The Id Kha mosque was built in 1442 and has been repaired/renovated and fixed up many times over the years (see plaque). The mosque can hold 10,000 worshippers at a time. The mosque building itself is small (several hundred worshippers); but the grounds of the mosque are huge, and there were mats that get rolled out to allow thousands to pray at the mosque on its nice courtyard areas, with shady trees. It used to have Madrassas, but now they do not as the Chinese Govt does not allow this anymore. Outside, at the entrance to the mosque, is also a huge open area where people can pray (overflow). A very peaceful and nice place to visit.
After the mosque, I had to get my obligatory haircut; all of $1.50 for a clean cut. They close crop the hair in Uyghur land, so I should not need to go to a barber for some 6 weeks :). Not bad for $1.50 without bargaining
Then, we visited the Akbah Khoja Tomb Mausoleum. This was a famously infamous person. He had a large muslim following (wise man, so famous), but he ran afoul of the local Uyghur king, and so was banished. He fled to neighboring Tibet, and convinced the king there that he could help him conquer Uyghur land, with the help of his loyal followers there. So the Tibetans conquered the Uyghur kingdom and Akbah Khoja came back (now infamous for Uyghur kingdom). The mausoleum is where he and his multiple family members are buried. Outside this area, is a huge cemetery with hundreds of people buried there to be near this man. There are also madrassas and a mosque on these grounds. This is also reputed to be the resting place of the “fragrant concubine” who was actually the Uyghur wife of a Chinese dynasty king (marriage arranged for keeping good relations with the Uyghurs)
We also visited the Grand Bazaar where we got our Uyghur hat souvenirs and bought dried fruits and nuts for our journeys ahead. Plenty of dried/roasted apricot seeds here, and not at all bitter.
Next, we headed for lunch at a Pakistani restaurant; hopefully to meet some Tajik’s (Ismailis). The restaurant serves Tajik and Pakistani food, run by a Uyghur lady named Gulbahaar. She served us some Daal, Palak, Roti and Tajik Tea. Tajik tea was interesting, it came with Yak milk (more milky), and had salt added instead of sugar :). We met some Pakistani’s there, and one Tajik Ismaili (Saddurdin) who spoke some urdu that we could understand, but not completely. Some things got lost in translation. He hailed from Tashkurgan and was going there the next day.
Then we headed to the true old old town. This area has many dilapidated houses what were not touched by the Chinese. Met locals as we walked along the small winding gulley’s. Dilshad spotted a woman in a house making Uyghur hats for women, Asked her if we could visit the next home as it seemed interesting, and she simply took us to the neighbor’s house. There were several women there, and a couple of kids, who cordially invited us into their home. Very basic home, made of mud adobe and straw, and wood. But clean and nice. Sat on the ubiquitous divan, and after some chitchat, (via Ablimit, our guide) they brought out a water pot and basin, and we washed our hands 3 times, and dried our hands on a towel of the house provided. This is Uyghur custom, and it is bad manners to shake the water off your hands since the water may get onto others around you. Then the ladies brought out black tea (tea leaves, light) and hard bread to drink/eat. After chitchat and more tea, we left their house. What a wonderful experience.
Entering real old town
After more old old town walking, we went through some local “industries”.
A musical instrument making store (short video of Uyghur music)
And another more modern tea house
Went for dinner at a popular Uyghur restaurant (Altun Orda crowded with locals and some tourists) and ran into the Goudy’s who we became friends with in Turpan; what a coincidence.
After dinner, back to the hotel for an early morning ride to Tashkurgan, near the Tajik and Pakistan border.
A most enjoyable dayThis entry was posted in Asia, China, Silk Road China May 2016