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Why is the availability of prayer facilities so important to Muslim travelers?

Prayer is the method of worship and the main connection of man to Allah (God) and is considered to be the most important obligation and duty of a Muslim. Abandoning prayer is considered to be a major sin that a Muslim can commit. Every Muslim is expected to pray five times a day and not praying is not an option. However Muslims do have the option of shortening and combining prayers when travelling. 

When Muslims are travelling there are special rulings that should be considered. The distance of the journey and the duration of the stay will play an important factor in deciding if the prayer can be shortened or combined. While there are scholarly differences in opinion in regards to this, it is generally agreed that shortening of prayer (Qasr) is possible while traveling.

Muslim travelers will need to do some research on prayer facilities and prayer times in the travel destination before setting out on a journey as it might prove to be difficult to find facilities and prayer times when on the road. Although there are apps –like Crescent Trips - that can be downloaded where Muslim travelers can check prayer times and qibla direction on their phones, it is still wise to do some research before setting out on a trip. When traveling abroad it is good to stay at a hotel located close to a mosque or at least know the location of the Mosques in the area. Those on holiday will find it convenient to know the location of mosques near the attractions they are visiting so that they can offer their prayers on time, without a problem.

Destinations where Mosques are hard to find make it almost impossible for Muslim travelers to offer their prayers on time. They might have to go back to the hotel in order to pray when there is no adequate prayer facility. This would be inconvenient when the sites are situated a long distance away from the hotel. However if the hotel is located in a central area to the places of interest or famous sites, Muslim tourists might not find it hard to go back to their hotel rooms in order to offer their prayers. The inconvenience of having to keep going back to the hotel might discourage Muslim travelers from visiting certain countries or cities where prayer facilities are harder to find, as prayer is a significant part of their daily routine. It might cause them to choose destinations that provide easier access to prayer facilities and other Muslim-friendly facilities.

With more and more Muslims traveling for various reasons such as for leisure, business, education and health the demand for better Muslim-friendly facilities are causing many countries and travel related businesses to take note and provide these facilities in order to capture this segment of travelers. Aside from providing halal meal options to their Muslim guests, many airports are now offering their Muslim travelers prayer facilities as well. Some airlines too have special facilities for Muslims as they have an area on the plane where prayers can be offered and they also have a compass that will tell travelers the direction of Makkah.

Many countries too have encouraged travel and tourism related businesses to provide Muslim-friendly facilities in order to cater to this fast growing travel segment. Many malls and shopping centers are also providing prayer rooms in their premises. This will definitely encourage their Muslim shoppers to stay longer and prevent them from leaving the mall or shopping center at prayer times. Thus, by offering just a couple of facilities, destinations can become popular among Muslims.