Amira Patel, a British-Indian from Lancashire, England is an adventurer, a content creator, and now, running female-only hiking tours for Muslim women. Patel loves the outdoors and found her passion for hiking during her teen years. She is a Muslim travel enthusiast who is set out on a mission to make the travel space more accessible and inclusive for women of color, especially for Muslim women who lack representation in the international travel community.
Apart from her goal of hiking at some of the top-rated trails in the United Kingdom, Patel likes to practice her religion when she is out in the wild. She does this by hiking with a niqab (face veil), which holds a lot of religious significance for many Muslim women. Patel believes that her connection with God is what motivates her to try out different adventures and helps her with the racism she encountered during her travels.
To inspire and encourage more Muslim women to travel, Patel regularly posts about her hikes in the U.K. on her Instagram page, Amira the Wanderlust. Instagram is a favorite among travel bloggers and influencers. In recent years, influencers who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color have taken to social media to encourage their peers to travel.
“I came across so many [women of color] travel enthusiasts on Instagram and upon chatting with them, I got to know that they have been traveling for many years,” Patel told Passionfruit. “Though from my personal experience and from talking to them, I can say that our travel experiences are different than our white counterparts but gradually things are changing, and I hope we all can travel without any racial differences in the years to come.”
Recently, Patel started The Wanderlust Women, a group for Muslim women who want to hike and adventure. The Wanderlust Women have so far organized a few all-female short hikes around Lancashire and recently successfully conducted a Ramadan hike during which all the participating women hiked while fasting to celebrate the spirit of the Muslim holy month.
“As we [were] in the holy month of Ramadan, we organized our first-ever iftar hike. Iftar is the fast-breaking time, so we hiked before breaking our fasts and then enjoyed a big feast in a picnic-style in the mountains. The iftar hike was a huge success for us and we plan to organize many such hikes in the future,” Patel said.
Patel has been fond of traveling for years. “My mom always motivated me to push my limits and to attempt challenging hikes. That’s how naturally my interests started to get inclined towards hiking,” Patel said. “I am still trying to pursue other adventure activities as well, like paddleboarding, wild swimming, and rock climbing. I recently started cycling and seeing my growing interest in it, it looks like I am going to be doing many cycling trips in the near future”.
Patel aims to be a role model for Muslim women who love to travel. She wears a niqab at all times during her trips in order to show others that they can pursue traveling without feeling restricted by their choice of clothing. The niqab has been a major part of her identity since she was young and she feels most comfortable when wearing it. Whether she is hiking, kayaking, or climbing a mountain, you will always find her wearing her face veil.
“My niqab has never caused me any trouble whatsoever, no matter how excruciating the adventure activity is that I am doing,” Patel said. “It always attracts a lot of attention from people, which is most of the time just curious looks. I used to get uncomfortable because of the attention when I initially started traveling but now, I am very much used to it and I deal with it like a pro.”
During her early years of traveling, Patel had a hard time finding women in the travel community who looked and dressed like her. One of the reasons is that the travel influencing community has historically been dominated by white travelers. However, things are slowly changing, as diversity and inclusivity become priorities across all industries. Clothing brands like Nike are even creating activewear that better serves diverse audiences, including a burkini for Muslim travelers. Similar sportswear brands can encourage Muslim women to pursue traveling and outdoor activities by creating more modest garments that show that modesty and strenuous activity are not mutually exclusive. Patel attests to this.
“The majority of the time, all the attention my niqab attracts is mostly curious looks from people who don’t expect a girl dressed up like me to do adventure activities or to travel solo all by herself,” she said.
Still, in 2021, the Asian community in the U.K. experienced a 300% increase in hate crimes. As a result, Patel said she has become extra careful when going outdoors: “I am always very cautious during solo hikes after many racial attack incidents in the U.K., for this reason, I only hike solo to nearby places I know very well.”
Through social media and the outdoor community in the U.K., Patel has found like-minded people who appreciate her story and how she practices her religious beliefs while traveling. With the Wanderlust Women, she hopes to create a community for women where everyone can share tips, learn from each other, and plan group activities together. In just two years’ time, the Wanderlust Women group has garnered popularity within the Muslim and the travel communities in the U.K. Patel hopes to continue building a dedicated space for traveling Muslim women.
“I want to inspire and encourage more Muslim women to start traveling and break all the stereotypes we are often associated with,” she said.