Issues relating to our Azerbaijan visa – some way away – resulted in a delayed start to the day as we had to complete our visa application on line.
However, we were determined to make the most of our last full day in a Chinese city and particularly one with such an interesting history and character.
We set off initially looking for the Apple store as we have had a breakdown in one of our charging leads. Having found it, from there, by contrast, we headed towards the old town in search of the Idakhe Mosque which dates can house 20,000 people and dates from 1442. This sized gathering happens mainly at Eid celebrations. It is one of the largest mosques in China. Mysteriously it is not signposted or labelled on the outside and there are no minarets. There is no call to prayer in Kashgar.
On the way there I realised that I had nothing to cover my head. Luckily we found a ladies shop with two delightful young assistants who were only too happy to assist me in managing my head dress to meet the standards required to be acceptable as a woman to enter the Mosque. We met a young American and Australian outside, both teaching in China, who told us that they had previously attempted to get in with a girlfriend who was not allowed access. I felt very privileged to be allowed in.
There was cleaning going on in the prayer area, so many of the carpets had been taken up but the place had a very peaceful ‘aura’. Keith was surprised that much of it was outside but we were lucky enough to have a man open a door to allow us to see the ‘inner sanctum’.
We wandered out of the mosque, obviously the heart of Kashgar, but the area in front of it has been totally cleared of the stalls and traders that we understand were there before and is now is a pristine concreted ‘palazzio’ where very few people walk. Beyond this we found wonderful roads full of small shops selling textiles, clothing and food of all sorts. Bread was a dominant feature, as was meat preparation – often with the next sheep tethered to the stall where they were chopping up the meat of the previous animal to have been slaughtered.
There a number of different trade areas. We passed the hat sellers and the copper beaters, the tool makers and musical instrument craftsman. We saw buildings being demolished and new buildings being built.
Something that is particularly prevalent here is the electrically driven cars, mopeds and scooters. The scooter is a popular mode of transport, often with a family of four on board and absolutely silent as there is no engine noise. It can be slightly disconcerting as they are often driven along pavements as well as on the roads!
We have loved Kashgar. A city if character and history. A city of interesting sights and the smell of cumin. Wonderful. How lucky we are to have spent time here.
Kashgar not only marks the end of the Taklamaken desert and but also of our time in China. Tomorrow we leave for Kyrgyzstan and probably will have no wifi connection for a couple of weeks. I will continue to write my diary daily and will post it whenever I can. For now, a bientot……