As a Muslim couple, our first holiday to Europe last year could have been a lot more pleasant and enjoyable had it not been for the lack of some very basic services like water, prayer facilities and halal eateries.
The fun of shopping and visiting too was hugely taken out of our visit in our frantic searches for a mosque or prayer room wherever we went; our solution was shortening our visits and restricting them to areas around a prayer facility; a boring proposition for visitors.
A famous shopping center in Manchester had one very tiny prayer room for all religions and both sexes; I dared not enter! My unlucky husband whereas had to pray with an unknown female next to him and a picture of Virgin Mary (may Allah be pleased with her) behind him!
And of course from omnivores, we turned to herbivores all throughout out visit. Even being a herbivore was tough enough as we searched for eateries that did not serve pork and alcohol.
All in all, we still managed to enjoy the visit as much as we could, meeting some very wonderful people and carrying back many treasured moments.
Nevertheless, I eagerly look forward to my next visit to Europe but I truly hope that it would be without a large cup sticking out of my handbag!
The segment also highlights the benefits of the more interactive approach to news that is developing world-wide. Its hard to comment back to a print article!
Fits in with the apparent problem that there is no Government Standard here applied to the use of the term 'Halal'. Still, consumer protectionism IS in its infancy here, after all.
But as well as attracting the 'sun, sand and sangria' western tourists, I do think there is a big market for Muslim compliant luxury holidays. A hint for Blue City?
New Biography of Zanzibar's Princess Salme gets good reviews
Interesting review of a new biography called "The Sultan's Shadow" in Salon.
"The Sultan's Shadow:" The runaway princess of Zanzibar
The story of a royal rebel and the Arab slave trade makes for popular history at its best in "The Sultan's Shadow"
When the famous British explorer Richard Francis Burton sailed into the harbor of Zanzibar in 1856, he was intoxicated by the way "earth, sea and sky, all seemed wrapped in a soft and sensuous repose." Clove-scented, fringed by palms and sapphire waters, this large island off the coast of East Africa was and is famous for its beauty; in the West, its very name conjures the romance of far horizons and undreamed-of adventures.
Closer up, Burton and his traveling companion, Hanning Speke, found a motley crush of nautical traffic floating in what Christiane Bird, author of "The Sultan's Shadow: One Family's Rule at the Crossroads of East and West," describes as a "a thick, sloshing bath of filth" studded with human corpses. The bodies were the detritus of the East African slave trade, tossed overboard so that slave merchants wouldn't have to pay a per-head fee for their cargo after docking. "The Sultan's Shadow" is in part a history of that deadly trade, which was largely run by Arabs, and in part the story of the royal family that presided over Zanzibar as the island rose to power and prosperity, and then fell before European colonialism in the 19th century.
I think its fair to say Oman has not yet generally come to terms with its part in the regional and global Slave trade, especially in Zanzibar, with nothing about this taught to Omani students here, and most Omani commentators I've seen on the forums in almost violent and vitriolic denial. That Oman was only the second to last country in the world to outlaw slavery (when HM took over in '72); or that Zanzibar, long part of Oman's East African empire, was a key slaving hub for decades; or indeed that the previous Sultan owned Slaves himself in the late 60's, are facts usually ignored.
See a related BBC article on Zanzibar's slave trade, and the atrocities that occured during the revolution in 1964 too.
UPDATE: I'd encourage interested readers (and ever ignorant OMR) to read Wikipedia's Slavery entry. This is a huge topic that has been going since history began, and Oman's part in the slave trades, both "Islamic/Arab" and the more commonly associated relatively modern "Euro/Americas" trade - even via their control of Zanzibar - is peripheral and even then mainly as middlemen businessmen. But Oman's role was there. Oman (amongst dozens of other countries) allowed slavery and considered it a legitimate business for considerable time, and the issue leads into the much bigger question of what constitutes human rights. This would be an excellent addition to the Omani curriculum at high school level, IMHO, to encourage debate and consideration of these issues. The absence of Islamic or Arab abolitionists in the record is a vexing issue, however.
The review continued:
Arab trading in African slaves evolved out of ancient African tribal customs used to pay off personal debts and to profit from prisoners of war. "It began a millennium before the West's," Bird writes of the practice, "and continued for more than a century after." But it was really only after the international market for ivory and spices took off that the East African slave trade succeeded in devastating Central and East Africa. Many more slaves were needed to run plantations and transport tusks, so slavers began to provoke tribal wars (to generate prisoners). Eventually they simply raided and razed entire villages, driving their captives so mercilessly to market that most of them died before reaching it.
Bird found Salme's autobiography evocative but frustratingly circumspect -- not to mention blinkered. Passages of "Memoirs of an Arabian Princess" defend "Oriental" slavery against the attacks of Western abolitionists, arguing that, as practiced by her own people, the institution was not only more benevolent than its American counterpart, but also kinder than capitalism's treatment of its underclass.
Wonder if Borders will stock it?
Photo: Monument to the slave trade, Stone Town Zanzibar [from Learnmc.org]