Cuba is one of the countries on my never-ending bucket list. One thing I love to do when I haven’t been to place is to listen to other people’s travel adventures and share it, of course! This month, we experience Cuba with Mohamed and his friends. We find out why they chose this colorful Caribbean country and learn how they got stuck there during Hurricane Irma!
Funny story! my origin involves traveling. My mother and father fled the civil war in Somalia in the early 90s and settled in the Middle East. There, my brothers and I were born and after a few years, we relocated to Europe eventually settling in the UK. “Umm, so what are you?” I get that from time to time and my response is almost always in this strict un-change-able order; Muslim Somali British.😊 My profession fluctuates. I graduated in psychology, but work in sales & production.
I and my bodies (@yasinyeyo, @moremussa_) spent some time looking at places and we would get together and would each present the pros and cons of the places we picked. This was around the time I was watching Narcos and thought “hmm south America would be cool to visit”.
I don’t know who picked Cuba but when it was mentioned we all looked at each other and nodded in unison. An island with a preserved rich history and culture, I’m down for an adventure.
The whole “its still a suppressive regime” thing didn’t bother any of us, however, we spent some time on Reddit going through other people’s experiences from being there to gauge our expectations.
If you want halal food, stick to seafood because we had a hard time finding any. Initially when we got there we tried seafood because it was everywhere we went. There’s also an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables .
Experience Cuba: The Culture and People
Colors are everywhere. From beautiful murals and graffiti to houses painted in bright green, yellow, purple and everything in between.
The people are hella friendly and everyone would stop for a chat once they notice you’re a stranger. It’s almost the polar opposite from Europe. Not that people aren’t friendly here, but the ‘stranger danger’ thing is more prevalent where I’m from compared to Cuba. The whole street knew each other. Nah the whole block knew each other.
Whenever we’d wake up in the morning for breakfast, the neighbor would be there eating with our host. We would enjoy Cuban coffee and talk about politics, music, sports and whatever else unites and divides us (like baseball, not really a big fan).
Except our Spanish was almost non-existent. A few weeks before we set out I attempted to learn a few key questions and conversation starters on YouTube.
But yeah when I say we conversed with people, I mainly mean with broken Spanish and hand gestures.
But that didn’t stop people from mistaking us as Cuban, which had its perks, especially when we were buying things. Normally when vendors see you’re not a native they increase their prices a little. If you’re dark skinned and can pretend to be Cuban, it’s all good.
Nevertheless, things were pretty cheap so it didn’t matter if someone made a few pesos here and there.
A good example of how sociable and tightly knit people are is that, if they can’t find you what you’re looking for, they can point you in the right direction. I was looking for a barber, the host asks the neighbor who says she has a cousin whose friend’s uncle is a barber. And sure enough, she calls him and comes with clippers and scissors.
Outside of Havana, not many people knew Muslims, but in the capital, we found a few Muslim international students on Eid day and met a lot of reverts. It was astonishing, I had imagined we would come across maybe 100 or so Muslims since Islam isn’t a well-known religion there but when we got to the masjid the turnout exceeded my expectations.
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