Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kashgar the opposite face of China

The lady sitting next to me gripped the perimeters of her seat, shut her eyes and began mumbling some prayers because the plane rocked from aspect to aspect. Elsewhere within the cabin, folks started screaming. Not precisely the prospect I had in mind once I booked my flight from Urumqi to Kashgar in China's remote western province of Xinjiang. 

A turbulent journey 
The day had started promisingly enough. contemporary snow had simply fallen on Urumqi, giving the industrial-looking town a fairytale sheen. however the primary hint of hassle came once I fell upon the airport at seven am. The flight to Kashgar had been postponed to an indefinite time owing to robust winds. as long as the choice was a twenty five hour train journey, I had very little alternative however to attend. it had been a relief when the bottom crew finally announced that the primary flight to Kashgar would embark at a pair of pm. Somehow, amidst the mad scramble, I managed to induce a coveted seat. 

But I had rejoiced too early. once an aborted commit to land, since the plane started swaying and plunging on its descent to Kashgar, the pilot announced that he was returning to Urumqi - a 2 hour flight away. By the time I finally arrived in Kashgar once the pilot created yet one more commit to fly there once he arrived in Urumqi, it had been already nine pm. 

I was exhausted, bedraggled and grouchy. Not the proper mood to start out a vacation. however as I caught the primary glimpse of the legendary oasis town of Kashgar and elements of its 500-year-old town wall, my excitement came. 

Are we have a tendency to still in China? 
Kashgar, whose terribly name evokes exoticism and journey, was a very important trading town throughout the times of the Silk Road and continues to be one even nowadays. Being nearer to Bishkek and Almaty than Beijing, the town is seen as China's gateway to Central Asia, and this proximity provides the town a particular Central Asian flavour. 

In fact, if not for the Chinese characters on signboards and road signs, it does not even feel like China. Uyghur bazaars, tea homes and faces dominate the streets. and lots of of the ladies are veiled. 

However, since the deadly ethnic clashes in many areas of Xinjiang in 2009, Kashgar has been place below serious police surveillance. it's finally the Uyghur's heartland. however whereas some residents told me that there was still some animosity between the Uyghurs and also the Han Chinese, it will not hinder you from exploring the town. Nor can it stop you from interacting with the city's hospitable folks - one amongst whom even volunteered to send a Uyghur song to my mobile via Bluetooth once I asked him concerning the song he was being attentive to. 

A changing landscape 
However, Kashgar won't stay the manner it's for for much longer. Though its previous city has been hailed because the bestpreserved example of a standard Islamic town to be found anywhere in Central Asia, the Chinese authorities have started tearing down huge chunks of it. By some estimates, some eighty five per cent of the structures at intervals the previous city are razed eventually. and also the reasons cited for doing thus are that several of the buildings are at risk of collapse in a very seismic event. Some question, however, if different motives could also be at play because the space is at the guts of the Uyghur culture. 

Regardless of the explanations, the move is lamentable because the demolition works, once completed, can't be reversed. For now, most of the remaining elements of the previous city, with its labyrinthine alleys and mud-and-straw homes are on each side of Jiefang (Liberation) Road. Here, one will still catch a glimpse of how Kashgar used to be. On one street corner, there will be coppersmiths hammering away on their bowls, pans and jugs, whereas on another, ladies in their headscarves are haggling over the cuts of mutton hanging on meat hooks. and each once in a very whereas, donkey cart drivers may be heard shouting the warning Posh! Posh! as they navigate the slim streets. 

The friendly locals 
It was in one amongst the aspect streets of the previous city that I came upon an amicable middle-aged Uyghur girl who invited me into her house for tea. She had seen me snapping footage of the ochre-coloured alleys and archways outside her house within the biting winter chill. it had been a pity we have a tendency to couldn't communicate as there have been several queries I would've asked her. What are her thoughts on the destruction of the previous Town? How will she feel concerning the ethnic clashes? 

From her house, I headed to the magnificent yellow-tiled Id Kah Mosque that lies at the guts of the present previous city. in-built the fifteenth century, the mosque is one amongst the most important in Central Asia. each Friday, it homes nearly ten,000 worshippers, and on special occasions, it will accommodate up to twenty,000 people. Non-Muslims are allowed to enter outside of prayer times, giving a peek into its distinctive Islamic design infused with Uyghur components. The serenity of its inner courtyard with its majestic poplar trees and ponds provides a refuge from the bustle outside. 

The inimitable sunday market 
I later plunged headlong into the madness that's Kashgar's Sunday Market. it's said that Kashgar's population swells by fifty,000 each Sunday as folks everywhere Central Asia stream in to the market, that sells nearly everything below the sun - from exquisite carpets to ancient Uyghur daggers to fashionable appliances. I could've spent hours exploring this fascinating market that is at its peak on Sundays. 

Equally attention-grabbing is that the Livestock Market that lies southeast of the town. it had been abuzz with patrons and sellers from all across Central Asia. raise that, a mixture of thousands of bleating sheep, dozens of cattle and camels, the aroma of cooked meat wafting across from the nearby makeshift food stalls and also the swirling clouds of ochre-colored mud. It's as if i used to be transported back to the times of yore. 

But for how long can this previous World charm endure? For the longest time, its remoteness has sealed it from the massive changes sweeping across China. maybe its time is up. maybe the wave of modernity can render it unrecognisable 5 years from currently. I hope i am being overly pessimistic.

The cost of living in Kashgar is far below within the wealthier jap provinces of China. you ought to be able to live comfortably on US$50 each day. Take note, however, that costs are usually negotiable thus be ready to cut price arduous, though in a very good-natured manner. 

Best time to go to 
With a comparatively short winter and a protracted cool summer, temperatures in Kashgar are pleasant most of the year. The coldest month is January (average temperature of -6 °C), whereas the most popular month is in July (average temperature of twenty seven °C). the most effective time to travel is between could and October, however do time your visit to coincide with the livestock market on Sundays. 

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