5 Beautiful Islands for an Unforgettable Muslim Holiday

By Sakina Kamrudeen | 25, Jul, 2016
5 Beautiful Islands for an Unforgettable Muslim Holiday

There are many choices for a Muslim holiday, and many links on the web for countries considered as ‘World’s Top Muslim-Flavored Summer Vacation Spots’, ‘World's Top Halal-Friendly Holiday Spots’, ‘Muslim-Friendly Countries You Must Visit’ and so on and so forth. However, there is a lack of information for island destinations that can be considered for Muslim-friendly family holidays. 

 

As Islands are an integral part of the landscape of our world, and found in all shapes and sizes, all Muslim travelers should consider visiting these 5 beautiful islands for an unforgettable Muslim holiday

 

Maldives

A tropical destination and an island country made up of 26 atolls, the Maldives is indeed filled with many resorts and Muslim friendly hotels. Being an Islamic country, the availability of mosques and halal food is not a concern for the Muslim traveler and for those who love the ocean and all types of water related activities, this Island will provide you loads of entertainment for the entire Muslim family. The Maldives being in the tropics, can be considered as an island destination for a Muslim-friendly summer vacation spot!

Water Sports and Activities:

There are ample water related activities in whichever atoll that you may be staying at. Choose your preference in water sports from diving and snorkeling, jet skiing and paragliding, fishing and sailing to dolphin and whale watching and everything in between. For those who simply want to laze around, the Maldives is surrounded by beautiful beaches and standing in the Indian Ocean while being surrounded by shoals of fish and coral life is an experience in itself. For the very conservative Muslim families, there are many premium hotels that are designed with private rooms and water villas from which one can simply step into the sea.

Visiting Malé:

A visit to the Maldives would not be complete without a day spent in Male - the capital city. Some of the attractions include visiting the famous ‘Male Fish Market’, the ‘National Museum’ which is located in the former ‘Sultan's Palace’, the ‘Tsunami Monument’, and the ‘Male Local Market’while of course indulging in some shopping. For the Muslim traveler a visit to the ‘Hukuru Miskiiy or Old Friday Mosque’ would be of interest, you can also participate in the religious services conducted on Fridays and Saturdays. Diving enthusiasts would find the dive to see the ‘Maldives Victory’ which rests below the Hulhule House Reef very interesting.

Tours and Private Trips:

There are also many day tours and private trips on offer to enjoy the culture, atmosphere, and the coral and sea life that surrounds this island nation. Therefore try out any one; or a combination of the boat tours, walking tours, submarine tours, cultural tours, sightseeing tours, and also the fishing charters and tours.

Atoll Hopping: 

An interesting activity to undertake in the Maldives is ‘Island/Atoll Hopping’, and many of these islands/atolls offer its own unique culture, sites and activities. So make inquiries at your hotel for more details.

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is a tropical island nation which has a topography of sandy beaches, highlands, waterfalls, rainforests and arid plains. The country with it dominant Buddhist population, has many ancient Buddhist ruins and a UNESCO protected World Heritage Site – Sigiriya, is known as the ‘pearl of the Indian ocean’ and has so much to do and see that you can visit it during the different seasons to get a taste of the different cultures that reside here. 

As Sri Lanka has quite a large Muslim population, catering to Muslim travelers is not a problem, thus making itone of the top holiday destination for Muslim families. You will find mosques, halal food and restaurants and also realize that major hotels cater to the needs of Muslim travelers in all parts of the country. Also, as there are some Muslim-owned hotels in the country, halal beach holidays is something that can be easily considered. As an island, seafood is easily available in the country. Something of note is that Sri Lanka is ranked as number 35 in the Halal/Muslim Travel & Tourism Rankings and Indexes by CresentRatings. 

Sightseeing and Exploring:

Sri Lanka offers you picturesque tea plantations and luscious greenery that surrounds gushing waterfalls in the hill country, wildlife sanctuaries such as Yala and Wilpattu,the Sinharaja rainforest, beautiful stretches of sandy beaches all around the island; specifically Tricomalee and Unawatune,whale and dolphin watchingin Kalpitiya, Mirissa and Galle, and the Buddhist cultural heritage sites such as Dambulla, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the dry zone.

To travel back to the era when this island was inhabited by the Dutch and Portuguese, visit the town of Galle in the South and the City of Jaffna, all the way at the tip of the island. The buildings and the layout of these places will give you a nostalgic feeling as well as a different flavor of the country. For the surfers there is Arugam Bay and for water sports enthusiasts Bentota, as well as the Bolgoda Lake which is only a 45 minute drive from the city of Colombo. Try ‘The Marina’ at Bolgoda which gives day passes for visitors and also has halal food. For the adventurers, there is whitewater rafting in Kitulgala and outdoor camping in Ella. Adams Peak is a must visit for the Muslim traveler, as it is believed that Adam’s footprint is on the summit of this mountain. 

Travelling around the Country:

The best way to plan your travel would be to pre-book a private vehicle with a tour operator. You can drive as well, but with some of the narrow roads and sometimes eccentric road rules out of the city, it is better to get a local to drive you around. You can take the train to Jaffna, but don’t expect luxury. A must try is the special Expo Train to Kandy, which is perhaps one of the best ways to get a view of the changing landscape of the island. There is also air travel using seaplanes and small Cessna’s, but this is expensive.

Touring Colombo:

A cosmopolitan city and the commercial capital of the country, Colombo should be visited for at least a day. Take a look at the Museum, Independence Square, Galle Face Green, and the Dutch Hospital shopping area. There is also shopping that can be done and don’t forget to check out some jewelry made from beautiful Ceylon Semi-precious Stones! If you have only a few hours to spend in the city, just take a drive around using the famous ‘tuktuk’ – an interesting experience if you’ve never been in one!

Hawaiian Islands

The 50th state of the Unites States of America, the Hawaiian Islands is an archipelago of islands in Oceania which sits very much in the midst of a volcanic zone. It is made up of hundreds of small islands, but the main islands are Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lānai, Kahoolawe, Maui and the Island of Hawaii (also known as the ‘Big Island’ as it is the largest island of the archipelago). With the availability of a mosque and halal food, the Hawaiian Isles can be considered an ideal holiday destination for Muslim families.

Things to Do and See: 

There is plenty to do in Hawaii… The Big Island’s main attraction is the Volcano National Park, where you can explore volcanoes, climb lava tubes and also watch while the active Kilauea volcano erupts into the ocean. This island also boasts black-sand beaches and rainforest for the trekking and hiking enthusiasts. 

Then there is Maui, where you can swim under waterfalls, watch the sunrise from atop a volcano, indulge in water sports such as surfing and windsurfing, and scuba dive and snorkel to check out the undersea universe of marine life. There are also museums and a golf course, and of course the beautiful beaches to take a leisurely stroll in the evenings.

A visit to Honululu; Hawaii’s capital on the island of Oahu should also be planned. Here you will find the Iolani Palace, the Bishop Museum and some sites from the World War II attack on Pearl Harbor which includes the USS Arizona Memorial. Visiting the Aloha Tower will give you an opportunity to get some shopping done!For more information visit this website.

Halal Resort, Hotels & Restaurants, and Halal Food:

With the growing Muslim population, there are quite a few halal restaurants on the islands. A quick internet search for ‘Halal food in Hawaii’ will give you many results. Also check out this guide for reference. Alternately, you can also shop for your meats from a select few halal outlets and cook them yourself if staying in a private bungalow. Also being an island, you know that you will have your choice of mouthwatering seafood dishes to choose from. As for the resorts and hotels, I am not sure if they offer halal food, it is best to check when making your reservations.

Mosques in Hawaii:

There is only one mosque in Hawaii, the Manoa Mosquewhere Friday prayers are conducted. As an option, I suggest you take a Qibla compass with you, so that you can pray in your hotel room. Also check out the website of the Muslim Association of Hawaii (MAH) & Islamic Center of Honolulu for any particular details.  

The Greek Islands

The Greek Islands which consist of 6,000 islands and islets in the Aegean and Ionian Seasoffer a unique European Muslim family holiday with its abundance of rich Greek heritage, amazing beaches, olive trees, and archeological sites and wonders. Some of the most popular islands are Santorini, Crete, Rodes, Corfu and Mykanos. The Greeks have over the centuries developed their own unique customs and culture.

As the Greek Islands are not known for its Muslim population, the very small Muslim population of Greece being based mainly in Athens, facilities for Muslims such as mosques are not available and halal food will not be easy to come by. Still with its beauty and ancient history, the Greek Islands should be visited by Muslim travelers. 

Sightseeing, Exploring and Outdoor Activities:

Most of these popular Greek Islands have extensively diverse geographywhich range from mountains to beautiful beaches, palm forests to Olive groves, to cities which showcase centuries’ old Greek culture and architecture. There are all types of activities to keep the entire Muslim family entertained during their vacation from nature reserves and parks, zoos and aquariums, water and amusement parks, museums, to boat tours, water sports and cultural tours, to some of the wonders of the world. However, there are a few must do activities while visiting the Greek Isles:

taking a tour of the Balos Beach and Lagoon where you can nearly walk on the entire lagoon in Crete

taking a walk in the Samaria Gorge National Park, the longest and gorge in Europe in Crete

Hiking Trail Fira-Oia and in Santorini

Visiting the Santorini Volcano and swimming in the hot springs

Taking a walk around the Corfu Old Town

Visiting the any of the Archaeological Museums and Natural History Museums as well as the archeological sites that are in abundance in all these Islands

Simply lounging around or taking a walk on the beaches that the Greek Isles have on offer

The different Islands have their different specialties, and depending on where you plan to visit, a bit more targeted research will yield more in-depth information.

Hotels and Private Villas: 

There are ample hotels to be found in the Greek Isles, however, the issue would be its non-existent facilities for Muslims. However, an alternate that Muslim travelers can consider is renting out private villas that are found aplenty… it may be a bit on the expensive side, but still worth it to visit this beautiful Greek Island.

Halal Food:

Unfortunately Halal food choices will be very limited.Muslim travelers will have to become pescatarians and vegetarians during their holiday. However, as the Greek Isles are known for their fresh fish, and Greek vegetarian cuisine, this would be an interesting experience. Just check to ensure they do not mix any alcohol/wine in their food. For those who are quite insistent on getting some halal meat, some places may be able to arrange for Halal food on special request, while the ‘To Stachi’ restaurant in Chania Town in the Island of Crete has some fabulous vegetarian food. 

The Greek Islands should be a sure vacation spot for a Muslim holiday not with standing the shortage of halal food.

Mosques and Prayers:.

Most of the popular Greek Islands do not have a mosque, thus it would be best to take your own Qibla compass and pray in your hotel rooms. There are several old mosques in Crete but these are archeological sites. However, there is a small mosque in Heraklio in Crete. 

Zanzibar

Zanzibar is an island off the coast of Tanzania. Known locally as the Unguja Island, the Zanzibar Island which is part of the Zanzibar archipelago, has a thriving Muslim population and no shortage of halal food. Being an island, there is also no shortage of beautiful seashores and beaches to simply enjoy. While visiting Zanzibar you will notice that there are many Islamic influences and a news article even calls Zanzibar – a haven for halal tourism! This makes Zanzibar Island an ideal spot for a halal holiday for the Muslim family.

Things to Do and See:

Stone Town, the capital city, is a must visit with its historical significance and its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can stay in this thriving and unique town while visiting the market places, mosques, and other attractions located within.Some of the main attraction - the Sultan’s Palace, the House of Wonders, and the Old Arab Fort, can be seen on a walking tour. As Zanzibar is also known as the ‘Spice Island’, don’t miss out on a trip to a ‘Spice Farm’, which will be a memorable experience. There is also the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre and snorkel excursions in the Menai Bay Conservation Area in the village of Paje that should be explored. Also let’s not forget the water-based activities that can be enjoyed such as kitesurfing, surfing, fishing and swimming. 

Mosques and Halal Hotels &Restaurants:

There are plenty of mosques in Zanzibar and you will hear the call of the Azaan in Stone Town quite distinctly. While is Zanzibar, do visit the Kizimkazi Mosque located in Dimbani, which is one of the oldest Islamic buildings on the East African coast. 

There are also plenty of halal restaurants on the Island, and a quick Google search will give you ample choices. The Dhow Palace Hotel in Zanzibar City with its halal-friendly and Muslim-friendly facilities should be considered for your stay.

Sakina has over 10 years of experience in the field of corporate communications; having worked for a leading Annual Report Production House dealing with top corporates of Sri Lanka and overseas, and later as the Group Communications Specialist for a Sri Lankan conglomerate for their overseas plantations business. She is well-versed in the production process of annual reports, sustainability reports, corporate videos and other corporate communication media. She also has experience in Social Media Marketing and works to increase and improve social media presence of corporates and small niche market businesses. Today, she works as a freelance writer and undertakes consultations on corporate communications and social media related projects. She enjoys writing for blogs on topics of interest.