As I’m jetting off abroad this week, Serendipity Tailormade’s event, Rihla, couldn’t have come at a better time. Behind the doors of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, was an evening full of travel inspiration for Muslims who wished to explore countries beyond their comfort zone.
Offering a palette of destinations such as New Zealand, Argentina, Cambodia and Vietnam, Serendipity have done all of the work for you when it comes to sourcing accommodation that takes the needs of Muslims into consideration when it comes to privacy, worship and food.
With a screening room, 30 minute seminars, yummy finger food and a range of exhibitors, this was definitely a one of a kind event. I sat down with the founder of Serendipity, Nabeel Shariff, to talk about Rihla and the selection of destinations on offer.
1. To start, could you give us a brief introduction of who you are and what do you do?
“I’m the director of Serendipity Tailormade and we are the only UK and potentially European tour operator that specialises in halal-friendly travel. What we do in that sense is provide bespoke, luxury and individual itineraries for clients looking to travel to places that they wouldn’t have necessarily thought of.”
2. How did Serendipity come about?
“Initially when we did a lot of research for the company we found tat a lot of clients either went ‘home’, they went to pilgrimage or they went to somewhere that was very comfortable like Morocco, Turkey, potentially Malaysia. We thought, ‘why can’t they travel to places like Thailand, Vietnam, South America and Africa?’ From that, Serendipity was born.”
3. How did you go about ensuring these countries were feasible for Muslims?
“We have individual teams on the ground who do a lot of the work in terms of research. For example, making sure that the restaurants that our clients would dine in are either owned by Muslims, and most of them are owned by Muslims. Alternatively, we make sure that they are who they say they are. We work with various resorts and hotels around the world who advise us that their food is halal and we check to see where their food is coming in from. In addition to this we check if they have halal certification, are the kitchens prepared for halal-friendly cuisine, separation of utensils and making sure non-halal and halal are not mixed. We do all that work so our clients don’t have to and when we find somewhere that can provide an option for Muslims, we bring it to market.”
4. What’s the response been like?
“Over the last three years it’s been amazing. Alhamdulilah it’s been as expected and to be honest with you, you go into a project and you believe in it and there’s always been a market for Muslims wanting to travel, it’s in our blood to travel, whether it’s for holiday purposes, whether it’s for pilgrimage or for migration, we have historically travelled. But in this day and age we also want to aspire to travel and second and third generation British Muslims have the inspiration from fellow colleagues and the media that they see. They do want to experience these things and they don’t want to feel like they’re restricted in any way.”
5. What’s been the most surprising destination in terms of accessing halal food?
“Probably Vietnam and Cambodia. Those two are the most surprising purely because of the demographic there. When we first started looking into Vietnam we realised there were a lot of migrants from Malaysia that had set up businesses there making halal food much more accessible. We don’t like to say if you go to Vietnam you’ll get Malay food though. Wherever we have a new destination or an unusual destination we also like to try local cuisine so that you do have the opportunity to try for example peking duck in Beijing.”
6. Tell us a bit more about Rihla.
“Rihla is all about Muslims in London coming together and spend the evening finding travel inspiration. That’s really what it’s all about. You may not have thought about travelling to Thailand but Rihla brings together our destination experts from Thailand, Malaysia and the Seychelles for example, and allows you to ask as many questions as you want, find out about all the attractions they have and reasons to travel to these destinations. It’s really just about expanding your travel horizons, giving you a bit more knowledge in order to provide you with more options for your next halal-friendly holiday.”
7. What are your future plans for Serendipity?
“We obviously want to keep growing ourselves and offer new destinations. We would like to offer unusual destinations. We’ve just launched New Zealand for example, which is fantastic and so far-flung. We’d also like to look in Europe too. We feel that Europe has a lot of potential with a lot of migrant Muslims living in Paris, Berlin and Barcelona, so there’s no reason why we can’t do that and inshallah going forward we shall do.”
To start planning your next trip, visit http://www.serendipity.travel/