Tourism is usually considered to be a quest for change and novelty. However, there are many tourists who also seek a sense of familiarity and comfort during their visits to a foreign land. Muslim tourists often end up staying in places outside of their usual environment in their travels, and most travellers tend to honour their religious beliefs and habits during their vacations. With the growing number of Muslim tourists around the world, the tourism industry has made significant strides in offering Halal-friendly travel services in many countries. Halal-friendly tourism aims to cater to Muslim considerations and address all their needs. Choosing a local Muslim agency is the right step towards having a satisfying travelling experience.
The major Muslim-friendly destinations offered in most tour packages include countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, Spain, Turkey, Morocco, Portugal and UAE, among others. These tour packages are designed to include Halal-friendly travel amenities like Muslim-friendly hotels, Halal food restaurants and places for prayer. They also include the religious perspective to travel by covering the Islamic history of these countries, the Mosques and Musallahs, and other major monuments and sites of Islamic importance.
Requirements of Muslim-friendly tourism
Most Muslim travellers have certain requirements pertaining to travel, which might include prayer facilities and other Muslim-friendly services and facilities. The availability of halal food is one of the essential requirements which is taken into consideration when deciding a destination. Even though most Muslim travellers need halal food, the preference for the cuisine can differ. The Muslim population from Saudi Arabia, India and the Middle East generally prefer to experiment with the local food of their travel destination. However, some people prefer to stick to food that is close to their cuisine.
There are several other determiners that play a crucial role in deciding a travel destination. These include –
- The availability of prayer facilities and mosques
- Prayer rooms at airports and public areas
- Muslim-friendly products and experiences
- Customised meal plans during Ramadan
- Separate recreation facilities for men and women
- The best value for money tours
- Relaxation facilities
- Adventure experiences
- Airline and hotel deals
Popular Muslim-friendly travel destinations
Malaysia and some GCC countries like United Arab Emirates (UAE) have remained the favourite vacation destination for Muslim travellers for many years. Other popular destinations include European countries like the United Kingdom (UK) and France, as they have adequate facilities for Muslims. Lately, countries like Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Spain, Morocco and Portugal have also become popular. The reason for this is that these countries have a sizeable Muslim population and the Morocco, Spain and Portugal a great Islamic heritage.
As an increasing number of Muslims are travelling for leisure, business or work, many countries have recognised the need to provide better facilities to this fast-growing travel segment, specially by the increase in Muslim friendly tour operators and travel providers. Here is a Muslim-friendly travel guide to Spain, Portugal and Morocco, which makes a comprehensive analysis of the Halal-friendly facilities and services offered in these countries.
Muslim-friendly tourism in Spain
Spain is a country located in south-western Europe that occupies a large area of the Iberian Peninsula. There is a long history of Islamic tradition in the country. According to recent data, the Muslim population in Spain consists of approximately 2.1 million people. The majority of this population is of Moroccan or Spanish nationality. The region of Catalonia has the largest Muslim community in the country, with a population of more than 560,000 people. It was in 711 that the Islamic forces entered Spain, which already consisted of Roman Christian, Visigoth and Jewish cultures. After conquering the Iberian peninsula, the Muslim forces made Spain one of the greatest Muslim civilisations. The heartland of the Islamic rule was in southern Spain, which is known as Andalusia.
The country of Spain accommodates all religions and promises to be a memorable holiday destination for all who visit. The majority of the hotels in the city have adapted to the specifications and needs of Muslim clients. For the epicures, the country offers a wide variety of options in the famous Mediterranean cuisine. An interesting fact about Mediterranean cuisine is that a lot of recipes are based on Arab cuisine. Spain also offers a wide variety of Halal food options. The Halal Institute in the country awards the Halal Certification to certain products and services, which guarantees that they adhere to the Islamic law requirements. While this certification is primarily given for food products, in recent years, it has also been awarded to hotels, Arab baths and restaurants.
Popular Muslim-friendly destinations which are often included in Halal Tourism Spain packages are Madrid, Barcelona, Marbella, Cordoba, Granada, Seville, Malaga and many more. The travel itinerary also features Islamic history tours of the country.
- Halal restaurant: Spain offers an extensive list of restaurants with halal food options. Some restaurants which have received the Halal Certification include El Faro inn Marbella and Los Almendros in Cordoba. One of the best restaurants is in Cordoba, called ‘Noor’, which is the first eatery to specialise in halal haute cuisine, another top halal restaurant in Cordoba you shouldn’t missed, right beside the Mosque is Tetería Petra. Most other restaurants can also prepare halal meals if the request is made in advance.
- Muslim-friendly hotels: Spain offers a wide array of options when it comes to accommodation. The family-friendly hotels ensure ultimate comfort for the guests, with quality services and a pleasant atmosphere. One of the first hotels to receive the certificate from the Halal Institute was The Alanda Hotel in Marbella. This hotel fulfils most of the requirements of Muslim travellers, such as special areas of prayer, halal dishes, and more. The city of Madrid also has many hotel chains, which fulfil most of these requirements.
- Religious services in airports: Many airports in the country have prayer rooms and other facilities for Muslim travellers. One such airport is the Madrid-Barajas airport, which has VIP lounges that serve halal meals. Besides this, there are two mosques located in the public area of the exits to terminals T2 and T4. The Barcelona-El Prat airport also has a multi-faith prayer room in the T1 terminal, which welcomes all religions, including Islam.
- Religious celebrations: During the months of Ramadan, many institutions like the Cordoba City Council, Casa Árabe and the Halal Institute arrange many activities like Noches de Ramadán in Cordoba. This is a special event that includes many activities like screening of films, exhibitions, concerts, workshops and talks. But the best is to visit the great Mosque of Granada or Seville Mosque Foundation for fast breaking with the local Muslim community followed by tarawih and other Islamic activities.
Points of attraction
Muslim friendly tours Spain ideally cover the following places of interest-
- The Alhambra Palace: This 8th-century palace is an ancient fortress which is located in Granada. The name of the palace is derived from the Arabic’ al-qal’a al-hamra’, which literally translates to ‘red fort’. This is because the walls and towers surrounding the palace are red in colour. It is an important historic site because it is the only surviving remnant of the Nasrid dynasty, which was the last Islamic kingdom of western Europe. Alhambra Palace tour is often included in the travel itinerary of Muslim tourists.
- Cordova city: The city of Cordova or Córdoba is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During the Middle Ages, the city was the capital of the Islamic Kingdom. The Muslim influences can be observed all through the city, in the various libraries, schools and universities built by Muslim rulers many centuries before. The city is considered to be one of Europe’s intellectual centres. Travellers to the city can drink in the Islamic history of Cordoba through the Medina Azahara and the Archaeological Museum. Tours Mosque of Cordoba is incomplete with a visit to the Great Cordoba Mosque. The city also has many restaurants serving halal food, which include KebabHut, El Patio Andaluz, El Sultán and Laorkebab.
- Al-Andalus: Muslim travellers should visit Al-Andalus, which is more commonly known as Muslim Spain, or Islamic Iberia. The region was a Muslim territory in the medieval ages. In the present age, Andalusia is a well-developed region with modern infrastructure. At the same time, it has also preserved the legacy of the Muslim ancestors and its cultural heritage. The Andalusia Islamic tours cover the cities of Seville Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén and Málaga.
Muslim-friendly tourism in Morocco
Morocco is a beautiful country which is located in Northern Africa. The country’s distinct geography sets it apart from other African nations. The Sahara Desert, lush highlands, snow-capped mountains and pristine beaches add to the unique character of the country. Both the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean borders country.
It is an excellent destination for Muslim travellers, as it is one of the world’s top 10 halal-friendly countries. Around 99 per cent of the population of the country is Muslim. The country offers all the possible halal-friendly facilities in all the major cities, which include Fez, Marrakech, Tangier, Casablanca, Rabat and Meknes.
- Halal restaurants: Most of the cities offer halal-friendly cuisine. Some of the favourites among Muslim travellers are the Fes Café, Chaouia Restaurant, The Gharb, Grand Casablanca, Tangier Café and The Halal Guys.
- Accommodation: There are countless options when it comes to Muslim-friendly hotels in the country. You can choose Le Vizir Center Park and Resort in Marrakesh or the Riad Chergui, both of which offer halal-friendly services to their guests. If you visit Fez, then a stay at the Riad Andalib is a must. It is a hotel inspired by the traditional Moroccan style home, which offers an Andalusian vibe.
- Points of attraction: The city of Marrakech has many landmarks and beautiful monuments, prominent among which are the Marrakech Botanical Gardens and the Marrakesh Medina. Besides local merchandise, the Medina has many Almoravid monuments which are strewn across the old town. Other major attractions include Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Rabat’s Oudaias Kasbah and Bab al-Mansour in Meknes’ Imperial City.
Muslim-friendly tourism in Portugal
Portugal is also a part of the Iberian peninsula which was under Muslim rule in the Middle Ages. The Muslim rulers took over the region in the 8th century and joined it to the expanding Umayyad Empire. At a time, Portugal was known as Al-Garb Al-Andalus (the west of Spain). One of the most popular Muslim-friendly cities in the country is Lisbon, which offers expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean.
- Halal restaurants: The Muslim travellers to the city can choose from a variety of dining options that serve Moroccan, Middle Eastern, Indian and Portuguese halal dishes. The restaurants which serve the best halal meals include Sublime Halal, Restaurante O Assador Halal, Zaafran, Taste of Punjab and Passage to India.
- Local attractions: Tourists can participate in the Islamic history tours of the city. One of the most interesting parts of the city is the old neighbourhood of Alfama, which consist of Moorish quarters and is reminiscent of the Al Andalus age. However the most emblematic Muslim site is the Castelo dos Mouros, and old Muslim fortress that can still be visited near Sintra, in the outskirts of Lisbon.The city also has a number of mosques which include the Central Mosque of Lisbon, Mesquita Aicha Siddika de Odivelas and Masjid Baitul Mukarram. The city has many museums like the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, and the Museu do Azulej, which give a better sense of the history of the city.
An amazing travelling experience is something that will stay with you forever.