As countries are slowly reopening their borders after easing lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we reached out to Muslims all over the world to find out how life and travelling have changed where they live. We hope their stories will inspire you to continue dreaming about travelling, even if international borders might still be closed now.
In the first part of our "Life After COVID-19" series, we head to Oslo in Norway, the land of the midnight sun and the fjords.
This story was contributed by one of our readers, Kelly, a Malaysian Muslim who has been living in Norway for more than 8 months. Kelly moved from Malaysia to Oslo for work and she is currently living alone while the rest of her family are in Malaysia. Note: Some parts of the article may have been edited for length and clarity.
COVID-19 situation in Oslo right now
We were in lockdown for about 2 months but life is almost back to normal now, with an average of about 5 COVID-19 cases daily.
I have been going to work since late April which started with limited hours but we are now officially allowed to be at work at 50% capacity. However, no international students are allowed to enrol for the Autumn intake and there are social distancing rules that the students that come to university must adhere to. Travelling within the country is allowed and just recently that there is a list of European countries that are considered safe to travel to without needing any quarantine when returning to the country.
Safe distancing measures are in place. At the start, it was a 2-metre distance, but now it has been reduced to 1-metre.
Almost all shops have a hand disinfection station to use prior to entering the shop and the standard social distancing measures are also in place. Shops also have barriers installed between the cashier and customers.
Public transport is running normally with the usual social distancing measures in place. From a social aspect, we are allowed to meet up with friends and as far as I know, there is no limit to the number of people. Face masks are not the norm here but I think it is required if we are travelling out of the country.
How travelling is like in Norway in the new normal
I've only travelled from my house to the city centre and nearby suburbs so far. I started taking public transport maybe about 1 to 2 months ago as we are advised to not use public transport unless absolutely needed. As practised in a lot of places around the world, some seats on public transport are blocked out to reduce passenger capacity. One thing that I find pretty useful is that the subway doors will open automatically without us prompting for it to do so. Overall, it is nice having more personal space when taking public transport but it's slightly stressful as we'd always need to be cautious about where we stand/touch etc.
What you should see when you visit Oslo
Sognsvann Lake is a dose of nature which is just a subway trip away from the city centre! I like the views and peacefulness here. It is a huge lake and there are many spots around the lake to have a picnic/BBQ or just chill and relax. Swimming and kayaking in the lake are allowed. There is also a running/jogging track around the lake too.
The lake is pretty big and from the times that I have been there, it seems like a family-friendly place too. What I really like about it is how close it is to the city centre and how accessible it is. You just need to take a subway (they call it T-bane here) from Oslo S and ride it until the end of the line.
A viewing point at Vettakollen which is just a 30-min hike (about 3 km away) has amazing views of the fjords ? Bring a small picnic basket and hike up to Vettakollen during the day and then hike down to Sognsvann for a picnic by the lake. The hike is short and fairly easy, there's a bit of an uphill but the views are worth it.
Sunset at the lake is the best time to go and during summer, this could be around 10-11PM! There are a lot of spots around the lake to choose from; there are some busier spots with sun but also plenty of other spots with shade.
There is also a grocery shop (called Kiwi) and convenience stores nearby where you can buy these small disposable BBQ pits. It is super useful when you just want to have an impromptu BBQ lunch/dinner by the lake. There are a lot of vegetarian options as well as seafood options sold at the stores. The lake is about 5-ish minutes walk away.
There's also another place which I thought was really amazing. It's this place called Flåm which is more to the west of Oslo.
Norway is known for its fjords and this place is definitely one of the best places to see them! The train ride there is about 6-ish hours long (two trains to be exact). But again, it's accessible by public transport which is really nice. It is a bit of a touristy spot but I think it is definitely worth a visit if you ever come to Norway.
P.S. Check out these 10 other stunning places in Scandinavia!
Unfortunately, half of my time here has been in the COVID-19 era so I have not had the opportunity to venture out as much as I wanted to. Now that Norway is somewhat back to normal, I am looking forward to exploring Norway a lot more ?
Tips for Muslim travellers
I have yet to find a favourite halal restaurant here, but I usually opt for vegetarian or seafood.
Eating out here can be pricey and might be a bit difficult to know whether or not it is Halal-certified. The best option would be to buy groceries and cook your own meals. It is not difficult to find Halal meats, particularly in the Grønland area (which is just a short walk from the city centre) and there are also Halal restaurants there!
You can find more of Kelly's adventures in Norway on her Instagram @kellylisah_.
P.S. Want to share your tips and stories to help Muslims travel better? Click on this link to share your experience!