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TRAVEL is a magazine by and for a community of people severely bitten by the travel bug. A place where travel and adventure fanatics can either come read other travelers' experiences, find inspiration for future trips or simply share their own interesting personal accounts.

Taiwan: Muslim-Friendly Tourist Destination

Taipei Grand Mosque after Magrib prayer — by 台北清真寺
Taipei Grand Mosque after Magrib prayer — by 台北清真寺

Who would've thought that Taiwan, a Buddhist-majority island located roughly 180 kilometers from the eastern coast of China, would become such a hot spot for Muslim travelers, workers and students? Before my arrival, I had no idea what the locals thought of Muslims and what the Muslims thought of Taiwan.

The religion was first introduced to the lone-island in the seventh century when Chinese-Muslim families emigrated to Taiwan to drive out Dutch settlements from Tainan. In recent times we see that most Muslims residing in Taiwan come from Southeast Asian and Middle-Eastern countries, either studying or working in Formosa.

I went to Taiwan to study Finance at National Formosa University in Huwei Township. My two years of living in that culturally rich country really opened my eyes. In truth, I was expecting a little bit of that ol' fashioned bigotry you hear of so much of from mainland China, so I had low hopes of being socially accepted as a Muslim. I couldn't have been more wrong.

The people of Taiwan are popular for their hospitality towards foreign travelers and students. It really shouldn't come as a surprise that Taiwan has become host to roughly 180,000 Muslim visitors recorded in 2014 (a figure the tourism bureau wants to double this year). In fact, there are eight mosques scattered around the country from Taipei to Kaohsiung, and there are about 60,000 native Taiwanese Muslims. Several hotels and restaurants in the larger cities are halal-certified, and even some universities carry a separate selection of halal-cut meats for Muslim students to partake.

I would just like to point out how ESIT (Elite Study in Taiwan) representatives are extremely understanding of the Muslim Student Association all around the island. To me personally, it was as if they were literally bending backwards to make my two-year stay in the country as pleasant as possible. In addition, I am also very thankful to my university for providing us a place to worship, seeing as how the city is void mosques, and the nearest one was at least 1.5 hours away by bus.

The largest and oldest mosque in Taiwan is the Taipei Grand Mosque ( 台北清真寺 ) in the Da'an District of Taipei City. Several thousand Muslim expats come from around the country to Taipei to take part in the biannual Eid congregations (Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha). There is also a smaller mosque found in the Zhongzheng District in Taiwan with an amazing Indonesian restaurant (halal certified) just around the corner.

My first experience tasting authentic, halal Taiwanese food was during a trip to Taipei in the summer time. My good friend brought me and a couple of other out-of-towners (I was living in Yunlin County at the time) to a quaint, little beef noodle restaurant in Yanji Street. It was a very tasty dish with a unique, ginger-laced broth and tender cuts of beef.

A look at the inside of Taichung Mosue — by
A look at the inside of Taichung Mosue — by

There are still several parts of the country without any halal-certified restaurants, but this shouldn't be too big of an issue if you can abstain from meat. The largest religion in Taiwan is Buddhism, followed closely by Taoism. Because both these major religions practice vegetarianism, there is an abundance of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in every town of the country.

For my Muslim brothers and sisters out there, if you're planning on traveling to or studying in Taiwan, take a look at this page for a comprehensive list of halal-certified restaurants, shops and hotels.

This article was originally published on @andikhaerulnasruddin