Earlier this year, I booked a trip to China. It was a country I had never been to before, and therefore I had no idea what to expect.
As the date of the trip came closer, and I was talking to other Muslims about my plans, I got some very similar responses over and over again.
These included: “China! Is it safe for Muslims to go there?”, “No one speaks English! There is a massive language barrier.”, “Oh my God, there’s nothing for Muslims to eat there. All they eat is Pork! And they eat Dogs and stuff!”, It was for this reason I decided to go on a tour, and be guided around the south east for the first 3 weeks and do the final week without the tour.
I was bemused to hear people give me so many warnings about a country. There was a sense of fear for the unknown, especially by many Muslims.
With only some knowledge myself (researching on the internet) – it did worry me a little. Even with my extensive research and planning, I was not sure what the experience would be like.
After spending over 24 days and visiting over 14 cities in this beautiful country so far, I’ve learnt there are many misconceptions Muslims have about China.
China is unique. There is no Asian country like it. Nothing will prepare your first time visit.
No matter how many youtube videos you watch, or how many blogs you read or how many stories you hear from others – it makes a lasting first impression.
It has this way of surprising you with its sights, smells and flavours.
Firstly, yes, it is very safe for Muslims to go to China. Its strange, I feel more comfortable in China as a Muslim than I do in Australia.
Secondly, When I first realised that hardly anyone spoke English, my mind automatically assumed that the Chinese did not appreciate westerners in their country. Oh, how wrong I was.
Everyone is so kind and helpful. Many people just wanted to take photos with me, it was so much fun – I felt like a D grade celebrity.
At one point, as I was climbing to the top of the highest point in Guilin, a couple women had stopped me and asked for a photo.
Before I knew it, I was ambushed by 8 women surrounding me, and asking me to do the peace sign.
It was a little jarring at times, but it was nice to mix with the locals. People would smile and help me as much as they could. It made the whole trip really enjoyable.
Thirdly, there is plenty of halal food, an abundant amount in every city. There are about 23 million Muslims in China (that’s like the population of Australia!), so there is no shortage of halal options.
I didn’t even do that much research, and stumbled across quite a few halal restaurants. And of course, I had the most delicious eating experience at Famous Moslem Street in Xi’an.
Even if there isn’t halal meat, most restaurants have vegetarian or fish dishes that are really tasty.
So as I reach the end of my trip, I’ve had the chance to reflect on the journey I’ve been on and all the things I have learnt. We should not be afraid to go to places that challenge us. That is one of the best parts about travelling. “Seek knowledge even as far as China”.