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Salmah Shahnawaz is an avid reader, travel enthusiast, and a busy body in general. Mostly you will find her daydreaming about her next getaway, nursing a mug of coffee; or with her nose in a book when she can spare the chance.

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  • Middle East | 6 Countries That'll Instantly Make You Not Want To Leave

    When it comes to Muslim-friendly destinations, there is no area more perfect than the Middle Eastern region, and the growing popularity of travelling to the Middle East makes it much easier for halal travel. Countries that are ruled by Muslim monarchs translates to abundant Muslim-friendly services like halal food, places to pray, and even segregation in areas like water parks, the metro, and public buses. It means that even though Middle Eastern destinations comprise of a large expat population, they are used to Islamic culture and attire, and religious biases are practically non-existent. If you’re looking for a relaxing holiday with little stress and more spontaneity, check out these top 6 Middle Eastern countries (in no particular order) that you should visit: 1) United Arab Emirates When it comes to where to travel in the Middle East, this is a no-brainer, as far as tourist destinations go, Dubai is on the map. But the UAE has made sure that the rest of the Emirates step up their game as well, and every place has something to offer. Whether it is living the fast life, big entertainment, touring the best mosques, or discovering Arab culture, UAE has it all. Attractions Abu Dhabi: Ferrari World, Yas Water WorldDubai: Wild Wadi, Ski Dubai, Sky Dive, Parasailing, Desert SafariAl Ain: Jabal al HafeetHatta: Hatta Kayak Must-Visit Architecture Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Zayed mosque; Dubai: Burj Khalifa, Burj al Arab, Atlantis, Bastakia in Bur Dubai, Souq;Sharjah: Blue Souq; Ras Al Khaimah: Al Jazirat Al Hamra (a spooky abandoned village rumoured to be haunted, it is also known as Ghost Town. It dates back to the 14th century and is a must-visit for history buffs and anyone who has wanted to visit the set of a horror movie); Fujairah: Al Bidyah Mosque (the oldest mosque in the UAE, built in 1446) Getting around Dubai with public transport is fairly easy thanks to the Dubai Metro. The cabin after Gold Class is ladies only, as well as the front section on public buses. Similarly, Wild Wadi has ladies night in the summer, and Jabal al Hafeet has segregated hot spring areas that you can bathe in. With masjids, every few feet or so, and prayer rooms in the malls, praying while you’re on the move is not an issue. Make the most of the halal food cuisine with every country’s food imaginable. All restaurants are halal certified (only hotel buffets might serve pork), so eating out is a breeze! UAE is considered to be a pricey destination, and that is true if you want to splurge on the big entertainment venues like theme parks and adventure sports. You can balance it out, however, by going to the beach, roaming around the souqs, taking a ride in the abra at the Creek which is the cheapest ride you’ll ever get in the country, and taking the time to soak up the culture. You can find cheaper accommodations as compared to the hotels like furnished apartments, and thanks to the Dubai Metro, you are connected to the rest of the city. 2) Saudi Arabia  We know that Saudi Arabia isn’t really known as a tourist destination – just one for Hajj and Umrah. Some people just go for the pilgrimage, while others take tour packages that show them the sites of Islamic history. Even though that is what Saudi is most famous for, it does have more to offer than just that. Attractions If you are in the vicinity of Makkah and Madinah, then you’re in the vicinity of Islamic historic sites. The battlefields of Badr and Uhud, the first masjid ever built there, Masjid Qiblatayn – the masjid with the two qiblahs, and so much more. If you are at all interested in Islamic history, it pays to put an image to the names. Durrat Al Arous Island north of Jeddah houses Albatoul Marine which is a fun place for adventure sports. Flyboarding is bit pricey here, but worth it if you’ve ever wanted to walk – no, fly – on water! Water jets are attached to your boots and up you go! Must-Visit Architecture Without a doubt, the Masjid al-Haram in Makkah and Masjid an-Nabawi in Madinah are mandatory. Not just because they are spectacular and places of such peace and tranquillity despite the hustle and bustle, but because they are also home to great reward. Any prayer offered here is multiplied immensely. Credit: Wikipedia Muslims visiting Saudi rarely leave without visiting one of these sites. What most people don’t make it to are the Madain Saleh and sites. Jubbah and Shuwaymus are the areas with rock carving show that there that is so much more to Saudi Arabian history that is yet to be explored. The carvings are in a different language and depict what life was like in those days, much like hieroglyphics. Madain Saleh is not just for history buffs. These fascinating structures built so many thousands of years ago still stand today, attesting to an era long gone but not entirely forgotten. The area used to have fresh water that attracted many settlers who then carved out structures. Today, it is completely dry but the buildings still stand. As with countries in the Middle East, certain attractions can be rather pricey. But when it comes to history, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. 3) Qatar  Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world, and its lifestyle reflects that. Just step into the airport and you are surrounded by brand names and items that seem like they belong in a dream. Despite all this modernity though, Qatar still maintains its heritage, and it is one of the best places to visit. Attractions Credit: Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara on Facebook Banana Island Resort by Anantara is truly a paradise. Even if you’re not staying at the luxury hotel, you can still enjoy the premises. Its tropical flora makes you forget you’re in the Middle East, and you are treated to a range of cuisines. Make the most of the beach and sea, go bowling or take a Segway ride on this almost-private island. Credit: Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) on Facebook In complete contrast is the Museum of Islamic Arts which houses the largest Islamic art collection in the world. Curated from three different continents, Qatar is proud of this gem not only because of what is within but because the structure itself is magnificent, designed by the architect of the Louvre Pyramid. On its own island with a palm-tree lined entrance, set amid a vast landscape and an impeccable view across the water, this place is worth the visit. Credit: Museum of Islamic Art (MIA) on Facebook There are guided tours in English and Arabic every Thursday at 2pm of the permanent collection housed on two floors. Unlike other museums, the Museum of Islamic Arts is organised in such a way that you get a feel of what Islamic art is truly like through the homogeneity of a single print used across various medium. Visitors are requested to avoid strappy and short clothing and you might be restricted from entering. Must-Visit Architecture While some prefer the air-conditioned climate of malls, others would rather take in the culture while roaming the souqs. Souq Waqif is one such place that you should not miss. Contradicting the high-end fashion and attire visible in the malls, the streets are where you get a taste of what Qatar is really like. Vibrant in its sights, smells and feels, Souq Waqif has beautiful traditional bukhoor, spices, and embroidered clothing. Credit: Katara It is also a testament to history as it is where Bedouins would come to trade their essentials too. Katara Cultural Village is a beautiful man-made location to soak up more heritage. From the architecture to the Greek-Islamic style amphitheatre, people flock there in the evenings when the weather gets cooler to enjoy the outdoors. There are restaurants, mosques, and a beach right with water sports and inflatable play complexes, making it the perfect family spot. Qatar is known to be a pricey location but the country is also very hospitable. If you want to live in the lap of luxury for a few days, this is the place for you. 4) Oman  Even though Oman is in the Middle East – and generally what comes to mind when one thinks of ‘Middle East’ is ‘desert’, Oman is one of the few countries that actually has a tropical oasis region. Laidback and serene, the country has plenty to offer tourists. Since a slice of Oman juts into the UAE, many residents of UAE take the opportunity on long weekends or holidays to avail the natural sites available. However, if you decide to stay there exclusively, there is so much more that you can do. Attractions As always, souqs are part of the Middle Eastern charm and Muttrah Souq is no exception. Go there to get your fix of gahwah or Arabic coffee, bargain for souvenirs, or simply to enjoy the feel of being in an Arab country. The beaches of Musandam are one of the areas that you will find people on day trips as it is separated from Oman by a piece of UAE land. Pristine white sands and clear blue waters make this a hot tourist spot. Credit: Richard Bartz on Wikipedia Oman believes in conserving their land and natural resources and this is evident at Ras al Jinz, a natural reserve for endangered green turtles, located on the east coast. Visitors can observe them laying their eggs, and even catch them hatching and returning to the sea. Wadi Bani Khalid is one of those areas that are striking and green as it has a spring that keeps running year round. Add those palm trees to the shades of red that the rocks are made of, and you have a very Instagrammable location. #prettyasapicture #nofilter Credit: Philipp Weigell on Wikipedia Salalah is the vacation spot inside your holiday. Tropical, cool and like a world of its own, this is a must-visit. If you want your holiday to include a bit of a workout, be sure to head to Jabal al Akhdar. Translating to The Green Mountain, it gets its name from the greenery spattered across it, but it is well known for its hiking trails. Another great spot is Jabal ash-Shams, or Mountain of the Sun, so called as it is believed to be the first point that the sun touches when it rises. It is the highest peak in the region and has some great views. Majlis al Jinn is for the rock climbers out there as it has the second largest cave chamber in the world. The Bimmah Sinkhole is a natural phenomenon caused by limestone that eroded below the surface leaving a spectacularly blue-green pool for swimming. Must-Visit Architecture Credit: World Architecture Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque has to be one of the staples on your list of sights to see. This Grand Mosque is one of the chain of Sultan Qaboos mosques built around the world. The high arches, golden domes, engraved walls and a beautiful interior should not be missed. The Royal Opera House sounds like it belongs in England, but this one is in Oman. Besides the various international performances that the venue is used for, you can tour the location that resembles a palace. Oman is like one of those shy kids standing in the back; only when you decide to look further do you realise the gems it has to offer. 5) Kuwait  Kuwait may not be a tourist hotspot, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t waiting to be explored. Like the UAE, Kuwait is known for its modernity and high rise buildings, but they also keep a strong hold on their roots and culture. Kuwait is one of the smaller Middle Eastern countries, but it is worth the trip. When travelling around the GCC, what is striking is that, even though they all appear to be the same on the outside, different aspects of heritage and culture stand out when you dig deep. Attractions Housing an Imax cinema, aquarium, dhow harbour, and a discovery palace, The Scientific Centre is the best place to take kids. The floor-to-ceiling shark and ray tanks are incredible to see, and getting your hands dirty in the Discovery Palace allows kids to get lost in the wonder of science. Credit: @aquaparkq8 on Instagram In addition to viewing the different regions present in the aquarium – the desert, coastal edge, and sea zone – you can also dive with sharks if you have a valid diving licence. The age for diving is 14 years and older. If you don’t want to swim with sharks, no problem! Head to Aqua Park, a major water theme park in Kuwait. Whether you are a child or an adult, Aqua Park has something for everyone. Fancy lazing around? Grab a tube and float on the Lazy River. Want an adrenalin shot? Try the Boomerango. There are cafes and restaurants inside the park which are all halal, but as food can be a bit pricey, take at least a bottle of water with you. Tuesdays are now reserved for ladies’ day, but even if you go with the family, there are separate changing areas for men and women and separate prayer areas. Bikinis are not allowed. Credit: Mirror House The Mirror House is definitely a must-see as, even though it is an art display, it is more like art in action. You will not be bored. Each room is explained by the Italian-Kuwaiti artist and took around 40 years to complete. Yes, 40 years! It better be good! With visual effect and getting the visitors to interact with the art, this is one thing you have to experience to understand. Falaika Island is where you can see true history. Take a ferry to the island that is now an open-air museum, depicting the war. Must-Visit Architecture As with all the Gulf countries, the local Grand Mosque is a must-visit. The architecture is unique to the country and its history, and Kuwait’s Grand Mosque is no exception. With the hustle and bustle of the city, head here to admire the structure and bask in the tranquility. Kuwait Towers are also an iconic part of the city. With a viewing platform and a restaurant, you can grab a bite while you cast your glance of a view over almost the entire country. Tareq Rajab Museum is another standout location to visit. Housing some of the most beautiful pieces in history – think jewels and garments fit for a princess – the collection of Arabic manuscripts is what rocks it to international standards. Mercifully, while the rest of the museum was being looted by Iraqi soldiers during the war, this area was left untouched thanks to the quick thinking of the local guards. The Kuwaiti Dinar is one of the strongest currencies in the world, so don’t be fooled by the small numbers. 6) Bahrain  If you’re looking for a totally laidback holiday, Bahrain is the place to go. As a small country that mostly keeps to itself, Bahrain isn’t on the map as a tourist destination. There are plenty of low-key things you can keep yourself occupied with though, so if this is you, keep reading. Attractions Camping in the desert might seem like a risky move – “What about the snakes and scorpions?” – but wait till you see the level of camping. With proper toilets, plasma TVs, and food in your tents, just think of it as a relocation of your hotel room. Camping is open from October 15th to March 31st. Head to Hawar Island off the coast of Qatar to bask in nature. It is a protected wildlife reserve that is under Qatar as well, and a beautiful place to get away from desert life. Explore the souqs for your regular souvenirs. Just walking around the souq will expose you to items that you wouldn’t even have thought of getting. The biggest thing that Bahrain is known for is hosting the Grand Prix, so be sure to time your holiday around then and grab some tickets! You can’t leave Bahrain without taking an authentic souvenir for yourself, and what better way to do that than to go pearl diving? If you’re finding it hard to decide between buying traditional keepsakes and regular ones, you can take your time exploring Al Jasra Handicraft Centre with displays work by local artisans, or going across to the Capital Mall. Must-Visit Architecture Were you expecting to visit a mosque? Don’t miss Al Fateh Grand Mosque! Muslims and non-Muslims alike are allowed to tour the impressive mosque on Open Day. Qal’at al Bahrain is the 16th century remains of a Bahrain or Portuguese fort that is free to look around. Going back in time a hundred years is the Arad Fort, a 15th century fort that initially guarded its own island before being joined to Muharraq Island. It differs from Qal’at al Bahrain by its Islamic architecture, as it was built before the Portuguese invaded Bahrain. The currency in Bahrain is also pretty strong compared to the other Gulf countries, so the prices can seem a bit steep at times. With the few things there are to do in Bahrain though, we think a few days is enough time to visit....

  • Saving On Accommodation For Your Seoul Trip? 11 Airbnbs For You To Crash While On A Budget

    One of the biggest things to consider when planning your trip is accommodation. Where you stay makes a difference in how much you might or might not enjoy your holiday – convenience, comfort, and amenities are only part of the thought process required to make it perfect. Airbnb is awesome because you can find places to crash that seem tailor-made to fit your requirements, including budget. The best part is you also get to really feel like you are a part of the culture, adding on to your trip experience. With so much hype over Korean culture lately (thanks to K-Pop), Korea has been opening its doors to the world. Don’t fret about where to stay in Korea though. Feel at home in these cozy Airbnb Apartments while immersing yourself in the culture and people. 1. A Studio 52 | The K Hotel | Yangje Citizen’s Forest ST Credit: Haejun on Airbnb With a highly rated host, this studio apartment with rooftop garden access has plenty of good reviews. If you go in springtime, you’ll be blessed with cherry blossoms practically outside your window! Haejun and her husband have traveled extensively, so language is not a barrier. Chat with her about life in Korea and her travels around the world; and thanks to her husband’s profession of photography, experience those journeys through his pictures. Their house is located near train stations and a shopping mall for your added convenience, making this a wonderful homestay in Korea. Price Range: SGD$59 ($$)Airbnb 2. Tradition with modern. Lovely & cozy Credit: Dain on Airbnb Dain is a great host who has opened his house to guests. He believes in living the culture when you travel and has turned his house into something of a porcelain antique store, complete with a tea ceremony for your entertainment. With nearly a 5 star rating, this is the kind of place where you get the best of both worlds – traditional indoors with the city at your fingertips. Price Range: SGD$60 ($$)Airbnb 3. Bright Spacious Fully Furnished Apartment Credit: Dennis on Airbnb The only downside of Airbnb homes is that, well, it’s not a hotel. And let’s face it: who really wants to do housekeeping when they’re on holiday? In that case, this place is a treat! Extremely conveniently located (within 5-10 minutes of bus stands and metro stations; including direct access from Incheon Airport via the 601 Bus), one of the advantages of this fully furnished apartment is the housekeeping service available from Monday to Friday. The hosts believe in hotel service with a personal home environment giving you a great Seoul Airbnb experience. Sounds like a recipe for the perfect holiday! The neighborhood is packed with cafes and souvenir shopping stores as well. Price Range: SGD$140 ($$$)Airbnb 4. Myeong Dong Portable WiFi  Credit: Seoul Sister House Located just 8 minutes away from the major shopping area of Myeong Dong, and literally, a hop, step and jump away from Chungmu-ro subway station are only a few of the perks of this furnished studio. Sisters J and K are super hosts that are readily available to answer your queries or solve any issue you might be having. Part of their 5-star rating is due to the portable WiFi egg they offer that allows you internet access when you are on the move in the city. Add in a view of the city and the mountains and you’ve got a great deal. One of the best places to stay in Korea! Price Range: SGD$68 ($$)Airbnb 5. Fantastic View in the Middle of Seoul Credit: Yeojin on Airbnb If you’re looking for a quiet area to stay that is also convenient, this is the jackpot. With a beautiful view of the Han River and a park around the corner, you can get your fill of nature and fresh air. The Dongjak station is only a 5-minute walk away with major tourist areas like Apgujeong and Itaewon less than a half an hour train ride away. Living with a hospitable family gives insight into tourist hotspots as well as what life in Korea is like. Price Range: SGD$53 ($$)Airbnb 6. Safe and comfort for Women Lovely apartment Credit: James on Airbnb Female travelers, rejoice! This clean, stylish apartment has a 5-star rating thanks to the amazing hosts and its central location. It is one of the best Airbnb’s in Seoul. The wife of the host speaks English, the kids love if you play with them, but the family also respects your privacy if you wish to keep to yourself. The metro station is a 5-minute walk away and the building has top security, so you are free to explore the city and come back to your safe spot. Since the other guests are only women, sharing the space and the bathroom (only if the other room is reserved) is much more comfortable. Price Range: SGD$37 ($)Airbnb 7. Located at Main Street at Bukchon Hanok in Seoul Credit: Donny on Airbnb If you really want to steep yourself in the culture, the best place to stay is a hanok. There aren’t too many of them available now, so jump at the chance if you get one. A hanok is a traditional Korean house and staying at this one will transport you back in time. Set in the culturally rich neighborhood of Samcheongdong, the wider setting only serves to add to the charm. The staff and hosts are extremely friendly and will help guide you around the area to popular spots. Price Range: SGD$60 ($)Airbnb 8. Bibimbap Guesthouse Credit: Bibimbap on Airbnb This traditional guesthouse is over a hundred years old and located near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of ChangDeok Palace. The olden charm is enhanced with the ondol style rooms (traditional Korean) with its own private bathroom and Korean breakfast, but they do offer Western breakfast if you prefer. The hosts live on the premises and they love interacting with their guests. The guesthouse is situated just a few minutes away from the Jogno Subway Station and is surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and stores for you to explore. Price Range: SGD$51 ($$)Airbnb 9. Private Queen Bedroom in a Beautiful Shared House Credit: Villa Seoul Garosugil on Airbnb If you’ve wondered what it’s like to live in Gangnam, this is the spot for you. Gangnam is an up-and-coming neighborhood and as such, is teeming with stylish cafes and spots to explore. Being located close to public transport makes this task all the easier. The host, Sarah, is highly rated on her efficiency, friendliness, and attention to detail. The place is kept sparkling clean and is stocked with the usual amenities. If you want to meet people on your travels and like sharing a space, this is the place for you! Price Range: SGD$42 ($$)Airbnb 10. Don Quixote Stay Credit: 정한(Han'S) on Airbnb Single – Have you ever wanted to sleep under the stars? Well, this isn’t really the same thing but it is a rooftop adventure! This place boasts a private room with a toilet and shower, plus basic amenities, on a rooftop, in close proximity to all the major areas. Do you need any more reasons to say yes? It is 5 minutes away from Gangnam and Itaewon and 10 minutes away from Myeongdong, not to mention close to the bicycle path, so if you’re a cyclist, this one’s for you. There is also a 24-hour convenience store nearby. With fresh air to bask in at the end of the day, this place definitely gives you your money’s worth. Price Range: SGD$36 ($)Airbnb 11. 5 minute Station, Gangnam, Super clean and spacious apartment Credit: Ann on Airbnb Located in that is known as the Beverly Hills neighborhood of Seoul, this clean and spacious apartment has a super host with attention to detail. The room in the apartment is centrally located being a 5-minute walk from the subway station and with direct access to the airport (Incheon Airport Limousine Bus stops at Cheongdam Station which is a 7-minute walk away.) With security to keep you feeling safe, stores and restaurants around the area to discover and a friendly host, this is rated as one of the top spots to stay in when in Seoul! Price Range: SGD$48 ($)Airbnb All the places listed here have a minimum of 4.5-star ratings on AirbnB. People do have slightly different experiences though, depending, so we hope yours is a good one! You don’t have to wonder about how to find accommodation in Korea now, thanks to Airbnb, so you have no excuses to put off planning a trip there!...

  • It's Time To Welcome 2019! Here Are 17 Destinations For Your New Year Celebrations!

    If you haven’t already gotten into planning mode, now is the perfect time. As December dawns, you must be wondering where to spend the New Year’s Eve. We have curated a list of 17 destinations that comprises of the most popular, attractive and liveliest of places around the world for you to welcome 2019! 10 Muslim-friendly destinations to visit in 2019 The U.S.A. When you hear about a New Year celebration in the USA, the first thing that pops up in your mind must be the iconic Miley Cyrus song. Eventhough America is known for their wild parties, we’re giving you a list of places that won’t make you feel terrible the next morning. Here are the best places to go on New Year's Eve in the USA. 1) San Francisco Surprised to see this on the list? Besides the regular fireworks displays, San Francisco is made up of very multi-cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It would be an eye-opening experience when you to wander around the different neighbourhoods and have the option to celebrate New Year's whichever way you like. 2) Chicago Most of their top hotels have special New Year’s Eve packages. You can also opt for a dinner cruise on Lake Michigan. Even though it might be very expensive, it is one of the best ways to watch the firework displays. 3) Orlando If you’re travelling with your family, what better place to spend New Year’s Eve than at the wonderful Disneyland Florida?! They have some of the best New Year’s Eve celebrations with Disney characters that starts at 8pm. You know your kids will love you for giving them the celebration of their lifetime! It is ranges from parades, performances and pageants galore! 4) New York City Well, You knew this would be on the list, didn’t you? Well, how could it not?! Possibly the most vibrant place in the world during New Year's Eve! This is where you can witness the iconic ball drop at the New York Times Square together with thousands of others. Need we say more? Europe Tour Here are the best places to spend New Year’s in Europe! 5) Barcelona, Spain Besides the usual revelry, you can ring in the New Year in a more traditional way – Spanish style, that is. In Plaça d’Espanya, the celebrations are centred around the Magic Fountain that looks incredible on a normal day, let alone when it is dressed up for a special event. Be prepared for a spectacular light show with music and special effects. 6) Rome, Italy First, pinch yourself because the beauty of Italy will make you feel like you're in a fairytale dream. You will find yourself staring at historical monuments that were built thousands of years ago. Second, have a feel of its rich history by having a ‘cenone’, which is a big dinner that you can have at a restaurant or at a friend’s house. That’s how the Italian tradition of ringing in the New Year begins. Then, head to the biggest celebration in town at the Piazza del Popolo. Take your own fireworks if you can get your hands on some and have a blast– it’s all in the experience! Of course, the city does put on its own professional display as well. 7) Venice, Italy What you can’t find in Rome are the plentiful Gondolas floating on the rivers that make Venice what it is. Imagine spending a peaceful night on a gondola by yourself or with a loved one, hidden in the fog, waiting for the light from the fireworks to cut through it. You can also join the huge crowd in Piazza San Marco as you count down the seconds until 2019 arrives. 8) Prague, Czech Republic Prague is a very popular city, to say the least. Imagine starting your New Year in such a magical place. Such a picturesque old town deserves some celebration. There is no specific place where everyone would gather so take a walk around and decide which part you want to revel in. Charles Bridge offers the best vantage point for the firework display set against castles and the river. 9) Paris, France Looking for a more romantic destination to spend your New Year’s Eve? Nothing beats Paris! With the Eiffel Tower as your backdrop, your photos will look as though it was straight out of a movie. If you desire for something even more romantic than watching the fireworks by the Eiffel Tower, you can bring your partner to a luxurious dinner at one of the few high-class muslim-friendly restaurants in town as you welcome the new year. Off the Beaten Path If big celebrations and crowded cities are not what you are looking for, fly off to the less travelled destinations and have a more unconventional New Year’s Eve. These are the more relaxing destinations for New Year's: 10) Iceland You can alway end the year without any fireworks if you want. An alternative would be heading north in Iceland to watch the Northern Lights, Aurora Borealis. What's a better light display than a stunning natural one? 11) The Caribbean If just the thought of cold weather makes you shudder, and you can’t quite make up your mind on where you want to go, why not take a cruise to The Caribbean? If money is not a problem, you can go island-hopping and experience different food and cultures. At the end of the night, or should I say the year, you can just chill in the sand while enjoying the breeze. 12) Tasmania Known for their incredible rustic beauty, Tasmania is the perfect place to hike around if you’re an adventure junkie and want to start your New Year fit. If you need a hit of adrenalin as well, you can go white water rafting on the Franklin River. Best Places to Travel in 2019 Want to ring in the New Year right? According to experts, these are some of the top destinations to visit in 2019, so why not get a head start on them? 13) Dubai A whole category in itself, Dubai is iconic in its firework displays. It's New Year’s Eve show has constantly been one the most spectacular ones in the world for a few years now. Crowds gather from many hours ahead to watch the Burj Khalifa light show and fireworks, but if you don’t want to get caught in the stampede, the beach is the best option. Have dinner at any one of the malls or restaurants nearby before heading to the beach, or pack up a little picnic to keep yourselves full. The weather in December can be a bit chilly by the seaside – even though you’re close to the desert – so bundle up a bit. The firework display that is visible from the beach may not be the Burj Khalifa display, but Atlantis and The Palm put up some breath-taking shows as well. 14) Copenhagen, Denmark Copenhagen has always been a tourist spot but the city is constantly developing. 2019 is definitely a great year to travel to this state now that more attractions are available. In addition to the perfect balance between their old and new architecture, the growing food industry gives you a solid reason to visit Copenhagen. 15) Shenzhen, China Picture: The Independent Everyone knows how popular China is as a tourist destination. Shenzhen is said to be the Silicon Valley of this famous country, with its immense new technology. Besides its technological rise, it has also developed its arts scene in line with the likes of London. You might be happy to know that it has a wide range of new cafes and spots to hang out as well. 16) Mexico City, Mexico A country steeped in their history and culture makes for a beautiful city architecturally. Mexico City won the award for The World Design Capital in 2018 – a nod to the way centuries-old buildings worked so well with modern structures. 17) Zadar, Croatia On the coast of Croatia lies a city that has taken its horrific past and used it to turn into the strong cosmopolitan city it is today. The ancient Roman ruins and buildings are reminders of what was, while its biggest attraction – the waterfront promenade – is a representation of what can be. As the locals gather at the promenade, be drawn into the culture of this small city. If you didn’t have any exciting plans for the New Year’s Eve, we hope this list inspired you to get moving now. If you take us up on any of our suggestions, or even if you decide to do something completely different, do tell us about your travel adventures via our HalalTrip App!  HAPPY NEW YEARS EVERYONE! Get inspirations for your 2019 vacations...

  • Glamorous Camping! You Need To Try These Top 10 Glamping Spots In Asia

    If you’re not familiar with the term “glamping”, fear not – you’re not alone. The first time I heard the word “glamping” I didn’t know what it meant. Clearly I’m not following the trend. When I looked into it though, I realised it was exactly the kind of thing I enjoyed – being one with nature minus all the icky stuff: the heat, bugs, and make-shift bathrooms! Glamping is basically the words ‘glamorous camping’ put together. And who wouldn’t like some of that? via GIPHY We scoured all the glamping spots we could find in Asia to come up with these top 10. They have adventure, relaxation, the modern comforts that you are used to, and all the nature you want to be a part of. Even with all the luxury the rooms afford that makes it feel like you’re in a bubble, the view right outside your window and door reminds you that you are a world away from your regular life and its responsibilities. Get ready for a rejuvenating trip! 1. Trizara Resorts, Indonesia Picture Credit: Trizara Resorts Facebook You’ll feel like you’re camping alright, in these tent-like structures. Trizara Resorts believes in disconnecting from electronics and connecting with nature, and whether you are a solo traveller, couple or a group, they have a host of activities to make that possible!  Picture Credit: Trizara Resorts Facebook There’s nothing like making new friends on your travels, and some of the best ways to do that are through team sports. Engage in an archery battle, relax with some yoga, go paintballing, or play futsal. There’s the bungee trampoline, flying fox or high rope for those adrenalin junkies, an Amazing Race or Treasure Hunt for some afternoon fun.  Picture Credit: Trizara Resorts Facebook They also have off-site outings like hiking and off-road for those who want to explore. All this and more with the home comforts of a good bed to ensure a great night’s sleep and an attached bathroom amid other luxuries! In line with their policy, they don’t have a TV though, because they don’t think you need it! Address: Jalan Pasirwangi Wetan, Lembang, Bandung. Jawa Barat.Price Range: From SGD$227/nightContact: 022 82780085Email: trizararesorts@gmail.comWebsite: www.trizara.com 2. La Cocoteraie Ecolodge, Indonesia Picture Credit: La Cocoteraie Ecolodge, Indonesia Facebook If you’re looking for a place to go for a special occasion, look no further. La Cocoteraie Ecolodge is a small hotel set in the middle of breath-taking beauty. The staff is like family, which makes your experience there that much warmer, friendlier and more comfortable, and they are willing to decorate your room according to your requests, which makes for the perfect special holiday.  Picture Credit: La Cocoteraie Ecolodge, Indonesia Facebook There are no motor vehicles allowed on the island of Gili Trawangan which means you get there by boat, and then take a horse and cart, cycle or walk to the hotel. It also means that the beauty and peace of the island is undisturbed, allowing you to have a holiday of another level. Lounge by the pool, explore the island (it only takes about an hour to walk around the whole place) or seek adventure in the sea.  Picture Credit: La Cocoteraie Ecolodge, Indonesia Facebook You get a bicycle and snorkelling gear to use for free once you arrive, so you can get those muscles working, or simply lie on the beach with the sky as your screen to enjoy the sunset or star-gaze. The perfect place to go glamping in Indonesia. Address: Gili Indah, Pemenang, North Lombok Regency, West Nusa Tenggara 83352, IndonesiaPrice Range: From SGD$105/nightContact: +6281907976985Email: lacocogili@gmail.comWebsite: www.lacocoteraiegili.com 3. The Canopi, Bintan Picture Credit: The Canopi The Canopi is known for its water sports, so if you feel like a fish in water, check it out. You can take it slow while still toning those muscles on the water tricycle, have a bit of a Wipeout experience by attempting to scale obstacles in the water, of shoot for the sky in the Jetovator!  Picture Credit: The Canopi Water slides keeps kids happy, kayaking, parasailing and more are all part of the Water Experience. If you want to take a break on dry land, try your hand at the shooting range, or explore Treasure Bay Bintan’s private forest in a UTV or an ATV off-road adventure.  Picture Credit: The Canopi Based on what kind of nature buff you are, you can pick the Garden Tent, Lagoon View Tent, Safari Tent or the Glamping Deluxe Tent. Each one features a four-poster bed, air conditioning, wifi, mini fridge and more. Address: Jln. Raya Haji KM 01 Kawasan, Pariwisata, Teluk Sebong Lagoi, Bintan, Kepulauan Riau 29152, Indonesia.Price Range: From SGD$165/nightContact: +62 770 - 69 - 2252 / 2253Email: reservation@thecanopi.comWebsite: ​www.thecanopi.com 4. Glamz at Genting, Malaysia Picture Credit: Glamz  Not too far away from Kuala Lumpur, you can forget that the city even exists. Have a vacation at the all new Glamz at Genting, with tents that are pretty cosy but offer you creature comforts like no other regular tent does! The indoor facilities are comparatively less than the other places mentioned above, but the surrounding nature and the cool weather that you immerse yourself in makes up for it.  You can opt for a cozy night in one of the Bell Tents or experience the one-of-a-kind dome room. The dome rooms are mostly for couples on vacation or even for families with children. The dome rooms are relatively spacious for its price! However, if you're traveling with friends or looking for a more 'camping-like' experience, we definitely recommend the bell tents! To elevate your glamorous experience, you might even want to try the VIP Dome with Private Jacuzzi ;) Address: 1, Jalan Meranti, 69000 Genting Highlands, Pahang, MalaysiaPrice Range: From SGD$86/nightEmail:  hello@glamz.com.myWebsite: glamz.com.my 5. Kamu Lodge, Laos Picture Credit: Kamu Lodge Kamu Lodge differs from the rest of the glamping resorts by providing you with the opportunity to integrate yourself with the locals. Allowing you live like and observe the locals, Kamu Lodge’s speciality is slow travel, which helps in creating memories that last a lifetime. Picture Credit: Kamu Lodge Facebook They encourage their guests to get up close and personal with the paddy fields and process of harvesting rice, net fishing and gold panning (an easier method of mining and you can keep anything you find!). You can also trek through the forest and have a picnic at the waterfall, try your shot at the archery range available, or get a massage at the Kamu Spa, with all the local curative herbs being used to soothe your body. The lodges are hybrids and environmentally friendly. Picture Credit: Kamu Lodge Facebook They have thick walls to keep the elements out, solar panels to source the electricity, and built with natural resources but still including a bed and a hot shower. They may not be luxury tents, but you still have basic comforts that give you a good night’s sleep! Address: Ban Nioy Hai, Muang Nga District, Oudoumxay Province, 06000, LaosPrice Range: From SGD$185/night (April to October); SGD$227/night (November to March)Contact: +856(0) 20 5603 2365Email: info@kamulodge.comWebsite: kamulodge.com 6. Hintok River Camp at Hellfire Pass, Thailand  Picture Credit: Hintok River Camp at Hellfire Pass หินตก ริเวอร์ เเคมป์ ณ ช่องเขาขาด Facebook Home to two World War 2 sites, Hintok River Camp is a favourite amongst history buffs. Even if history is not your thing, Hintok is worth a visit as they have been honoured with many titles, including one of the top 10 adventure resorts, top 7 gorgeous places to go glamping in Thailand, Thailand Boutique Award and 3rd Amazing Back-to-Nature Hotel in Thailand. Picture Credit: Hintok River Camp at Hellfire Pass หินตก ริเวอร์ เเคมป์ ณ ช่องเขาขาด Facebook Hintok River Camp is a tented camp that sports gorgeous views along with their natural spring pool – the perfect place to lounge about and drink in the view. The tents are air-conditioned with private bathrooms, a hot shower and more, and you step out of it into another world of beauty. On-site activities include the museum, mountain biking, a sheep enclosure, Thai massage, a trekking trail, and more. In the vicinity of the Camp is Treetop Adventure Park to satisfy your adrenalin cravings with their zip line, flying fox, tightrope, and more. You can also enjoy canoeing, bamboo rafting, exploring The Lawa Cave and gorgeous waterfalls. Address: 109 Moo 9 Ban Wang Khamen, Tambon Thasao, Saiyok, Kanchanaburi 70150, ThailandPrice Range: From SGD$230/nightContact: +66(0) 81 754 3898Email: info@hintokrivercamp.comWebsite: www.hintokrivercamp.com 7. Elephant Hills Floating Luxury Camp, Thailand Located close to popular destinations like Phuket, Krabi and Koh Samui makes getting to Elephant Hills easy, but it still manages to feel like another world once you get there. Elephant Hills is Thailand’s first luxury camp, and it consists of luxury tents on solid ground as well as the floating tent camp on the Cheow Larn Lake. You have to book a tour package with them – you cannot book rooms individually – so your stay will include experiencing both tented areas, as well as interacting with and observing elephants in the most ethical way possible. Don’t worry, they are all about conserving wildlife as well! In addition to offering you little luxuries in your tent like a comfortable bed, a hot and cold shower, and electricity amongst other amenities, their rooms are built responsibly, using solar and wind energy and a unique waste management system for sustainability. Elephant Hills is set is some of the most beautiful natural landscape, and part of your tour allows you to go trekking and explore on of the world’s oldest evergreen forests. The Jungle Lake Safari gives you a well-rounded experience by letting you roam in the wild, as well as taking you to civilisation – the market, to be precise – where you get up close and personal with the people, food and culture. There is a guide on hand to translate as and when you need it. You aren’t always chaperoned though! You are free to enjoy the scenery and gorgeous sunset from your tent deck, jump into the lake like it is your backyard pool from that same deck, and explore the surroundings in a kayak by yourself. It is a truly rejuvenating experience and something everyone should try at least once in their life! Address: 170 Moo 7 Tambon Klong Sok, Panom District, Suratthani 84250 ThailandPrice Range: From SGD$850 for 3D2N Safari Tour+ Package (room included)Contact: +66 5200 1186 / +66 5200 1196Email: info@rainforestcamp.comWebsite: rainforestcamp.com 8. Jungle Beach Camp, Ahungalla, Sri Lanka Standard Glamping Tent Deluxe Glamping Tent Picture Credit: Jungle Beach Ahungalla Jungle Beach Camp is another great location to lose yourself in nature. On the tropical island of Sri Lanka that offers diverse landscape like green mountains and blue seas, Jungle Beach Camp is set in the south which is the prime location for beach holidays. Take your pick between the Standard Glamping Tent and Deluxe Glamping Tent (the former can host four people while the latter, six) whether you are a couple, family, or a group of people. Picture Credit: Jungle Beach Ahungalla Their thatched roofs and wooden structure makes you feel like you’re roughing it out in the wild but with the comfort of an en-suite bathroom, shower, and a warm bed to name a few. Experience Sri Lankan hospitality through the service, delicious food, a relaxing Ayurveda massage, and more. Soak up the sun on the beach, try your hand at the waves, or get involved in a game of volleyball. Picture Credit: Jungle Beach Ahungalla Watersport Get your adrenalin going on a jet ski ride, diving, snorkelling or deep sea fishing, or whale watching. Your holiday here is what you make of it! Address: Wathuregama, 80562 Ahungalla, Sri LankaPrice Range: From SGD$222/nightContact: +94 776 216 328 or +94 775 959 40Email: junglebeachahungalla@gmail.comWebsite: www.junglebeachahungalla.com 9. Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge, Sri Lanka Picture Credit: Madukelle Set in the Knuckles Mountain range lies Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge. Waking up to breath-taking views of green mountains and blue skies as far the eye can see, to the chirping of birds and morning nature sounds, you feel like you’re in another world. Sri Lanka is known for its tea plantations which make for some of the best views. Honeymoon Suite Picture Credit: Madukelle The deluxe room is a sturdy canvas tent – which makes you feel like you’re camping in Asia – with a bed, desk, attached bathroom, hardwood floors and a porch where you can sit out and appreciate the incredible beauty at your feet. There are also net-covered windows (much like ones found in tents) that can be closed off with the canvas or opened up to let in the breeze and view from the comfort of your bed. They also offer honeymoon suite that comes with a private dining facility, a bathtub, and many more little details to make your stay enjoyable. There is a family lodge available as well. The Lodge offers a dining area with incredible views, a library with internet, an infinity pool, little cosy spots within the plantation – perfect for getting lost in a book, amongst other facilities. There are many places nearby to go hiking, trekking, wildlife watching, or even to the city if you’re missing the city life. Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge offers day trekking, night camping, cooking Sri Lankan dishes with a chef, waterfall excursions, tea picking and a plantation visit, and a few other activities to get you up close and personal with the surroundings. Each activity is priced differently and is not included in the cost of the room. There is plenty to see and do at Madulkelle, and it is perfect for an adventurous holiday or a relaxing one. Address: Madulkelle - Habaragala Road, Kandy, Sri LankaPrice Range: From SGD287/nightContact: +94 (0) 813801052Email: info@madulkelle.comWebsite: www.madulkelle.com 10. Jetwing Kurulubedda, Sri Lanka Picture Credit: Jetwing Kurulubedda The Jetwing range of hotels manages to integrate luxury with nature beautifully, and they have a whole range of locations in different natural surroundings for just that purpose. Located in the southern region of Galle that is commonly known for its beaches, history and food, Jetwing takes you instead to the jungle a little away from the coast, to a world of its own, hidden away among the lush greens and paddy fields. Hosting 6 luxury villas, Jetwing allows you to be one with nature in absolute comfort. Picture Credit: Jetwing Kurulubedda Views of paddy fields and the sound of a flowing river nearby never sounded so good! Spacious rooms, polished wooden floors, attached bathrooms, air conditioning, a tea and coffee making facilities are just some of the comforts they have thought of in the basic deluxe room. Picture Credit: Jetwing Kurulubedda Take your holiday a step further by getting the booking one of two stilted Dwellings that offers a rain shower, private plunge pool and the symphony of birds that share the habitat. Get lost in this world within itself or head out nearby to one of the top beaches in the world – Unawatuna Beach, for the Mahamodara River Safari, the Kottawa Conservation Forest, the Handunugoda Tea Estate, get behind the scenes of a Cinnamon Peeling Centre, or explore a UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Galle Fort. Address: Jetwing Kurulubedda, Galle, Sri LankaPrice Range: From SGD$181/nightContact: +94 91 2223744, +94 114 709 400Email: resv.lighthouse@jetwinghotels.comWebsite: www.jetwinghotels.com/jetwingkurulubedda...

  • Not Yet A Dim Sum Fan? Try These Top 10 Classic Dim Sum Dishes & You'll Get Hooked!

    Dim Sum is a popular Chinese cuisine - where food served is bite-sized portions in tiny steamer baskets. Dim Sum is a cultural experience in itself - it is the hustle and bustle of waiters bringing out their wares and having you decide in seconds whether you want their offerings or not. It is chasing down a cart if you see something you like. It is the novelty of new flavors and the generosity of sharing it with friends or family. The best part about the dim sum experience is that each dish generally doesn’t cost much – of course prices vary by dish – and usually you pay when you leave. Halal Dim Sum dishes are hard to come by at regular restaurants as some of the dishes contain either wrappers soaked in pork stock, pork fillings or alcohol-infused fillings. So it is best to stay safe and dine in a Halal dim sum restaurant. Here are some must-try dim sum dishes for Muslims: 1. Spring Rolls  Yes, spring rolls are classified as dim sum! They are delicious rolls that are crunchy on the outside, with a moist filling - generally a vegetarian or shrimp filling. The filling is rich in flavor and each cuisine - Chinese, Malay, Indian, etc - has their own take on the flavors. Spring rolls are usually served with a sauce - it could be a chilli-based or soy-based sauce, both equally as delicious. Be warned, once you start munching on one, it would be difficult to stop! 2. “Har Gow” Dumplings  One of the top dim sum foods are these Har Gow Dumplings. It is a beautifully hand-made steamed dim sum, with a unique pleated design. Not only it is beautiful to look at, it is also mouthwateringly delicious - a translucent wrapper encases a juicy prawn or shrimp filling, making you just want to sink your teeth into it! 3. Fried Sesame Seed Balls   Picture Credit: Veronica's Kitchen Is there anything better than a simple fried sesame seed ball? I don’t think so! The lotus or sweet black bean paste filling inside the pastry made of sticky rice flour and coated in sesame seeds oozes goodness into your mouth after the perfect crunch. It's an explosion of flavor and texture! 4. Tofu Skin Roll: Fried or Steamed If tofu is not your thing, fear not. It is just used as a wrapper to hold the delicious shrimp, chicken or vegetable filling. You can find them either fried or steamed, although the steamed version is more common as it is a soft delight! 5. Fried Sticky Rice Here's another Dim Sum dish - Fried Sticky Rice. The glutinous rice is flavoured with dried shrimp, scallops and mushrooms to add more depth, and is a change from sweet sticky rice dishes. 6. Stuffed Eggplant  Picture Credit: Dim Sum Central The highlight of this dish is the Chinese eggplant that is pretty mild and a perfect base for shrimp. The sauce, shrimp and eggplant all create the perfect balance of flavours. 7. Chinese Donut Noodle Rolls  Picture Credit: Dim Sum Central Don’t go looking for a regular donut! Chinese donuts are toasted to stay crisp, and then rolled in a steamed rice noodle sheet, topped with sesame seeds and drizzled lightly with soy sauce. 8. Dried Shrimp Scallion Noodle Rolls Picture Credit: Dim Sum Central The simple ingredients of shrimp, cilantro and onions combine beautifully in this rolled rice noodle dim sum. 9. Clams in Black Bean Sauce Picture Credit: Food For Net Step out of the shrimp zone and enjoy whole clams drowning in black bean sauce. The oyster sauce present gives it an extra kick, while the ginger and garlic give the flavour more depth. 10. Egg Custard Tart or Twisted Egg Puffs  Believe it or not, certain desserts are also considered Dim Sum, the most popular of them being Egg Custard Tart where creamy custard sits in the middle of a crispy flake tart shell. If custard is not to your liking, another favourite is twisted egg puffs deep fried and served with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and a drizzle of honey. There are a number of Halal dim sum restaurants in Malaysia where you can experience the dim sum culture. Dolly Dim Sum pairs great food with a cozy atmosphere, Kai Xuan Chinese Restaurant at Puteri Pacific Hotel is Halal certified, and Meisan Schezuan Restaurant is a classy place that is affordable. If you have a favorite place to get your dim sum, do share the joy!...

  • Start Planning For Your Trip To Japan This 2019 Because The Rugby World Cup Is About To Take The World By Storm

    If you thought FIFA was big, think again. The Rugby World Cup is coming in 2019 and you have to start preparing for it now. If travelling to Japan was not on your 2019 travel bucket list, it better go on immediately. Like any other World Cup, it is hosted once in 4 years, the first tournament being held in Australia and New Zealand in 1987, with New Zealand taking the championship. Since then, there have been seven others, the last one taking place in 2013 in England and Wales. If you were wondering where to travel in 2019, look no further. When and Where are the Games Held 2019 will see the Rugby World Cup dates in Japan, from the 20th of September to 2nd of November 2019. The games will be held in 12 cities across Japan, the grand final being played at Yokohoma Stadium. Going almost every day from the 20th of September, these are the cities to plan your travel around: Tokyo, Sapporo, YokohamaCity, Higashiosaka City, Toyota City, Kumagaya City, Kamaishi City, Fukuoka City, Kobe City, Shizuola Prefecture, Oita Prefecture and Kumamoto City. The Teams Playing The countries are divided into four groups: Pool A: Japan, Russia, Ireland, Scotland, Samoa, Pool B: New Zealand, South Africa, Italy, Africa 1, Repechage winner Pool C: France, Argentina, England, Tonga, USA, Pool D: Australia, Fiji, Wales, Georgia, Uruguay Picture Credit: Rugby World Cup How to Buy Tickets You can buy the Rugby World Cup 2019 tickets from September onwards – one year before the event – through the official website. The 19th of September to the 12th of November 2018 will see general global ballot applications, while individual tickets will be sold through the site in real time on a first-come first-serve basis from the 19th of January 2019. Refer to the ticket prices here. Tickets and Packages Picture Credit: Rugby World Cup Support Tours The Sports Travel and Hospitality has been exclusively appointed to run the Programme for Rugby World Cup 2019, Japan. An Official Supporter Tours Programme with Official Travel Agents in different countries has been allotted to avoid disappointment of being played out by fraudulent businesses. Whether you approach a travel agent or they approach you, do check the official website to make sure they are on the list. The Official Supporter Tours Programme book your tickets along with package tours, but you can buy the ticket by itself through the official website. Facilities Offered Different travel agents provide different facilities for their Rugby World Cup 2019 packages. Here are some ideas of what to expect: match tickets (depending on your length of stay, your package can cover multiple matches), accommodation, breakfast, travel card, Japan Government tax, administration and handling fees, some World Cup paraphernalia. Prices will vary based on the star rating of hotel provided and the cities the matches are held in. Don’t wait too long as packages are already selling out! It is the perfect opportunity to be traveling around Japan – during Rugby World Cup 2019. Muslim-friendly Facilities Since the packages provided are pretty basic, there aren’t any Muslim-particular facilities included. You are free to explore the cities at your own convenience, however, so, to make a Halal trip to Japan, be sure to look into what the city has to offer, as well as the Muslim population, halal food available, and places to pray.  Download the HalalTrip App if you haven’t already to help you locate all things Islamic for your Muslim-friendly tour to Japan! Leave a trail based on your own findings for others to follow in the future. With New Zealand having taken the cup thrice, Australia and South Africa twice, and England once in all the Rugby World Cups ever played, other countries will be fighting hard for the right to hold that trophy over their heads and claim the title. Will you be there to see it?...

  • Hajj & Umrah: Tips On How To Beat The Heat & Be Calm With The Crowd

    Hajj season is upon us! Hajj is the Islamic pilgrimage to Makkah that comes along once a year. It should be performed at least once in a Muslim’s lifetime if they are financially and physically able to, and it is just a few weeks away. The rituals of Hajj themselves only take a few days, but pilgrims go for around two weeks to one month to make the most of the journey. Before the convenience of modern transport, people would start out months before, and it was the journey of a lifetime. Even with the ease of travelling now, the expedition of Hajj takes on the weight of that ultimate pilgrimage. Religiously, there is a lot at stake to get it right the first time. So there are a lot of preparations before leaving for Hajj trying figuring out how to do that. As the Islamic year follows the lunar calendar, the months move forward around 11 days every solar year. This means that every year, Hajj moves more into summer and gets a little more difficult as the heat intensifies and the crowds increase. Managing the heat is one of the more crucial points to keep in mind when preparing to perform the pilgrimage. So how do pilgrims beat the heat during Hajj? Here are some top tips towards an unforgettable Hajj and keeping your cool. 1. Carry a bottle of water  This is the most obvious option and a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning as not everyone is in the habit of carrying a bottle of water around. Even in your regular daily life, it is useful to carry your own water bottle to ensure you drink more during the day. Throw in intense heat and crazy crowds and you’ve got an emergency level situation. Since the rituals of Hajj require pilgrims to move around from one place to another, it is always better to carry your own water bottle. Don’t depend on the resources that might be available around you as things change around every year and you don’t want to be caught in a desperate situation. Your water bottle can help someone else too! 2. Wear sunblock  Even if you’re not a regular sunblock or sunscreen user, it is always a good idea to protect yourself in every way possible, especially since you are so far from home. With all the emphasis on worshipping and perform Hajj perfectly, it is even more important to take care of yourself so that you are able to do that. Sunburn is a great source of discomfort and can throw off your mood and performance for days. Better safe than sorry! 3. Take glucose packets In the theme of staying hydrated, carry a few packets of glucose with you for those times when you need that extra boost. The crowds and rituals can tire some people out more than they expect, and it’s important to be prepared. In the times when you’re feeling dehydrated or light-headed, just plain water isn’t going to cut it. Glucose gives you that extra boost of energy when you need it. 4. Carry an umbrella  Most Hajj groups give you an umbrella with the rest of your pack, so use it if you need to. At the peak of the day, there is nowhere to hide from the sun and your best option is to carry your own shade. 5. Have a towel/handkerchief on you  For those times that you need to mop up your sweat or just keep a wet towel on your forehead, having a small face towel or a handkerchief with you is extremely handy. This is also where your water bottle comes into play! 6. Make use of the Zamzam water available  Whenever possible, drink Zamzam! Even if you take your own bottle, fill it with Zamzam water whenever you can. If you’re at the masjid or anywhere else where Zamzam is available, make it a point to benefit from it. It is the only place and time that you have such free access to it, and Zamzam provides energy that normal water doesn’t. it truly replenishes and the hardworking pilgrims are well-deserving of it! 7. Avoid caffeine  If you are used to your regular cup of tea or coffee, you might want to break free from that habit as soon as possible. Not only are those beverages not as freely available to you at Hajj (it isn’t a holiday after all!), but they aren’t good for you when you are in that situation. Most places at Mina especially will have ice water and juice freely accessible, and that is better to fill up on than caffeine as they are diuretics – they cause you to empty your bladder more often which leaves you dehydrated. 8. Don’t move around unnecessarily  If you find all the movements tiring, and even more so because of the crowds, give yourself a break. Take it easy and don’t wander around unnecessarily or too far. It is more important to take care of yourself and maintain your energy and fitness levels than it is to burnout in a few days and feel tired and helpless the rest of the time. 9. Let the crowd carry you  The crowds can seem overwhelming but they are helpful in one way. As long as you don’t let panic get the better of you – that is one of the most dangerous things that can happen as it is what leads to stampedes – you can let them 'carry' you. Everyone is mostly moving in the same direction and there are times, like at tawaf, when it is so packed that your feet barely touch the floor. This is not an exaggeration. Don’t panic, can't seem to stress this any further. Know when you need to exit so that you can start making your way towards it well beforehand. The crowds do not allow you to make sudden sharp movements in another direction – it is what causes a lot of confusion and disruption. 10. Know that it’s not that bad!  One of the scariest things about Hajj is the intense number of people. Here’s a Hajj pilgrimage fact: there are over a million people in one area for a few days! But what you see on TV and what you actually witness are two very different things. When we see it on a screen, we are watching the aerial view and can see the immense number of people; but when you’re in the crowd, all you can see are the people around you and it doesn’t seem that bad. The most important thing is to not panic, have an agreed upon spot to meet up with your group in case you get separated from them, and to not move in the opposite direction from the crowd. That is just asking for trouble. There are plenty of Hajj Guides 2018 for Muslim travellers with all the tips you need – what to pack, what to recite, the order of the rituals, etc. Nothing will truly make sense, however, until you actually get there. That’s why it is important to read the guides and be prepared with as much as you can because you don’t want to be caught unawares far away from home. One of the top tips for Hajj is always: Have a lot of patience. Expect the worst and everything will be better! Read more Hajj & Umrah articles here! May Allah accept your Hajj and return you safe, Ameen!...

  • Get Back On Track & Look Forward To These Historic Dates On The Islamic Calendar!

    Just like any country’s calendar would have important dates marked, so would a Muslim’s calendar. Since Muslims follow the lunar calendar however, it is eleven days shorter than the Gregorian year. There are still 12 months, it’s just that the Islamic year moves forward 11 days each year, so the significant days and events don’t fall on the same date according the solar calendar every year. Picture Credit: Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash While this might seem confusing, it is actually quite exciting as each month is determined by sighting the crescent of the new moon. A moon-sighting committee is put in charge of this by the Islamic authority in each country so the regular layman doesn’t have to go looking for the moon every month. For the most important month of the year though, Ramadan, it does become something of an event – as with Eid Al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan. Picture Credit: rawpixel on Unsplash Islamic holidays don’t always coincide with public holiday depending on which country you’re in, so it is important to know what the Muslim holidays are and their corresponding dates with the Gregorian calendar that we all follow. The most popular are Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha, but there are a few more to be mindful of, as well as what you should do on the day, if at all. Picture Credit: Roman Bozhko on Unsplash It is important to note that since the beginning of each month is not fixed, but determined when the crescent is sighted – some months may have 29 days and the others 30 – the following Gregorian dates are subject to change. Please follow your local authority’s Islamic Calendar 2019 for your assurance. All dates mentioned are as per the Islamic calendar in Singapore. So here is a concise table with all the Muslim holidays and events in 2019. Different countries may celebrate more days than this as per their culture, so this might not be all-inclusive of Islamic holy days and Muslim festivals around the world in 2019. EVENT ISLAMIC DATE WHAT IT IS WHAT WE DO GREGORIAN DATE Hajj 5th to 8th Dhul Hijjah It is the once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage that Muslims undertake if they have the financial means to do so. People leave for Makkah weeks before the actual day to take the time to worship in the most holy place. They perform a series of rituals during the days of Hajj that end with the celebration of Eid-ul-Adha. Those who don’t perform Hajj use the first nine days of the month to worship extra – fasting on all the days if possible, or at least the 9th day; reciting Qur’an; asking du’a, helping others; and more. 17th to 20th August 2018 Arafah 9th Dhul Hijjah One of the most holy days of the year, most Muslim countries mark this day as a public holiday on their calendar so that people can engage in as much worship as possible. Most Muslims try to fast at least on this day, but the most crucial thing that one can do is make du’a –prepare a list of whatever you want to ask and ask away! It is one of the times where requests ARE granted. 21st August 2018 Eid Al-Adha 10th Dhul Hijjah This marks the second Eid of the year for Muslims, a short two months after the first one. What separates this one from Eid Al-Fitr is that those who can afford to slaughter an animal, do so. They keep one third for their family, one third for extended family and neighbours, and give one third in charity. The slaughtering is done soon after Eid prayers so most of the morning passes with the men at the abattoir (or wherever they decide to get the animal sacrificed) and in the distribution of meat. It is due to this reason that this Eid is known as the Eid of Sacrifice, or Eid of Meat as many families use that meat to make festive delicacies. Muslims also call out the praises of Allah after each prayer for three continuous days in remembrance of Him. 22nd August 2018 Islamic New Year 1st Muharram The first month in the Islamic calendar is Muharram, and marks the new year for Muslims. In 2018, the year 1440 begins – one thousand four hundred and forty years since the Prophet (pbuh) migrated from his hometown in Makkah to the more welcoming land of Madinah. The event was so significant that it marks the beginning of every year in a Muslim’s life. There isn’t anything special that Muslims do on this day. If they are aware of the history which this day commemorates, it is a good opportunity to reflect on the hardships our Prophet (pbuh) faced and the lessons they can learn from it. Many Islamic countries give this day off as a public holiday the same way New Year is a public holiday everywhere. 11th September 2018 Ashura 10th Muharram For Sunni Muslims, this was the day that Moses escaped from the hands of Pharoah, split the Red Sea and crossed to safety with his people. For Shia Muslims, in addition to that, they remember it as the day that Hussain, the Prophet’s grandson, was killed. Most Sunni’s fast on this day as a form of worship, following the example of the Jews who fasted in gratitude for being saved from a life of torture. Shias mourn the death of Hussain, some re-enacting parts of the Battle of Karbala. 20th September 2018 Milad Un-Nabi 12th Rabi’ Ul-Awwal Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)’s birthday. In some countries, parades are organised to run through the cities in celebration of this day. Different countries have different cultures and so may do different things, but according to Islam, there is no specific way to mark this day, or even any evidence that it was celebrated at all in previous times. 20th November 2018 Ramadan 1st to 30th Ramadan Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and the one that is most looked forward to by all Muslims as they fast the whole month. While every Islamic month begins by sighting the crescent of the new moon, for no other month do the general public anticipate and become a part of this sighting as for Ramadan. The month is noted for the 1.8 billion Muslims across the world that fast from dawn to dusk, engage in more worship, more charity, and try to be more spiritual. There are special night prayers that take place only in Ramadan after the last prayer of the day that is optional, but highly rewarded and one of the highlights of the month. 6th May 2019 Laylatul Qadr 21st to 29th night of Ramadan The most special night to Muslims in the entire year, Laylatul Qadr is the Night of Decree. It is when the decree for the whole year to follow for each and every Muslim comes down with angels, thus making a very peaceful night. People engage in intense worship as du’a can change decree, and any worship done on this night is multiplied immensely – as if they have been worshipping for 1000 months, the Qur’an says. An interesting fact is that no one knows which night it falls on (even though the common misconception is that it’s on the 27th) and so we are told to seek it out in the last ten nights of Ramadan by certain signs that it possesses. Following this advice and not just sticking to the 27th night gives a better chance of attaining the gold mine of reward. 26th May to 3rd June 2019 Eid Al-Fitr 1st Shawwal The first day after the month of Ramadan is celebrated by looking for the new moon the night before. Thus Ramadan can have 29 or 30 days. It is the first major celebration in a Muslim’s year. The day starts by eating something small like a date before Eid prayers to signify that one is not fasting, and is then celebrated in different ways around the world. It is common to exchange presents or give money to children (also known as Eidi), wear new clothes, and visit friends and relatives. 5th June 2019 Whether you are planning a vacation or simply getting prepared for the Islamic holidays in 2019, it is important for every Muslim to make note of the important dates in the Islamic Religious Calendar....

  • How It Happened: She Found Faith Once Again

    "What with Islamophobia all the rage now, it’s easier to lie low than truly embrace this gift of guidance." Not many of us have the opportunity to turn our lives around. Not many of us need to, in fact. If you are a born Muslim (as I am), we don’t truly appreciate this blessing of Islam that we have been given. We take for granted the teachings we grew up with, rebel in the face of what’s trending in the world right now, and even become shy to expose our faith in certain situations because we don’t know how people will perceive us. What with Islamophobia and all the rage now, it’s easier to lay low than to truly embrace this gift of guidance. What about those who have had to search for the truth though? Those who have spent their lives not knowing what was missing until they found it? I occasionally wonder about the fact that if I wasn’t born a Muslim, would I be fortunate enough to find Islam in my life? I don’t think I would, which is when I am immensely grateful for what I have. Sharmila didn’t think she would find it either. She didn’t think about it at all, actually. Her father, a Muslim, married her mother, a Christian, which was outrageous at the time, and so her father’s family cut them off. They were initially raised with both religions – learning to read the Qur’an as well as the teachings of the Bible – but after a while, Islam was given up and they were brought up as strong Pentecostal Christians. Having lost touch with her father’s family, they had no contact with Muslims and the Islamic way of life, and being ostracised, they had no interest in it either. I need to pause here to mention that cutting someone off because they are not Muslim instead of welcoming them is not the Islamic way. In separating them from the only Islam they know, they not only get a bad impression of the religion and its people but also have few other options to learn about its teachings and practices. This is exactly what happened with Sharmila and her family. Not knowing any other way of life, they identified themselves as Christians. Both her parents passed away and the three siblings went through life in their different ways. Her older sister was deeply religious, her brother got into drugs and trouble, and she was a rebel, living it up. It was only in moving to Dubai, UAE that she met other Muslims and realized that her impression of them was not correct. “We thought all Muslims were bad people,” she says. “Only once I came to Dubai and spoke to the locals did I realize that everything I thought I knew was wrong.” She got married, had a child, worked, drank, partied, got divorced, and dated – did it all. Fast forward a number of years to when she was dating a Pakistani. After 10 years of going out, they decided to get married. That was the first time that she had to come face-to-face with a decision that could change her life: to accept Islam or not. He was firm on the fact that if he was to marry her, she had to be Muslim. It was sometime during those ten years, out of sheer coincidence, she had reconnected with her father’s side of the family who also resided in Dubai. To her cousin’s children, she was the long-lost aunt. In having Muslim family though, she also had support and understanding. They were excited about her converting to Islam but reinstated that she shouldn’t be doing it just to get married, but for herself. Sharmila didn’t know what she wanted. She was terrified that she was making a great mistake, throwing away everything she knew for something she didn’t. She didn’t fully know the teachings of Islam to truly want to accept it. She was in a dilemma. To make matters worse, her sister completely opposed the idea, and her workplace demoted her from being a Personal Assistant for three years to a receptionist as they disagreed with her needing to revert. “That was my first test,” she says. “I was disappointed but saw it for what it was and didn’t want to fail this test.” She headed to the church to pray for guidance but felt no peace. Then she started to pray the Islamic way, the little that she had been taught. She didn’t know the words exactly but just going through the motions felt so right. “Specifically when I got on my knees and put down my head, I feel such a sense of relief.” That was when she knew what she had to do. Today, Sharmila is a mother of two and admits that life is not perfect. She is tested in many ways but finds it easy to bear it with her faith. Her friends, who never believed that she could become a Muslim and cover up the way she does, are astonished. Embracing Islam has changed her in many ways. “My friends say I’m a totally different person.” Despite everything, she says, she has peace. Sharmila’s sister was disapproving of her change of faith then and continues to be so, but Sharmila never cut herself off the way their family did. She was welcomed into her sister’s home when she traveled to Sri Lanka on vacation, and never flaunts her practices of Islam to upset her sister, but passes on the message of her religion in a subtle way when she can. She says that after she reverted, she felt very comfortable. Now when she thinks about it, her previous life feels like exactly that – another life. “How foolish of me to think that it was cool to show off my body and drink and party like that,” she says. “So childish!” If you are on the outside looking in, you might wonder why people convert to Islam. When the glitz of this world looks so appealing, how can covering up be attractive? Those who have lived that life will tell you that in accepting Islam, they find peace. Chasing the world and what it has to offer always leaves you one step behind as what you are chasing is just out of reach. Talk to a revert and discover that there is more to life than what you see. Most people don’t understand the unseen and so refuse to accept it. But taking that leap? That is faith....

  • Craving For A Good Meal But On A Tight Budget? These 8 Eateries In SG Will Save Your Pockets!

    Finding a good meal while on a budget is always a little harder because you want to find great filling meals but at the same time not compromising on quality. While people will tell you 'no lunch comes free', luckily for us, there are still good people out there who serve up hearty food at amazing prices. So if you don’t want to spend too much while eating out and are looking for affordable food in Singapore, we’ve put together a list of places to help you stay well-fed on your holiday while not breaking the bank. Here are some of the best cheap eats in Singapore: 1. Toasties  Picture Credit: Toasties Set on serving the best food possible, Toasties uses high-quality ingredients to create flavourful sandwich-type foods. Handmade bread is the base for mouth-watering fillings like Chipotle Chicken, Mexican Pulled Beef, Cheese Steak, Tuna, or more. Are you drooling yet? Beacuse we are! Their sandwiches can be customized or selected as an ala carte, so fussy eaters: this place is perfect for you! What’s the best part? Their amazing filling sandwiches are all under $10! Toasties has 5 outlets all over Singapore so simply whip out this list and check if you're nearby one! Our Tampines Hub Address: 51 Tampines Ave 4, #01-85Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm Tampines N2 Address: 201D Tampines Street 21, #01-1171Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm Marina Square Address: 6 Raffles Blvd, #03-212Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm 321 Clementi Mall Address: 321 Clementi Avenue 3, #01-10/1Opening Hours: 10am – 10pm Toasties HQ Address: 1 Senoko Avenue, #02-02Opening Hours: 9am – 6pm (Mon-Fri)Price Range: About $10 2. Segar Restaurant Picture Credit: Segar Restaurant Located in Chinatown, many Muslims might not know of this Halal-certified Thai Chinese cuisine restaurant. Chinatown is probably not a regular spot for Muslims at meal times due to the lack of Halal food, but Segar Restaurant is a must-try. It’s a great place to take the family since they offer sharing platters, so keep that in mind when looking at the prices on the menu. Segar is best known for its Curry Fish Head and Claypot Tom Yum Soup. Address: Chinatown Point, B2-39/40/41 Singapore 059413Opening Hours: 11.30AM to 9.30PMPrice Range: About $10 per person (shared) 3. Nasi Lemak Kukus Picture Credit: Nasi Lemak Kukus  Probably one of the most successful Nasi Lemak places, Nasi Lemak Kukus is a completely self-service eatery. The best part is that you start off with as big a serving of rice that you want at no extra cost, and only pay for what you add to your plate after that. Also called free-flow coconut rice, ala carte dishes then include beef rendang ($3.50), chicken sausage ($0.50), ikan goreng ($0.70) and more. Who said cheap restaurants in Singapore have to compromise on quality? If you’re looking for cheap hawker food in Singapore, this is one of your best bets. Hawker food in Singapore is always some of the most authentic and delicious meals that can be found. Address: 229 Selegie Road, Singapore 188344Opening Hours: 12PM to 10.30PM (Closed on Sundays)Price Range: Around $10 depending on your add-ons 4. As Shifaa Café  Picture Credit: As Shifaa Cafe With a hearty-sized serving, As Shifaa Café is known for its Malay interpretation of Chicken Rice. This Nasi Ayam is only $5 per plate and is a completely satisfying meal. Fried chicken that is crispy on the outside, juicy and delicious on the inside, served with rice and a sambal that ties the whole dish together. Could you ask for more? Needless to say, their other main dish, Mee Soto, is only $3.20 for a good-sized bowl. As Shifaa Café has some of the best meals in Orchard Road under $10. Address: 304 Orchard Road, #06-52 Lucky Plaza, Singapore 238863Timings: 11AM to 4PM (Closed on Sundays)Price Range: About $5 5. Curry Times  Picture Credit: Curry Times Singapore’s well-loved Old Chang Kee brings you Curry Times, a restaurant with warm whole dishes on their menu. It is the perfect place to share some good times with friends and family as Curry Times have quite a few sharing dishes on their menu. Try their signature Curry Chicken, Curry Fish, Curry Beef, or a number of dishes from their vast range. The best part of all is that Curry Times does believe in giving out free goodies as everyone is allowed to help themselves to the giant tub of “iced gems” – a signature biscuit with colored icing – at no extra cost! Curry Times is one of the best budget places to eat lunch in Singapore. Changi Airport Terminal 3 Address: Changi Airport Terminal 3, #B2-51 65, Airport Blvd 819663Opening Hours: 7AM to 11PMPrice Range: About $10 Changi Airport Terminal 4 Address: Changi Airport Terminal 4,#02-81/82, Departure/Transit Lounge NorthOpening Hours: 6AM to 12AM Novena Square (Velocity) Address: 238 Thomson Road, #02-33/34/41/42, Singapore 307683Opening Hours: 9AM to 10PM (Mon-Sat)                          10AM to 10PM (Sun & PH) West Gate Address: 3 Gateway Drive, #02-08, Singapore 608532Opening Hours: 11AM to 10PM  Northpoint City Address: 1 Northpoint Drive, #B1-201/202, Northpoint City, Singapore 768019Opening Hours: 11AM to 10PM  6. Rayyan’s Waroeng Penyet  Picture Credit: Rayyan’s Waroeng Penyet  Where can you find beef steak for under $10? At Rayyan’s Waroeng Penyet! Admittedly, it isn’t the biggest steak you’ll have, but they have great value for the price! With a breakfast, lunch and kids’ menu, you are spoilt for choice. Meat lovers will relish their beef steak, ribs, and lamb chops, while those who prefer local spices will enjoy their Nasi Lemak and more. If you’re not a meat person, don’t worry, they offer seafood, chicken and vegetarian options as well! Rayyan’s specialty is fusion Indonesian Western cuisine. Address: 121 Telok Ayer St, Tanjong Pagar, SingaporeOpening Hours: 7AM to 3.30PM (Mon-Wed)                          7AM to 9:30PM (Thu-Fri)                          9AM to 1PM (Sat)Price Range: About $10 7. Spize  Picture credit: Spize River Valley Open till the wee hours of the morning, head to Spize for your late night fix. It is one of the best places to eat in Singapore at night. The Asian and Mediterranean cuisine is what you will find here, with some extremely affordable dishes and some a bit pricier. Their sizeable portions allow you to share if you don’t have the appetite of a crocodile. Their soup, salad, burgers, rice, and noodle dishes are all under $10, while their pasta, grills and seafood range from $15 to $35. If you are sharing though, you don’t need to worry about the price tag! River Valley Address: 409 River Valley Road, Singapore 248307Opening Hours: 12PM to 5AM (Weekdays)                          12PM to 6AM (Weekends) Simpang Bedok Address: 336 Bedok Road Singapore 469512Opening Hours: 12PM to 2AM (Weekdays)                          12PM to 3AM (Weekends)Price Range: $10 – $15 8. Islamic Restaurant Singapore  Picture Credit: Islamic Restaurant Singapore A true classic that has been around for decades, Islamic Restaurant Singapore is also known for their Dial-A-Biryani. That’s right, their biryani is so popular that it has its own hotline. Islamic Restaurant has had the privilege to feed past presidents and diplomats thanks to their standard of food and yet remains extremely affordable. Their Biryani range from $8-$11 (with just the prawn biryani at $13) and every other dish is either $10 or under. Address: 745 North Bridge Rd Singapore 198713Opening Hours: 10AM to 10PMPrice Range: About $10 Singapore has made Muslim-friendly travel easy with its plentiful Halal food places, and on top of that, it is not difficult to find nearby food places that are affordable when you travel to Singapore. With plenty of options, we hope that eating out and experiencing Singaporean culture as well as the multi-ethnicity that it offers will only make your travels a great one. May these dishes leave your mouths watering and make you come back for more!...

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