Being a travelling Muslim woman comes with great responsibility. Not only do you need to plan where to go, stay and eat, but you need to plan how your will incorporate the five daily prayers (while jetlagged) and other religious activities during you travel.
For those who are unaware, the five daily prayers are offered during specific times of day and the sun is often used for reference. The first prayer, Fajr, begins before dawn, the second, Zuhr, when the sun peaks (interesting fact: the end time for Zuhr is when your shadow length is equal to your height). Asr can be prayed right after Zuhr ends. Mahgrib is prayed at dusk and the last prayer, Isha’a begins after the sun has fully set and should be completed before midnight. Each prayer differs in length, but they usually take five to ten minutes. Nowadays, we have specific time calendars for when each prayer starts and ends, so we don’t need to pay attention to the sun. However, it’s good knowledge to have in case you don’t have the time on you.
In addition to knowing accurate prayer times, it’s necessary to pack appropriate travel gear to make travelling as a Muslim easier. I’ve compiled a list of easy to carry (read: thin, foldable and light) items that you, as Muslim woman, should not travel without.
1. A Qibla Compass or Qibla App
No matter where in the world, a Muslim must know which direction leads to the Ka’ba, Islam's most sacred mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. This direction is called the qibla, which Muslims face while praying. I recommend downloading a qibla app on your phone, however a qibla compass comes in handy if your phone is dead or lost. The YUPENGDA® Qibla Compass is small, light and accurate. I also use the Qibla Connect app and I’ve found it to be the most accurate and you can use it without internet!
2. A Water Bottle
For when you find yourself with no washrooms nearby or only outhouses. How are you going to pray without doing wu’du, the Islamic ablution ritual required before prayer? Sure, you can do tayammum, but that’s only as a last resort when you find yourself without water. Choosing to travel rarely warrants such a case. With a water bottle, you can conveniently wet your hands and wash your face, hands and arms accordingly.
However, choosing a light, slim and safe water bottle is key. The Memobottle is made from BPA-free plastic and easily slips into your bag or purse. Plus, it looks ultra cool.
3. Pocket-Sized Prayer Mat
You know what you don’t want to do? Lay your sweater or extra hijab as a prayer mat and pray on top of it. Not only will it ruin the fabric, but I’d feel icky wearing clothing items that were laying on the ground.
Here comes the pocket-sized prayer mat. It’s thin, light, foldable and made with waterproof material. The Hitopin Islamic Travel Prayer Mat also comes with a built in qibla compass and a carrying bag. You can lay it anywhere, in your hotel room or on the street, and easily clean off mud or dirt making it great for hiking trips too.
4. A Swim Outfit
There have been many times when I went to a beach to shoot sunrise photos only to wish I could go running in the ocean waters—I just never had a swimsuit on hand. Now I don’t travel anywhere without one. Next time, don’t shy away from enjoying your hotel pool, hot springs or a dip in a lake you come across.
Muslims are required to dress modestly. What I've seen some women do is wear tights and a top, however I really don't recommend this. For ideal comfort, buy an actual outfit made of swimming material. A wetsuit is great and there are many versions of the burkini nowadays. I recommend the Ababalaya Islamic Swimsuits. They come in different colours and sizes and are made with a comfortable mix of cotton and lyrca.
5. A Portable Charger
For ultimate safety reasons. Rarely do you want to solo travel with a dead phone. Thank God, I've never come across anti-Muslim sentiment while travelling—on the contrary, people have been rather nice. But for safety, foremost as a woman, its important to have a mode of communication at all times. I soon realized during my travels that life is unpredictable—my portable charger kept my phone battery charged so that I could call paramedics after I randomly slipped and broke my leg. Now I make sure it’s always in my pocket. I recommend the PISEN portable charger. It quickly charges my cellphone and goes over two days without having to be recharged. It's slim and easily fits into your pocket.
Travelling with these five items have made incorporating Islam into my travels much easier. The hardest part now is finding a suitable place to pray.
What's something you can't travel without? If you think I am missing something let me know in the comments below!