As a Muslim woman traveling solo is not very common for a variety of reasons. Part of it is more cultural than religious since many families are not used to the concept of travel for recreation and solo travel is something that isn't even on the radar! There are women breaking down these barriers, so we found one called Taslima Ferdous and asked her a few questions about her experiences.
Where have you enjoyed travelling to the most and what inspired you to start exploring the world?
I've enjoyed all the places I've travelled to so far as a solo traveller. But if I had to pick a favourite it would have to be my trip to South Eastern Turkey last year, as it was my most adventurous. I thoroughly enjoyed it, from planning to execution it ended up being a great success and went above and beyond my expectation.
What has it been like to navigate travelling as a Muslim woman, have certain places been more accepting and welcoming than others?
I truly believe travel is what you make of it. So if you think people will be negative towards you then you might experience it. Don't get me wrong, I am conscious and self-aware that I might be at the receiving end of Islamaphobia, especially when travelling in around Europe, but it's always at the back of my mind. I don't let it stop me from enjoying my trip. I feel it a duty to break the stereotypes people have about us.
One place you will get welcoming experience in every country no matter what is when dining in restaurants. The countless times I've walked into a restaurant as solo hijabi traveller and said table for one. Then I'm welcomed and taken to a table and everyone is staring at me like I'm a celebrity, or so I like to think!
What advice would you give to women who wear a hijab and are possibly hesitant to travel?
Just go for it. I started solo travelling back in May 2017, so not that long ago. My family wasn't very supportive of my travelling, especially travelling solo. My parents believed that you should travel after marriage with your husband. However, I always wanted to travel and I was fed up of waiting around for friends and family to travel with me.
I had reached an age where most of my friends were married and busy with their family commitments, and my siblings couldn't take time off work. So either I would have to wait around for them or go it alone. It was the encouragement of a work colleague that gave me the courage to travel solo. She had travelled solo in the past and said to try it, and that I had nothing to worry about, "just try a short trip somewhere".
So I ended up going to Mallorca in Spain for 5 days. I explored quite a bit of the Island on my own taking local buses. After the trip, I kicked myself as to why I hadn't started solo travelling earlier, and since then most of my trips have been solo.
Tips I would give women:
1. Plan the trip, come up with itinerary so you keep yourself busy and don't get bored.
2. If you travelling to a city, join a free walking tour, not only will you get local tips about the city, its a great way to meet other solo travellers and perhaps go to lunch with them etc.
3. Stay in a female dorm in Hostel, you will meet other women who can talk to you in the common room, go on tours with, or even out for dinner. I have done that a couple of times.
Being a Muslim woman doesn't automatically mean you're oppressed like so many people assume. Often our families just want to ensure we're safe since it's known that certain countries are statistically more dangerous for women and many people fear being on the receiving end of Islamaphobia. If you happen to meet a Muslim solo traveller don't stereotype based on reflections of what you may see in the media, instead a little friendly conversation goes a long way. We hope that our tours are one way that women from all backgrounds feel comfortable to travel and hopefully we can start to break down some of these assumptions by bringing together open-minded women.