Muslims are a minority in Cambodia. A large part of the Muslim population in Cambodia belong to the Cham people, who do follow the Islamic faith but still practice many of their pre-Muslim traditions. The rest are Sunni Muslims who have come to Cambodia hundreds of years ago. Small their population already is, they have further suffered greatly during the Khmer Rouge era, when the regime systematically tried to destroy Cham culture by destroying their mosques, forbidding their beliefs, forcing them to eat pork, and sending their children away to be raised as Khmers.
The Muslims of Cambodia, just like the rest of the populace, are still on the verge of recovering from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge. They are concentrated in the Kampong Cham province, the traditional domain of the Chams in Cambodia, though Muslim communities are also present in urban centers like Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang.
Finding Halal Food in Cambodia
If you’re staying in urban centers and tourist-friendly towns like Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang and Sihanoukville, you won’t have trouble finding restaurants owned by Muslims. Your dining options are also varied. There are restaurants and stalls serving Khmer halal food. However, if your tastes run toward Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian and even Arabic cuisine, you can simply walk around and find them.
In the rural areas, though, where Muslim presence is close to none, you may find it challenging to find safe food to eat. Cambodia does have a halal certification board, but they rarely conduct rigorous inspections before issuing certifications on food products. Thus, even though a food packet says it’s halal certified, you can’t be sure it really is. The situation is made even worse by the fact that Cambodians will typically use the same pan they cooked meat in for cooking vegetables without cleaning the pan first.
Even in Kampong Cham, the Cham people seldom eat out because they fear eating unsafe food. They tend to buy their food from other Muslims they trust, and they cook their own meals at home.
Finding a Safe Place to Pray in Cambodia
The Khmer Rouge has destroyed many of Cambodia’s mosques. The Muslims of Cambodia are in the process of rebuilding some of them. Most of these mosques are concentrated, as expected, in Kampong Cham.
Phnom Penh does have a handful of mosques, the most popular of which is the Al-Serkal Grand Mosque. The Al-Serkal is a new building, inaugurated in 2014, and is the only mosque in Cambodia sporting a middle-eastern design. Siem Reap has one mosque, located in Steng Tmey.
If you can’t find a place of worship in Cambodia, the best solution is to simply find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. There are plenty of them in the rural areas, just face west towards the direction of Mecca, and pray. Having a compass app helps in finding Mecca.
Hiring a Guide is Your Key to Enjoying Your Cambodia Holiday As a Muslim
If this is your first time to visit Cambodia, best to hire a tour guide specializing in Muslim travels. Your tour guide will help you find safe places to eat and quiet places for worshipping. Besides that, they’ll address other concerns you may face on your holiday. As long as you choose your guide well, you will have a safe and hassle-free holiday in Cambodia.