Monday, August 29, 2005

Kashger Sunday Market

In a word, Wow!!!
This was an amazing experience I won't soon forget.
To start let me just say that Kashgar does not feel like China at all. The Chinese are in the minority and while there are Chinese areas and a giant statue of Mao in people's square, the old city and language here is predominantly Uyghur. There are also large numbers of Pakistani and central Asian traders in town especially around Sundays when the market gets underway. This market is perhaps the largest and most active of the silk road markets still in existance and although a lot has changed, to think that something similar has been going on here for at least 2000 years just blows me away.
Markets are markets and sell everything you could think of from hardware to fabrics, fruit to electronics (you should see the out-dated TV's and stereos they are selling). But this one is special because of the size and scale that it operates on. It's huge! I just don't know how to describe the sights, sounds and smells involved.
Before we went to the sunday market proper we went to the outskirts of town where we saw the sunday livestock market. Now this is where it's at! Livestock markets are much harder to find when you're travelling around and there is no way they will harrass you to buy a cow so you are left solely in the position of observer and for that alone it is a more special experience.
How do you describe it? It's a huge, open but walled-in area with little trucks bringing in sheep, cows, donkeys and horses to be tied up in different areas to be inspected, test ridden, and argued over. On one side is the food area with giant slabs of meat hanging around or lone sheep heads laying in a pile waiting to be put in the soup pot. I want to pose a question to you guys because it completely baffles me. Why would someone buying a sheep head, fresh from the slaughter, inspect it's teeth?!?!
It's definately a man's world down here, all the locals are Uyghur men, wearing faded and dirty black suits and shoes, white Muslim hats and many with long white beards pulling, whipping and chasing animals into position. Sometimes it would take 3 or 4 people just to pull a pair of sheep around a mud puddle! Such epic struggles reveal so much about local life. It was great just to climb up on the stone wall for a bird's-eye view of the action and watch.
Mom was followed around by a 16 year old local girl (I was shocked because she looked 60) for a while getting her to say the letters "I" and "R". Never thought about it before but I guess they are similar when you think about it. She told us that it costs about 1000Y for a donkey, 2000Y for a horse or cow and 300Y for a sheep. Divide by 8 for $US. We wanted to buy Savannah a baby cow.
Got some great pictures of the day, but they'll never show the atmosphere of the place. Oh well, if you are ever in China you'll have to go for yourself and it is truly another one of the wonders of China and shouldn't be missed.
The old city itself is great to wander around, with all the little shops, craftsmen and artisans at work in their little booths. Women wear traditional garb, with hair covered and long colourful dresses to completely cover themselves, sometimes even their faces are covered by a thick brown gauze. Like I said, it's not really China out here at all. I love the mosque and "middle eastern" style of architecture too. We've had no problems with the locals, just the usual curious stares. The children love being photographed and will run over to you and demand that you take their picture while they pose with their friends. Such a pleasant change from some areas where everyone bolts at the first sight of a camera! The older people generally don't mind being photographed either but I still feel uncomfortable asking as it seems such an intruding thing to do.
The girls are mostly better now but because of transportation difficulties around here right now and a current freeze on tourists being allowed into Tibet we will continue to rest here for another few days before continuing on to Turpan, another silk road town farther north.


At 10:25 PM , Blogger Sandra said...

Wow...Bre, what do you think about the livestock market? Well.. in Europe the sheep heads are often used for food as the rest of the sheep of course... so I am not surprised if this is also true in Kashger??? (the place where you guys are now) Size of the teeth, condition of the gum really tells alot aboutt that animal... umm.. I am thinking they try to determine the age of the poor thing and ... Oh well...
What I know is that I am the poor thing Ammon.. I was not able to make 25 as my last day, but I must leave on sept 6... cannot wait to start my new job, new classes and the training in HIV Vancouver...
Miss you all,
P.S. Reading this site is actually a good refresh from my paper writing... I am here in front of the computer for more than 6 hours now...

At 2:19 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greeting to all of you and specifically to Savannah, This is the first time I have logged on your site and I am already fascinated. As it happens, I am the new seminary teacher and Savannah's name is on the student list. Mary Ann is my visiting teacher and she is the one who put me on to your expedition. Savannah, we will be following your adventures as a class and we will all look forward to a personal report when you return.


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