How you choose to dress shouldn’t affect your choice of travel destination; sadly, for some of us, it does. If you’re a hijabi woman, or someone who travels with a hijabi companion, you know what I’m talking about. From weird stares to nasty comments and – in some extreme cases – physical abuse, things can get very uncomfortable. It gets uncomfortable having someone stare at you while you’re just sitting at the park or eating lunch, when really we're just like any other traveler in the world —going off to explore and yearning for a few friendly faces along the way. Sometimes, you’re just looking for a travel destination that won’t have you worrying about things like this happening to you. Of course, that fear or worry should never hold you back from seeing every corner of the world, but these are a couple of places where you can worry a little less about walking the streets alone – or maybe rocking your burkini on a public beach.
TOKYO, JAPANvia Dl Mag
Despite having a really small number of hijabis, the Japanese people are really friendly and are raised to respect personal space and whatever you choose to wear – whether covered or not. Japan is known for the bright city lights and the crazy busy crossroads. The hustling bustling Shuibuya crossing street, cherry blossoms, an efficient train system, and Japanese food are a few of the things that make a trip to Japan magical. The country advertises itself as an expressive destination with unique fashion and a free lifestyle, the streets are packed with thousands of people, but no one bothers to interfere with anyone else.
The great thing about walking in the streets of Tokyo is that however different you look, people will not stare or judge. You might get stopped for pictures for being unique or something foreign they’ve never seen before, but this is their harmless way of being fascinated, so maybe just play along and pose with a peace sign. Locals are all polite and mind their own business, which might be mistaken as discrimination sometimes, but it’s a conservative country and mostly homogenous, so their curiosity and fascination might come off odd. Don’t mistake their stares and lack of exposure as discrimination, it’s just a whole other side of the world and the touchpoint of cultures is as foreign to them as it is to you. Hundreds of Muslim travelers flock the city annually so you might be the only one covering your hair around touristic areas. After all, anime, food, and Japanese kimonos are for everyone!
A trip to Japan might force you to reach into your savings, but everywhere can be done on a budget if you try hard enough. The capital city is house to Japan's biggest mosque, overall the country has over 80 mosques, but Tokyo Camii is the biggest of them all. If you’re willing to splurge on shopping a little, there’s a lot of shopping hotspots such as Shibuya, Harajuku, and Aoyama. With the influx of Muslims visiting comes the increase in halal restaurants, and Tokyo is no exception to this rule. Tokyo has seen a significant increase in restaurants serving authentic Japanese food but halal, it’s not as budget-friendly as street food and convenience stores, but you could make it work with a bit of both during your trip.
NEW DELHI, INDIAvia TripSavvy
This country is so diverse in itself, being so massive and overly populated, that they wouldn’t look twice at you if you look different. Islam is the second-largest religion in India, so you won’t end up being so out of place after all. Besides that, Indians are one of the kindest and most peaceful people on the planet. Colorful, bright, welcoming, and full of many great adventures, New Delhi is the perfect city for a solo trip of a lifetime.
There’s Muslim-friendly everything. A lot of hotels and guest houses brand themselves as Muslim-friendly -- not quite sure what that means, but hey, at least they won’t look twice at a woman covering her hair. Mostly, the so-called Muslim-friendly accommodations are due to being in close proximity to halal restaurants and a lot of mosques where you could pray.
New Delhi is unlike any other city in the world, it’s a whirlwind of colors, senses, and cultures, it could get a bit overwhelming with all the chaos and the exotic history you’ll stumble upon, but New Delhi is the social and cultural hub of India, and the perfect destination for an adventure. It’s considered among the oldest cities in the world having history of over 5,000 years. It’s got something for everyone with its three main areas: Old Nelhi, New Delhi, and South Delhi. The area of Old Delhi has got some wonderful historic sites like Red Fort and Jama Masjid. The city centre is where you can find attractions like Rashtrapati Bhavan and The Rajpath, and South Delhi is mostly known as a UNESCO World Heritage Site being house to Qutub Minar.
Overall, the city’s got an abundance of mosques and halal food restaurants, so you’ll never find a hard time locating any of those. Wearing the hijab will not by any means make you stand out in India, traditional Indian women usually cover their hair when they’re moving outside, whether for religious purposes or tradition, it’s pretty much the same. And of course, the best for last, there’s the Indian cuisine. The food in New Delhi is considered to be the best in all of India with all the street favorites: jaleeb, chaat papdi, golgappas, samosas and chai.
SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINAvia Booking
The most Muslim-friendly non-Muslim destination of all. Halal food and mosques are abundant in the city and you won’t have a hard time spotting any of them. It’s an intriguing destination, where the East meets the West and an atmosphere of Ottoman meets Austro-Hungarian. Having had a devastating history ending with the heartbreaking civil war of the 1990s, Bosnia and Herzegovina is making a comeback and stronger than ever. The effects of the war are still visible everywhere you go, but it gives the city an intriguing aura that’s beautiful in a twisted way. Other than the history, the country’s won the lottery in terms of nature. Beautiful mountains, rivers, waterfalls, a couple of skiing spots, and a medieval castle ruins to complete the view.
Over half of the Bosnian population is Muslim and being covered is nothing strange, and the country’s got a rich Islamic history. Some mosques date back to the early Ottoman era and are still open to the public up to this day such as Koski Mehmen Pasha mosque in Mostar. The Gazi Huzrev Beg complex is the heart of the Islamic community in Sarajevo and has been since 1537. It’s considered the largest and most important historical mosque in all of the country. Being the foreign one out is not something you’ll have to worry about in Bosnia. Regardless of the large Muslim population in the country, the locals are very hospitable and will always greet you with a smile.
Being the capital and the largest city in the country, Sarajevo is where you can enjoy the breathtaking nature of Bosnia, the tragic history that this country has endured, and all the stories behind it. It’s the only city in Europe that houses a mosque, Orthodox Church, Catholic church, and a synagogue, making up the rich enchanting culture of the city.
CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICAvia Cape Town Travel
Cape Town is a city full of fun and adventure, and you’d be lucky if you got to do half of the things that this city offers. The South African capital is home to so many backgrounds and religions, so being a Muslim girl with a hijab is nothing foreign in this city. Having got the cultural diversity, the beautiful beaches, the Muslim-friendly restaurants, fantastic attractions, and natural surroundings, it comes as no surprise for Cape Town to be rated as a top Muslim-friendly destination for the past couple of years.
Aside from the friendly atmosphere, Cape Town is home to a 200-year-old mosque that’s the oldest in South Africa. The famous Bo Kaap neighborhood — the one with all the colorful houses — has nine mosques. Wherever you go in this city, you’ll always be welcomed with the vibrant communities, warm and friendly Cape Town hospitality. With the city’s strong Muslim culture and vibrant communities, Cape Town is a natural choice and you will find a warm welcome from all Capetonians and a tourism industry that continues to grow its offering to Muslim visitors.
In fact, the city’s working hard to attract even more Muslim tourists. Cape Town Tourism has been working all throughout 2019 to spread the campaign and attract the attention of Muslim travelers by getting the city equipped to deal with the Muslim traveler needs: halal restaurants, prayer rooms, and mosques.
KAZAN, RUSSIAvia TripSavvy
Russia is not necessarily a destination that comes to mind when you think ‘Muslim-friendly’, but it's got a couple of cities that might surprise you. First up: Kazan; it’s the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan and its two biggest landmarks are the Annunciation Cathedral and the colorful Kul Sharif Mosque. The city has a rich history, for long it was considered the main political and commercial centre of the Golden Horse for its geographic position as the intersection point connecting the West and the East. Being a point where cultures meet, Kazan was weaved from two cultures: Orthodox and Islam. The city’s rich with history and a diverse population, with the two predominant religions in the city being Sunni Islam and Orthodox Christianity.
The modern Kazan is a centre of culture up to this day with more than 115 nationalities living there. The landmarks and monuments are under UNESCO protection, including the 8 towers that each give a whole other perspective of the city. Bauman street or Kazan Arbat is one of the most beautiful and crowded streets in the city. It’s ancient and long with a number of architectural sites along the way. Restaurants, cafes, boutiques, and entertainment centres fill the street.
Kazan is the perfect blend of Oriental and Russian. It was built in the 13th century by the Mongols and was later burnt down when Ivan the Terrible declared war. Since then, the city’s rebuilt itself. The Kul Sharif mosque was one of the buildings that were burnt down by Ivan the Terrible, but it has since been restored and stands as Europe’s largest mosque with the Museum of Islamic Culture inside. If you’re planning a visit to the third capital of Russia, a walking tour to see all the stunning Muslim architecture and learn about its fascinating history is a must.
SOFIA, BULGARIAVia Business Insider
Sofia is the capital of Bulgaria, and has an abundant history that gives it a certain splendor and elegance. Bulgaria was once home to countless Muslim empires, so it’s no surprise the capital is as hijabi-friendly as it could be. Sofia was once invaded by the Ottoman, and they made sure to install as many monuments as possible -- thankfully, now that it’s hundreds of years later and we get to enjoy the beautiful architecture which include the Banya Bashi mosque.
Every landmark in the city is reflective of its 2,000-year history under Greek, Roman, Ottoman, and Soviet occupations – with each leaving its mark on the beautiful city through architecture. Sofia’s gifted in the nature department as well, it’s got numerous trekking paths and beautiful landscapes such as Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo. The country is generally welcoming and has a friendly atmosphere for Muslim travelers, and you definitely won’t find yourself the only one walking down the street wearing a hijab. There are multiple green open spaces where you could relax and enjoy the weather, Borisovagardina is nicknamed the Lungs of Sofia and it sprawls around Ariana Lake.
It’s got the history, the nature, the friendly locals, and even some skiing spots such as Bansko. Of course, it’s also got shopping. There are several small souvenir shops around the Old Party House and around Largo. The main shopping street in Sofia is the Vitosha Boulevard and there are a couple of malls as well.
NICOSIA, CYPRUSVia 24news
An underrated European destination but popular as a Muslim-friendly spot, Cyprus offers options for a halal holiday in Europe. Whether you choose to enjoy the beaches or the city life, there’s a little bit for everyone to do. Bordered by Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea, Cyprus is a beautiful island that’ll leave you mesmerized. The country’s fascinating with its rich history and culture and it’s packed to the brim with attractions and things to do. The rich history includes the presence of Islam since the 7th century and Turkish invasion, of course, leaving monuments and mosques behind as proof. Muslims today make up a large percentage of Cyprus’ population, which also make it a popular destination among Muslim travelers.
The streets of Nicosia have got it all, boasting historical past, unique cultural heritage, with beautiful white-sand beaches. The city is home to a large Muslim community, so being in the country will not feel foreign, it’s yet another European destination where you’ll feel like you belong. One of the main attractions in Nicosia is the Selimiye Mosque which is the city’s main mosque where the Muslim community gets together. Having had the Turkish print in its past, the food in Cyprus is Halal and very Turkish: Turkish delights, baklava, kebabs, and mezze -- no need to spend time looking for a halal restaurant.
The city has managed to carry all its traditional feels to our modern time, which gives it a unique ambiance that puts you in a good mood with just a walk around the streets. Nicosia is split in two, the northern side which is the Northern Cyprus and the southern part which is the capital of the Republic of Cyprus. The city’s home to plenty of halal restaurants and a huge range of Islamic mosques and landmarks.
CORDOBA, SPAINVia GetByBus
With its most famous landmark being the Cordoba Mosque and it being the first port of call for anyone visiting the city, Cordoba is definitely a city you should consider adding to your itinerary. Cordoba is well-known for its splendid architecture coming from its rich history, the whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lying in the southern region of Andalusia, this city was a major Islamic centre in the middle ages. The world-famous landmark of Cordoba was established as a mosque in 784 A.D with Byzantine mosaics and a prayer hall, and it was later turned into a Catholic church in 1236. The exceptional designs and the combined religions' histories make it a tourist hotspot for international visitors. A walk through the streets of this city is like taking a stroll through the past. At one point during its long life, Cordoba became the capital of the Islamic Kingdom in the Middle Ages and naturally, this strong Muslim influence is seen around every corner in the city. Under Islamic rule, Cordoba became a centre of education with countless libraries, schools, and universities, this is why up to this day it’s still considered one of Europe’s intellectual centres.
During the spring, the city is most enjoyable when fiestas fill the streets. Being home to one of the most popular mosques worldwide, Muslims from all over the world visit this beautiful city, and there’s no doubt Cordoba is one of the most Muslim-friendly destinations in Europe. It’s fascinating for first-time visitors, and the list of things to see is endless: the Great Cordoba Mosque, Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Roman Bridge, Medina Azahara, Jewish Quarter, Palacio de Viana, Museo de Bellas Artes, Julio Romero de Torres Museum, Palacio de la Merced and the Archaeological Museum. Don't worry about the food, the city's got its fair share of halal restaurants.
LISBON, PORTUGALVia Two French Explorers
Portugal’s got a vast Islamic heritage and a rich history, and with such history comes monuments, castles, dazzling architecture, and ruins. Portugal’s got around 65,000 Muslims living in it, and its cities still have some Islamic influence. Even the language had been influenced, and up to this day, the Portuguese language has the world “oxala”, which roughly translated to Insha’Allah. The locals are very friendly and are used to receiving tourists from all over the world, so you don’t have to worry about side glances and double takes for wearing the hijab.
Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal was known in the past as Al-Ishbun and it’s got the glory of the Atlantic mixed with the European charm. It once was a trading centre and it has managed to maintain its dynamic nature and charm up to this day. It’s generally one of the most fun destinations in Europe, and for hijabi travelers especially. The city’s got plenty of fun activities to keep you busy during your trip. If you’re looking for a chill day, a simple walk through the streets of Lisbon is enough to keep you busy the whole day. Whatever floats your boat, you’ll probably find it in Lisbon. It’s got the food, the art, the shopping, the nature, and the museums. The main shopping streets are Chiado, Baixa, and Avenida da Liberdade. For the food, you’ll find many Middle Eastern restaurants that serve halal food and bring the cuisines of the world to Lisbon. But don’t miss out on Portuguese food, they really do know their pastries.
Every city in the world could be on your travel list, no doubt—everywhere is doable regardless of what you choose to wear. But, these cities specifically will be a walk in the park if you choose to cover your hair. Whatever you choose to wear and wherever you choose to go, what people think of you should not really matter. You do you.