battuta Halal Travel Magazine | January 2021

Page 1

EDITOR’S LET TER “Traveling starts with inspiration” is our motto at HalalTravels. We started our journey with that mission in mind, and Battuta is one of the fruits of our efforts toward inspiring Muslim travelers to explore the world within the parameters of what is permissible. We aim to make the needs of Muslim travelers recognized by service providers. We also aim to inform Muslim travelers about ways to overcome barriers that may prevent them from achieving their ultimate desire of traveling. This edition finds us in hot pursuit of the latest and most distinctive Summer 2021 destinations that are both Muslim friendly and safe. Haifa Hussein introduces us to the “Top 5 Muslim-Friendly Destinations of Summer 2021”. Whether you are looking for turquoise waters, historical sites, delicious food, adventure, the tranquility of nature, or some sight-seeing in the city, you will find a safe destination that will fulfill your dreams of a well-deserved getaway this summer.

Editor in Chief Mehmet N. Akkurt, PhD

We thought we all could do with a little bit of joy so, here we are with our new addition to Battuta, Traveler’s Trivia. Test your friend’s and your own knowledge of the world by sharing your answers on Instagram and tagging us @halaltravelscom for a shoutout. (Hint: Each question has a hint, wink wink.). As we leave 2020 behind, let us take a moment to validate our experiences. Experiences that touched our lives in so many ways. In accomplishing this effort, we could not think of anyone more suitable than Sara Salih, whose writing has inspired you in the first two issues of Battuta. You asked for more, and Sara was kind to share her expertise with us. Exploring the Mysteries of the world’s greatest landmarks and mosques has been fun and informative. In this issue, Nafisa Bakhromovna introduces us to The Great Mosque of Cordoba. A mosque with a long history, breathtaking architecture, and more. Let’s visit Spain to learn more about this magnificent place of worship. In this issue’s Influencer Q&A, we feature Elif Kübra Genç. She is a travel enthusiast who has already visited all the cities in Turkey despite her young age. She is now set to explore the world one country at a time. Elif Kübra shares what inspires her to travel, how she overcame obstacles during her travels and her favorite destinations in Turkey. If Turkey is on your list for Summer 2021, you may want to take Elif Kübra’s advice on places to visit. After all, she has seen them all. I, again, leave you with a quote from our inspirer Ibn Battuta, he said:

“ Traveling, it offers you a hundred roads to adventure, and gives your heart wings.”

Editor in Chief Mehmet N. Akkurt Art Director Vefa Yabanigul Graphic Designer Yusuf Tezel Editor Veysel Gokbel Honorary Reviewer Haifa Hussein Writers Nafisa Bakhromovna Haifa Hussein Sara Salih Azer Suleymanov Muhtar Emirguliyev Contributors Elif Kübra Genç

CONTENTS: Explore a Mystery: The Great Mosque of Cordoba


Traveler’s Trivia Are You an Expert Traveler?


Q&A with a Muslim Influencer: Elif Kübra Genç


Top 5 Muslim-Friendly Destinations of Summer 2021


Let’s Start 2021 The Right Way


Halal Tourism News


Halal Tourism Business

46 GET IN TOUCH Advertisement & Enquiries



IN SOCIAL MEDIA @HalalTravelscom

2020 has been a unique year in various aspects for many of us. First and foremost, it will be remembered as the year of the pandemic and an unprecedented time for tourism globally. We were all under lockdown not being able to visit a single friend we wanted to be with or a destination we dreamed of. Our plans to explore the world paused for a long time. However, it was also a year of opportunity for us to prepare ourselves for a great year ahead. Although travel bookings paused, our team used this time to make continuous efforts to build cutting edge technology and diversify our product range extensively. We improved our data-driven decisionmaking process just to better serve you in the new year. In the past year, despite the pandemic, we have received many acknowledgments from various authorities and media outlets. Check out page 42 to read more about these accomplishments in the news article titled “HalalTravels 2020 - Year In Reviewˎ. We are excited about what’s coming in 2021! I hope this becomes the greatest and fastest recovery year of our dreams that will allow us to travel to make new friends, explore new local areas, and travel without limitations. Veysel Gokbel, PhD Co-Founder of


Explore a Mystery: The Great Mosque of Cordoba

by Nafisa Bakhromovna

It is impossible not to be mesmerized by the beauty of Cordoba’s mosque. Once you step into the mosque, its serenity and glory pierces through your heart at the same time. The soothing atmosphere at the mosque takes you back to the time when the lands of Al Andalus were flourishing and you can feel the spirit of the Muslim era in Southern Spain.

Andalusians are very proud of this attraction and it also happens to be one of the 12 wonders of Spain. Hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to Cordoba to see the Mezquita Mosque with their own eyes, which has a history spanning 11 centuries.

Mezquita (Spanish for mosque) is a cathedral mosque located in the Spanish town of Cordoba (Andalusia), and is included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The place where the cathedral stands can be called sacred. The Mezquita was built on the site of the Basilica of St. Vincent of Zaragoza, which was built on the ruins of a Roman temple.

The history of the Mezquita in Cordoba:

‘‘...they “reformatted” the mosque into a Catholic church.’’

As a result of the Arabian conquest of Spanish lands in the 8th century, Cordoba became the capital of the Emirate and a cultural, scientific and religious center. As the number of Muslims grew, the need to construct a mosque also increased. AbdarRahman l bought the Christian half of the basilica, demolished it and built a grandiose structure instead of sharing the existing basilica. Abdar-Rahman’s successors made their own architectural contributions which led us to the existing image of the modern Mezquita mosque in Spain.

In the 13th century, new owners appeared in Cordoba – the Castilian kings came to power and they did not need an Islamic mosque at all. The Catholic cathedral was not enough for the Castilian kings so they “reformatted” the mosque into a Catholic church. Thus, the Mezquita became a cathedral and since the early 2000’s, there has been a campaign to allow Muslims to pray in the Mezquita. So far, this idea has not received approval by the Spanish Catholic Church or the Vatican.

‘‘It is impossible not to be mesmerized by the beauty of Cordoba’s mosque.’’


Mezquita: Architectural features of the cathedral From the moment the Castilian kings came to these lands, they tried to remake the Mezquita. The rulers understood the uniqueness of the structure, so they did not want to destroy this beauty. However, in the 16th century, the initiator of the reforms was the local bishop Alonso Manrique. By that time, the shrine had already lost some of its exceptional architecture. The reconstruction work began in 1523 and architects like Hernan Ruiz the Elder, Juan de Ochoa and Diego de Praves were invited. Many scandals were associated with the alteration, since everything happened without the approval of the City Council and the permission of the King. The architecture of the building clearly shows the late Gothic traditions – retaining arches, large columns and partitions. The general impression can cause dissonance in addition to delight for a tourist. Here, next to the Mihrab, a traditional niche in the wall, typical for Muslim mosques hangs the image of Mary with Jesus. What is sure to impress in the Mezquita is the 856-column arches decorated with granite, jasper, marble and onyx.

The Tower Mezquita:





The tower is dominated by the sculpture of the Archangel Raphael, the patron saint of Cordoba. Under the tower, there is an arch that serves as an entrance to the courtyard. The courtyard was originally used for ablutions and religious teachings. During the reconstruction, the palm trees that grew here were replaced with orange trees. Therefore, the courtyard of the Mezquita is called “orange”.

Opening hours for the Mezquita MosqueCathedral in Córdoba are long. Tickets are only sold onsite. Admission is free early mornings. It doesn’t matter how beautifully I describe the Mezquita here, I strongly recommend you just grab your suitcase and fly to Cordoba.

“The Mezquita is waiting for you to see in person because after all seeing is believing.”


Most Popular Halal Hotels & Resorts for Summer 2021

Explore more at & book online


About Wome Deluxe

ThÄąs luxury 5-star property is all-inclusive and halal. The rooms at this property are spacious, well furnished with modern and comfortable furniture, and feature floor-to-ceiling windows with forest or sea views. This luxury hotel features 12 pools (family, children, and women-only pools), an aquapark, and beaches for family and women only. The professionally trained staff are ready to serve guests and are proficient in Turkish, English, and French. The property features activities such as basketball court, football pitch, volleyball, bowling, billiards, and table tennis. There are also activities for kids including a playroom, game room, and game center. Adults may also enjoy seasonal halal activities as well as an on-site cinema. There is a mini-market, shops, barber, and hair saloon on site.


Most Popular Facilities

Traveler's Trivia

Are you an exp ert traveler?

If you are reading our beloved Battuta magazine, it means that you know a thing or two about the world. So, are you an expert traveler or just a roamer? Either way, how about we test your knowledge about the world? Check out the questions below and share your answers on Instagram by tagging for a repost.

Which continent is the only one to not have ants?

Which country is home to 60% of the world’s lakes?

How long is the Great Wall of China in meters?

Which country has 549 permanently inhabited islands with no road connections to the mainland?

Check out the hints below.

It is very cold over there.

The kindest people live here.

The answer is in millions.

It is in Europe not Asia.

Q&A Elif Kübra Genç Would you kindly share a little bit about yourself for Battuta readers? Who is Elif Kübra Genç? Elif Kübra Genç is a person who follows her dreams, loves to read, learn, has learned to enjoy the moment, has blogged for many years, now produces video content, loves to dress up, experiment, share and produce content on every social network. Traveling starts with inspiration is one of our mottos. What inspires you to travel? I guess traveling is in my soul. When I was 18, I told my family that I was going to travel around the whole of Turkey. Of course, no one believed me. In fact, they didn’t feel comfortable with me studying at the university, which was out of town, but my mind was set. I was finding myself as I traveled. Learning and trying new things, seeing a new place just makes me happy. Even not knowing what I will encounter where I am going makes me curious. I guess the passion to learn is what drives me. :)

‘‘I guess traveling is in my soul.’’ Your Instagram page is entertaining, elegant, and informative. As an influencer, how do you keep your 152K followers engaged? They are like my family. I share everything I do, every experience I have. They witness everything I do in a day. There are even those who recognize when I am sad and send me messages. I try conveying the good things I learn as much as I can. It is important for me to add even a tiny bit of positive energy. Some women started their travels being inspired by my story. Some women recreate my photographs and send them to me. These kinds of occurrences make me happy. Sometimes we meet on the road and we chat like friends. Some people knew me and greeted me while traveling in Macedonia and Montenegro, and even in Ukraine (: As I said, many people continue to follow me because I sincerely see them as my family.


2020 has been a difficult year for travelers, as we approach 2021 what are your travel plans? Which country is on the top of your list? Since I have traveled to every corner of Turkey, I was planning to visit a different country every month in 2020. I visited a new country for the first 2 months of 2020, but unfortunately, the rest did not come to reality. In 2021, Morocco tops my list and Azerbaijan is the second. But to be honest, I am not someone who makes long-range plans. I live in the moment. As soon as I find a cheap ticket, if there is a place I want to go, I buy it immediately. I hope 2021 will be a healthy year. I always say that one may not have anything but if one has health, one can do it all.

You have traveled to all the 81 cities in Turkey, we know it is difficult but if you were to pick your Top 3, which cities would they be and why? Yes, it is very difficult to answer. I am actually going to answer this question by category: Black Sea Region for its nature, Eastern Region for its food, Aegean Region for vacation (Turquoise Waters) I love Izmir and Rize very much. Hatay has a special place in my heart. I have already visited these cities many times, but I am eager to visit them again. :)

As a hijabi traveler and a backpacker, do you have any suggestions on how to pack wisely? The more I traveled, the more I knew about the things I needed to take with me during my travels. Frankly, I haven’t purchased anything I didn’t need up until now. You can not take a lot of items when traveling with a backpack anyway. What you take is your basic needs. My advice is to pack clothes that do not wrinkle, that you can easily match with other pieces you packed, and that will suit any occasion.


I traveled with a backpack on my last trip to Ukraine in 2020. Because of the new baggage rules of the pandemic, I continued to travel with a small suitcase. I really miss the days I traveled as a backpacker. But I think the pandemic has changed something in everyone’s lives and changed my way of travel. Now, I prefer to travel with a small suitcase as it is more hygienic.

Most of your posts are in nature or in historical places? What drives you to these places?

Nature is where I’m happy, and that’s why nature is where you will find me. :)



I love being in nature. It energizes me. It relaxes me. It increases my gratitude. The more I look, the more I want to see. Who knows what beauties are out there that we haven’t seen yet! I do not like city crowds. I find myself spending time in nature whenever possible. I love animals very much, spending time with them makes me happy.

Historical places have always impressed me. Just think about the events that took place in those ruins. I love and share historical places because it excites me. As I said at the beginning, I am in places where I am happy. If I am not happy in a place or I don’t like the energy, I will not go there. Life is too short, one should spend it wisely and happily.


Since we can consider you an expert on Turkey, what Top 3 cities would you suggest to a tourist visiting Turkey in the Summer of 2021? First of all, let me remind you that I had to work hard to become an expert I did my master’s in Professional Tour Guiding and I hope that I will be an expert in the field soon. My humble suggestion would be Muğla, Trabzon, and Mardin. There are many places to visit in Muğla. They can rent a car in Trabzon and visit Rize, Artvin, or even Batumi. Mardin is a city that must be seen for its history. FYI, Diyarbakir is just an hour away from Mardin. By choosing these three destinations, they will end up seeing more than three cities. They will be learning more about Turkey and capturing incredible photos. :)

‘‘ Life is too short, one should spend it wisely and happily. ’’ Lastly, do you have any recommendations for Battuta readers traveling in 2021? If we cannot travel abroad, I think we should discover the beauties of our own country and share it with the world. It won’t be easy because of the restrictions, but if there is a will, there is a way. This was a delight, and thank you sincerely for taking the time to answer our questions. Any final thoughts you would like to share? Thank you. If one truly desires a thing from the heart, they can accomplish it. I will continue to chase after my dreams. Limits are in our minds. Maybe I will come across someone who read this article on the road ahead. Who knows. Stay well. Happy New Year!


Top 5 Muslim-Friendly Destinations of

by Haifa Hussein

Summer 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 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.

" If the Earth were a single state, Istanbul would be its capital."

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.”

4 of the famous tourist attractions in Istanbul: # The Hagia Sophia # The Blue Mosque

# Bosphorus Cruises # 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:


⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Antalya Kusadasi Cesme Bodrum Marmaris Fethiye Kas Alanya

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 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.

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.

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

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 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:

chilis, and fresh lime that make Thai food very appetizing.

► Chatuchak weekend market ▻ The flower markets ► Floating markets ▻ MBK Center in Bangkok (8 stories, 2000 shops for your shopping delight)

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:

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

► ▻ ► ▻ ►

sailing fishing snorkeling kayaking 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 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 Putra Mosque 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: • Redang • Tioman • Sepang • Langkawi • Kuantan • Port Dickson • Malacca • Penang

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 Khalifa Burj Al Arab Mall of the Emirates Jumeirah Beach Palm Islands

"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: ► ► ► ► ►

Ferrari World 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 ► ► ► ► ►

Golf Hike 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 Qasba

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: ► Wakeboarding ► Waterskiing ► Canoeing ► Kayaking ► Kneeboarding ► Windsurfing ► 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!


Let’s start


the right way

What 2020 taught us and what can we look forward to? Let’s start 2021 the right way! by Sara Salih

Would you come after me with flames and pitchforks if I called this year a blessing? It was taken over by lockdowns stopping us from stepping outside. Travel corridors and closed borders prevented us from flying. Eating out became a risk to our lives and others’. We lost jobs and drained money. Our dreams shattered and our goals drowned. Our businesses failed. Our health deteriorated. We parted from loved ones. We lost lives. What good can we possibly make out of that? How different will next year be when that 0 becomes a 1? The truth is, we may have felt better if we were the ones who pulled the plug on our goals and plans this year, as we’ve undoubtedly done in the past. We prefer to self-sabotage than have it disrupted for us. See, we like to have a vision, a strategy. We dedicate time to look at our lives and calculate specific moves that will edge us forward. “If I do this, it will grant me that. And if I do this, it may push me back.”


"It was taken ov stopping us from s

ver by lockdowns stepping outside."

Like standing on black and white squares on a board, our knowledge and insightful projections navigate us, one move at a time to reach the other side. We build relationships around us, hoping they too will help navigate us across, perhaps a rook here and a bishop there. Today, we couldn’t even stand our King and Queen side by side without breaking the 6 feet apart rule. While this invisible player has spread across the world sweeping our pieces off the table altogether, I don’t believe the game has come to a halt. In reality, our lives have been set in motion. Instead of being switched on like machines around the clock, slaving for monetary gain and power grabs, we’ve learnt to have simpler, calmer days. With isolation and distancing forced upon us, we’ve learnt the value of real connections.


By being made to stay home, we realised our jobs aren’t our identities and we have purpose without them. We’ve learnt the art of being present in the moment, what it means to be a human being, not a human ‘doing’. We’ve drawn attention to our mental health and our emotional state, mastering ourselves, our values and priorities. What I can say is it has been humbling to see Allah’s (swt) power in creating an entity unseen to the human eye yet with vigour to completely disrupt the course of our lives, shake us and turn the world upside down. A capability to end people’s jobs, keep us indoors when our livelihood is outside, keep us stuck when we’re packing to leave, leave us no choice when we thought we had options. Who are we to believe we can have a sense of influence like that?


And if there is a worldly gain that brews for those at the top of the chain in this pandemic, it is only by Allah (swt) that it is made to happen and only He knows how it will play out for them and for all of us. While it may be true that we lost a lot this year, it can only make us turn our heads and hearts to Him so that we can know Him as the Giver, to the One who created everything from nothing, all in place for His ultimate plan. The Plan that can alter all our plans. We flap our hands in places so far, trying to grip stronger for control and security when Allah (swt) who grants these is closer to us than our jugular vein, waiting patiently for us to hold onto Him instead. The One closer to us than the flow that connects directly to our heart, that carries oxygen, our lifeline.

Isn’t He the highest form of protection for our life? With that, it has helped me to truly understand what it means to have Tawakkul. To trust in His Plan even if it looks nothing like what we had imagined. Even when it’s so different from what we believe we want. Ultimately, His Plan is what will take place, not the ideas in our minds, or even the desires in our hearts. We are still free to dream and aspire for all the things we want, but we aren’t chained by them. We aren’t slaves to them. We are only tied to the Creator of them all – and through it we experience the truest freedom.


So we may be making moves on the board, one square to another, but He is the One truly advancing us and setting the game in motion. And I find comfort in that beautiful notion-that we may choose positions that lead us to blessings and wins, and He will grant it. Or we may choose positions that end in our fall, yet we have the One who will catch us. Ultimately, always leading us back to Him. Now we can know that it doesn’t matter what 2021 brings us; with our fingers on the chess piece, Allah’s got our game perfectly in place exactly where it should be.

Halal Tourism


HalalTravels 2020 - Year in Review

2020 pushed companies to new ways of working that most were not even prepared for. It was taking its toll on companies and as a startup, it also did shape our business plan. We made changes to our product strategy as necessitated by the new market conditions. Despite all these difficulties and restrictions, our excellent team was able to achieve several successes from awards by recognized institutions to mentions in the most prestigious reports. Huge congratulations are due to the founders and the team for making the impossible possible. Let’s take a look at some of the great work and accomplishments achieved by HalalTravels in 2020.


World Dream Receives Official OIC SMIIC Halal Certification Dream Cruises has announced that World Dream has received official OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) SMIIC (The Standards and Metrology Institute for Islamic Countries) Standards, Halal certification from the United World Halal Development (UNWHD) and Vegetarian certification from the Global Vegetarian Certification Services (GVCS). Muslim guests will be able to enjoy peace of mind when traveling onboard World Dream’s two and three night cruises from Singapore, according to the company.


Halal Tourism


Eight inspiring chocolate creations from restaurants around the world Some dessert menus are worth traveling for. If you truly love chocolates, then don’t miss out on these desserts.

1.BBR Signature Chocolate Glory at Bob Bob Ricard, London. A regal golden orb — a Valrhona dark chocolate shell filled with hazelnut mousse and halal coffee marshmallow.

5.Chocolate fondant at Harbourmaster Hotel, Aberaeron. Molten chocolate cake accompanied by a scoop of salted caramel ice cream.

2.Chocolate Cheese Pie at Four and Twenty Blackbirds, New York City. Rich, buttery and extremely sweet cheese pie.

6.Chocolate Budino Tart at Bestia, Los Angeles. Chocolate budino tart with salted caramel.

3.Thousand Year Egg – Hazelnut Coffee Tart at Dang Wen Li by Dominique Ansel, Hong Kong. Milk chocolate mousse and caramelised hazelnut crémeux.

7.Oaxacan chocolate tamale at Quintonil, Mexico City. Maize dough steamed in a banana leaf.

4.Profiteroles with chocolate sauce at Benoit Paris, Paris. Classic French choux pastry.


8.Benne & Chocolate Chip Cookie at Ikoyi, London. The chocolate chip cookie from fine food specialist Wild Harvest, and a dash of white miso.

Jamaica seeks five million guests annually by 2025 Edmund Bartlett, Jamaica’s tourism minister, outlined plans to restore the exceptional development seen in the sector before the Covid-19 pandemic. The news came during a meeting with the Jamaica Tourist Board international sales and marketing teams. The minister outlined a revived five – year strategy to draw five million tourists, earn US$5 billion in tourism revenue and create jobs for 200,000 Jamaicans. Jamaica welcomed nearly four million guests in 2019, but the figure could fall to as low as one million this year.


Halal Tourism

BUSINES S What Makes the Muslim Travel Industry so Attractive? by Azer Suleymanov Digital Marketing and Advertising Manager at

The Muslim Travel industry has been hard hit by the pandemic, and it will require some time and effort to rebound and steadily grow in the near future. The outlook for the Muslim Travel Industry for 2021-2024 is quite positive due to some objective reasons and the nature of the business, overall. The unstoppable interest in Halal Tourism has not decreased even during the recent pandemic. The case of, one of the most technology-oriented players in the market, clearly shows an increased interest in the Muslim Travel Industry, especially OTA’s. has seen a huge interest from media, potential partners, and investors around the world even though the industry as a whole suffered from a low growth rate and profitability. The interest has seemingly doubled or even tripled as compared to the pre-Covid years.


We need to say that is not representative of the whole population, statistically speaking, but the discussions held with other stakeholders (partners, media representatives, clients, hotel owners, and investors) allow us to think that the interest has dramatically increased since the beginning of Covid 19. The State of the Global Islamic Economy Report also confirms a positive outlook for the Muslim Travel Industry. While steps were taken towards growing the customer base since revenues were seriously limited by the conditions imposed on the market, the signals we were getting from the market show that market players directed their efforts toward product development and technology. Many of the major market players and startups declared that they have been focusing a lot on developing their technology and marketing know-how while waiting for the market to rebound.

There are some solid arguments and research which make us all believe that the Muslim Travel industry will get back to the pre-Covid level approximately three years from now. If we go back and have a look at the growth rate in the previous years, we will see that Muslim Travel spend was growing at about 2.7%(CAGR). The prediction covering 2019-2024 is around 1.4% (CAGR). There are some objective reasons that make the Muslim travel industry so attractive even during the global pandemic. One of the main reasons is the business proposition of the Islamic travel market players, which is too attractive to be ignored.

It is the value proposition that creates an increasing demand for halal hotels, villas, and other types of accommodation within the travel industry despite the difficult times for the global economy. Prepositions such as privacy and halal food may have no substitutes meaning that it is a question of time and patience until the industry returns to its previous growth levels. Obviously, this will only happen if the buying power of Muslim travelers is not jeopardized by the economic turmoil.