We’re speaking with Brooke and Khalida, founders of The Big Reconnect Sleepover, to learn more about their amazing venture in travel packages and retreats for Muslim women. Two strong women with a grand vision for the latest trend in halal travel. Who’s ready??
What inspired you to get into Halal Travel for women?
Brooke: I’ve always lived in places that millions of people travel to annually – San Francisco, New York, Alaska, and now Morocco – so I think that I took for granted the hikmah and barakah in traveling to unknown-to-me places. I frequently met people from different backgrounds and had access to diversity and rich cultural exchanges. I traveled very little, but always welcomed and loved it. When I began having children, many of these opportunities – to travel, explore, even some socializing – slipped away from me until one day it finally struck me how ridiculous it was that I wasn’t among the travellers, being refreshed and rejuvenated by wandering about the very country I live in! I suddenly felt as if I had to travel, I had to get out of my routine, to stretch my legs and my soul a bit. I did, and returned home refreshed and refocused.
Within a couple of years of practicing regular travel excursions, I had the chance to meet my online-friend, Khalida, while she was visiting Morocco. I had started thinking about welding my love of creativity, Morocco and travel with other sisters, and Khalida revealed that she was also thinking similar things…
Khalida: … I was also thinking that there was a need for therapeutic, reflective and fun breakaways for Muslim women. Through my work I was seeing the lack of space and time for women to be themselves … that is if they even knew who they were. So often we, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters and just women, lose our sense of purpose and meaning because we buy into all the individual (internal thoughts and beliefs), familial, societal and cultural pressures that are around and placed upon our gender and whether consciously or unconsciously we perpetuate them by playing “the roles”. If we are unhappy with our lives it is because we are not living in alignment with our fitra (individual as well as collective). I wanted to build a retreat with the main objective of reconnecting us to ourselves and our creator through sisterhood. Growing up and living in London I understand diverse. However, I’ve always wanted to travel. I recall as a child wanting to be an air hostess so I could see the world. I believe that travel expands the mind and heart. So when Brooke and I met our purposes aligned.
Why should Muslim women take time off to travel with The Big Reconnect Sleepover?
Brooke: Let’s not pretend like there aren’t unique challenges faced by many Muslim women when they travel. Aside from the actual coordination of our daily lives to even get into the traveling bit, once we are on the road we do not want to compromise ourselves – our prayers, our eating habits, we don’t want a lot of undue attention… this is why it is wonderful to travel with a group of Muslim women, who understand each other’s needs and we, as retreat hosts, work hard to seamlessly meet all of our attendees needs. We meet the sisters directly at the airport, have a private riad (including indoor heated pool) with all female staff, we organize our exciting activities according to the prayer schedule… and we know all the good places to buy Moroccan jilabas and takchitas!
Khalida: Yes. There is no value in pretending. Living consciously and authentically is both Islamic and very very worthwhile. Distance provides us with much needed perspective. We have specifically designed an itinerary that enables attendees to explore their own internal landscapes whilst having a great time. As a Muslim psychotherapist, I am very aware of the need for balance and working holistically. We understand the challenges of travel and not compromising on our deen, we recognise the benefits in removing ourselves from our everyday lives – both for ourselves and our loved ones and we also have some haggling tips to ensure you leave Morocco with a bargain or two.
What can we expect at your travel retreat?
Brooke: But really we are doing so much more than escapism. All those benefits the Instagram quotes say about travel – – insha Allah we cover a lot of that, but we’ve also created a program that is deen-centered. The Big Reconnect Sleepover is a sensory experience, you’ll always be aware that you are among people living Islam with the athans, the prayers in congregation and in iconic mosques, but we also have guided activities to aid attendees in reconnecting to their fitra-selves. And a week among great sisters with diverse attributes -lively, creative, wise, kind, everyone brings something to the table – is not to be beat. We have A LOT of fun, alhumdulillah
Khalida: “Travel through the Earth…” is stated twice in the Quran (Ar Rum:42 and An Nahl:36) as a method of educating oneself about those before us. And we are told: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from a male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another…” (Al Hujurat:13). So the imperative to travel is a Qur’anic one.
About The Big Reconnect Sleepover: The Big Reconnect Sleepover is a series of retreats for Muslim women, the next one will occur April 10 – 16, 2017 and will be hosted in a private riad near Marrakech, Morocco. The retreat is all inclusive except for flights; Khalida and Brooke take care of everything from the moment you arrive to the moment you leave, including airport transports, meals, excursions, and all other activities. For all info visit thebigreconnectsleepover.com
About Brooke Benoit: Brooke is a writer and the Content Director for SISTERS Magazine, as well as the founder and editor of the Fitra Journal and a writing workshop facilitator. She has kept personal journals for three decades and loves writing as a transformational process. She is also a visual artist, proud to be among the ranks of many fine artists who have dropped out from the San Francisco Art Institute. Recently Brooke has realized her ultimate joy of aiding other artists and writers to find their own voice and expression through art and writing.
About Khalida Haque: Khalida is an integratively trained counselling psychotherapist and clinical supervisor. She currently works in independent practice, as a Counselling Services Manager in Schools, a ‘Caring Dads’ facilitator and a freelance writer. Her counselling experience is extensive and varied, having worked at and with various organisations. Khalida is also founding director of Khair Therapeutic Services CIC. She loves seeing clients recognise themselves and their purposes and become empowered to live their lives in accordance to who they are and what they are meant to do, bi’idhnillah (by Allah’s leave).
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