Ramadan. A time for reflection. A time for meditation, and for many of us, a time to carefully consider our daily lives; how does our conduct affect others? Are our transactions pure? What is our relationship with God? Are we fulfilling our duties as Khalifa (caretaker) on earth … ?
In a year when sustainable tourism tops the UN’s agenda, there has been no better time to think about our impact on the world as we travel through it. Sustainable tourism is a new concept for many Muslims, but with Ramadan now upon us, and many of us preparing to travel, it is the perfect time to consider how something as self-serving as travel could be done more responsibly? At the heart of sustainable travel are principles we all recognise: being mindful of our impact on the environment, using renewable energy, minimising our carbon footprint, etc. But there are also specific aspects that we may not have previously considered, like seeking out accommodation and businesses that prioritise local economic growth; i,.e., those who employ locals and source all raw materials (food, drink, arts and crafts) from resident farmers and artisans. These places will also hire local guides and generally be conscientious of the host community.
Such places do more than just put money back into the hands of locals; they also equip them with valuable skills and training. The question you are no doubt wondering is ‘do these places exist in Muslim countries?’ They do, and in this article we bring you three of the finest examples from the Muslim world. So if you find yourself in these countries over Ramadan, pop along and support these brave new lights. Maybe even stay with them to experience the ‘true’ spirit of Ramadan through travel.
ATLAS KASBAH ECOLODGE, AGADIR, MOROCCO
They preach six things at the Atlas Kasbah: conserve water, conserve energy, manage waste, buy locally, respect the landscape and educate about the environment. This could be the mission statement for all eco-lodges. Founded in 2009 by the inspiring Hassan and Helene, who live on-site, this kasbah resembles the ancient forts of the Maghreb and sits in a stunning location surrounded by mountains. Rooms are spacious and beautifully decorated in classic Moorish style, with spectacular views. Local Berbers are employed in roles from service jobs to entertainment and even as teachers delivering Berber language courses to guests.
FEYNAN ECOLODGE, WADI FEYNAN, JORDAN
This award-winning desert dwelling has been featured in travel publications across the globe. Held up as a pioneer of responsible tourism in the Arab world, the Feynan lodge is fully powered by solar power, sources water from a local spring, and carefully manages its use by guests. All waste food is composted to make fertilizer, and even plastic bottle usage has been all but eliminated; the lodge instead serves water to guests in locally made clay jars. Even back when the ecolodge opened in 2005 to give the local Bedouin communities a much-needed source of income, the founders built it on an existing campsite to avoid destroying another part of the pristine landscape. Sitting along the ancient Silk Road in one of the oldest continuously inhabited spots on Earth, Feynan is also a dream for archaeology buffs.
NISHORGO ECORESORT, SREEMANGAL, BANGLADESH
Awaken to the sound of the mynah bird at your window or the rustle of leaves on a banana tree as a cheeky monkey scampers back to the nearby Lawacherra rainforest. These stunning little bamboo cottages sit in beautiful, lush surroundings just outside the centre of Bangladesh’s tea-producing capital, Sreemangal. Part of the Nishorgo Support Project, the resort employs local people, sources food from fisherman and farmers born in the vicinity, and has a register of local eco-guides who know just how to tread carefully when out sightseeing. Each hut contains simple, traditional Bangladeshi decor and furniture, which is everything a musafir travelling in the true spirit of Ramadan needs: no more, no less.