As with every month at a startup, this month we had some heady heights and some difficult lows.

Heres what happened.

The Good

1) We released our Restaurant Finder app, and it got to Number 1 on the Play Store!

Having spent the best part of a year and a half on this project, it was ridiculously rewarding to see our newly released app at No.1 on Google’s Play Store Top Free Apps. We celebrated our soft launch day with the fantastic folks at Muslamic Makers. Being at Muslamic Makers was exactly where we wanted to be; it felt like home for us. If you haven’t been to one of their events, check out the next one here. Shout out to Arfah, who gave us a shout out at the end of the night, the awesome folks at Amaliah for hosting us, and the amazing folks who made us feel like it was Eid with their excitement.

Heres us on our way to our ‘our app rocks’ celebrations.

Our app is at Number One!

Our app is at Number One!

Little known fact: We had a restaurant finder app out in the App Store in 2014. I designed it myself and had to get a designer to align things for me because I didn’t know how to use the alignment tools on Photoshop. I still don’t really know how to use those tools properly.

2) We’re in a book!
Shelina Janhomamed’s book Generation M:

Generation M: Young Muslims Changing the World

has the following to say about us:

“‘I want to celebrate halal dining,’ says Zohra Khaku, the founder of digital magazine ‘Halal Gems’…The Halal Gems website includes a restaurant finder, which was the original foundation of the concept, but it’s the glossy content that differentiates it, offering interviews and events, and highlighting trends in the halal food scene.”

See what else Shelina says about us and the rest of Generation M here.

Thanks Shelina!

3) The Global Islamic Economy Summit
I moderated two panels at GIES in Dubai this month. The first was “A universal halal market: an overambitious hope or near-term possibility?” where Mohammed Badri (International Halal Accreditation Forum), Rafi-uddin Shikoh (Dinar Standard) and Saqib Mohammed (Halal Food Authority) shared their views on whether it would ever be possible to get behind one halal label.

The second was “The Gen Z effect: can the Islamic economy meet post-millennial expectations?” where we heard from Marcie Merriman (Ernst & Young) , Sunil John (Asda’a Burson-Marsteller) and Amani Al-Khatahtbeh (MuslimGirl.net) on who Gen Z are, what they think, and whether current brand offerings were resounding with them. Spoiler alert: the answer to this was ‘kinda, but not really’.

Although the halal food panel was fascinating from an industry perspective, the most exciting part of my trip was meeting Amani Al-Khatahtbeh. She was as awesome as you’d think, and her upcoming book is absolutely incredible. It really gets you thinking, and we love her attitude to life. It will be available in the UK in January 2017 and is available to pre-order here:
Muslim Girl: A Coming of Age

Global Islamic Economy Summit

Global Islamic Economy Summit

The Bad

The balance to the fantastic things that happen at HG this month was the dreaded Food Poisoning of Unknown Origin that affected the team at the end of the month. We were both knocked out for a couple of days while our bodies took their revenge for our dodgy eating habits. No need to worry, we celebrated feeling better with a cheeky Nandos.

Parking fines in Dubai are not to be taken lightly. A friend and I drove through a red light and ended up paying more than the cost of a flight to Dubai for the ticket! Life lesson: don’t go through red lights. Its dangerous and painfully expensive.

The Ugly

One of the things we do at Halal Gems is check the halal status of each of the restaurants in our curated list of halal restaurants. We ask several questions including whether the kitchen is fully halal or also handles non-halal food, whether they serve alcohol and whether they have a particular halal certified supplier. This month we had some unusual responses from a few restaurants, stating that although they serve halal meat and would be happy to tell individual customers about it, they did not want to be listed publicly as a restaurant that serves halal food.

This is a problem.

So, you’re telling us you want Muslims to come and eat here, but you’re ashamed/afraid/being weird about the fact that you serve halal food. Take our money, but pretend you don’t know us. Interesting.

What is the right thing to do about these restaurants? Name and shame? Push them harder to understand what their hesitation and concerns are about? Answers on a postcard.