Hey! I’m Natasha, and here is a glimpse of my life across two continents and three countries. What follows is a little bit of flavor of what it is like #TravellingWhileMuslim.
Having been ferried from Europe to Pakistan and back during my early years, I never had a problem. My first shock to the system was going to the U S of A with two White British female friends. So here’s the thing. As rare as it is for Muslim girls to get up and go on holidays without any relations or ethnic friends, it actually happened. My friends and I went to Florida in 2011 for our “girly holiday.”
What followed was a standard stereotypical tale of brown-Muslim-airport-random-selection. We got to Manchester Airport nice and early and were set to board. Now just imagine, the only brown face sitting in the gate and all of a sudden we hear an announcement, “Natasha Naveed, can you please come to the counter.” My heart skipped a beat and my friends’ faces lost all color that was left! As I went to the counter, I was asked to take my shoes off while the airline staff swabbed my feet and mouth for “toxic” items. Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure it was much of a coincidence!Anyway, we eventually managed to get through immigration without too much hassle; although the immigration officer did look somewhat puzzled as he evidently asked me more questions than my friends. As a Muslim, if you haven’t been randomly selected as yet, you know deep in your heart it is only a matter of time before you’ll be paraded through the routine.
Fast forward to recent times and the story just gets better!
Most Muslims are aware of the narration from the Prophet which states, “when a person gets married, they have completed half of their religion.” So here is the person who completes mine: *drum roll* meet Ahmed, my husband!
It’s always nice to put words and a face together so this is a picture of me and my husband from our wedding. He not only completed half my religion, but opened up a parallel universe of the intrinsic details associated with visa applications.Okay, so firstly I think it’s important to mention that being a brown traveler is one thing, being Muslim is another, but being brown, Muslim, and from a third world country holding a Green Pakistani Passport – like my husbands, is a whole new challenge. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience! I didn’t believe it either until we went on our honeymoon.
So my husband surprised me with a trip to Thailand for our honeymoon. It was an arranged marriage so it was still all new and exciting. As we got to the Thailand airport, I passed through immigration with my UK passport without any hiccups. However, my husband was told to wait as a member of staff waved his passport in the air screeching “pakeeeethani paaaakithani.” He was then asked a gazillion questions before he was allowed to pass through immigration. This was first of many.Since then, we have accepted that there will be issues at immigration for being Muslim and for having a Pakistani passport. This is despite having to apply, yes that’s right. His passport only allows us to travel to a handful of countries. For the rest we have to apply via embassies, which can be costly, timely, and inconvenient!
It’s obviously not all doom and gloom of course. When my husband and I travelled to Turkey in 2016 and Morocco in 2017, the differences were incredible. Being in a Muslim country meant next to no interrogation at the immigration counter and no awkward looks!It had its perks in terms of being allowed to enter mosques and eating unlimited amount of Halal food. We also were able to get things for cheaper, “Muslim price,” according to the sellers! There were also lots of mosques all over when it was time for prayers.
In terms of meeting other Muslims whist being on holiday or traveling, we have had very little experience of this. The only time we have seen or met other Muslims has been in Muslim countries such as Turkey and Morocco. However it was interesting as they were only in the bigger and more popular cities like Marrakech and Istanbul as we did not come across any other Muslim travelers in Fes or Cappadocia.
With regards to praying, I really feel that if you’re wanting to pray, anywhere and everywhere is an opportunity. You see that little towel placed on the floor on the left? Well we used that to pray! So yes, I feel it’s about your intention and thus you can pray anywhere!
Part of why I started blogging was to inspire and encourage other Muslims to travel more and to explore God’s creations, as there is so much to do and see! I hope this blog also gives non-Muslims a perspective of what it’s like to #TravelWhileMuslim.If you want to know more (I have lots of stories), then please contact me as I would love to share more with you guys!
This blog was first posted on ’How not to travel like a basic bitch’ dated 17 May 2017.