The view of Barcelona from the top of Guell Park, Barcelona. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar
Both the Mister and I agreed that Barcelona has more charm than Madrid. The ocean welcomes you at one end of the city, and the hills and mountains in the background remind you of times past. In fact, if you’re looking for a honeymoon destination, I’m sure Barcelona would have plenty to occupy a newlywed couples’ time. Romantic walks on the beach, people watching in a café at Las Ramblas, and hiking up hills/mountains to view the city at sunset—all make for wonderful memories. Enjoy la tortilla patate (a potato omelet…delicious!) and freshly squeezed fruit juices in La Boqareia, the local indoor farmer’s market. You can explore the ruins of the walls and buildings built during the Roman rule of the city and visit the Columbus Monument, the landmark that commemorates Columbus’ return to Barcelona from the New World. More importantly, a trip to Barcelona will give you time to think, relax, and enjoy the city without feeling stressed by the chaos of a metropolitan life.
Colorful spices in the indoor farmer’s market, La Boqueria. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar
Some of Barcelona’s charm lies in the works of Gaudi, the famous architect who left his stamp on Barcelona’s history with his massive gothic church, the Sagrada Familia (along with other uniquely designed buildings and parks). The exterior of the church is dark and a bit scary, especially when you emerge from the underground Metro and find it leering over you (I actually gasped in fright when I turned around and saw it for the first time). But despite its dreary exterior, it’s light and serene on the inside with pillars that imitate tree branches and leaves. It is a major landmark of the city which is clearly visible from the mountaintops far away and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s definitely worth seeing if you’re in town.
The Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s work-in-progress gothic church. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar
The mister and I actually ate the BEST Pakistani food we’ve quite possibly EVER had…in BARCELONA!!! Unlike Madrid, which has a large Arab/North African Muslim population, Barcelona had a very large Pakistani Muslim population. If you’re brave enough to venture out into the “shady” parts of Barcelona, you’ll find Zeeshan Kababish, literally a hole-in-the-wall desi restaurant with inadequate lighting and questionable tableware. But goodness I can still taste that mutton biryani the food was so good we went there for dinner again the next night!P.S. for those of you who may be wondering…we were told that the water in both Madrid and Barcelona was safe to drink. We did buy bottled water several times, but we also drank the tap water and alhumdolillah didn’t have any negative experiences
Barcelona reaffirmed my love of traveling with its beautiful ocean views, historical ruins, architectural marvels, and delicious food. More importantly, it reminded me how wonderful it is to travel around the world and meet Muslims that speak completely different languages from my own and have different cultural practices. Saying salaam to another hijabi as you stroll down Las Ramblas (Barcelona’s pedestrian market), or getting help from a Muslim brother as you struggle with your carry-on while traveling on the Metro—it’s like sharing a secret smile or inside joke with a sibling. I can’t describe that warm fuzzy feeling but I know at that moment, it feels amazing to be a Muslim, even when you’re far from home.
Enjoying the beach in Barcelona. Photo Credit: Shahzeb Jabbar