The city of Kashgar was a strange experience. The presence of two worlds is constantly felt. Efficient, global, focusing on progress captures the Chinese culture, the old, conservative society of the Uygur.
The mud houses with enclosed courtyards and the typical Central Asian interiors with decorated stucco walls and deep alcoves make way for Chinese tower blocks of apartments with running water and electricity. The chicken and goats remain temporarily on the balcony. In the streets you can buy everything from washing machines, computers, adidas shirts to the latest fashion.
But where are the tea houses, the carpets shops with their Khotan rugs and hand embroidered wall hangings? I found one left. The fully renovated centre of the old city of Kashgar is a fragment of what it once was. But still..
If you close your eyes you can experience the old times of the proud Uygur people.
Entering the border of China I felt relieved. I was going to meet the last group of Central Asian people – the Uyghur, a Turkic ethnic group living mainly in the Xinjiang region of China, whom I have not met before.
For the first 100 km after crossing the border from Kyrgyzstan, we were not allowed to leave the bus. What I saw was very similar to the tribal areas east of Peshawar in Pakistan, but as our Uyghur guide told me, unlike other countries, you can see our women on the street.
And yes, we saw the women, beautifully dressed in bright ikat clothes and embroidered hats. The smell of charcoal and kebabs reminded me of the good days in Peshawar before 2001. In those days, we could walk around in the city at our leisure, selecting carpets and textiles. Why are these specific cultures disappearing?
Entering Kashgar, the shock was to be expected. Staying in the beautiful former Russian consulate, we could pretend we were living in the old days in Uyghur land. But as soon as we ventured out by taxi, we found a different world.
As I continue on my Silk Road Adventure, Read more My Silk Road Adventure – Hospitality in Kochkor
Although I have been travelling to Kyrgyzstan every year for the last ten years, I didn’t really have the opportunity to share my experiences with others, except from my family and friends. Read more Let’s travel the Silk Road from Bishkek to Kashgar.