Saturday, August 26, 2006


Kashgar is a cool city to spend some time. After spending much of the latter part of the trip eating inadequate, slightly boring or downright unhealthy food the Chinese food available in Kashgar is quite something, both delicious & cheap. It's something of a nexus for long distance travelers going through China, Central Asia & Pakistan & as a result it has good cheap accommodation in which it is easy to meet other travelers.

Though just a minor city in an obscure province of a country of big cities it has been at the crosspoint of trading routes for several millennia. The old Silk Road was historically intertwined with Kashgar. The great Taklamakan desert to the East funneled traffic via Kashgar. Though the Silk Road is no more an artery of commerce Kashgar still keeps its training teeth sharp. Its Sunday market is reputed to be the biggest in Central Asia.

Like the rest of the extreme West of China it's native population, mainly Uighurs though also Kyrgyz, Tajiks & Kazaks, is Muslim & is more ethnically related to the Turkic populations, except for the Tajiks who are related to Persians, of the neighbouring countries to the West than to Han Chinese. For a large part of the last 1000 years the Chinese government has had little practical authority in this land, in contrast to its historical claims. As with Tibet post Beijing took a more muscular approach to maintaining its authority & the region has been drawn tighter & tighter in its embrace ever since with the occasional bit of rebellious activity being responded to harshly.

The Chinese government have made great efforts to turn Kashgar into a Chinese city. The effect has been to build a new Chinese city around the core of the remnants of the old Uighur dominated town. While the population of the new part of town appears to be mixed Uighur & Chinese, hardly a Chinese face is to be seen in the old part of town. The old city is a charming mess of lanes passing by mud & brick houses with high walls. Occasionally a glimpse into the courtyards of a house will reveal bright & multicoloured carved woodwork. The main streets host workshop/shops at which all sorts of goods from hats to shovels are manufactured & sold. By contrast the Chinese built section is filled with forgettable concrete & glass constructions.

I cycled 0 km

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