Hijab Friendly Outfits for a Warm European Destination

When I was packing for my Croatia and Bosnia trip. I only packed 7 outfits in a carryon bag to last me 11 days. Plus the weather was warm. So, I packed the lightest clothes that could be suitable for my hijab style. The details of outfits are under them! Hope they give you some ideas on what to pack for your next trip! 

Over to you: What's your favourite outfit? and what fashionable changes would you suggest? 

Island of Lokrum (Dubrovnik, Croatia)

This is a pretty little Island just few minutes by boat and a 100 kunas away from Dubrovnik. You can just ask around and people will direct you to the right boat that takes you there. I think it leaves on the hour or half an hour. It's a good half day trip. I spent about 5 hours there. There is a big map pointing the main attractions once you get there, so everything you want to see is clearly marked. Here Five things you could do: 

  1. See the history
    The Benedictine abbey and monastery were founded in 1023. The last Benedictines left the island in 1808. Legend has it that on their last night, the monks put a curse on the island and anyone who tried to seek it for their own in the future. There were actually few more legends associated with the islands that you can read about when you get there. Also, it's been used to film some parts of the Game of Thrones. 
  2. Enjoy the nature!
    Very close to the starting point is the botanical garden, which is nice to walk around. 
  3. Chill with the rabbits and the peacocks
    They are just running wild around. They are mostly out when the weather is cooler in the morning and the afternoon. I got there at noon, so there weren't as many.  
  4. Dip in the dead sea
    I was so tempted to taste it just to see if it was really salty, but I got a good proof when my copper bracelet turned green! Chemistry 101 there for you. It's located at the beginning of the island, but coevered with trees, so we were slightly confused on where it was. 
  5. Dip in the empty ocean shores
    The weather was hot in September, but the water was on the cold side. Like it gives you shivers once you jump in! Note: When I was reading about this island online after the trip, I found out there is a part for nudes, so be aware of that! Although, when I was there everyone was at least wearing their swimsuit.

PS. Food is SO overpriced there, so pack something with you if you want to save up. 

Ice Cream love affair in Croatia

When I visited Croatia in September 2016, the weather was quiet warm and sunny. It was nice, but I was in constant need of cooling off. Having an ice cream parlour in every corner made it so easy to indulge. They had so many flavours I haven't tried before. Basically, getting an ice cream -twice a day- became a ritual in the five days I spent there and I have photos to prove it! ;) #IceCreamTravelgram  

Five hours in Split, Croatia

I took the 9:30am bus from Plitvice Lakes National Park to Split. It was a four hour journey. I was headed to Dubrovnik, but since Split is on the way I had to stop by and see it for myself. I spent about five hours there. My bus arrived at 2pm and I started right away with a walking tour. Two days prior I booked a tour via Lokal Hero with Vjeran Mlačić

I didn't know much about Split before I got there. I only knew it was on the beach and I was scared that it will be just a crazy party town, but it turns out that it's very rich in history. In fact, it's the second largest city in Croatia and it dates back to the construction of Diocletian's Palace in 305 CE.  

I think the best thing I did was book that two hours tour. I got to learn about major historic events and fun trivia related to Game of Throne (some parts were filmed there!!) I even made a new friend mid tour and she joined us for the rest of it. The main sight was Diocletian's Palace. His story was impressive but he was slightly insane. The architecture of the old city was great too. 

When the tour came to an end, we stopped by a handmade Jewellery shop. The shop was cozy and full of character. I really liked meeting Victor, the Croatian filigree maker. Needless to say, I had to get a little something from there! 

After the tour, I heads to the beach. It was extremely busy, but found a spot to chill for 40 mins. I really enjoyed the city. I defiantly got the party city vibe, but it could also be a chilled out break too. 

Plitvice Lakes National Park

I left Zagreb very early (5am) to catch the first bus heading to Plitvice Lakes National Park. I took tram #6 from the city centre to the bus station (five stops away). When I got to the bus station, I was confused which bus to take but it was the one with all the tourists and the backpackers.

"Plitvice Lakes National Park  is one of the oldest national parks in Southeast Europe and the largest national park in Croatia. In 1979, Plitvice Lakes National Park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage register."*

The journey was quick (2hrs) I slept half of it. The bus stopped at entrance 1. I left my bag in the luggage room because my hotel was slightly further and if I knew there was a luggage room, I would have headed to Split mid day instead of staying the night in Plitvice area. There is just the park there. 

When I got to the park at 8:30am it was empty and I got my ticket in a second with the student discount. I was reading about people having to stand in the queue for over two hours. I imagine the later you get there the busier the park gets.

I wasn't sure how long my trekking will take, so I took Trek C. I was told I will finish it in 4- 6 hours. I finished it in 5 including stopping and taking photos and eating. I wish I took the longer one. 

The trek was a mix of walking, climbing and getting a boat to the other side. Getting the boat was the longest I waited (half an hour). Over all, the park was very organised. I was worried of doing it on my own at first, but the signage was marked clearly and came up frequently.

The park was like waterfall heaven. I really enjoyed it. It was absolutely stunning. It was slightly busy, but I was thankful I went on a Friday because I saw the crazy queue as I was leaving Saturday morning. 

Half a day is plenty if you are staring at 8am. You can take a bus from entrance 1 and head to another town. I made the mistake of staying in one of the hotels, which were priced highly for the tourists and offered poor food. 

Making the most of my day in Zagreb, Croatia

Zagreb is the capital of Croatia. It is a two hour direct flight from London. The flight was quick and I slept most of it. It was really easy to get from the airport to the city centre by bus and tram. I haven't there before, but getting around was clear. I chose to stay in a hostel right in the city centre because I was only staying there one night and leaving at 5 in the morning. It is called Main Square Hostel

My research of the city was basically the chapter in the lonely planet book. I was already going regardless what the book said, so they needn't to even try hard with me.

The city has such a nice trendy and hip vibe. I stayed just 2mins off the main square and I thought it was perfect. I got to walk everywhere from that point.

I only had the day I arrived in to explore the city & I am happy with what I got to see!

  1. Healthy Organic Vegan dinner at Zrno.
  2. Mimar Museum - wasn't too impressed. I could have lived without seeing it.  
  3. Botanical Gardens - loved it, pretty & relaxing.
  4. Zrinjevac Park. It has three fountains - family oriented - nice community vibe.
  5. Cathedral of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I went there around 8:00pm on a Thursday. They had a sermon of some sort, but I couldn't understand it. The singing from the choir was really beautiful. It was grand on the inside.
  6. Brokenships museum was the best - some things were sad and others were humorous. I bought the book instantly! The great thing it stays open till 10pm.

The highlight of my intense day was the ending. Who would have thought that in one seemingly regular Thursday I would be in one of the coolest spots in Zagreb watching a soulful jazz performance? I certainly didn't and I was thankful for the perfect alignment of stars.

I was standing in the corner of the cafe trying to spot a hidden seat or in any of the tables until a lady waved for me to come sit with her. It was the same lady from the tram. She told me it was her duty to show me warmth and give me the best representation of Croatians. She was very kind. As I was chatting with her another lady from the next table reached and asked: إنتي منين the Arabic threw me off, but again it was a welcome surprise. She is an Egyptian who have settled in Croatia in 2002. They both made me promise to come back next summer for the gorgeous clear beaches. I honestly can't wait! Who knows what will happen next year but I am already considering it.

The Jazz was so good - the ban is called Man Groove. The performance was so enjoyable. If I didn't have a 5am start I would have stayed till the end (midnight). Watch them on youtube. 

My Ultimate Favourite Food Guide for London (Including Halal)

You will probably find me in one of these! These are the places I choose from when I go out for food in London. These are purely based on my taste and what I like to eat. Thankfully, my friends love them as much as I do. I surly need to expand the list. I tried loads more, but I only put the ones I really enjoyed here. 

For Arabic food: you are really spoiled for choice. There are so many options in Edgware Road and I only tried a few. I like Beirut Express for breakfast. I love the Green Valley to get some fresh or frozen Arabic special food. Maroush and Abu Zaad are also yummy! 

For Burgers: Stax, Burgista Bros and Guanabana for chicken burgers: GBK

Indian Food in London

For Indian: Hands down Dishoom. It's just so so good! There is also Roti Chai. It's in a similar goodness range. 

For Turkish: Iskele (Barbican area) and Babaji Pide

For Mexican: I still haven't found the prefect Mexican place in London, but Wahaca is nice. It's not halal, but I get their veggie or fish tacos.

Pan Asian: Busaba and Pho

For Pizza: Homeslice and Zizzi

For Noodles: Shoryu Ramen (be careful though. About 95% of their menu is pork. I go for the one vegetarian noodles that they have. It is so good!)

For Sushi: Sticks n Sushi (beware! It's really pricey, but so yummy!)

For Persian: There are so many amazing Persian restaurants in London. These are my favourite. I really enjoyed eating in all four: Behesht (Kensal Green),  Alounak (Bayswater), Kish (Maida Vale) and Kabab Mahdi (Hammersmith). 

Halal Stake in London

For Stake: Steak and Co (they have a special halal stake) I haven't found another good halal stake in London, but the search continues. 

For General/Please everyone classics: Jamie's Italian. It's not halal, but their prawns linguine and vegetarian dishes are nice.

More favourites on the London map: 


Over to you: what are your ultimate favourite halal spots in London? 

How to find cool events and things to do in London

London Events

I love being in London. It's an amazing city with so many things to do. You can even plan every night of the week to be out doing something entertaining. I keep getting asked how I find all the cool events I go to. I also get responses to my Snapchat story that say "oh wish I knew" "how did you even find that?" The answer is simple, I look for interesting things to do with my time because interesting events lead to interesting people. Sometimes I go alone and sometimes I take my friends. Either way, I make sure I go there and enjoy myself! Here are my go-to places to find events

Events at museums and galleries

The start of the month, I take a look at my favourite museums, art centres and venue just to check what's on. Some events are free, but others are paid. Usually they are reasonably price and under £20. The places I check are:

Barbican Centre, British Museum, National Gallery, Vitoria and Albert Museum, Leighton House Museum, Prince's School of Traditional Arts, Somerset House, Saatchi Gallery, Fashion and Textile Museum and The Design Museum.   

Live Music in London
Barbican Exhibition in London

Events at cool London venues

There are so many trendy venues around the city that host events. The ones I check are The Book Club in Shoreditch, The Forge in Camden and Soho Theatre

Events via Meetup groups

I mentioned meetup.com in a pervious post "Ten Ways to Make International Friends". It's not only good for meeting new people and making friends, but there are so many groups that are based in London that do all sort of events from drawing at galleries  to socialising at new London spots and etc. 

Events from event websites

There is always the dependable Timeout London. I also like Le Cool London and the Nudge. I am sure there are other cool ones, but these usually fill up my schedule and notify me with the major London events.   

Street art in London
The book club in London

I hope you find these locations and links useful. By the way, you should also ask your friends to share cool events that they might have heard of from work or other friends. This city has lots to offer and you will surly find something you enjoy. You can mix it up and go to events that you aren't sure about. It is fun to experiment! 

Over to you: How do you find cool events in London? Do you know any cool venues and websites that I didn't mention? Please feel free to share them in the comments below. 


Travel Blogging and Social Media hashtags and feature accounts

As we all know, being on social media is crucial especially for bloggers and artists because that's the main way people find out about us. As a travel blogger, it's good to have visibility via specific hashtags and features. These are the ones I find most useful for Instagram. Keep in mind that I keep my caption clean from these hashtags and only use my own, but add them in the comments below to give a neater look to the photos. 

Top Travel Hashtags

Daily Travel hashtag: #TravelTuesday #WanderlustWednesday 

General Travel hashtags: #travel #wanderlust #explore #travelfind #discover #instatravel #traveljunkie 

use: season, day, county, city, occasion as well. 

Top Travel Feature Accounts

Might be a good idea to start with smaller accounts because bigger ones get 100s of tags a day. 

#LPTraveller @lonelyplanettraveller 
#BBCTravel or #LoveTheWorld @bbc_travel
#WeLiveToExplore @WeLiveToExplore
#wonderful_places @wonderful_places
#TheGlobeWanderer @TheGlobeWanderer
#beautifuldestinations @beautifuldestinations
#IPulledOverForThis @IPulledOverForThis
#PassionPassport @PassionPassport
#TLPicks @travelandleisure
#discoverearth @discoverearth
#darlingescapes @darlingescapes

Top Travel Feature Accounts and Hashtags Specifically for London

#ThisisLondon @London
#london4all #london4all_video @london4all
#TopLondonPhoto @TopLondonPhoto
#London_only @London_only
#lotiloves @londontheinside
#timeoutlondon @timeoutlondon

Top Travel Feature Accounts specifically for females

This photo was featured on @Globelletravels  and there are a number of travelling females account that support and empower such as: #Girlsborntotravel @Girlsborntotravel , #girlsmeetglobe @girlsmeetglobe , #girlsLOVEtravel @girlslovetravel , #femmetravel @femmetravel, #TheTravelWomen @TheTravelWomen

Top Travel Feature Accounts specifically for Muslim and/or Arab travellers:

The photo below was featured on #361.world @361.world 
There is also #muslimtravelers @muslimtravelers 

Muslim Travellers on instagram

For Feetlfies (feet selfies) for when you are travelling and when you are home: 

#fwarabs @fwarabs

#fromwhereIstand #FWIS @fromwhereIstand

#Ihavethisthingwithfloors @Ihavethisthingwithfloors

#Ihavethisthingwithtiles @Ihavethisthingwithtiles

PS. remember that if you are using brands/products or you are in a place that owns a social media account you should tag them too! 

connect with me on insta @designeresra

Over to you: What are your favourite travel hashtags and accounts? 

15 Facts About Saudi Women

It seems like the world is very curious about Saudi women. In a dinner party last year, I got asked a million questions about the life of a Saudi woman and what she does. When I answered honestly people were shocked and thought I was making it up, but I was not. Saudi women are normal and they strive to better their situation. It's true that Saudi is mostly a male oriented society, but women have been working so hard proving themselves and establishing their place in society and I think now more than ever. I compiled a list of facts about Saudi women just to give you an idea of how life it is back home. Of course there are some different cases, but in my city in the Eastern Province in Saudi these are facts.

1- Saudi Women are educated

Education is a key part of the saudi society because without it you can't go far in life. From the age of 6 girls start going to school to the 12th grade. There isn't even a question here. A girl is born and is enrolled in school as simple as that.

2- Saudi Women are HIGHLY educated

High school diplomas are not even considered education if you don't go to university. The competition is insane to get into university. There are only a handful of public (free) universities in Saudi and because the average Saudi barely makes 30K a year a free education is the best option for everyone. Most of my friends have a masters degree. 

3- Saudi Women don't usually leave education when they get married

It's normal for girls to get engaged or married during their university years, but that's a rare reason for leaving education. Most couples wait till after the bachelor's to conceive a child (yes Saudis are familiar with birth control). 

4- In fact, they stay in education even after they have a child or two

Sometimes couples want children and after a semester off, the lady goes back to school to finish off her degree. It's not easy, but with family help it works.  

5- Saudi Women work

After university, most Saudi ladies would work. The ladies without higher degrees work in shops, which is a new thing that started only few years ago. Prior to that women only had the option to work in hospitals/university/companies and banks, but the work force have expanded. Thankfully, the women in my family are highly achieving. We have four medical doctors, university lectures and an engineer.  

6- Saudi Women contribute financially in supporting her family

Life is expensive and a 30k a year average is barley enough to feed a family, so women have to work and participate in supporting the family financially especially for the kids education. Government monthly salaries are a myth. You only get a salary when you work or when you are extremely poor. (Read: Myth One: Saudi the land of the riches). 

7- Saudi Women raise their own children

I hear this one a lot, for some reason some of my friends in the West think each Saudi woman has an army of maids to raise their children. That might be the case in rich families, but the average middle class lady raises her own children with the help of her mother and mother in law. 

8- Saudi Women don't usually leave their children with maids

There is another myth about Saudi ladies leaving their children with maids to go out. Again, that's not the case for the average lady.  

9- Saudi Women can't afford maids

In fact, It's really hard getting an in house maid. It's not like it was 20 years ago. Plus most families can't even afford it. 

10- Saudi Women's main road block is the guardian's permission

This is the saddest fact of them all and is basically could make or break the Saudi woman. If the girl has a psycho male guardian or an over protective one, her life will be very hard because the guardian has the power to allow her to study, work, get married and travel. Usually the first two happen as normal like mentioned above, but travel is the major issue. If he (dad/husband/uncle/brother) says no, then good luck.   

(Read: Saudi Women's Biggest Issue). 

11- Saudi Women have drivers because they HAVE TO it's not a state of riches

When people hear refer to the family driver, they just assume I am just a rich Saudi, but having a driver is a necessity of life since women themselves aren't allowed to drive. It's also a complete pain getting drivers from abroad and the locals on Uber and Careem (taxi apps) are not cheap. 

(Read: Saudi Issues: Women Driving). 

12- Saudi women study abroad and travel the world

The first part is an increasing fact especially after the King Abdullah's scholarship program in 2005. It used to be taboo for girls going abroad on their own to study, but it has become a normal option in the past ten years. Granted that the female doesn't have a really bad guardian who says no. The travelling part is still new, but Saudi women have started travelling and enjoying themselves. Although when they are slightly older (end of 20s/start of 30s). 

(Read: Saudi Women Travelling The World). 

13- Saudi Women do arranged marriages differently

Arranged marriages happen in Saudi, but not like what most people imagine. It's not like she knows nothing about the guy and she only sees him on the wedding night. I am sure that happens too, but it's not the norm. Normally, a family will introduce themselves to the girls family to suggest that their son would be a fit for their daughter. There is a whole process after that of getting to know the guy. Kind of like supervised dating. If they hit it off, they get engaged, where they can really get to know each other. If that goes well, they get married. That could take months or years. It depends on the family and the couple.  

14- Saudi Women get married for love too

With social media, mixed work environments and education abroad, Saudi women have been able to find men on their own and falling in love. It's becoming more acceptable. 

15- Saudi Women take care of themselves and workout.

In the past ten years, Saudi women have made an effort to stay fit and beautiful. Going to the gym and working out is an increasing habit. The gym choices are very limited and are only in a handful hospitals and hotels. The memberships aren't cheap either. It could be 200 GBP a month, but women are working really hard on their bodies. They are even trying to include more sports in education and getting involved in the olympics. This is just the beginning. 

It's not always easy for a Saudi woman, but even with the cultural restriction she is making the most out of it. There is room for growth and improvement of course, but she is not locked up at home like most people I meet seem to think! :)

Further Reading Material: