Q&A with a Muslim Influencer: Sukaina Rajabali

Updated: Jan 8

Sukaina Rajabali

Photographer, Traveler, Entrepreneur, Cancer Survivor

“Sukaina Rajabali is a Dubai based food photographer. Her style has graced a long list of best-selling books and popular magazines. She loves playing with texture and light and has a signature style aesthetic with a vast range of vintage and modern props and surfaces, When not behind the camera, you will still find her surrounded by food in the kitchen- playing with flour, butter and sugar. She is also one of only seven Certified Phase One Professionals in the Middle East.”

She is also an influencer with over 100K followers on Instagram where she aims to inspire modest, hijabi travelers to explore the world without any hesitation. Her Instagram stands out not only with the incredible images but also through the honest, thoughtful, and inspiring captions.

Join us to learn more about what inspired Sukaina in her journey, how she keeps busy at home while quarantined, where she gets her strength to cope with the “NEW USUAL”, and what she foresees for the future of travel.

Would you be kind enough to share a little bit about yourself ? Who is Sukaina Rajabali?

So I’m a professional food and travel photographer who loves to travel the world and adventure. My aim is to inspire other modest, hijabi women in our community all over the world to do the same, and not let their modest way of dressing, their religion or culture come in the way of their aspirations, love for travel and adventure.

“Traveling starts with inspiration” is one of our mottos. What inspired your amazing journey and your passion for traveling?

I was on a food photography retreat in a tiny island in Seattle called Lumi in 2016 and we were staying in these quaint cottages surrounded by lush forests and a roaring ocean. We foraged our own food, fished for crabs, trekked unknown paths and more than the food photography, I learned about my love of seeing new places, meeting people of a different culture, eating foods I had never eaten. I made a vow to travel to one new place each month the year after so I could experience those feelings again and again.

In one of your posts on Instagram, you asked your followers “Where would you like to be transported right now?”. Although we kind of have a clue from the beautiful image you shared, we still wanted to ask you. Where would YOU like to be transported right now?

Oh gosh, just one place?! In all honesty, I am so happy I am here in Dubai. It’s home, I feel safe here, it’s comfortable. However, I wouldn’t mind going somewhere more green like Bali right now. I miss nature, swimming, snorkeling, the chirping of birds. I miss the greenery! That’s why I am spending so much time in my garden these days.

One thing that grabbed my attention on your Instagram is that you warn your followers about what they see on social media (This is not something that we come across often) You openly said, “This (referring to the image you posted) is crafted, created, augmented, ......”. What is the message you want to get across?

That social media is a highlight reel. You see the very best moments on there, the perfect pictures of perfect families who are always happy. My Instagram space is a place where I want people to come and feel happy, inspired, positive, and excited. I don’t want to burden anyone with my problems. But that doesn’t’ mean I don’t have problems- be they financial, emotional, family or otherwise. I just choose no to share that.

These are difficult times for everyone, but eventually, we all have found ways to cope with the “NEW USUAL” of staying home. As someone resourceful, what are some ways that you have adapted to this new way of daily life?

I’m a creature of routine. I love having a schedule and an agenda and having kids definitely helped with quarantine. Even though I absolutely hate homeschooling and teaching, my morning flies by due to having to homeschool the children. I have also been blessed with having my parents with me in quarantine.

My dad flew to Dubai for medical treatment and got stuck here. Luckily for me, their company had made the months just fly by. I have also found a new interest in gardening and have been tending to my back yard, buying new plants and just immersing myself in this new world.

As you referred to it, this is an “unusual Ramadan”, and we all miss not being able to live the true spirit of this holy month of sharing. Any recommendations for our reader as to how they can make the most of this blessed month?

Well we are now at the end of it really but Allah sends his love, blessings and mercy in every difficulty. In all honesty, this Ramadan went by in a blink of an eye even though we were housebound and didn’t congregate in prayer and dua. This in itself is the mercy of God. He has made these difficult times flash by in a blink of an eye. So always know He is the best of planners and will only test you with what you can go through, learn from and grow from.

Another thing I truly appreciated coming across your social media was you talking openly about mental health. This is a tricky subject within the Muslim community and is sometimes left out of the important conversations. Considering the current situation can be triggering and how the statistics have shown the increase in relapse, what are some ways that helped you maintain your mental wellbeing?

One of the biggest ways I have dealt with anxiety now and in the past is to identify my trigger. What’s setting off your anxiety? What makes it worse? Is it a certain person, a WhatsApp group in particular? Is social media giving you anxiety? Is it a change in your job, loss of a loved one, a relationship, caffeine? Making a diary of when your anxiety peaks will help you identify your triggers. Then you can start reducing that trigger or removing it from your life to deal with it. This is the first step of an often long journey.

This is a question that we often receive from our followers. As an expert traveler, what do you foresee for travel in the future, and how do you believe travelers’ behavior will be affected by the current pandemic?

It’s difficult to say really. It will take time for people to have faith in the travel industry, for people to be able to afford to travel again. I know personally, I will never again take travel for granted. I will appreciate every single part of the journey from the check-in, the anticipation before boarding, the wafts of coffee and jet fuel as you board the plane, the views from your window seat of puffed clouds, the excitement of landing, the energy of jostling bodies at the baggage carousel, the breath of fresh air as you step out of the airport. Every step of the journey even before reaching the destination will never be taken for granted.

This was a delight, and thank you sincerely for taking the time to answer our questions. Anything else you would like to share?

Just that life may not seem perfect right now but it can still be wonderful and we should live it to the fullest.


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