Kashgar

Kashgar. Perhaps no other Silk Road city conjours up in the mind images of camels laden with trade goods, bearded Muslims haggling over the price of sheep and the spicy aroma of a bustling, frantic market town. Even now, 2000 years later, this image is not inaccurate. Walking through Kashgar’s famous Sunday market you feel you have stepped into a time warp, where people live and work as they did two millenia ago. It is a maelstrom of consumer goods, fabrics, spices, bellowing vendors, animals and shish kebabs. Everyone, it seems, has something to sell.

Kashgar sits at the edge of the Taklimakan desert and at the foot of the Pamir mountain range. It’s where all the the different Silk Roads converged before going over the mountains into Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan. If you go to China you really should visit Kashgar. See the following map for my location.

There’s not much more I can say about it. The following pictures tell the story.

We begin in Kuqa, a four day ride from Kashgar. The market here is smaller, but only slightly less chaotic.

Since most of the Uyghur population is Muslim, and most Muslims wear these little hats, there’s a huge selection of hats in the markets.

This guy had a stack of sheep heads for sale. Not sure if you are supposed to buy the whole thing or if he fillets it for you.

Out of Kuqa I had good weather and lots of camping space. Here is a typical campsite.

I was cycling past a police checkpoint when the cops yelled at me to stop. ‘oh great,’ I thought, ‘here we go again.’ But happily it turned out they were just curious (and probably bored). They bought me a few drinks and we chatted for a bit.

I stopped for lunch in a small outdoor restaurant one day. As I was eating this guys pulls up on a motorbike with a sheep strapped to the back. He proceeds to lay the sheep down, get a knife and slice its throat open. Being mostly a city person, I was revolted but fascinated by this slaughter. My brother and his family, who live on a farm, would have probably just yawned and said, ‘so what, he is slaughtering a sheep.’ Me, I lost my appetite.

The road to Kashgar was flat and paved. With few distractions, I made good time. Three days over 120 km. Here is the road.

In Kashgar you see more Muslim women with a full veil. Here, a group of them are greeting each other. I wondered how they recognize each other?

Kashgar has one of the largest statues of Mao Zedong in China. Here’s the man himself. But what is he doing, hailing  a cab?

The Kashgar market.
Orange drink vendor. I don’t usually try this stuff because the water may be suspect.

The kind of food vendors you see in the market

The market, fabric section

Ice cream vendor. Nope, I don’t eat this either.

Shopping for fabric in the market

Fabric saleswoman

Many people still get around via donkey carts

Of course there are thousands of carpets for sale too

I ate noodles at this little cafe. Here’s the noodle maker.

A couple Uygur kids

A view of the old city

More Uyghur kids in the old city

The old city

Old man sipping tea in the old city

Well that’s pretty much it for China. With luck I will be in Kyrgyzstan in a couple days. I will do a final wrap up on China next post.

6 thoughts on “Kashgar

  1. Debbie Black August 5, 2008 / 6:06 am

    Hi Kevin –

    What an interesting place! I really enjoyed these photos. You know, I didn’t even realize until reading some of your posts that China has a muslim population!

    Do people seem to mind when you take their photo?

    You’ve been in China for quite some time now. I look forward to reading your overall thoughts on the place in your next post.

    Debbie

  2. DAD August 5, 2008 / 6:39 pm

    so—at this writing you are still in China. Bring me back one of those hats

  3. Capt. Don Kilpela Sr. August 6, 2008 / 3:02 pm

    I have been pondering about China now that I’ve read your blog of the trip. You have certainly sparked an interest in the outer edges of the country. Also, I have been interested in reading about the new train service up into Nepal but I’m afraid my travels will have to be through the writings of others such as yourself. Katrina’s blog about her living in Japan was also interesting and delightful.

    We are all looking forward (not without a little trepidation, Kev) to your description and photos of your travels through the Middle East.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Kevin Koski August 7, 2008 / 2:40 pm

    This happened the day I left Kashgar:

    Bomb attack kills 16 in China

    By Emma Graham-Harrison Reuters – Monday, August 4 07:23 pm

    KASHGAR, China (Reuters) – Chinese police said a bomb attack that killed 16 police in the western Xinjiang region on Monday was a “suspected terrorist” attack, four days before the Beijing Olympic Games, state media reported.

    The Xinhua news agency said two assailants drove a truck towards exercising border police officers in Kashgar, home of many ethnic Uighurs resentful of Chinese control of the region.

    “One of the attackers drove a tip lorry to hit a team of more than 70 policeman who were jogging to pass the Yiquan Hotel in a regular morning exercise at about 8:00 a.m. (5 a.m. British time),” said the English-language report.

    “The other suspect threw an explosive towards the gate of the station. The driver then abandoned the lorry to throw explosive at the policemen” after veering into a roadside pole.

    Sixteen police were killed and another 16 wounded. Police detained the two attackers on the spot, and identified them as two Uighur men aged 23 and 28. Police suspected it was a “terrorist attack” carried out using homemade explosive devices.

    The street had been cleared, with a tarpaulin covering the front of the hotel the only sign of the morning’s carnage.

    But security men in camouflage fatigues and red armbands chased away a crowd who had come to inspect the site, and a Reuters witness saw police just metres away beating one man with batons and trying to drag another away.

    “It’s sad the police who died were all so young, but this is wrong that they don’t want us to see,” said one Han Chinese resident being shooed away by the menacing officials, who gave only his surname, Zhang.

    “But I don’t think this is a terrorist attack, so I’m not scared.”

    Security forces also chased two Reuters reporters down the street, waving batons, and slammed a camera into the face of a bystander trying to take pictures.

    But the rest of the city was calm, with no visible signs of extra security on streets full of both Uighur and Chinese residents. Locals said there were no reports of the attack on local media, though news had travelled fast by word of mouth.

    ARM BLOWN OFF

    Xinjiang’s largely Muslim Uighurs have been a focus of China’s strict nationwide security in the run-up to the Games. Officials have said militants seeking an independent “East Turkestan” homeland are among the biggest threats.

    Many Uighurs resent Chinese controls on religion and the expanding ethnic Han Chinese presence in Xinjiang, a region rich in energy and mineral resources.

    Some Uighur groups seek an independent homeland, and China has said militants have forged ties with al Qaeda, Hizb ut-Tahrir and other Islamist groups.

    Xinhua earlier said the bombers had also “hacked the policemen with knives”, but omitted that in a later report.

    The driver was rushed to hospital after he “blew up” one of his arms igniting explosive, it said. Surgeons had amputated his arm to save his life.

    Police had recovered “10 homemade explosives”, a homemade hand gun and four knives from the vehicle.

    Police “got clues suggesting that the ‘East Turkestan Islamic Movement’ planned to make terrorist attacks during August 1-8, just ahead of the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing,” Xinhua said.

    Kashgar is a heavily Muslim market city of some 200,000 in Xinjiang’s south, close to China’s borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan and central Asian states. The Olympic relay torch passed through the city in June under intense security.

    Officials there contacted by telephone gave no more details.

    Nicholas Bequelin, a researcher for the monitoring group Human Rights Watch who has long studied Xinjiang, said the attack was “the most serious incident recorded in years”.

    “Ahead of the Olympics, it is a very powerful symbolic attack because security in Xinjiang is at an all-time high.”

    China has said it has foiled terrorist plots targeting the Olympics and in the first six months of the year police detained dozens of people in Xinjiang for plotting to sabotage the Games, according to state media.

    Human rights critics and exiled Uighurs say Beijing has exaggerated the threat of violence in Xinjiang and stirred discontent by encouraging the migration of millions of Han Chinese into the region. Uighurs now make up slightly less than half of its 20 million people, according to official statistics.

    (Additional reporting by Chris Buckley and Ian Ransom; writing by Ben Blanchard; editing by Andrew Roche)

  5. Alejadro Arias August 7, 2008 / 5:49 pm

    Kevin: I believe the women can recognize each other by the smell, as you say all of them look the same… Can you imagine a husband trying to get his wife in a group of women…

  6. Mike Miller August 15, 2008 / 1:11 pm

    Kev! How are you buddy? Wow…I have to admit that your journey is ABSOLUTELY amazing! I’ve truly enjoyed reading about your adventures to date and I can’t wait for your future postings. I truly admire your free spirit & drive Kevin and I wish you a safe journey.

    P.S. Stay out of trouble and please don’t provoke the police as you sometimes did in Equatorial Guinea.…haha!

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