Updated: Oct 14, 2021
Join us as we uncover five safe Muslim friendly summer destinations that will leave you with moments to be treasured for a lifetime.
Life is truly about moments and the past year has been a year of reflection and appreciation for life’s little things that we always took for granted. We all feel and see the changes including the distances we have to keep away from others, the new safety protocols that we have to follow, and the beautiful smiles that have now been hidden.
"Traveling allows us to rejuvenate our mind, body, and spirit."
A lot may have changed but traveling will still allow you to have the “Wow - SubhanAllah” moments where everything stops and you just assimilate the beauty and wonders of Allah’s (swt) creation. Traveling allows us to rejuvenate our mind, body, and spirit. The diversity which Allah (swt) mentioned in the Holy Quran can be appreciated in our travels. The different cultures, languages, religions, races, and even cuisines expand our knowledge and experience and leave us humbled knowing that we are just one insignificant part of Allah’s (swt) grand creation.
There are over 190 countries in the world and choosing the top 5 halal-friendly destinations for 2021 was no easy task. They have been rigorously evaluated in terms of their safety plans that they have put in place as well as the availability of Muslim-friendly hotels, Halal food options and facilities, Mosques, and the friendliness of the locals.
Turkey has a majority Muslim population and Mosques are Masha’Allah plentiful but I invite you to please look up and reflect on the mesmerizing domes that you are bound to encounter when visiting the Mosques in Turkey. They have been constructed with impeccable finesse and it is a reminder of how Ihsan (Excellence) was executed in everything that they did.
Turkey represents a walk back in history. There has been a renewed interest in understanding the Ottoman Empire and all its achievements and a visit to Turkey will give visitors a better insight into its rich Islamic History and Heritage starting from the establishment of the Ottoman Empire in 1299 and the subsequent Ottoman Caliphate which started in 1512 and ended in 1924.
Turkey is at the heart of many civilizations and UNESCO has specified sixteen cultural sites and two mixed World Heritage sites in Turkey. Istanbul, a city that straddles two different continental landmasses, Europe and Asia, has its fair share of history and landmarks that are just waiting to be discovered. As Napoleon once mentioned, “If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital.”
"If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital."
4 of the famous tourist attractions in Istanbul:
# The Hagia Sophia
# Bosphorus Cruises
# The Blue Mosque
# The Grand Bazaar
Kindness to animals, in particular cats, has been something that makes Turkey unique. It is a continuation of our Prophet Muhammed’s (pbuh) tradition. The Prophet (pbuh) was very fond of cats and there is a hadith that mentions “Affection for cats is part of faith” (Maqasid al-Hasanah, al-Sakhawi). A Muslim who is merciful to animals will definitely be merciful to his fellow human beings. A lot of Muslims say visiting Turkey always feels like you are home away from home due to the warmth and hospitality of the local people.
There are several hotels in Turkey that feature prayer rooms, secluded women’s pools and spas, soundproof rooms, and above all, halal restaurants. Turkey is considered a food paradise so delve into the tempting delicacies and the healthy mouth-watering dishes and don’t worry about the extra weight because there are plenty of activities that you can engage in to burn those extra calories. Incidentally, drinking tea is an intricate part of Turkish culture and is offered mostly for free with hosts insisting on offering you more.
Turkey has been blessed with a long coastline and visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to Turkey’s blue flag beaches, marinas, and yachts. Spending time enjoying the turquoise blue waters will refresh and soothe your body and soul. For adventurous souls, there are various extreme sports to engage in like skydiving, wingsuit base jumping, white water rafting, kayaking, paragliding, parasailing, hiking, windsurfing, kiteboarding, and scuba diving. Some coastal towns and cities include:
There are hidden gems in every country and for those travelers who like to go off the beaten path, Turkey has a few geological wonders like Cappadocia, Pamukkale, Lake Meke, and Lake Salda, also known as the Turkish Maldives waiting to be explored. Sanliurfa also called the city of Prophet Ibrahim (as) has a carp-filled fish pool (Balikli Gol) believed to be the place where Nimrod threw Prophet Ibrahim (as) into the fire. Allah (swt) changed the flames into water and the wood into fish to protect his Prophet.
Morocco also has a majority Muslim population with very easy access to Mosques. It is bordered by the Mediterranean and the Atlantic ocean and is also strategically located at the intersection point between Europe and Africa. Halal food and Muslim friendly hotels are plentiful. Indoor ladies pools, hammams, and massages that are secluded are the norm in Morocco.
" Morocco has nine World Heritage Sites, all selected for their cultural significance."
Morocco is better defined as a country of contrasts. Despite its modernity, it offers travelers an opportunity to experience life in an ancient culture by joining a caravan route and camel trekking across the Saharan sand dunes to nomadic Berber tents. Far from the modern amenities, it will give travelers a clear compass of being grateful and being satisfied with the very basic necessities of life. The opportunity to gaze at the night sky with millions of stars shining down on you is a moment to cherish.
Morocco is truly a diverse and colorful country. Let us explore the different cities that have colorful nicknames.
1.Marrakech, known as the Red City, is a city whose buildings were made using reddish clay during the time of the Almohads, around the middle of the 12th century. Marrakech has the ancient and the modern. The vibrant marketplace called the Jemaa-el-Fna is definitely not to be missed during a walk through the medina. The modern area called Gueliz was developed when the French were in control of Morocco. Please do visit the Happy Valley ( Ait Bougemez ), a four-hour drive full of pleasant scenery and wonderful encounters of happy Amazigh / Berber people.
2.Casablanca, known as the White City, is a city on the Atlantic coast with whitewashed buildings. It is the economic powerhouse of Morocco but it is still infused with the new and the old when it comes to architecture. A traveler is bound to see ornate Moorish architecture blended with European styles. Casablanca is also known as a Restaurant City with a wide array of halal restaurants to choose from. You can laze around on the beautiful beaches or you can be part of Casablanca’s surf culture. The Hassan ll Mosque is a sight not to be missed.
3.Chefchaouen, known as the Blue City, is a city close to Tangier. There are plenty of photo opportunities in every corner of this city because there are so many shades of blue that cover the walls of its buildings. Locals will give different reasons for the prominent color blue that embodies this city but one thing we can all agree on is blue has a calming effect on our souls.
Morocco has nine World Heritage Sites, all selected for their cultural significance. The hidden gems in Morocco may very well be Legzira beach close to Agadir and the city of Fez. Legzira beach has sea arches that glow red at sunset giving hang gliders and parasailers a picturesque scene. The city of Fez is set up in the form of a maze with narrow streets and colorful souks and the probability of getting lost and embarking on a true adventure is very high. What is of particular importance to Muslims in Fez is the Mosque and the University of Al Qarawiyyin. Over 1200 years ago, Fatima Al Fihri established the oldest existing, continually operating, and the first degree-awarding educational university according to UNESCO and the Guinness World Records.
Moroccan cuisine has been classified as magical by Michelin Star Chef Gordon Ramsey. Mint tea is a staple in Morocco and is offered as a remedy for thirst and to uplift your spirits if you are tired. Be mindful not to offend the friendly locals who are bound to offer you mint tea. Magical Morocco has the mountains, the desert, and the beautiful coast to offer its visitors.
Thailand may not have a Muslim majority population but it is rich with carefree people who are famous for always being ready to smile. Muslims are the largest minority community in Thailand and you will find around 3000 mosques scattered throughout Thailand but Bangkok and Phuket will be areas where all your halal requirements will be met. You can find “no alcohol” properties, secluded pools, saunas, spas, and halal restaurants nearby or within the properties. The properties may be luxurious resorts or private villas and there is something to suit every budget.
"There is a wide variety of Halal Thai food especially in the area around the Patong Mosque."
Thailand is the only Southeast Asian country that was never colonized by a European country and is filled with historical ruins and cultural sites. Its capital and largest city, Bangkok, is classified as an amazing city that has something to offer to everyone who visits according to their travel theme. Bangkok is a modern, cosmopolitan city but there are several revered and iconic landmarks such as the Grand Palace, Lumpini Park, and fine sculptures that overlook the city. These sculptures are usually located at the end of a steep climb so comfortable shoes are highly recommended while sightseeing but if you are scared of heights, then we recommend some shopping instead.
Bangkok is a shopper’s paradise. There are so many markets to visit notably:
Chatuchak weekend market
The flower markets
MBK Center in Bangkok (8 stories, 2000 shops for your shopping delight)
Street food is everywhere but if you feel dazed by the never-ending rows of food stalls, you can quickly escape into the various sanctuaries of greenness that are found throughout the city. After a peaceful stroll, you can let your mind and senses wander about the tropical fruits and vegetables, the herbs, the spicy chilis, and fresh lime that make Thai food very appetizing.
Thailand has around 1430 islands and around 2000 miles of coastline but the most popular island, especially for Muslims, is Phuket which is home to some of Thailand’s best beaches. A mountainous thick jungle surrounds the crystal blue beaches. Its location in the Andaman Sea is perfect for various water sports and activities like:
speed boat rides
There is a wide variety of Halal Thai food especially in the area around the Patong Mosque. Grilled seafood choices are also plentiful if you just feel like relaxing on the beach.
With over 1430 islands, hidden gems are everywhere but there is a very special Muslim fishing village called Koh Panyee which is a must-visit. All the dwellings are built on stilts but what first catches your eye is the white and golden mosque that has been built there.
It is indeed a blessing to go visit a tropical island paradise like Phuket and to be welcomed by a Muslim community that understands your needs and values and tries to accommodate them. Remember to always smile, especially in the land of smiles, because smiling is Sunnah.
Malaysia is a melting pot of diversity where Malays, Chinese, Indians, and various other races live in peace and harmony. The official religion of Malaysia is Islam but the various races and cultures that live side by side add spice to the diversity of religions, cultures, festivals, cuisines, and architecture that one encounters upon visiting Malaysia.
Around 60% of Malaysia’s population are Muslims so halal food is plentiful and stores that offer halal food usually have a halal logo outside that has been certified by the Malaysian Halal Certification Authority. Malaysia’s diverse cultures create delicious feasts. Malay cuisine tends to be spicy but creamy and the sweetness is attributed to coconut milk. There is a vast spectrum of foods with rich flavors to choose from and aromas that are too tempting to resist.
It is easy to find “no alcohol properties” throughout Malaysia. Secluded massage, sauna, wellness, and spa facilities are the norm in many Malaysian Hotels. Beaches and pools may be mixed gender with modest swimwear allowed but secluded pools are also available. Prayer rooms can be found in malls, hotels, and most public buildings.
Malaysia is considered a leader in conservation and sustainable tourism and this is clearly evidenced when nearly 70% of the country remains forested. Nature enthusiasts are definitely going to experience geographically diverse habitats with clear tropical waters and pristine beaches. With a year-round tropical climate, travelers will come across lush rainforests and diverse wildlife.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, is often described as the heart of Malaysia. It is a business hub and financial powerhouse with a wonderful skyline. You are bound to come across colonial buildings that portray Malaysia’s rich heritage. Kuala Lumpur caters to all types of travelers, bargain hunters, and extravagance seekers.
Places to visit in Kuala Lumpur are:
Perdana Botanical Gardens
The Forest Eco Park
The Upside Down House
Street art murals
Petronas Twin Towers
Malaysia is a beach lover’s paradise with over 800 islands to choose from.
Some of the best halal friendly islands are:
Active travelers are presented with a wide array of activities like beach hopping, end to end beach walks, jungle trekking, snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, beach volleyball, white water rafting, swimming under the waterfalls, and kayaking through thick jungles and forests that surround the white sandy beaches. Please indulge in the exquisite seafood that is widely available.
Malaysia has two cultural and two natural UNESCO heritage sites but a hidden gem is experiencing the brotherhood that Malaysians feel for each other.
Everyone is related in Malaysia not by blood but by their behavior and manners. Children would call the elderly as grandfather, grandmother, uncle, aunt, dad, or mom and this is said not to biological parents and relatives but to everyone as a sign of respect.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Muslim country whose name is synonymous with luxury, comfort, and glamour. The UAE actually comprises 7 emirates notably Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Umm-alQuwain. Mosques are widely available and exotic halal getaways with halal restaurants, private pools, women’s only spa are the standard. Desert safaris can be experienced in different emirates.
1) Dubai: is by far the most popular destination in the world. Dubai’s skyline is dotted by glamorous skyscrapers and luxurious hotels. Dubai has a prominent presence in the shopping scene and the Gold Souks and Spice Souks are worth mentioning here. It is interesting to see how a small desert town of pearl divers and fishermen has transformed into an innovative and futuristic city. Dubai boasts beautiful beaches for scuba diving, boat rides, and parasailing. Some notable places to visit are:
Burj Al Arab
Mall of the Emirates
"Even if you visit the UAE in summer, you will definitely not feel thirsty there."
2) Abu Dhabi: is the capital city of the Emirates and is slowly gaining prominence on the touristic scene particularly in the Art and Automotive sectors.
A few reasons to visit are:
Formula One Motor races
Emirates National Auto Museum
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
3) Ras Al Khaimah: For travelers who want to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai, a 90-minute drive will take you to a very scenic and diverse landscape in the UAE. Ras Al Khaimah has it all...sandy deserts, coastal strips with quiet and pristine beaches, mangroves, and mountains with sulfur springs closeby. It is full of hiking trails and has the longest zipline in the world. An ideal venue for families, couples, and solo travelers.
4) Ajman: After a mere 30-minute drive from Dubai, you land in Ajman that features ancient forts and luxury resorts. Bird watchers will fall in love with the Al Zorah Nature Reserve. A visit to Ajman Museum familiarises you with the history of the UAE.
Far from the overcrowded cities, here you can
Visit the inland enclaves
Enjoy the quad bikes
Dine on the Corniche
5) Sharjah: is the cultural capital of the UAE and is also located around 30 minutes away from Dubai. Sharjah has its own unique vibe that is rooted in culture featuring heritage sites, mosques, and traditional souks. It has beaches on both the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
The Sharjah Calligraphy Museum and the Museum of Islamic Civilisation are definitely worth a visit. It is the foodie capital of the UAE with authentic street food from the Middle East, India, and Pakistan. The beautiful Wasit Nature Reserve attracts birds from all over the world.
Wallet-friendly family fun can be found at:
Al Majaz Waterfront
Al Noor Island
Al Khalid Lagoon
6)Fujairah: Located 90 minutes away from Dubai, Fujairah is popular for its beaches and the solitude and relaxation that they offer. It is a popular hangout for divers and beachgoers particularly Snoopy Island. A dive here allows you to explore shipwrecks, coral reefs and to hang out with the diverse marine life that calls this place home. Wadi bashing is also popular here.
7) Umm-al-Quwain: Located 45 minutes away from Dubai, Umm-al-Quwain has a beautiful coastline with rich mangroves. It is very quiet and laid back and many birds call it home. Nature enthusiasts will come across gazelles, turtles, and falcons here. This emirate is well known for Dhow building, Falconry, and Camel racing. Dreamland aqua park is very kid-friendly.
Activities that are popular are:
Banana boat rides
Stand up paddleboarding
Even if you visit the UAE in summer, you will definitely not feel thirsty there. Gahwa or Arabic coffee is the welcoming drink in the UAE and is served in small cups along with dates. The Sulaimani tea is recommended after a heavy meal which you will have a lot of considering the variety of cuisines that exist in the UAE. It is made from cardamom, loose tea, mint leaves, and lemon and is guaranteed to make you feel refreshed instantly. Jallab is a cold drink made from grape molasses, dates, rose water, pine nuts, raisins, and crushed ice and will leave you feeling hydrated all day. Laban is the ultimate health drink. It is a yogurt-based drink that is usually served cold and is loaded with calcium, proteins, and vitamins.
All I am thinking right now is “Vamos a la playa” Spanish for “let’s go to the beach” this summer inshaAllah. I hope you are thinking along the same lines too.
Until we meet again with new destinations inshaAllah, stay safe and stay blessed!