Nov 2015 - A call to travel: Muslim Odysseys

Rumaizah started her writing journey with poetry and short fiction. However, her publisher (Silverfish) suggested she focus on travel writing, commenting that she has a gift for it. And he is right. Rumaizah has her own unique voice, and narrates her journeys from a Malaysian Muslim woman’s point of view.


Her travel writing was inspired by a poem written by Imam Shafie, one of the four great imams in Islamic history: A Call to Travel, which is also the title of her book. Her Muslim odysseys have shown her the vast diversity of the Muslim world, from the liberal (Turkey) to the conservative (Saudi Arabia) to the diverse (Indonesia).

As Rumaizah explained, travel writing is a delicate and impartial vehicle to convey various teachings of her religion and raise awareness of Islam and Muslims. Practices may vary slightly in different countries, but the essence is the same. We need to embrace our similarities rather than bicker about the differences.


The first chapter of her odyssey was to Turkey in 2009 where her adventures are revealed in My First Winter, Lost in the Labyrinth, Winter Daisies, Cay for two, Playgrounds and Cotton Castle.

The second chapter is to Saudi Arabia in 2006 and 2011. This illustrates Where camels lie, Mail Order Bride, Garden of Paradise, Sunrise Guests and Body Search.

The final chapter is set in Indonesia from 2011 to 2013. Here Rumaizah shows us the City of Pempek, Adam and Eve, By the Perahu, Chasing Shadows, Scent of Clove, Ghosts from the Past, When Trees Prostrate.


All three chapters include gentle humour, occasional anger and some sadness. The chapter on Turkey has many cliff-hanging moments of suspense. The chapter on Saudi Arabia is of particular interest to those who want to understand more about Islam and Muslims as Rumaizah travels to the Hajj once and Umrah twice; all trips were made with her parents. The last chapter we could use as an itinerary of where to go in Indonesia and what to do: a veritable travel guide.  

There are many surprises in her work, not least is the fact that she doesn’t write full time. She has a demanding day job in public relations. She is Head of Communications for an international environmental conservation non-government organization and writes only during her free time and has to utilise her annual leave to travel for research and vacation (self-financed).


Looking to the future Rumaizah has a few projects in mind, another short story collection or a novel. She may continue A Call to Travel covering another three countries. We hope she will do this and very much look forward to her returning to share those countries with us.


Thank you Rumaizah for a very informative talk and for bringing along some of your books including A Call to Travel so that many of us could buy them (especially good at this time with Christmas almost upon us). 


Judyth Gregory-Smith