Getting Around the City:
No car, no problem! Fortunately most of the Washington, DC metropolitan area is accessible via its extensive, albeit sometimes flawed Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority (mostly referred to as “WMATA” by residents) train and bus systems. The official website provides useful information for newcomers about fair prices (it’s done off of a zone system), available passes, service schedules, and other stuff. I’ll spare you the hassle of reading through all of it and share the most important stuff, as well as some insider tips to make your commute easier.
- As soon as possible, pick up a SmarTrip card at CVS or other pharmacies. These things make commuting in DC so much easier as you can preload money on them, use them on both trains and buses, and aren’t prone to falling apart like paper cards. Oh, yeah, they only cost $5!
- Unless you really can’t find a bus that goes to your destination or must be there in a short amount of time, I suggest taking the buses whenever possible. They only cost SmarTrip riders $1.60 per trip, allow free transfers between buses for up to 2 hours, and they tend to be less cramped. If you need to transfer to the trains, you’ll get a 50 cent discount.
- Wondering when the next bus or train is coming? Here’s a useful mobile app for smartphone users: BusTrackDC
- Also, if you’re on an escalator in the Metro, stand to the right and walk on the left – you won’t appear to be a tourist this way
Intimidated by public transportation and prefer using your God-given body parts to get around? Or maybe you’re more into feeling like a celebrity in a taxi? I’ve got you covered there, too. Here are some cool alternative means of navigating the city via bike and taxi.
- If you’ve walked around some of the city, you may have noticed red bikes in docks – they’re part of the Capital Bikeshare network, a great, healthy way to get around: http://capitalbikeshare.com/. Membership rates are $75/annually or $7/month for a year, in addition to weekly and daily passes. Oh, yeah, please don’t forget a helmet; DC drivers and bicyclists don’t always get along.
- By the way, should you sign-up for CB, download the Spotcycle mobile app if you have a smartphone. It will show you available bikes and docks.
- Not feeling the bike or think it’s too hipster? I hear ya – perhaps hailing a cab would be easier and quicker. These are a few apps that I personally use; check Twitter/Facebook for promotion codes to save you some money.
- Hailo: free app; ensures you’ve got a ride
- Uber: specifically go for the UberX ride type in the app; make sure to cancel by calling the driver so you don’t get whacked for a ride you never took
Congratulations! You’ve made it to your first jummah in DC, but shoot, you don’t know where to go! Deep breaths brothers and sisters – I’ve got you covered. Check this helpful link for locations around the city and wider metropolitan area: http://www.yarocollective.com/resources/#fridayprayer.
Additionally, here are some more masjids and community centers in the DMV outside of NW:
3160 Pennsylvania Ave SE
First Hijra Muslim Community Center
4324 Georgia Ave NW
Supreme Learning Center
1615 Kenilworth Ave NE
Masjid-ul Allah, 531 Kennedy Street, NW, Washington, DC
Masjid Ush-Shura, 3109 Martin Luther King Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20032
Phone: 202-574-8417, 202-322-2937, Fax: 202-574-3288
Sorry, you are probably feeling quite hungry now, and I didn’t mean to ignore that important information for new DC residents. Here are some of my favorite restaurants in the city that offer either explicitly halal products or vegetarian options that are tasty.
- Woodlands Vegan Bistro (Columbia Heights): you’ll never believe that their mac’n’cheese isn’t made with real cheese.
- Salt’n’Pepper Indo-Pakistani Grill (Columbia Heights and Howard University)
- Ezme (Dupont Circle): delish mezze style Turkish food
- Ravi Kabob (Arlington)
- The Coupe (Columbia Heights): neighborhood coffee shop/diner
- Tryst (Adams-Morgan)
- Open City (Woodley Park)
- Nando’s Peri-Peri (Navy Yard and Adams-Morgan): haloumi cheese and portobello mushroom sandwich is a homerun
- Meze (Columbia Heights and Tenleytown): think Chipotle with a Mediterranean flare
- Dukem (U Street): delicious, inexpensive Ethiopian food
- Amsterdam Falafel Shop (Adams-Morgan and U Street corridor)
- Sacrificial Lamb (Dupont Circle): don’t let the name scare you; it’s good stuff
- ZZ Pizza and Kabob (NoMA): pizza AND kabobs – need I say more?
- Faydah Pies (based in Philadelphia and NYC, but maybe deliverable in DC): https://www.facebook.com/FaydahPies
- Simply Natural (Sharpsburg, MD): halal meats delivered to your place: http://www.simplynaturalhalal.com/Default.aspx
- El Chucho Cocina Superior (Columbia Heights): halal chicken in the dishes; personal favorite is the veggie potosina sandwich
Finding yourself with some free time and wanting to connect with other Muslims in the area? Check out some of these spaces for people who are doing some wonderful things: http://dmv.ummahnow.org
Yes, I know we are all “busy” and find it hard to take time for ourselves to exercise, cook at home, or get that cough checked out. Trust me, if you’re going to truly live a middle path finding balance through taking some time off from constantly working and going out is necessary. Below is a list of some helpful resources that I encountered while in DC that helped me restore balance and live an overall happier existence.
Exercising Options (and no, it’s not restricted to gyms)
- The National Mall: when the weather is nice and you’re in a need of getting away from it all, I don’t think there’s a better place in the city to go for a run, bike ride, or walk. I’d suggest checking out the 2.2 mile (yes, I Google mapped it) stretch between the US Capitol Building and the Lincoln Memorial – you’ll get to see all of the major monuments along the way and an awesome mix of people, be it residents or tourists. Also, there are a lot of intramural sports teams that play different games down here throughout the year, including soccer, football, rugby, and kickball (yeah, the game from middle school recess)
- Washington Sports Club: I had a mainly positive experience with this gym, unlike a lot of Yelp reviewers it seems. They’ve got locations all around the DMV and their prices are reasonable, especially if you get the federal worker rate (make sure to have your ID on you when you sign-up). I found this gym to also be a social place, too.
- The C&O (Cumberland and Ohio) Canal Trail: this former canal system runs from Georgetown all the way to Cumberland, MD (almost in PA) and is a great place to go for long bike rides and runs. I’d recommend budgeting a day to explore it and venture out to Great Falls, VA (20.2 miles on the trail) to check-out some amazing sights.
- Rock Creek Park: an expansive national park that runs the length of DC right down the center and offers lots of paved pathways. There are also some picnic spots along the way if you’d like to experience nature without having hop in a car.
- One website to help you find any type of physician you might need and schedule an appointment: Zocdoc.com. It takes a lot of the headaches (and excuses) out of scheduling that annual physical or check-up – we might be young and seemingly invincible, but we aren’t so please take care of yourself.
More About Food:
So maybe you’ve grown tired of eating out at the halal places listed above – well, I’ve got you’ve covered and here are some places to pick-up groceries around the city. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found cooking at home alone or with friends to be a great stress reliever. Oh! It’s also a great date idea – just saying…
DMV area farmers’ markets:
- Downtown Silver Spring: Saturdays, running 9 AM to 1 PM, April-December
- Columbia Heights: Saturdays, running 9 AM to 1 PM, mid-April-December
- U Street at 14th St: Saturdays, running 9 AM to 1 PM, May-November
- Arlington County Court House: running 8 AM to noon, April-December
- Eastern Market: open throughout the week in its South Hall, but outdoor market happens on Saturday mornings
- DuPont Circle: Sundays, 9 AM to 1 PM
- Mt. Pleasant: Saturdays, running 9 AM to 1 PM, April-December
Supermarkets and What They’re Good For IMO:
- Giant: processed foods; cheap costs; lots of brand names items; “ethnic” foods
- Trader Joe’s (Foggy Bottom, Clarendon, Silver Spring, U Street): canned goods; cheap prices; frozen foods; dried fruits
- Whole Foods (Tenleytown, Silver Spring, Court House, Logan Circle): bulk goods like rice, oatmeal; seafood; fresh produce; basic necessities
- Best World (Mt. Pleasant): inexpensive “ethnic” foods; spices; produce
- YES Organic: moments where you just don’t care about prices and want to splurge
- Neighborhood corner markets: getting to know your neighbors; items you need in a pinch and guests are about to arrive; craft beer