As soon as the time of vacation approaches, people begin to think: how to spend these days, where to go, how to choose a place of rest for the whole family, how to successfully combine a splendid view, rich culture and history. We represent the top 10 Muslim countries of the far abroad, which one should visit by all means in order not to just have a good time, but also to immerse into local flavour and get a lot of emotions for a long time.
Tourism by halal standards
“Halal tourism” has long been a worldwide trend, despite the novelty of the term itself. Many Muslims from different countries of the world more and more prefer active recreation and travel. Such tourists are not going to retreat from their religion. The industry of tourism has begun to adapt to the needs of consumers – hotels, restaurants and resorts are being opened everywhere, providing services by “halal standards”.
Tourism and recreation according to Sharia law are new tendencies in the industry of tourism, which help people to relax in accordance with their religious beliefs. Thus, hotels provide all the necessary services to Muslims: prayer rooms, separate swimming pools, beaches and spas. Halal meals are a prerequisite. All drinks are non-alcoholic in such hotels.
Where are you going?
Muslim tourists prefer travelling with their families. Where can one rest abroad without violating religious precepts?
As a rule, the most popular countries where decent rest for Muslims is organized are Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Malaysia.
Turkey. Tourism in this country is developing rapidly: the number of hotels grows each year. A separate sector in this industry is hotels that meet all the requirements of Sharia law, where Muslim families can comfortably and fully relax.
Thus, the most popular holiday destinations are such hotels as “Sah Inn Paradise 5”, “Adenya Hotel 5” and “Bera Alanya 5”. Important “attributes” of these hotels are special zoning of territories on female and male, which allow people to follow the religious rules. In addition to it, there are mosques within the territory of these hotels, where one can hear adhan and visit collective salahs.
There is an interesting fact about Turkey – there are a lot of cats in the streets. They are beautiful, well-groomed and lazy. There are even special cat houses and special people who look after them and feed them in the parks. Ordinary Turks are also fond of street cats and consistently feed them.
There are dogs as well, but there are much fewer them than cats. In Turkey all homeless dogs look good and wear earrings, which indicate the municipality to which they are “assigned”. Dogs are fed by special people too.
Malaysia. Malaysia, the Muslim population of which is 60%, today holds the leading position in the diversity of services provided to Muslim tourists. Thus, Port Dickson, the seaside resort city of Malaysia, is considered to be one of the fest resorts for family holidays among Muslims.
Luxury villas on piles stand over turquoise waters. There is the window view overlooking the Strait of Malacca. There are also instructions of how to go to Mecca on the ceiling in each villa. One can find a copy of the Quran in the rooms. The hotel’s restaurant offers the halal menu and there is no alcohol.
There are individual pools in the richest villas, therefore Muslim women has no necessity to use public pool. There are even separate rooms for prayer in the hotel.
During Ramadan hotels of Malaysia offer special menu – breakfast before sunrise and buffet in the evening, after sunset. That is why it is not surprising that Muslims from around the world come to this resort.
It is worth noting that the Malaysian island of Sipadan is the object of close attention among divers all over the world. There are about 3 thousand species of various fish in its coastal waters. Besides, so called “walking trees” grow in the territory of the country. Their roots begin to grow from the middle of their trunks and move in search of underground water. It is quite possible that in a year the tree you liked will not be at the same place you saw it last time – they are able to “pass” up to several meters.
Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, is the greenest Asian capital. All its streets are green if it is possible. The thing is that the modern is in neighbourhood with the ancient: a skyscraper near an ancient temple in Kuala Lumpur is a common thing.
There are enough attractions in the capital, among which one should highlight the Sultan Abdul Samad Jamek Mosque. In addition to it, the National Museum and the famous Petronas Twin Towers that are 452 meters high are worth visiting in Kuala Lumpur.
Egypt. According to tourists’ reviews, Sharia holidays in this country can meet needs of the Muslims public even at the level of the religious approach. Thus, in a number of “the strictest” hotels male staff is forbidden to look at female tourists, there is no music in the halls of hotels and on the beaches and swimming in niqabs only is allowed.
Egypt is one of the most mysterious states, the history of which attracts tourists from all over the world. It is surprising that the people of the vast desert have been able to not only build the greatest pyramids but also to give the world paper and toothpaste, writing and surgery.
This country can boast the cleanest sea in the world! It is the Red Sea, into which not a single river flows, therefore it excludes the penetration of silt rocks. The Red Sea is also the saltiest, except for the Dead Sea. But unlike its Israeli counterpart, the Red Sea can be proud of its diverse underwater flora and fauna. And, of course, it is in the waters of the Red Sea there is a record number of coral species, which attract divers from all over the world.
One cannot but stop looking at the pyramids, which are the object of admiration and surprise. And how can you not remember the largest pyramid, one of the world wonders, which has survived to this day? It is the Great Pyramid of Giza with the area of 53 000 square meters, which is comparable to the area of 10 football fields. Two million three hundred thousand stone blocks weighing more than seven million tons were used in its construction.
The inhabitants of the Red Sea / Public Domain
The UAE. In hotels of the UAE, which work in accordance with the traditions of Islam, there is a mandatory day in a week, when only Muslim women rest on the beach. On this day, they calmly, without being afraid of men’s eyes, allow themselves to swim and sunbathe.
As a rule, in addition to standard services and infrastructure, there are 2 pools only for women, prayer rooms for women and men in hotels. There is the Holy Quran, prayer mat and direction to the Qibla in rooms.
It turns out that there is a ski resort in this hot country! It is a shopping centre, under the roof of which there are built ski slopes with lifts and snow. The area of the park is 22 500 square meters that is the most incredible building in the middle of the desert. One can especially feel the contrast at the entrance to the centre, when the back is still burnt by the sun and the face is already cool.
The UAE is the country where the spirit of fairytales “1000 and One Nights” exists and the most modern sports cars travel. Here there are the most luxurious hotels and the highest level of infrastructure. In this country each traveler expects a lot of amazing discoveries. And the park Al Ain Paradise once again demonstrates how the caring hands of the inhabitants of the country have managed to create the unique oasis.
Saudi Arabia. Halal tourism in the country of “two sanctuaries” is connected, primarily, with the performance of hajj and umrah. That is why hotels in cities of Mecca and Medina are the most popular. The most important thing for tourists while choosing hotels and destinations in Saudi Arabia is location, namely the proximity to the Islamic holy and historical places.
Saudi Arabia is one of the most orthodox Arab states. Centuries-old traditions, religion and power have been intertwined here for a long time, forming a truly unique blend. This country is a vivid embodiment of the Arab East as it is, with all the peculiarities of this country.
Morocco. It is the most ancient monarchy of the Muslim world. One can immerse into the history here by simply taking a step. And here you are, watching fascinating architecture. There suddenly appear fortresses in the middle of the desert – kasbahs, scattered on the slopes of the mountains of ancient tombs, in front of your eyes.
If we refer to the notes made by medieval Arab historians and geographers, we will find out that they called Morocco “al-Maghrib al Aqşá” ("the Farthest West"). In general, the country is located between the European and African continents. The northern coast is only 14 km away from Spain.
As far as the southern borders are concerned, they are lost in the sands of the Sahara desert. However, despite its proximity to Europe, for many people this country is still rather mysterious and it seems like something covered in darkness, like something unexplored, but it only excites their imagination and intrigues them.
One can feel Arab culture even in the air, which one wants to breathe in without stopping: it is also in characteristic architecture, in spicy flavours and in abundant colourful carpets and spices of oriental bazaars of Fez and Marrakesh.
At the same time, primordial African traditions are still alive here: dances of local Berber tribes and caravans of Saharan camels constantly remind about the large continent stretching southward.
James Cook was the first person who mentioned Morocco as a place for tourists. It happened in 1886 when he travelled around Spain and Gibraltar. By the beginning of the XX century, the country had been rather exotic and slightly researched alternative to “the travelling in the footsteps of desert nomads”.
Morocco has long since ceased to be “a wild land” of Berber pirates and sheikhs of the Sahara: Tangier is a rapidly developing port, Casablanca is a modern business centre with a number of skyscrapers and highways. Mercedes and motorbikes have replaced camels, everywhere there are bridges and tunnels, which connect Europe, Morocco and the entire African continent.
Yet, despite such significant and rapid changes, Morocco still surprises visitors with its bizarre combination of ancient mysticism and modern capitalism, Arab conservatism and African cheerfulness. Nowadays, this country is more attractive than it has ever been. Situated between two seas and two continents, it is always surprisingly unpredictable.
Tourists from different parts of the world come here in order to see outstanding monuments of Islamic architecture with their own eyes. The centre of Marrakesh is Medina, where the Bahia Palace is located. It is the best architectural building of the Islamic world. In Rabat, the capital of Morocco, the ruins of the Yaqub al-Mansur Mosque, built in the XII century, are the most remarkable. The minaret of this mosque is considered to be the highest minaret of the Middle Ages.
Tunisia. Tunisia is one more interesting place for travelling, which is located on the Mediterranean coast. The Almighty endowed this country with eternal summer and very comfortable climate, diverse landscape and unique flora and fauna.
The incredibly rich history of the country, which has been existed for many millennia, is organically supplemented by picturesque numerous monuments that are traces of great civilizations once existed in these parts. Many of Tunisian remained buildings and even entire urban complexes built by ancient architects are recognized as World Heritage Sites by experts of UNESCO.
The smallest country of Maghreb attracts travelers with its identity, ancient culture that gave birth to Carthage and with fascinating landscapes (the Atlas Mountains in the North and the Sahara desert in the South).
The performers of Tunisian traditional music / CC BY 3.0
In Tunisia, where the cultures of the East and West had peacefully coexisted for millennia, the concept of “biculture” can be felt everywhere. It is expressed in the proclamation of synthesis of Arab-Berber traditions and achievements of the Western civilization. This country attracts travelers with its ancient ruins and modern resorts, Mediterranean beaches and journeys to the Sahara desert, magnificent landscapes and salty lakes.
In the capital of Tunisia one can enjoy the beauty of the Al-Zaytuna Mosque, see the walls of Medina and the Sea Gate Bab el-Bar. In Hammamet, the ancient city of Tunisia, there is the Great Mosque and the Abdel Kader Mosque.
Jordan. Jordan is also in our list of countries which are to be visited. It is able to impress even a seasoned tourist with the grandeur of the landscape. You will be surprised but most of the territory of Jordan is situated on the plateau at the altitude of 700-1000 meters above sea level. And Amman, the capital of Jordan, is the second highest capital of the Middle East (the first place belongs to Sana, the capital of Yemen). From Amman you can go down by car to the Dead Sea in less than an hour.
A variety of local attractions can compete with Egyptian buildings. You can spend several days and walk along well-preserved Roman streets of Jerash, discover mysterious Arabian palaces in the desert, visit nature reserves, explore beautiful Christian mosaics and Crusader palaces, ride across the gorges of Petra and see the treasure house - one of the most amazing buildings in the world. By the way, the gorges of Petra have been included in the list of New Seven Wonders (according to UNESCO).
Brunei. It is a small state in the Southeast Asia – a typical country of the Islamic world. There is almost no night life here, the norms of behaviour in public places are rather strict, and that is why the majority of tourists come here only to get acquainted with the traditions of the East and its history.
In line with the trends, modern touristic market of Brunei is reoriented towards halal services for Muslim travelers. The concept of hotels and room facilities are changing a little, providing comfort for those who want to meet the requirements of Islam on vacation.
Qatar. Qatar is that country which is rather difficult to find on the map. However it does not mean that a Muslim tourist will be bored here. By the way, the majority of European travelers had not heard about this state till the beginning of the XX century. Most of the locals are Sunni. It is obvious that life in Qatar is subject to customs and traditional norms of Islam. It let the country to be included in the list of top-10 countries for halal tourism.
Due to its natural and climatic characteristics, Qatar cannot boast such an abundance of historical and natural monuments like Tunisia or Morocco. The main attraction of the country is its rich history, which is proved by numerous archeological excavations. From year to year, they help to reveal more and more traces of ancient civilizations in the territory of Qatar. Among the tourists Qatar is better known as the "Pearl of the Persian Gulf".
The Museum of Islamic Art in Doha / Shahin Olakara, CC BY-SA 4.0
Today, Qatar is a rapidly developing country. Russian tourists are treated with great friendliness here. The country is absolutely safe – if you go out late at night, you will not have to worry about the safety of your wallet and life.
If you hesitate when to go here, it is better choose between the period from September up to January and from March up to May. People, who are fond of diving, will love this place as the Persian Gulf is considered to be a great place for diving.