
From countries with an ancient Muslim heritage to those that are striving to welcome more Muslim travellers, here are four ‘new’ destinations to add to your travel list.
Whether you want to visit the top mosques in Hokkaido or chase cherry blossoms in Tokyo, Japan has recently put in a lot of effort to welcome Muslim travellers from all over the world.
MasterCard-CrescentRating’s Japan Muslim Travel Index 2017 says that the reason behind the growth of Muslim travel in Japan, which is expected to rise to 1 million Muslim visitors in 2018, includes a visa-free policy for Indonesians and Malaysians as well as halal-friendly restaurants and prayer facilities opening all over the country. It was also revealed recently that several Muslim-friendly facilities to accommodate Muslim travellers from all over the world will be available at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Hotel Granvia Kyoto offers its Muslim guests halal-certified restaurants and cafes. Ukihashi and Le Temps are both certified by the Malaysia Halal Corporation Co. and serve 100-per-cent halal meat cooked with halal spices and special utensils that are stored separately from non-halal cooking utensils. All guest rooms are equipped with prayer mats, Qibla directions signs and an alcohol-free mini bar upon request.
2. BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
For Soumaya Hamdi, the UK-based halal travel blogger and editor of Halal Travel Guide, Bosnia is the “hidden gem of Europe”. Although the country is somewhat “undiscovered” by Muslim travellers, Soumaya predicts that this will soon change.
“The country offers breath-taking scenery that could rival the likes of Switzerland. There is halal food aplenty, and mosques galore,” she says.
From praying in 15-century mosques, like the Emperor’s Mosque in Sarajevo, to enjoying the unique experience of climbing to the top of a minaret at the Koski Mehmed Pasha Camii in Mostar, there are plenty of reasons the Global Muslim Travel Index ranks Bosnia and Herzegovina among the best non-Islamic countries for Muslims to visit.
Soumaya adds, “Despite the recent memory of its civil war in the 90s, Bosnia is a safe place to visit. The locals are used to tourists and are very friendly and welcoming.”
According to Zabihah, the US-based halal guide, Casa United in Sarajevo is the top-rated Bosnian halal restaurant. Offering a full halal menu that is alcohol-free makes Casa United a Muslim favourite on the app.
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You can now experience Spain in a different light: according to Soumaya, local Muslims are working to revive the rich heritage of Andalusia by offering tours focusing on the Islamic history of the region.
“This is special because traditionally the tour guides have been known to gloss over the stories of the Muslims in Cordoba and Granada,” she explains. “Andaluc?a will capture the heart of lovers of Islamic history where the Alhambra still stands in excellent condition hundreds of years after it was built by the Nasrid dynasty.
A full ‘halal’ tour will include a walk down history lane and a halal Spanish meal, and your prayer times are accounted for by the tour guide too.
Where should you stay? Costa del Sol Torremolinos Luxury Boutique Hotel is the second halal-certified hotel in Spain and one of the top-rated hotels on HalalBooking.com.
We saved the best for last. Malta isn’t exactly what you think of when Googling Muslim-friendly travel destinations in Europe, but Islam is quite prominent in the history of an island that has been ruled by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs and many other empires.
Located at the centre of the Mediterranean, south of Sicily and north of Africa, the Maltese archipelago is home to three islands: Malta, Comino and Gozo. Only 4,000 Muslims live in Malta, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find a mosque.
Ruba Zai, also known as Hijab Hills on Instagram, calls it “breathtakingly beautiful” in her honeymoon vlog. This YouTube video, which at the time of publishing has garnered over 98,000 views, is a travel diary of Malta and Gozo.
Be sure to visit Malta’s only mosque, Mariam Al-Batool Mosque, the first stone of which was laid by Muammar Gaddafi in 1978. Must-sees include Blue Lagoon, Golden Bay, Old Mdina, Valetta and the islands.
Craving Lebanese food in Malta? No problem. Enter Kebab Ji, the 100-per-cent halal Lebanese restaurant, which offers everything from falafel to kebab to mouth-watering shawarma.
(Writing by May Rostom; Editing by Seban Scaria firstname.lastname@example.org)
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