Traveling While Muslim with a Pakistani Passport by Tasha’s Tales

Hey! I’m Natasha, and here is a glimpse of my life across two continents and three countries. What follows is a little bit of flavor of what it is like #TravelingWhileMuslim.

Having been ferried from Europe to Pakistan and back during my early years, I never had a problem. My first shock to the system was going to the U S of A with two White British female friends. So here’s the thing. As rare as it is for Muslim girls to get up and go on holidays without any relations or ethnic friends, it actually happened. My friends and I went to Florida in 2011 for our “girly holiday.”

Traveling While Muslim-Disney Land
Disney World, Florida
What followed was a standard stereotypical tale of brown-Muslim-airport-random-selection. We got to Manchester Airport nice and early and were set to board. Now just imagine, the only brown face sitting in the gate and all of a sudden we hear an announcement, “Natasha Naveed, can you please come to the counter.” My heart skipped a beat and my friends’ faces lost all color that was left! As I went to the counter, I was asked to take my shoes off while the airline staff swabbed my feet and mouth for “toxic” items. Call me a cynic, but I’m not sure it was much of a coincidence!

Anyway, we eventually managed to get through immigration without too much hassle; although the immigration officer did look somewhat puzzled as he evidently asked me more questions than my friends. As a Muslim, if you haven’t been randomly selected as yet, you know deep in your heart it is only a matter of time before you’ll be paraded through the routine.

Fast forward to recent times and the story just gets better!

Traveling WHile Muslim- Phuket
Phuket, Thailand
Most Muslims are aware of the narration from the Prophet which states, “when a person gets married, they have completed half of their religion.” So here is the person who completes mine: *drum roll* meet Ahmed, my husband!

Traveling While Muslim- Azad Kashmir
Mirpur, Azad Kashmir
It’s always nice to put words and a face together so this is a picture of me and my husband from our wedding. He not only completed half my religion, but opened up a parallel universe of the intrinsic details associated with visa applications.

Okay, so firstly I think it’s important to mention that being a brown traveler is one thing, being Muslim is another, but being brown, Muslim, and from a third world country holding a Green Pakistani Passport – like my husbands, is a whole new challenge. Trust me, I’m speaking from experience! I didn’t believe it either until we went on our honeymoon.

Traveling While Muslim-Phuket
Phuket, Thailand
So my husband surprised me with a trip to Thailand for our honeymoon. It was an arranged marriage so it was still all new and exciting. As we got to the Thailand airport, I passed through immigration with my UK passport without any hiccups. However, my husband was told to wait as a member of staff waved his passport in the air screeching “pakeeeethani paaaakithani.” He was then asked a gazillion questions before he was allowed to pass through immigration. This was first of many.

Since then, we have accepted that there will be issues at immigration for being Muslim and for having a Pakistani passport. This is despite having to apply, yes that’s right. His passport only allows us to travel to a handful of countries. For the rest we have to apply via embassies, which can be costly, timely, and inconvenient!

Traveling While Muslim-Turkey
Cappadocia, Turkey
It’s obviously not all doom and gloom of course. When my husband and I travelled to Turkey in 2016 and Morocco in 2017, the differences were incredible. Being in a Muslim country meant next to no interrogation at the immigration counter and no awkward looks!

It had its perks in terms of being allowed to enter mosques and eating unlimited amount of Halal food. We also were able to get things for cheaper, “Muslim price,” according to the sellers! There were also lots of mosques all over when it was time for prayers.

In terms of meeting other Muslims whist being on holiday or traveling, we have had very little experience of this. The only time we have seen or met other Muslims has been in Muslim countries such as Turkey and Morocco. However it was interesting as they were only in the bigger and more popular cities like Marrakech and Istanbul as we did not come across any other Muslim travelers in Fes or Cappadocia.

img_1819
Towel for prayers in Thailand
With regards to praying, I really feel that if you’re wanting to pray, anywhere and everywhere is an opportunity. You see that little towel placed on the floor on the left? Well we used that to pray! So yes, I feel it’s about your intention and thus you can pray anywhere!

img_0441
Even a deserted beach!
Part of why I started blogging was to inspire and encourage other Muslims to travel more and to explore God’s creations, as there is so much to do and see! I hope this blog also gives non-Muslims a perspective of what it’s like to #TravelWhileMuslim.

If you want to know more (I have lots of stories), then please contact me as I would love to share more with you guys!

Traveling While Muslim- fes
Fes, Morocco
Blog >>> Tasha’s Tales

Instagram >>> @tashastales

Email >>> tashastales@gmail.com

6 Comments

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  1. Finally a post about being brown and holding a passport from a third world country. I totally identify with the blogger’s hubby in this sense because having a Muslim name, a brown face and passport that isn’t considered ‘worthy’ is my struggle too. The best (worst) part is after you go through all of the strife of applying a for a damn visa, you land in that country and they STILL give you a hard time (yes UK I am looking at you!). Nevertheless its good to see that this is being talked about and I think this blogger is SO SO GORGEOUS. Just stalked her blog and now she will think I am a weirdo (which I am). Haha!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This post puts so many things into perspective for me. I remember meeting a German-Iranian (born in Germany but has an Islamic name) while in the Dominican Republic in February. This was around the same time Trump introduced the travel ban on Muslims. He began to share his experiences traveling on his GERMAN passport; having been stopped countless times for questioning at the border. It made me realize that though having a Jamaican passport limits me in terms of visa-free travel, we don’t experience discrimination if the basis of religion, and that others face tougher challenges while traveling. Thanks for sharing your story Tasha, and inspiring other Muslims to travel.

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  3. This was so interesting to read! We in US are extremely privileged and I hate when other travelers don’t recognize the relative ease at which we move around the world.

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  4. Such an important topic! Passport privilege is real! Thanks for sharing your story!

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  5. Great post! I can relate to this in so many ways as I’m a Muslim myself. I never had issues with immigration even though I wear a headscarf. But that’s probably I haven’t been traveling to western countries for awhile, especially after the Trump era. Would love to see the difference once I get that chance again in the near future!

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