Thursday, June 29th, 2017

This is the Islamic World

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Let me show you a world that is too often misunderstood.

Women gossiping in a park.

Istanbul, 2013.

Soft sand, palm trees, and some of the bluest waters you’ve ever seen.

Senggigi, Indonesia, 2011.

Bikes and bread and girls in matching dresses.

Prizren, Kosovo, 2013.

Camel rides at sunrise.

Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2011.

Chilled out beach resorts.

Ksamil, Albania, 2015.

Opulence.

Dubai, 2013

New friends who are dressed a million times better than you.

Amman, 2011.

 

Bridges across the divide.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2012.

Best friends forever.

Brunei Darussalam, 2014.

Desert dunes.

Wadi Rum, Jordan, 2013.

Graffitied pyramids dwarfing cities.

Tirana, Albania, 2015.

Whirling dervishes.

Istanbul, 2013.

Women with style.

Kuala Lumpur, 2010.

Reverence for American leaders.

Prishtina, Kosovo, 2013.

Mocktails made with gold leaf and camel milk.

Dubai, 2013.

Ruins that could rival anything in Rome.

Jerash, Jordan, 2011.

The call to prayer beautifully punctuating the day.

Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam, 2014.

Bazaars packed with traditional goods.

Istanbul, 2013.

Bridges, mosques, minarets, and fortresses.

Prizren, Kosovo, 2013.

World wonders.

Petra, Jordan, 2011.

Daredevils showing off for the camera.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, 2014.

Olives. Lots and lots of olives.

Istanbul, 2013.

Fiery curries, not a bite of pork in sight.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, 2015.

Cevapciki with pita, sausages, and the only time you’ll ever willingly eat raw onions.

Sarajevo, 2012.

Pink sunsets over the Mediterranean.

Fethiye, Turkey, 2011.

Pink sunsets over Lombok.

Lombok, Indonesia, 2011.

Pink sunsets over the Bosphorus.

Istanbul, 2013.

Pink sunsets over the Andaman.

Koh Lanta, Thailand, 2015.

Spellbinding traditional architecture.

Istanbul, 2013.

UNESCO World Heritage-listed architecture.

Berat, Albania, 2015.

Avant-garde architecture.

Prishtina, Kosovo, 2013.

Gold-domed mosques that bring together colorful streets.

Singapore, 2011.

And the tallest building in the world.

Dubai, 2013.

Not to mention the largest flag in the world.

Amman, 2011.

Tea served in tulip-shaped glasses.

Istanbul, 2011.

Tea cooked over an open fire.

Petra, Jordan, 2011.

High tea overlooking a luxurious city.

Dubai, 2013.

Young men who live on the edge.

Istanbul, 2013.

Young men who died far too young.

Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2013.

Feeling at home. And welcomed.

Ajloun, Jordan, 2011.

Did I ever feel in danger?

Not once.

Beauty, joy, friendship, and the best hospitality in the world — this is just a fraction of what the Islamic world has to offer. And this doesn’t even count western countries with sizable Muslim populations, like London and Paris, nor places where I interact with Muslims daily, like my home city of New York.

Looking back, I thought that Islamophobia would slowly decrease in the years following 9/11. Now, it seems to be worse than ever. Considering how Islamophobia is ricocheting across America and the globe right now, I think it’s vital to change perceptions by sharing the truth about these beautiful, welcoming destinations.

I’m adding another priority of 2017: to visit at least one new Islamic region or country, and hopefully more. That could be Uzbekistan or Tunisia, Oman or Azerbaijan, Western China or Northern India or Turkish Cyprus.

In the seven years that I’ve been publishing this site, my goal has been to show women that they shouldn’t let fear stop them from traveling the world. Now I want to change perceptions about this oft-misunderstood region.

Have you traveled in the Islamic world? What did you enjoy the most?

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Comments

83 Responses to “This is the Islamic World”
  1. Kara says:

    YES! Thank our for using your platform to change the world for the better. This beautifully depicts a misunderstood and misrepresented culture. Thank you for your words and photos!

  2. Yes – the Islamic world is so misunderstood. Beautiful photos and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  3. Sasha says:

    I look forward to your photos from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia!
    All your photos are indeed from Muslim countries (and Muslim areas of worship within democracies eg. Singapore) but they are from moderately Muslim countries.
    Of the 7 countries banned by USA I would only want to visit Iran due to their reputation of friendliness (to tourists) and not actually having being involved in terrorism in the modern age.

    • Alex says:

      This is such a misguided comment. Kate may not have travelled to any of the banned countries, and you clearly have not either. The people who live in the banned countries are just as kind, welcoming, and friendly as anyone else. Half my family is from Yemen, and despite the political crisis and instability in their country, my family and the rest of the Yemeni people are just the same as anyone else.

      Kate, wonderful post, and I am glad you have been able to experience a glimpse of the hospitality, culture, and vivacity of the Islamic world!

    • Khadijah says:

      this is a misguided false equivalence saying that “Muslim areas of worship within democracies eg Singapore” as if Muslim countries are not democratic.
      Saudi Arabia is a theocracy, Iran is a theocratic-republic, just as the Vatican is a christian theocracy. Also, the word “moderate” is indeed misguided and implies somewhat a tepid religiosity. Many muslim adherents in Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia are quite faithful to the religion that advocates success in balance of both this life and hereafter.
      Which of the 7 countries above are actually involved in “terrorism in the modern age” as you suggest?

    • To be honest, the UAE is far from moderate. It’s actually an extremely conservative Muslim country and quite draconian in some of its laws.

  4. Julie says:

    How eerily and sadly Mark Twain’s famous words resonate now more than ever-

    “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

    I’ve only been to Morocco although it was way too short a visit. At the top of my list are Lebanon, Uzbekistan, Bosnia, and Jordan. I’m most enchanted by the cuisines (how I adore Middle Eastern and North African food) and the beautiful architecture. The myriad of colors alone make me want to visit.

  5. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this! I’ve visited Turkey and Morocco and neither of them made me feel unsafe.

    And as for the Islamic world here in Texas, the Muslim coworkers and friends that I have are some of the nicest and most respectful people that I know. Even the Syrian, who somehow managed to become a real estate agent in the suburbs rather than a terrorist.

  6. Mariah Clark says:

    I traveled extensively in the Philippines and Malaysia, the first being a very Catholic nation and the second being Muslim. All of my friends and family in America were, and are, still amazed that, out of everywhere I have been, I have never felt safer than I did in Malaysia or more in danger than I did in the Philippines.

    I love Malaysia! I miss it almost daily! The level of hospitality is just unmatched in most of the world, and the friendliness is infectious. I grew to love the early morning call to prayer, and I learned to like beef pepperoni, too. I had taxi drivers invite me to their daughter’s weddings and I had strangers on the train help me find the right stop. I never felt judged for showing my shoulders, and I often had interactions at the mall with women in hijabs over what color looked best on each of us.

  7. YES. You can’t paint one faith, with millions of followers over dozens of countries, with the same brush.

  8. Shanelle says:

    I loved this post so much. I lived in Jordan for three months and I loved it. The call to prayer was the thing I missed the most when I came back to the States. It is beautiful. Thank you for posting this.

  9. Vina Hermoso says:

    Lovely photos Kat! As always!

    But, there’s one question that I want to ask. Have you ever been to any of the 7 countries that Trump banned?

  10. This is fantastic! I haven’t travelled extensively (in fact… much at all) in Islamic countries but I have found myself friends with some of the kindest Muslims on my travels. Many of my customers back when I had a shop were Muslim, and not one of them was ever rude to me; they were all friendly and happy people. It breaks my heart that people actually think they are any different.

  11. Laura Oganowski says:

    I just did ten days in Northern India and it is amazing! Most of the monuments and tourist spots are of Islamic heritage, but the population is still predominantly Hindu, so I don’t know if that’s quite what you’re looking for for this purpose. Still would highly recommend one day!

  12. Yes! When I went to Jordan it made me realize that there is nothing to fear! They are humans just like us trying to live life to the fullest. It made me realize that the media is faaaar from telling the truth about these people. They are some of sweetest and caring people I have ever met. I truly believe everyone must travel to at least one of these countries and open their eyes!

  13. Ally says:

    I would love to see you visit India!

  14. I some from your pictures that maybe you haven’t been to Morocco. You should totally add to your list! It has so many different landscapes and the people are very welcoming.

  15. I’ve been to Morocco three times and loved it each time (and can’t wait to go back). There was so much warmth in the interactions I had with people there, and I got the sense that the country was simultaneously very proud of its traditions and history while also embracing foreign, modern influences. At no point did I feel in danger – well, maybe just in danger of eating too much, as the food was consistently excellent!

    I know that having visited only Morocco, I’ve just barely dipped my toe into travel in Islamic countries. But I can’t wait to experience more!

  16. Ashley Smith says:

    No, I haven’t… YET. But your pictures are incredible! Those BFFs? So precious. Thank you for spreading the word. I’m dying to visit Uzbekistan myself!

  17. I love how you’re using this platform at the moment Kate! After living in Indo for 3 months I can confirm that honestly the worst thing about living in an Islamic country is being woken up by the call to prayer at silly o clock in the morning (I lived right next to the Mosque!).

  18. Kathy Gates says:

    The world’s oldest library, the Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco is having a makeover, it’s part of a bigger program to revitalise the old city. I saw a TED Talk by the leading architect Aziza Chaouni.
    Definitely on my wish-list this year.

  19. Luisa says:

    Hi Kate! Love this post. I highly recommend Oman! My friend and I did a road trip around the Musandam peninsula a few years ago and found some peaceful camping along the beautiful coast. The coast is lined with little inlets that look like fjords and lead down to stunning turquoise water. If you go there, check out the dhow boat cruises.

  20. Natalia says:

    What a beautiful and poignant post.

  21. Mary says:

    Beautiful post, Kate. Thank you for this 😉

  22. Ron says:

    Ban Trump !!! and make America great again !!!

  23. Chelsea Jennings says:

    Beautifully depicted as always Kate! I went to Egypt in March of 2016. I felt safe and welcomed throughout the entire 10 days. I have red hair and pale skin which made me stand out from the Egyptians no matter what I did. I elected to wear a headscarf for some of the time, not for safety, but because of the number of people excitedly approaching me to take selfies any time my hair was exposed (an entire class of middle school girls in one museum). My differences were clearly acknowledged, but also embraced and welcomed. It’s not the first time in my traveling life that I’ve been in the minority and stood out entirely from the larger population, but it’s always a humbling experience as a white, middle class American. Egypt was a bucket list country for me and I would encourage anyone to go.

    • Jennifer says:

      Did you travel as part of a group? Did you travel with a guide or any men? I travelled to Egypt in 2011 as a group of two women, and I have to say, I felt scared and unsafe. We were followed by taxi drivers, AGGRESSIVELY heckled at shops if we so much as glanced at a vendor, and had numerous marriage proposals from creepy men. I even had one woman tug at my hair and mutter something with a disgusted look on her face. I should probably add that I did not wear a headscarf, but I was by no means dressing suggestively (long sleeves, long pants). It got to so bad that we were almost banished to the hotel room, until I refused to have my vacation ruined and hopped on a guided tour with a few other travelers (many of them men). After that, we were left alone and had a wonderful time. Wondering if anyone else had this experience as a female traveler, particularly a solo traveler.

      • Some people have. I remember Oneika of Oneika the Traveller said that people were very aggressive — AND she was there with her husband.

        Part of this is because Egypt has lost much of their tourism in the past few years, so people who work in tourism are desperate for money.

  24. Angela says:

    Beautiful post.

  25. I absolutely love this blogpost! I am a student of Islamic studies and travel to Muslim countries a lot and I can’t even count the amount of times I had to discuss prejudices about the Islamic world with people at home. In Germany the prejudices are just as bad as in the US and it makes me crazy! Thx for using your platform to change false perceptions.

  26. Rachel says:

    Agreed. I spent so much time in Malaysia (during Ramadan and then again during Christmas) and nobody was anything but kind and welcoming! Same with Kosovo, which was possibly the MOST amazingly friendly country I’ve ever visited. I was blown away by people’s generosity and their eagerness to welcome me to their country.

  27. Fred says:

    I’m a recent transplant from Europe to Dubai. I make and sell Emirati camel milk ice cream and chocolates and have the lucky opportunity to interact with the locals every weekend at the green, open air markets. Except for the few close-minded ones (as there are all over the world), they are wonderful, kind people, happy to interact with the Westerners and exchange on different topics. They are curious, interesting and interested and are passionate if one learns to know them.

  28. Danielle says:

    What a wonderful post! My husband lived in Jordan for a few years and speaks very highly of it. Hopefully one day we will get to that region so he can show me around. I love that you are showing people that they shouldn’t live in fear!

  29. It’s a pity we need this kind of post in this day and age. This should be so obvious nowadays. I feel it’s odd to mention that I’ve lived (Abu Dhabi) and travelled through and to countless of muslim countries and I couldn’t have felt safer. I hope this nonsense will stop very soon.

  30. Stacey says:

    I totally get the point here and I’m all for it, I think we need to be so much more inclusive of Muslims and generally more tolerant as a society, but I think the other commenter Sasha above had a fair point: it’s difficult to promote that when the countries that you’ve visited are mostly considered safe or quite touristy and are not the countries people immediately think of when Muslims are mentioned. And the fact that neither your visited countries or ‘want to visit’ list contain any of the banned countries makes it hard to prove your point. Most everyone will agree that there are good and bad people in every religion, the fact that most travel bloggers won’t/can’t visit most middle eastern countries apart from the normal Israel/Jordan/Iran/Dubai set means that it’s a good bit more difficult to convince people that those banned countries aren’t full extremists.
    Also, you’re sort of preaching to the choir in that most, if not all, of your readers should hopefully harbour no negative thoughts against Muslims in general. If your photos contained lots of great scenes from the banned countries it might be easier to share and convince others.

    • Jessica says:

      Perhaps the post was not necessarily meant to show that the particular banned countries should be considered safe or travelable, but rather to demonstrate that Muslims (and the country in which they reside) are not inherently and automatically bad, as demonstrated by the peace and beauty of the Muslim areas shown in these photographs.

      Unfortunately, the currently rhetoric on social media seems to reflect that a lot of people do not understand that a few extremists are not reflective of Islam as a whole, or of any particular country as a whole.

    • I didn’t write this post as a defense of the specifically banned countries, Stacey. I wrote is because Islamophobia is rampant in the United States and many other countries around the world, and a great many people paint all of Islam and all Islamic countries with the same brush. I also think that you overestimate the open-mindedness of people — there’s a lot of ugliness and prejudice out there, including among readers of this blog.

  31. Adilah says:

    I love this post so much i wanna wrap myself up in it and use it as a blanket.

  32. Wanda says:

    Dear Kate, my respect for you has increased one billion fold. You are my absolute favorite travel blogger. Please keep up the great work. Thank you so much. Lots of love and best wishes!!!! <3

  33. Gustavo Woltmann says:

    Thank you for sharing. It is a beautiful post.

    – Gustavo Woltmann

  34. Danny says:

    Sigh. It really is such a misunderstood part of the world. Thanks for showcasing its beauty, humanity, and hospitality!

    We’re going through difficult times, no doubt. But I wholeheartedly believe that if we all were to travel just a little bit more (and see places like the Islamic world), our planet would be a much more compassionate place.

  35. Callie says:

    Kate, I appreciate this article since I have traveled to the Middle East solo and loved it. But I do want to point out that I think your insistence that Islamaphobia is rampant is misguided. FBI stats show Jews suffered nearly three times as many hate crimes as Muslims last year.

  36. Lauren says:

    Love this post. My other half is from Kosovo and we spent a month traveling through there and Albania last year. Nothing but friendly people greeted us everywhere we went. Would go back in a heartbeat.

  37. Edie says:

    Thank you for sharing your worldly experiences with an open-minded point of view. Your pictures are gorgeous and bring back memories of my experiences. I have been to about half the countries you showed in the pictures including spending the night at the Burj in Dubai. A few months ago when I was on a riverboat on the Seine River in Paris a woman in a headscarf sat next to me. We got into a great conversation. She told me she was from Saudi when I asked. She asked me, “Don’t they teach you to hate us in the US?” I responded, “They try but it didn’t work with me.” This week we just visited Tunisia and Algeria on a cruise where “the tourist industry is in a developmental stage.” We found the people to be welcoming and friendly. I believe the answer to world peace is knowing more about other cultures and I appreciate your contribution to that.

  38. dimitry says:

    Kate, most of your pictures are from Eastern Europe (and the remainder are nature or architecture shots). Eastern Europe is not the Islamic world. The Balkan region has fought for centuries not to become part of the Islamic world and prides itself on its secularism. Even Turkey has tried to distance itself from the Islamic world and to become a more modern, secular state (e.g. see Ataturk). Please read some history of the region and educate yourself before spouting this liberal ‘feel-good’ propaganda that has nothing to do with reality. When/if you visit Iran, Yemen, Sudan, or Somalia, then please feel free to show us some pictures (maybe a public stoning/lashing, or two.)

    • I feel sorry for you. What happened that you turned out this way?

      • dmitry says:

        Seriously, Kate, is that all you’ve got? A childish playground comeback?

        I guess that’s why we’ve got Trump for president — because this is the level of debate that most liberals can offer about many issues.

        Issues like human rights abuses and the mistreatment of women in the Islamic world are inherently connected to the teachings and the religious tradition of Islam, and yet you try to portray all the Muslim world as something very beautiful that was simply misunderstood, and no less using pictures of Eastern European countries that have nothing to do with it.

        Weren’t you yourself pondering the ethics of visiting Dubai not a long while ago, when it wasn’t that fashionable to use Islam for virtue signalling?

  39. Lynn says:

    So glad you showed us.

  40. Clare says:

    Great post Kate. I do not see Oman? Perhaps you need to stop by! Yes Islam is widely misunderstood. I married a muslim and well all the haters assuming all muslims are dangerous is like assuming that all white chicks wear false nails douse themselves in fake tan and live luxury lives complete with yearly plastic surgery and fake hair extensions after watching an episode of the Kardashians!!! Islam is for everyone and sadly those preaching hate are a minority and really need to get out and travel!!

  41. Nicole says:

    Thank you for writing this, some beautiful shots and a reminder of why everyone should travel and experience these wonderful places and people for themselves.

  42. Caren says:

    Your pictures tell a thousand stories! Great post, and a great reason to travel to lands you might not know.

  43. Dmitri says:

    Great post, as usual!
    When we think of Islam, and Muslim countries, what comes to mind is the terrorism, women all covered head to toe and men sitting around bars, drinking coffee or tea all day long, but there is so much more; the Muslim world is very divers and rich in history and culture, the traditions vary greatly from one place to the next and most of the stereotypes do not apply anymore.
    Cheers.

  44. Stephanie says:

    What a great series of pictures! Thank you for sharing that!
    I’ve never went to an islamic region yet but I’m going to Bosnia and Herzegovina / Serbia / Kosovo hopefully this year. To be honest I didn’t realize they were regarded as islamic regions, but anyway it’s not what matters 🙂 I can’t wait to go there!

  45. The terms Muslim world and Islamic world commonly refer to the Islamic community (Ummah), comprising all those who adhere to the religion of Islam,or to societies where Islam is practiced.In a modern geopolitical sense, these terms refer to countries where Islam is widespread, although there are no agreed criteria for inclusion.

  46. Anastasia says:

    This blog post is offensive!!!! …to raw onions. I absolutely love raw onions!

    As for Islamic world – much of it is so beautiful and filled with kind hearted people. I look forward to seeing more of it.

  47. Aga says:

    Those are great photos, Kate! I agree, that all those places are so beautiful and full of very hospitable people. I’ve been to many Islamic countries and I always felt welcomed. It’s so sad, that they don’t feel welcome in our world now, but the more we fight with that fear, that media create, the more people will learn real things about that world.

  48. Gabriela says:

    Love those pictures! I’ve also visited many Muslim countries. Already two this year (Comoros and Bahrain), and later of this year, I’ll also visit at least two of those banned countries (Somalia and Sudan).

  49. Rosa says:

    Some lovely photos here…how glorious our world is! Some of the women look fabulous in their colorful dress – not all Islamics wear black! These nations brought much culture, art and music to the west in the past and still do. I’m very glad that they shared all of that!

  50. Natasha says:

    Thank you for sharing my friend, all the pictures in the article is very good in my opinion. besides that your writing is also nice.

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