We sat down with the effervescent Esra to discuss all things travel, food and fashion. Here’s her take on how to get the best out of your next voyage.
Rihaal: Looking at your website, (which is great!) I see you’ve done a lot of travelling. What inspired you to travel in the first place?
Thank you! The main reason was obtaining a scholarship to study abroad from the Ministry of Higher Education in Saudi Arabia. I didn’t start travelling for fun until I started doing my postgraduate degree though. I love the fact that travel opens new doors. The more I do it, the more I want to do it! My favourite activity is planning my travels.
“I have only been to 21 countries and that’s not even 10% of the world”
Rihaal: What advice can you offer to female Muslim travellers that are hoping to travel solo? What was it like travelling alone for the first time, and how did you prepare yourself for the trip?
The ability to travel is so powerful andempowering. Muslim women specificallyshould really go for it. I would say research the place you are heading to really well, read about the neighbourhoods you plan to stay in and check out relevant reviews. I lived in the US and the UK on my own for years, and myfirst solo trip I did in Europe was to Spain andin Asia was Sri Lanka. I even book my transport online if I am able to. For instance, before I went to Croatia, I booked all the buses I wanted to take and printed all my tickets.
Rihaal: Looking at your site I can see you’re a lover of fashion. Do you have any personal brands or favourite stores you like to shop at? Also, what style do you like to go for when travelling?
I do like to dress in comfy and stylish outfits.I like the usual stores such as Zara, Mango, H&M and Koton. I like to be comfortable when I am travelling whether it’s hot or cold. My style is very much dependent on the weather. If it’s a hot country, I try to pack really light maxi dresses and jumpsuits with the lightest possible cardigans. If it’s cold, I have to take my thermals, boots and a warm coat. There is a fashion tab on my blog for some hijab outfitideas.
That’s a hard question as I’ve liked every place I visited. There is something different and unique about each one. I really loved Iran, where the architecture was fascinating. It’s the only country that I don’t think I will tire from visiting. The people are so welcoming and full of love and every time I go, I get a different experience. I also really enjoyed Bosnia much more than I thought. The nature was stunning and the selection of halal food there was delicious.
Rihaal: What are the five most important things you pack when you travel (other than money and passport)?
Rihaal: What’s one of the favourite dishes or cuisines you’ve tried while travelling?
Firstly, my cameras! I cannot go anywhere without them and the memory cards. That said, I always freak out about packing my chargers and extra batteries, as I really don’t want to get stuck without juice. Thirdly, a very comfortable pair of walking shoes, which I would probably wear the whole trip. Then, liquid eyeliner! Most of my makeup disappears and the eyeliner is the only thing that remains; it makes such a difference. Finally, tea…I love my tea in the morning and most places don’t have the proper tea I love.
Rihaal: Out of all the destinations you’ve travelled to, which one was your favourite and why? What made it extra special?
That’s another hard one. I really love food (well all the ones I am allowed to eat!). I liked the mini kababs in Bosnia known as Cevapi. I also love the Turkish cheese Kunafa. My favourite thing to do when travelling is trying the local cuisine and discovering new favourites.
Rihaal: What is the strangest experience you’ve had during your travels?
I had my passport stolen by monkeys in Sri Lanka! It was very traumatic and I had it documented on my Snapchat minute by minute. Basically, I didn’t lock my balcony in the last fancy hotel I stayed in and they got in looking for food. They opened my backpack and helped themselves to everything edible and otherwise, trashed my room and when I came back I saw four cheeky monkeys in the balcony.
My biggest scare was the memory cards of the trips records when I saw them biting on something shinny. Thankfully, it turns out that was my necklace which they dropped and I never saw again. I was looking in my bag to see what else they took when I realised my passport was gone and I panicked! I even called the Saudi Arabian embassy in Sri Lanka who sounded really confused that I was alone. Thankfully, after half an hour of searching the gardens under my room the workmen found it. It all sounds so funny now, but it wasn’t fun when I was going through it. There is a video of this on my YouTube channel if anyone wants to see how my panicked face looked!
Rihaal: If we could give you a return ticket to anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
There are so many places I look forward to visiting such as Iceland, South Africa, Mexico, New Zealand, Indonesia, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Russia and the rest of the world. Each of those countries is full of history, nature or both. I have only been to 21 countries and that’s not even 10% of the world. We are blessed with a beautiful planet and I look forward to exploring most of it.