For the first time in my life, I was surrounded by Muslims.
Zanzibar, located off the coast of Tanzania, is 99% Muslim. After my time there, I feel profound awe and respect for a religion where women drape themselves in gorgeous fabric to hide everything but their faces. Where throughout the day, and wherever they are, grown men hear the call, turn to face the birthplace of their Prophet, drop to their knees, and pray. I sometimes have a hard time bowing my head before meals.
We were treated with such kindness and respect. I dressed modestly, but blushed over my exposed collarbone. Not for the first time on this trip, I suddenly understood an entirely new perspective. These women cover everything but their eyes. Whereas I cover my eyes and show almost everything else.
Despite my decidedly Western appearance, the women smiled and made me feel welcome and safe. In our exchanged smiles, I imagined a communication of mutual respect and an apology for our peoples' cruelties against the other's. I fantasized of the progress if a billion such smiles happened between a billion different people from each side of the hemisphere.
We have entered Muslim territory and this is just the start. I know we will likely have some bad experiences. But I’ll always remember and be humbly grateful for this beginning.