Karima Bihaki is trying to build an Airbnb for Muslims with her startup ‘Book Halal Homes’

According to State of the Global Economy Report 2016/2017 by Thomson Reuters, Halal economy is going to be worth $3 trillion by 2021. This represents the food and lifestyle expenditure only. The same report estimates Halal travel industry to reach $243 billion by 2021. In 2015, Muslims spent $151 on outbound travel with $24 billion of it spent on Muslim friendly tourism

Book Halal Homes is a UK-based startup that wants to take a slice of the $243-billion market. Founded by Karima Bihaki last year, it’s a peer-to-peer property rental platform that focuses on Halal tourism market only. Dubbed as ‘Muslim Aribnb’ by its users, it lets them list, discover and book Muslim-friendly accommodations all around the world. The properties are reviewed before they go live on the platform to ensure that the properties are indeed Muslim-friendly.

“So when we are talking about Halal homes it means that all the listed properties on our rental marketplace are selected with the Muslim traveler and Muslim Host in mind. They all offer halal food, non-alcoholic drinks, non-smoking areas, private pools and spas, prayer facilities on site. Hosts rent out their properties to travelers in harmony with their values and beliefs. Guests enjoy the host’s home as if it were a place like home.”

Bihaki who is also an Islamic Economy Adviser came up with the idea  because of her own struggles to locate Muslim-friendly rooms across the globe as a female Muslim traveler. She had to depend on different classifieds websites and her own network to find private rooms and then there was tiring process of exchanging messages and emails with the property owners to book these rooms. Bihaki had to go through the same struggle when she wanted to rent out her own property.

“As a Muslim woman, I feel safer, more myself, and enjoy my time away more when staying in a private home as opposed to a packed noisy hotel.” she said speaking to MENAbytes.

The platform currently has 120 properties only but that’s because she had been using the platform only to validate the concept until recently. After receiving great response from the community, Bihaki and her team are now working on the second version of the platform which she expects to launch later this year or early next year.

“We’re currently building the next version of the platform which will have many new offerings and much more properties. We are aiming to have more than 3,000 of them at the start of next year.” She told us.

The new platform will not only be limited to accommodations. It will offer users a complete experience through its mobile apps helping them look for mosques, halal restaurants and religious sights nearby.

“During our last eighteen months of operations, we have collected a lot of feedback by engaging with users. One of the most requested feature has been halal restaurant and mosques search. Muslim travelers always struggle with these. We are currently working to develop our library of all these places to offer our Muslim brothers and sisters the complete travel experience without leaving the Book Halal Homes platform.” Bihaki added.

With the new platform, they’re also adding different layers of security to ensure safety of both property owners and travelers who use their platform.

Having launched last year, the startup is bootstrapped and currently has a remote-team that’s working with Bihaki. She’s currently speaking with different international angel investors to raise a pre-seed round and is also considering the option of joining a London-based accelerator.

Zubair Naeem Paracha
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