By Ayisha Karim
As an avid traveller, I LOVE all things travel blogs/travel tips. On top of the usual requirements such as visas, passports, applications and now COVID requirements - we as Muslim women also have to think of other things before travelling. I quite often get asked if a destination I visited was “Muslim friendly” or not. Muslim friendly could mean a variety of different things, and when being asked, I always get a similar list of questions
All of these are legitimate questions I always think about before I leave to visit a certain place. So, in this series of short travel blogs, I will share with you my personal experience of visiting certain places and how I felt when I was there. This does not necessarily mean it will be the same for you, however, at least it is something to go by before you book.
In this blog I will start off with writing about… Croatia and Bosnia.
Yes, Croatia. More specifically, Dubrovnik. Even when I was collecting the money from the post office to go to Croatia, the man behind the counter said he’d never heard of Croatia as a tourist destination or had thought to go. I was shocked as I had heard so many amazing things about Dubrovnik (which is the most visited city in Croatia) as an ideal to place visit due to the beautiful scenery, the sea, the plants, and how close it is to the border of Bosnia.
Dubrovnik is mainly filled with beautiful old churches - we stayed near the old town. The old town is a picture-perfect destination, with beautiful sea views and listed as part of the UNESCO world heritage list. On the outlook, one would think it is not “Muslim-friendly” just because there are not many Muslims there - but that is far from reality. Just because a city may not have a certain amount of Muslims, it does not mean it can’t be Muslim friendly. Here are the following pointers to why it was, in my opinion, a “Muslim friendly” place to visit.
We were still able to find halal sausages in the supermarkets for a good breakfast and even found a halal restaurant – ‘Taj Mahal’ in the old town which served authentic Bosnian food.
Many restaurants serve sea food, and Dubrovnik is known for fresh sea food. Depending on your school of thought, you can eat lots of different types of sea food over there. Of course, there were also lots of pizza and pasta places too. Just be wary of ordering risottos, as most places had ready-made sauces with alcohol in them which they could not substitute - so I stuck to mainly sea food or pizza/pasta options.
Wearing my hijab in Dubrovnik, in my opinion, was not a problem at all. No one looked strange at me or made any weird comments. Passport control was fine and fast (I am travelling on a British passport). Although I did not see many other hijabis around, I felt at ease and comfortable.
Was it full of rowdy tourists?
My honest answer - no. It felt quite classy. I could walk out at night time (with my 3 other female friends) and no one approached us, no one was drunk out of their face and it felt very classy and safe. I felt safer in the old town Dubrovnik at night then I did in Birmingham town at night!
Was it family friendly?
So it depends on what you mean by family friendly. In terms of having young children in push chairs- yes it seemed fine to walk with push chairs. Yes, it looked family friendly as we saw lots of families out and it was safe and clean. There was no trash on the streets, it was lovely.
All in all, we had an amazing time as a bunch of 4 Muslim girls in Dubrovnik.
We then took a 2-hour coach journey to Bosnia - Mostar from Dubrovnik via a trip advisor tour. They collected us in a minivan at 6am in the morning and took us to the Kravica waterfalls and then to Mostar to see the famous Ottoman bridge. This place is a lot cheaper than Dubrovnik, so I suggest If you want to do any shopping - you do it there.
Food was amazing. All halal options in Bosnia. The cuisine is mainly grilled meats with bread – similar to Arab/Turkish food. Very tasty! The traditional dish consists of small meat sausages in a fresh bread with a cheese sauce to dip it in- it was delicious. I found a restaurant overlooking the bridge and ate dolma (stuffed vine leaves)
There are some beautiful mosques and also an Ottoman museum home in Mostar. They are amidst the markets selling amazing things (very similar to the Turkish grand bazaar souks in Istanbul) due to ottoman influence. There is a particular Mosque that has great views overlooking the bridge.
Is it family friendly?
In terms of a push chair- probably not. Going over the bridge is a bit awkward with a push chair and it is filled with cobble streets – that is not to say it cannot be done. For us, we went on a day tour from 6am till about 5pm. It is also a 2-hour drive there and 2.5 hour drive back with some toilet stops- but with young children can be a lot of hard work. This is not to say it cannot be done, but I would say it is not push chair friendly. Even when seeing the waterfalls, there are a lot of steps and hiking involved so I would avoid taking push chairs. It is more suitable for older children who can happily walk without any issues (around 7 and over).
Here is a link to where we stayed in Dubrovnik; we stayed for 3 nights in a 3 bed apartment overlooking the sea, about a 10-15 min walk to the old town with a small grocery store about a 5 minute walk away. It had toiletries but we had to clean it before leaving. It was a 2.5 hour plane ride from Birmingham direct to Dubrovnik. The flights were around £60-120 each (via easy jet or jet2.com)
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