If you're standing within the city of Kashgar, you're about as close to the Mediterranean Sea as you are to Beijing! Located in the extreme west of Xinjiang - China's westernmost province, Kashgar grew upon a lucrative crossroads: the junction of the northern and southern forks of the Silk Road. Virtually all westbound traffic in silk, spices, tea, jade and porcelain lumbered through Kashgar streets during the Silk Road's 1000-year run.
As with most of China, Kashgar's history records cultural and religious swings of amazing breadth. Ruled by China in the early years of the first century AD, by the 9th century Kashgar was solidly Muslim, its cultural roots walking west with the Silk Road to Persia and beyond. Not until the 19th century did the region - today's Xinjiang Province - return to China's control.
In recent decades Xinjiang - as with most other western and southwestern provinces of China - has witnessed a huge influx of Han Chinese, the country's major ethnic group. Yet despite the demographic changes, Kashgar's bustle and charm remain. Accordingly, your Silk Road trip includes two days and nights here!
Kashgar's major attractions include:
Kashgar Sunday Market: It's noisy, crowded, dusty and confusing - just as every respectable open-air market should be! Originally a livestock market - now separated to a nearby location and still the "E Ticket" event - the Kashgar Sunday Market pulls in what appears to be the province's entire population - and then some! Carpets, furniture, meat and produce can be had for a haggle but the most fun is at the livlier livestock section where you can test-ride a camel or scrutinize a yak's molars. The action begins at dawn and continues well into the night hours. (The market may recall scenes from the "Indiana Jones" movies - that's just like Kashgar!)
Idkah Mosque: Most sources peg the original mosque on this site to the year 1442. The current mosque was built in 1798 and though it reflects the original's overall design, it's been greatly embellished and expanded. In fact, it's the largest mosque in the Xinjiang Province, accommodating 7,000-plus worshippers. Some 140 highly-decorated green columns support the ornate roof. Within the mosque is a tree-shaded courtyard and pool, where worshippers may cleanse their bodies before prayer. Tourist access is limited to non-prayer hours.
Abakh Khoja Tomb: The tomb is a few miles outside the city and well-worth the short journey. Construction began in 1640 and houses the remains of several generations from one family, beginning with an Islamic missionary, one Yusuf Hoja. The tomb is actually a series of tombs, ranging in style from elegantly simple to simply over-the-top elaborate.
Featured Hotel: (subject to change)
No. 144 Of Seman Road, Kashgar, China 844000
Tel: (86) (998) 298 0671 Fax: (86) (998) 298 2299
3-star - 340 rooms
Once the British Consulate building, the Qiniwak Hotel (in the Wei language, Qiniwak means "beautiful garden") is centrally located within Kashgar's old town, just up the street from the Idkah Mosque. (letstravelchina.com)