Visiting relatives, whether it's in North America or abroad should not mean spending time only at home to bond and hang out. These trips can be used to benefit you and your hosts in many other ways. Check out these 11 ideas and add yours too at the bottom with feedback.
1. Plan in advance
Establish why you are going on this trip in advance. Your reasons can range from visiting relatives, to shopping, to broadening your horizons, to learning more about Islamic history in that part of the world.
2. Do your research on hot sights
See our suggestions about vacation spots around the world. Take some time before the trip to research sites you can visit like Masjids, museums and historical buildings. Research on the internet or at the local library to get details of location and draft a schedule of where you'd like to go and when. Consult a relative in the city you intend to visit who will have a better idea about how safe and accessible these spots are.
For sites in the U.S. check out Sound Vision's Masjid directory at to see where the nearest mosques and local Islamic organizations are in the city you are visiting.
On a personal level, if you're visiting your parents' home country, arrange a visit to the house where your parents were born or the classrooms they studied in. And don't forget to plan a budget so you don't overspend on tourist sites or souvenirs.
3. Pray in congregation with your host family
Do a good deed once you get to your destination. If a Masjid is not close by and your host family does not normally pray five times a day, then start praying together. Call the Adhan (the call to prayer) before the prayer. If the adults don't want to join you, don't force them. But the kids might actually join in.
4. Take money for charity
Whether you're visiting within North America or abroad, take money that you've been saving along. Drop the bills and change into your visiting city's mosque or a local Islamic organization. In a Muslim country, consider giving it to an orphanage or discreetly to a needy family your relatives may know.
5. Force yourself to speak the lingo
Okay, okay, it's been years since you've spoken Arabic or Urdu, and you know you'll be the laughingstock of most of your family if you utter more than the required few words in your mother tongue. But overcome your fear and force yourself to speak, however haltingly. This is especially recommended for Arabic-speakers, who speak at least some form of the language of the Quran.
6. Put together an Adhan audio project
One of the best memories of trips to Muslim countries is hearing the Adhan five times a day. Living in North America, many of us forget how beautiful hearing the Adhan really is. Take advantage of this and record the Adhan in a couple of mosques. Tape a couple of different Adhans in the city or cities you're visiting. As well, tape the Adhan at times when several Adhans are called by different mosques. Use this fantastic material for the next tip.
7. Publish photos and details of your trip online
Take all your pictures of scenery during your trip, perhaps some excerpts from your travel journal (if you kept one), and your recordings of the Adhan and punlish on you blog or Facebook online.
Provide information about the best sites, their addresses, positives and negatives. Include things like the best restaurants, the mosque(s) with the most beautiful architecture, and the strangest sites in the city.
8. Visit the man/woman on the street
While visiting relatives is one of the priorities of visits back home, they shouldn't be the only people you interact with. With the help of an older, trusted relative, meet with trustworthy friends and peers outside the family circle. Tell them where you're from, and more importantly, ask them about themselves. The point is you're meeting your Muslim brother/sister. This is a fact forgotten even in many Muslim societies today, where Muslims often pass each other without saying even a Salam.
9. Put together your family tree
This is the perfect opportunity to put down, on paper or into your laptop, the names and descriptions and histories of your relatives. If this is too much, then just stick to the names.
Make it attractive. Put it into a fancy binder, with nice paper, etc. If your relatives don't mind, put it on the web, and even submit it to the website www.ancestry.com, which helps people find their relatives on the web. You never know who you might be related to.
10. Tell others abut your community
Your relatives in Muslim countries may assume Islam can only be found in the Middle East, Asia or Africa and nowhere else. This ignorance is not uncommon. Take the opportunity during your visit to get all or as many of your relatives together as possible and tell them about Islam in your community, even in your country (the US or Canada).
Some important points could include: the number of mosques, Islamic schools, the number of Muslims who live there, examples of local activities, etc. Also mention that Muslims in your community have fundraised for important causes, especially if they are connected to your country of origin or they have gained the support of Muslims worldwide, i.e. Afghanistan, Kashmir, Kosova, etc. This same activity could be used to educate relatives in the United States or Canada about Islam in your city.
11. Perform Umra
Visiting relatives abroad is also a great time to go to Umra. Going to Mecca from Pakistan or Egypt is not as far as going directly from the US or Canada, and it would be a great start, or end to a trip. You can even add this as a part of your multimedia web page or scrapbook about your trip, adding perhaps, some thoughts about your Umra, as well as pictures.
Photo Attribution - Stig Nygaard - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Eriks_airconditioned_road_trip_car.jpg