Yes, it really can be a Halal holiday destination.
To make the most of your trip to Iceland you will need quite a bit of coin, so save up. Everything is expensive, except for the flights, so prepare for this and bear in mind 3-4 days is more than enough time to view the main sights. As tourism is the number one source of income for the natives, it’s not unusual that everything you spend money on will feel like you’re breaking the bank. However, and I mean this sincerely, no price can be put on the awe and wonder you experience at the natural phenomena that this tiny little Island has to offer and that makes the price completely worth it.
Often when we Muslim women travel to foreign countries where Islam is not widespread, we have to endure gawping from the natives. It is classic – if you’re even slightly different, people will annoy and stare as if you have no eyeballs or ten hands. Thankfully, Iceland is different. Granted, I didn’t see a single Muslim on my 4-day trip here, but all the white (extremely white) folk were incredibly hospitable. The country, very refreshingly, welcomes differences and allows you to express yourself however you please. So, don that hijab proudly ladies, and fear not the hostile, questioning eyes, for they do not wander the streets of Reykjavik.
You won’t find Halal food in Iceland, but then you don’t come to Iceland for the food. Even if there were plenty of Halal options, I still wouldn’t recommend you eating out. Why? It’s bloody expensive. A pizza that you would pay £2 for in London would cost you approximately 3,500 kroner in Iceland (an eye-watering equivalent of £25!) One upside from this is that the restaurants aren’t so packed and noisy and you’re always guaranteed a good seat. Bring your food – packet noodles, tinned tuna, crisps, and biscuits to give you sustenance without breaking the bank. And put your mind at rest because you won’t be missing out on any fine cuisine as the soup, pizza and pasta that we did have were necessary, to say the least – you find much more delicious food in the UK for a fraction of the price.
The Northern Lights – The main reason why most people, including us, come to Iceland is for this. We wanted to maximize our chances of catching the Northern Lights, so we booked a tour to see these before coming – and it was a waste of money, so don’t do that. It will be pure luck whether or not you get to see this wonder, and when we went success just was not on our side, despite how much strain I put on my neck through trying to catch a glimmer through the coach window. A colleague of mine also had no luck on her tour but was fortunate enough to capture the natural beauty driving through the city, by pure chance. Although prior planning will not guarantee the view of the Aurora Borealis, there is a map which forecasts the chances of seeing the lights based on the weather so have a look at this when you arrive. If you insist on booking a tour, at least base it on the map forecast, make your prayers and may luck be on your side.
Iceland is rich in history and on your first day, I would advise attending the free walking tour the city has to offer. It’s eye-opening and will expose many of the gems the country has to offer, be prepared to feel sad about your own country’s state of affairs after attending this. Although technically free, the guides will ask for a donation at the end, so depending on how generous you’re feeling, you can offload some kroner on to them (they often give you a guide as to how much they want you to cough up – related to what they can spend it on).
Aside from the northern lights, Iceland is full of stunning landscapes, mountains, waterfalls, Geysers, and fjords. Take a day or two to enjoy this, contemplate the beauty of God’s creation and be prepared to get deep because it does put life into perspective. This is also where you want to book in advance – we booked the Glacier hike and the one-day hiking tour visiting waterfalls, fjords and Geysers but there are loads of other options to choose from on Extreme Iceland. So, discuss and choose but they all pretty much offer a chance to experience the natural wonders of Iceland, and there are opportunities for adrenaline junkies to get their fix too.
Naturally heated waters that are a complete contrast to the surrounding air: the Blue Lagon is a must. If you’re anything like me and can’t tolerate water that’s too hot, fear not because all you have to do to cool down is stand up. Keep doing that from time to time for the duration that you’re in the pool, and you’ll be fine. You bet I waded in the waters in my matching bright blue burkini without a care in the world – and I needn’t have cared because even though I was the only burkini babe around, people did not gape like they often do in other countries. (When I say bright I mean neon bright.) They offer you face masks while you’re in the spa too and apparently, it’s incredibly useful for your skin and has been known to cure people of various skin conditions. I found my skin slightly worse for wear after exiting the pool, so I’m not sure how much good it did me but it was free to try so, of course, I wasn’t going to miss out. For food and drink, there’s a bar in the pool where you can freshen up with a soft drink but do not miss out on the chocolate cake indoors- it was luscious – chunks of white and dark chocolate that your teeth hit contrast beautifully with the soft gooey cake, totally murdering that chocolate craving, and then some. We pre-booked for our last day which was ideal as they offer bus transport straight to the airport- an elegant way to end a wonderful holiday.
Keeping in with the theme, these are blooming expensive, so tell your family and friends beforehand not to expect anything. If you insist on getting something, they do sell the warmest woolen clothing – but expect beads of sweat to appear when you glance at the price tag – take that as a forewarning.
Enjoy! Some of God’s most magnificent wonders have been placed here for you to marvel so get booking and remember me when you encounter that superfast Wifi – it’s surreal.
Shaheen Munshi is a full-time working Muslim woman, who works as a pharmacist in a busy London hospital. She is also training to become a web developer in her spare time. Writing is a passion of hers and she is currently working on her first book.