Ramadan and Aidilfitri a chance to travel

Mr Muhammad Haziq Abdul Halim, wife Rafidah Anip, daughter Husna El Haziq and son Hassan El Haziq at Changi Airport yesterday.
Mr Muhammad Haziq Abdul Halim, wife Rafidah Anip, daughter Husna El Haziq and son Hassan El Haziq at Changi Airport yesterday.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

Growing number of Muslim families spending this period abroad on holiday or pilgrimage

Chicken rice seller Muhammad Haziq Abdul Halim usually stays in Singapore for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, but this year, he is packing his family off to Japan for a holiday.

Mr Haziq said that this is the only period when his chicken rice shop closes for an extended duration. This month marks the first year the former civil servant took over the shop from his mother.

The 30-year-old left yesterday for a week in Osaka with his wife, son and daughter. Though he was "very excited" to travel, he said relatives on his wife's side asked why they had to travel during the Hari Raya Aidilfitri week.

He said she had to explain that they were taking advantage of the shop's down time.

Mr Haziq is one of a growing number of Singapore Muslims travelling during the Ramadan and Aidilfitri period, whether for vacation or to perform the umrah - a mini pilgrimage.

Two Muslim-oriented travel agencies The Straits Times spoke with said more families were holidaying this year than in the past.

Mr Shawnz Hahnemann, IT manager of Hahnemann Travel and Tours, said his firm has seen more people booking trips to places like Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. He estimated that customers bought 20 per cent more tour packages than last year, and attributed this to how this year's Ramadan fell during the June holidays.

General manager of Muhibbah Travel-Tours and Trading, Mr Aurang Zeb, said his firm has seen more families going to places such as Turkey, India and Dubai.

During summer, packages to these destinations are cheaper by 10 per cent to 15 per cent, he said.

Besides taking vacations, some are also choosing to go on pilgrimage during Ramadan.

Managing director of Shahidah Travel and Tours, Mr Ayoob Angullia, said that with Ramadan coinciding with the June school holidays, more families have opted to go on pilgrimage. Around 20 per cent more people went through his firm for the umrah this year, he said.

The Association of Muslim Travel Agents Singapore, which helps Singaporeans apply for visas to Saudi Arabia, told The Straits Times that it helped 1,824 people get visas for this year's Ramadan period, compared with 1,205 visas for the same period last year.

Speaking from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, Ms Zahidah Ismail's reason for going on umrah was simply because she could finally afford to do so this year. The 28-year-old staff nurse was travelling with her mother, aunt, grandfather and two of her grandmother's sisters, though only she and her grandfather were performing the umrah for the first time.

For project manager Abdul Mannan and his family, this year will not be the first time that they are holidaying during Aidilfitri.

Last year, they visited New Zealand during the festive period. On Wednesday, a big family group, consisting of him and his wife, his wife's parents and siblings, will jet off to Australia.

After a week, the 29-year-old and his wife will stay on in Australia - she will begin a master's degree there - while the rest will return to Singapore.

Mr Mannan said his wife's family have chosen to travel during Aidilfitri as they are usually busy during the Ramadan month. He said his wife's family runs a Muslim-focused travel agency that helps customers with trips like the umrah.

The first week of Aidilfitri is also generally "very hectic", with relatives visiting one another, he said.

"When we come back from the holiday, (things) will be much more low-key and we will visit in our own time," he said of his family.

Still, many remain in Singapore during the Aidilfitri period. Former teacher Muhammad Rushdie Ismail's father and maternal grandmother live with his family.

Because they are both the eldest on the respective sides of their families, their relatives will head to Mr Rushdie's home.

The 32-year-old said that on the first day of Aidilfitri yesterday, more than 100 people visited.

"Hari Raya is a joyous celebration where every member of the extended family makes the effort to gather and reconnect with one another," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 26, 2017, with the headline 'Ramadan and Aidilfitri a chance to travel'. Print Edition | Subscribe