I was gallivanting with a travel group in citrus Andalusia. The group and I had an awe-inspiring moment in Granada and on day 2, we were in Malaga. While in the Andalusian region, I noticed I was getting more stares than I did in Madrid. These stares came especially from the elderly. I don’t know if it was out of novelty, admiration, curiosity or pity. As a Muslim traveler people staring at you comes with the package. Many of us get used to it and ignore the rudeness and others address it in their own way. In this situation, I just chose to ignore.
Of course the story didn’t just end there. The tour booked a hotel by the beach. After spending a great time there, we got ready for dinner. Dinner looked great. It was a buffet style. I felt like a kid in the candy store, as there were so many options. Different types of sweets for dessert, a variety of Spanish and Mediterranean dishes.
But like any Buffet, there was a long line of people waiting to serve themselves. I was also waiting in line and to my right was an elderly Spanish lady. A few minutes passed without anyone saying anything. Suddenly she broke the ice and our conversation went as follows: (The original conversation was entirely in Spanish)
Lady: Salami alaykam. (She attempted to greet me the Islamic way)
Me: Surprised by her effort albeit wondering where this conversation was heading. I stared at her like a deer caught in the headlight. I think the cat got my tongue.
Lady: Isn’t that how your people say Hello?
Me: My people?, what do you mean?
Lady: Your people!, You know from Pakistan?
Me: This is was a new identification placed on me. It was usually “You must be from Morocco!” Chuckling, I replied: I am not from Pakistan
Lady: OK then, Morocco! Ah there we go, the default country every Spaniard places a Muslim’s origin
Me: I shook my head in disagreement
Lady: Saudi Arabia? She continued to guess.
Me: Still shaking my head, I finally responded with: I am from the U.S.
Lady: Entirely and genuinely shocked. It can’t be! PERO ERES MORENA! (But you are brown!)
At this moment, I had to give this lady a quick lecture of how diverse the U.S. is and just because I had a gorgeous honey glazed skin, I was very much American. I also explained to her that how she greeted me was Islamic, not cultural. I am Muslim and yes it is possible to be Muslim and American too. My belief is that the Spanish lady truly didn’t know. It was like I shattered her entire belief about Americans. This new information was just too much for her that she quickly changed the topic to how good fruits were for your body. I guess that was something we could both agree on.
What are your experiences being a Muslim Traveler? Did the positives outweigh the negatives?