Roaming reporter Sara Noor (@SteezeLDN) tackles the 'City of Lights'
Las Vegas, the microcosmic epitome of western culture, fantasy and mayhem. Admittedly, one’s first impression may be apprehensive as it certainly is not advertised as an ideal retreat for a Muslim. Nevertheless, after taking the plunge anyway, we found Nevada’s promiscuous powerhouse to be a diverse and friendly tourist destination for everyone.
Upon arrival, we did not expect to find any halal eateries or entertainment. Even so, after a thorough Zabiha search and befriending locals; we were astonished to find a handful of Masajid and numerous food outlets.
However, a trip to Vegas is not complete without a detailed dissection of the strip, so whilst this feature mentions Muslim friendly areas, a major focus also surrounds halal options within mixed environments such as casino’s and restaurant/bar’s also serving alcohol.
Check out Bahath’s tour of our top 10 travelling tips for tourists tackling Vegas.
This mini-city proved absolutely nothing like the original but when you realise that the majority of American tourists are utterly in awe of the Vegas Eiffel Tower; you’ll also understand that most of these people have never been to Paris, France and probably never will. Whilst definitely more entertaining at night, the French themed hotel and casino prides itself in the half size tower, which is open to tourists as a look out spot all year round.
The view from 165m up was surely impressive, boasting all the incredibly picturesque urban and mountainous beauty the city has to offer. It’s also the best spot to watch the Bellagio’s Fountain Show which was great because viewing time was unlimited. Unlike many tower top experiences, I was allowed to stay for as long as I liked, and for $17 I guess it was worth it.
The staff were super friendly and knowledgeable of the casino as well as Las Vegas generally.
Highlight: Getting professional photographs on the bridge inside the Casino, in which both the back legs of the tower cling onto the ceiling. It sounds like an architectural nightmare but it looks pretty good so you’ll have to take my word for it
Lowlight: I asked where mini-London is. There is no mini-London. Not okay.
2) GRAND CANYON
Admittedly I didn’t get the opportunity to visit the Grand Canyon, but it’s a 4 hour drive away from Vegas to the North West Rim, slightly shorter from Arizona to the South Rim. Promising breath taking views from either side, the Grand Canyon National Park is the unmissable attraction of the district. It’s accessible by donkey, foot and helicopter all which seem marvellous, it’s definitely on my list for next time.
3) HARD ROCK CAFE
With 42,000 square feet of indoor space, this Hard Rock certainly exceeds our expectations of the ordinary café. It’s next to the MGM Grand on Las Vegas Boulevard and boasts an array of entertaining features. The wonderful view of the Strip from its’ entrance, particularly at night, separates this experience from any other eatery, meaning you can’t visit Vegas without an evening at the Hard Rock.
Highlight: Interactive Rock Wall
Lowlight: Awkward to get to by foot from Paris
4) HERSHEY'S CHOCOLATE WORLD
The flagship West Coast store offers every chocolate lover’s dream; a Liberty statue made entirely out of chocolate, the chance to feature in a Reese’s commercial, oh and it’s 2 stories of pure cocoa retail. You can’t go wrong with a place like this which aims to unite chocolate fans and families; the casino is set to open soon within the mini New York City Complex.
Highlight: reminded me of an upgraded M&M world
Lowlight: Vegas is a desert, the chocolate melts instantly so I couldn’t buy any to take back to Los Angeles.
5) MARASH TURKISH ICE CREAM
Their ice cream was superbly creamy, a definite treat for all dessert lovers. The staff were really friendly too, which added to the tight knit vibe of the Muslim community out in Las Vegas.
Highlight: They also serve kebab
Lowlight: I wish it had been bigger! Further variety in flavours would’ve been great too.
6) EMPIRE STATE NYC
Modelled after the New York skyline, this iconic hotel-casino complex uses and abuses its’ theme abundantly. The lake in front of the faux Chrysler is meant to represent New York Harbour, while the Manhattan Express Rollercoaster adds the edgy ‘fast-life’ vibe tourists tend to be after. So whilst the mini-city is packed with dozens of night clubs and bars, there’s clearly still plenty to see including a mini Liberty statue.
Highlights: Original theme park aspect, and the concrete jungle design added to the New York vibe
Lowlights: The ESPN Zone- the NYC Sports restaurant closed down in June 2010!
7) BELLAGIO FOUNTAIN SHOW
Although a dupe for the Dubai Mall Fountain Show, it’s still pretty good. I’m not sure how anything could be bad about a water show, apart from the fact we’re in a desert with severe drought, but economic water geographies are so minor, right?
The hotel itself offers ridiculous views of the landscape in the background reminding us of the natural beauty of the place; the contrast of untouched land to the city strip proved unique to Vegas. It slightly made me want to visit Salt Lake City, but nevertheless the architecture of this stunning hotel matched perfectly with the show which was even more amazing at dusk.
Highlight: watching the show from the top of the Vegas Eiffel is so much better, trust me
Lowlight: It’s not as elaborate as the Dubai version but as far as desert water shows go, its up there with the best.
8) UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA
I don’t really think I need to say anything, but look at this place! I only visited it to use their prayer room, but the campus felt insane, it was like being in a SIMS reality, it was so big. Notable alumni include Lamar Odom and Jimmy Kimmel and if I had the opportunity to study here I would most certainly trade the rainy clouds of London for this immense research institute.
There’s a mosque to the left and a casino to the right and Hershey’s Chocolate World behind you; it’s no surprise the student body caters to a diverse array of academics.
9) BALADIE CAFE
The food in Vegas is absolutely amazing, no exaggeration. Honestly, the best meal I’ve ever had was at Tequila Taquiera, the king prawn taco’s for lunch was genuinely once of the best life choices I have made. Another favourite was Baladie Café, a Mediterranean counter-serve spot serving fresh kebab and meze treats.
Highlight: Completely halal, great service
Lowlight: how can you have a lowlight with kebab…
A 2 minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip, this fabulous juxtaposition left me thoroughly amused, especially when I learned there are 3 other mosque’s within a mile radius. Vegas is home to over 10,000 Muslims, a people usually forgotten partly because they do not represent the stereo-typical culture of Las Vegas life. But I guess that was the entire purpose of my trip, to prove there’s more to the city than meets the internet.
Every glittery metropolis is only truly globalised when it has a sizeable population of ethnically diverse citizens, proven when I met the local Imam and his friends who originate from Cameroon. They told me the majority Muslim community is of Afghan descent but the sizeable African community here made for interesting conversations:
“So sister, what brings you to Vegas? And by yourself?!”
“Well, funnily enough, I’m actually here to ask you the same question.”
“Vegas is great. Whilst the Fitnah is in abundance, we do understand that, there is so much more to the city than simply the strip. We have a large diverse community and its important that people recognise that. It’s a city for everyone, not just gamblers.”
“What’s your favourite thing to do in Vegas for entertainment?”
“Go to the mosque and pray. Haha, in all honesty, I never visit the Strip. I am not a tourist, what need is there for me to be here? It is not necessary. In the past when I had visited this place I liked to visit the fountains. Driving you back here is the first time I’ve been in 15 years. It’s eye opening how much has changed.”
Highlight: The masjid was two stories and the women have been allocated the entire second floor which consists of several private rooms and communal space. It’s literally enormous and the spacious car park makes it a popular choice for Jummah and Eid celebrations as opposed to local much smaller masjid’s.
The group also drove me free of charge after Isha, back to Paris so I could catch my return shuttle to the airport. May Allah increase them in health and in happiness, ameen.
Lowlight: On the way to the masjid from baby New York, I took a taxi. My driver was called Ahmed, I never saw him again because my return drive was on the masjid. If you visit Vegas and want the 101 as well as an enjoyable ride, call him on 70 2350 7528. Give him my salaam, I never got the chance.