As one of the popular travel destinations in Xinjiang, stepping into Kashgar is like being transported into the mysterious Arabian Tales.
This far-flung city in Xinjiang is a must-see for its beautiful scenery and intoxicating culture. Miraculous, modern China peels away to reveal the arresting sights, sounds, fragrance and atmosphere of a 2,000-year-old Middle Eastern Town.
Sunday Livestock Market
"Posh posh" vendors yell at their sheep while trying to shove them out of the truck, getting ready for trade. The livestock market in Kashgar, Xinjiang, about a 30-minute drive from downtown city.
This lively animal market is by far the largest and most popular, were yaks and camels are for sale but so far the most prevalent were sheep and goats. People come and trade almost every day, but Sunday attracts most people, including visitors.
Unlike traders who care much about how many deals they are about to make, I'm more attracted to the way they close the deal - handshakes by both sides after rounds of bargains by a third party, where you can still get a sense of long-kept traditions.
Walking through the Kashgar Old City
Anyone who watched the movie "The Kite runner" would recognize plenty of familiar shots here. Right, the movie was largely filmed in this old section of Kashgar city- a collection of narrow alleyways that zig-zag through mud-brick buildings, where hundred-year-old traditions are still kept alive.
Mosque's minarets rise up from behind the bazaar, stalls on the footpaths sell food, carpets are hung outside houses, Uygurs live and work in the streets their forefathers once called home. Their children still play in the narrow alleyways. This is what keeps Kashgar alive!
The old city was actually rebuilt and this section has running water and flushing toilets.
It is also very easy to get lost unless you have locals tell you the way to avoid dead ends - which you can easily tell by the shape and directions of paving bricks under your foot: if the bricks resemble an arrow, its an open path; if it's hexagon that's a dead end.
Id Kah Mosque & Korban festival
Walking till the end of the old city, you'll be able to see the iconic yellow tower mosque built-in 1442, known as the largest in China. The mosque itself is painted brightly with a large entrance dominating the front and leaf trees tucked under. Inside, we walked along cleanly painted corridors and through lovely shaded courtyards, giving us the sense of being in another world.
We were lucky to be in town for the Corban Festival or "sacrifice festival" on this specific day. The festival centres around a large feast celebrated by thousands of Muslims in that region dancing to music, even if you're not Muslim, you'll be impressed by the interesting sight.
Like the Lunar New Year celebration, Muslims prepare the Corban weeks in advance- clean their houses, make festival pastries, and prepare the livestock to be killed.
Xinjiang knows how to charm:
On our final day in Kashgar, we went back into the Old City for some souvenir shopping and more enjoyable walking. But to do that again, I would have to slow down the pace and see a bit more of the city or get into a local Uyghur family.
Kashgar is the westernmost city of China, bordering with Tibet in the south, Mongolia and Kazakhstan in the north and Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan in the west, the unique geographic location makes the city a mixed cultural place, where you have to spend time to understand.
However, for first-timers, Xinjiang really knows how to charm people.
Be generous with sunscreen during the summer when temperatures can soar above 104°F (40℃). Alternately, dress sensibly in the winter when temperatures can drop to-13°F(-25℃). All of China is tuned to Beijing time, but for practical purposes, operating hours in Kashgar are about hours behind the shown time. For example, stores will open at 11.a.m instead of 9.a.m and dinner will be eaten at 8.p.m rather than 6.p.m.