The Silk Road as we describe it on Caravanistan is a big region, stretching from Istanbul to Xi’an, majority-Muslim, but not entirely, and with a recent or current history of state-sanctioned atheism.
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A popular destination for Arab travellers, Azerbaijan has plenty of options for halal travel: Baku is replete with luxury hotels experienced in servicing Muslim travellers, while the mountains near the Russian border now have a number of luxury resorts offering fresh air, privacy and family-friendly accommodation.
Azerbaijan is a Muslim country, so it is easy to find halal meat. Restaurants that do not serve alcohol are harder to find, but definitely not impossible.
Georgia & Armenia
Travel in these intensely Christian countries is rather more difficult for halal travelers. Tbilisi and Batumi have seen a fast-growing Muslim presence in recent years, with Muslim-operated restaurants, but halal travelers will find few offers catering to them beyond that. Although Georgia has become a rising star amongst travelers from the Muslim world, we will have to catalogue that as Absolutely Not halal travel (see below).
Pankisi Gorge in Georgia is a halal destination, inhabited by Muslim Chechens, while Adjara region and the border area with Azerbaijan also holds a considerable number of practicing Muslims.
There are less than 1000 Muslims living in Armenia, a country with a profound hatred for its neighbours Azerbaijan and Turkey. However, like in Georgia, where hate-speech and disrespectful comments are also commonplace, there are few reports of physical violence towards Muslims in the region, unlike people from the LGBT community, who are routinely beaten, raped and murdered.
All travel is de facto halal.
All 5 ‘stans of Soviet Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan) have majority-Muslim populations. It therefore is not difficult to find mosques and halal food, although there are few accommodation options catering specifically to halal travelers.
It must be said that the presence of Islam is uncomfortable to the region’s authoritarian regimes. Steeped in the traditions of the Soviet system, politician fear religion as it represents an authority above their own. While this is not an issue to the average halal traveller, it is something to be aware of.
It is also true that the historic Russian dominance in the region, coupled with stilted economic prospects, makes that alcohol is everywhere.
About 1 million Muslims have been imprisoned in Western China because of their religion. Islamic traditions like wearing beards, praying or going to the mosque are highly curtailed. Travel in Xinjiang as a Muslim is not impossible, but it obviously comes with challenges.
Absolutely not halal travel
It probably does not come as a surprise to the wordly halal traveler that the vast majority of Muslim travelers see the Caucasus and Central Asia as a playground for the absolute opposite of pious pilgrimage: alcohol, night clubs, casinos and lots of prostitutes.
You should be aware that, particularly as a male from an Arab country, traveling with or without your wives, it is assumed that is why you came, and you will be thus propositioned.
If you are coming with children, you might find our article on Silk Road travel with children useful as well.