Fathom Questionnaire: Rafat Ali
by Rafat Ali
Hometown: Aligarh, India + Salford, UK
Occupation: Internet entrepreneur.
Favorite destinations: Comoros Islands, Outer Hebrides, Mongolia.
Dying to visit: Yemen, mainly because it is so frozen in time and has lots of Islamic history to savor. But it's too dangerous now. "Dying to visit" might be too literal here.
Bizarre travel rituals: Not really bizarre, just more personal, but I perform the specific Muslim travel prayer before I start any journey, something that helps me be more confident and feel safe about my travels. Solo travel doesn't have to be completely solo: Someone somewhere is looking after you.
In-flight relaxation regime: Kindle, what else! Strangely, it isn't music. I'm not a big music listener on flights, even long ones.
Always in carry-on: My Gorillapod tripod travel buddy. That thing is the best friend a solo photographing traveler would want. And pouches of my ginger tea and a Pakistani herbal tea called Johar Joshanda (it helps ward off cold and general allergies and energizes).
Concierge or DIY? Of course DIY. The entrepreneur in me wants to figure it out all myself.
See it all or take it easy? Somewhere in between, I would say. You have to go in cycles, to charge and recharge.
Drive or be driven? Ah, the answer again: depends. On crazy roads, like in India or Colombia, it is better to be driven. Also, the cost of hiring a car with a driver isn't any more than renting a car. Most countries like these won't just rent you a car anyway unless there are established rental companies, and there aren't.
Travel hero: Paul Theroux for his travel writing and Robert D. Kaplan for his geopolitically aware writing.
Weirdest thing seen on travels: Baby goats sleeping in my bed besides me inside a ger/yurt in Mongolia, a very matter-of-fact occurrence. Then in Medellin, Colombia, a visit to Pablo Escobar's former harem and the now-dry jacuzzi.
Best hotel amenity: Any hotel that has a water kettle wins lotsa points from me. And if you have a tempurpedic pillow, you may just be heaven, though this is very rare, even in a very high-end hotel.
I dream about my meal at a local's home. Depends where you are, but if you get invited, never turn it down.
Everywhere I go, I check out the local fish/animal/meat/food bazaar, where the real action is. In places lke Uzbekistan, Oman, Qatar, and India, you get to see live auctions of birds/animals/etce, which is the most awesomely bizarre experience.
When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by taking a bus, always the one where you will find most locals, sans tourists.
I always bring home local spices from where ever I go. Can't go wrong with that; I usually incorporate all these spices in my improvised Indian coooking.
If I never return to Germany, it'll be too soon because there's nothing to eat for a pescatarian.
I travel to satisfy my global eclectic soul.