Kashgar, in the far west of China in the Xingjiang province was our first stop in China after crossing the Torugart Pass from Kyrgyzstan. The place was roughly 200km or so from Naryn in Kyrgyzstan, but in many ways we felt a million miles away.
Since the days of the Silk Road, Kashgar has been a market town where people of all different ethnicities, nationalities and religious persuasions came to buy and sell goods. Its massive Sunday livestock market is still today one of the biggest around. We unfortunately missed it by a day due the border being closed for the Dragon Boat Festival.
Located in an oasis and surrounded by furnace like desert regions, Kashgar is a strategic crossroad on the Silk Road and has from time in memoriam been the site of cultural conflict and cooperation. Today the local Muslim Uighur people (who look nothing like the typical image most westerners have of the Chinese – see below) live side by side with Han Chinese who are arriving en-masse from the more eastern provinces and a whole host of other minority groups.
It is easy to see that Kashgar is undergoing great change. Large sections of the old town are being levelled to make way for high-rise apartment buildings. But you can’t help but feel Kashgar has always adapted according to who was in charge at the time, or what goods have been available to sell. Sure there are more cars, mobile phone sellers and high-rise apartment blocks now, but as the picture above shows there is still plenty of the traditional Kashgar. Amongst the shiny new fast food stores are the sights and smells of the street side food vendors offering everything from smoky shish kebabs, pastries, watermelon and all manner of curious cuisine. Donkeys and scooters jostle for space on the old town alleys and there is no doubt that the hammering of copper bowls still drowns out the tinny music blaring obnoxiously from teenagers mobile phones.
As Lonely planet aptly says, “Kashgar was globalised before globalised was grammatical.” And the evolution continues.
We spent out our time in Kashgar soaking up the sun and walking around the bazaars and markets of the old and new town. Below are some of the pictures from our visit.