article hero

#HHWT Explorers: Meet Iman; The Lady Behind YouTube Channel, Hijabi In Seoul City


Zarifah Azhar •  Sep 23, 2016


If you've ever wondered what life is like for a Muslim in Seoul, then you've probably stumbled across the YouTube channel, Hijabi in Seoul City! Iman started her life in Korea as an English teacher, and while doing so, started her YouTube channel with her desire to help Muslims who wish to visit or are residing in Korea! Tell us a little bit about yourself ?
My name is Iman, 27 years old, and a Somali-American living in Seoul, South Korea. I love traveling the world and sharing my experiences. What inspired you to start your YouTube channel, “Hijabi In Seoul City”? 
When I first got interested in Korea, a lot of the YouTube videos out there only addressed being a "foreigner in Korea," or "Black in Korea," but nothing that portrayed what it was like to be Black AND a Hijab-donning Muslimah in Korea. I had to learn a lot of things on my own and as situations presented themselves. I hope that my channel can be a helpful resource to those interested in Korea, and life in Korea as a Muslim. Can you share with us any interesting experiences you had in Seoul since you started teaching there?  Being a hijabi in Seoul, you get a lot of attention merely for the way you dress. This can be very daunting for some, especially with how Muslims are being portrayed in the media around the world, but I take it as a learning opportunity. Once Koreans know that I can speak Korean, they ask a lot of questions about my hijab, and where I'm from, because they're curious. Some are willing to accept you for who you are, and others will not understand why you dress they way you do. It's 50-50 really. Most Koreans believe what they see and hear in the news, but if you are able to lead by example, and explain to them what it really means to be a Muslim, I think we'll be able to have a better understanding of each other.
If you had an unlimited travel budget for 24 hours, what would your itinerary look like? Wow, this is so hard! I think being in Korea, I'm surrounded by so many amazing countries that I have yet to visit and explore. My first stop would definitely have to be Japan. One of my best friends from back home lives in Tokyo, and it would be so nice to have a mini reunion. She's been there for a while, and I know I would be able to see parts of Tokyo I couldn't experience on my own. After that, I would head down to Osaka, and eat to my hearts content. To end the night, I would fly over to Okinawa and watch the sunset on the beach. What are 3 of your favourite destinations, and why?Norway My uncle lives in Norway, and I've made so many unforgettable memories there with family and friends. Although Oslo is gorgeous and filled with so much history, I find Norway's nature to be absolutely breathtaking. I still have so many parts of the country left to explore (like the fjords), but it's one of my favourite destinations. Sweden Right next-door to Norway, Sweden also has a very special place in my heart because most of my cousins live there. I truly believe that exploring a country with the locals gives you a real authentic experience, and my cousins are the best tour guides (I might be a little biased)! Not only is Stockholm filled with so many gems and history, but it's the small towns that really embody the Swedish character. Unknown to most, it's become such a diverse country, that you can't help but appreciate the different cultures that have come to call Sweden home. Korea
I had to include Korea because it was my first solo trip! I traveled to Korea in June 2012 by myself for a month. Not only did I travel by myself, but it was the first time I was in charge of all the planning and figuring out how to make the most of 4 weeks in Korea. At the time I was based in Seoul, but I also visited Jeonju, and Busan. I learned a lot about myself on that trip, and it motivated me to one day move to Korea, and here I am! Alhamdullilah.
What are some of the challenges you have faced while travelling and what did you learn from it? I think the biggest challenge for me as a Hijabi traveling, is feeling like you constantly have to prove yourself. That you're not a threat to anyone's security, but rather that you're just trying to see the world just like any other person out there. What are your travel must-haves? With any trip, there's always a lot of time spent traveling and waiting, so it's very easy to get bored. I have to have some form of entertainment with me, whether it's my laptop filled with episodes of my current shows, to my phone filled with all of my playlists. Additionally, I have to have my portable chargers! Tell us an insider tip for people travelling to Seoul? 
For anyone who has traveled to Seoul, they know how convenient the Seoul Metro system is. You don't need a car, and can get to almost all of the tourist destinations by subway, or bus. One tip I would give to people traveling to Seoul is get a T-Money Card. This is the reloadable transportation card that you can purchase at any subway station/convenient store and use to travel on the train, buses, and even taxis! Depending on how much money you load onto the card, it can also be used to make purchases at participating convenient stores. What’s your favourite hang-out spot in Seoul?
Located near Daehangno Street/University Street and the Ihwa Mural Village, Naeil Coffee is hands down my favorite cafe in Seoul. I love the homey atmosphere of the cafe, but most of all the work that the owner does to give back to the community, and those looking for a better life in Korea. All of the baristas at Naeil Coffee are Africans living in Korea as refugees. This is not a common thing to see in Korea, although the foreign population is slowly on the rise each year. I love that Koreans get a chance to interact with them and hopefully break any stereotypes they had towards Blacks and Africans. Whenever I have a lot of assignments to grade, or report cards to write, I can spend the whole day working there.  Anyone who follows me on Instagram will tell you I go there a lot! LOL!
What’s your favourite video on your channel?  Picking my favorite video is not easy! I would have to say my video about the Eid Guesthouse here in Seoul is one of my favorites. It's the first Muslim-only guesthouse owned by the sweetest Korean Muslim family. It's located in walking distance to their Halal Korean restaurant, as well as the largest mosque in Korea, the Seoul Central Mosque. Fill in the blank: My hope for the world is that…  we can learn to truly embrace our differences, for only then can we live in harmony.