I have a little story to tell you about Kashgar and how pivotal it was in my eventual move to China.
Kashgar, market town smack in the middle of the Silk Road, with hundreds of years of traveller and trader history. I don't think I was even consciously aware that it was in China. Four years ago my husband began coming to China for work, visits that became more frequent and more prolonged. He could obviously see the writing on the wall that I couldn't - our whole family was going to need to relocate to China within the year. I had listened with rapt attention to his stories about Shanghai, but China was a huge unknown quantity, and only the previous year I had turned down a trip to the Beijing Olympics on 'ethical humanitarian grounds'. I was so full of shit.
Realising I may need a bit more convincing before a relocation was proposed, after one particular trip he bought a book for me called 'Kashgar - Oasis City on China's Old Silk Road'. It was full of incredible photographs of a city that had lived only in my imagination - dusty adobe houses, cool courtyards shaded by trellised grapevines, mosques, deserts, camels, brass and copper (you can read an interview with the photographer John Gollings here).
In particular the images of the Sunday Market in Kashgar captured me completely. The men in embroidered caps, faces like oiled walnuts, surrounded by richly coloured carpets and donkey carts. The rows of brass teapots and oil lamps. It became a burning obsession.
"Kashgar's in China you know" my husband said. "We might get to visit if we lived there."
So there you have it. A promise to visit Kashgar became part of the decision to move to China, all based on a book of photographs of a place I'd never been but longed to see. Once here, I was in no rush - Kashgar wasn't going anywhere. Then I heard about the attempted destruction of the Old City, narrow lanes full of traditional adobe houses, quiet and mysterious, and I knew the time had come to see before it was too late.
Kashgar didn't disappoint. It's all you imagine of an ancient silk road city and more. I think I won't write any more, and let you see for yourself the beauty of fascination of the place. Smell the spices, taste the juicy pomegranates and the char-grilled meats, feel the smooth cool dusty adobe walls of the quiet alleys of the old city and hear the hawker cries of the busy, bustling Sunday Market. You must go.
Labels: Kashgar, market, street food, street life, Xinjiang