- Uyghur men in Kashgar souk
By Alison Bate
When I visited Kashgar just over three years ago, I was disappointed at first.
The road in from the airport passed concrete roundabouts and boring buildings typical of the modern Han Chinese city. There was even a giant Mao statue close to the bus station.
Kashgar's Id Kah Mosque in winter
While Kashgar – or Kashi as the Han Chinese call it – is inside China, people don’t visit the city to see its Chinese culture.
Like me, they come to see the ancient Silk Road city famous for its Uyghur market, rabbit-warren streets, donkey carts and the largest mosque in China.
One of the world’s most polluted cities
The Toronto Star recently listed China’s Urumqi as one of the Top Ten worst places to live in the world. The reason? Pollution. The list prompted my strangely fond memories of coughing and spluttering through winter in Urumqi while teaching English there between 2005 and 2006.
By Alison Bate
Back street in Urumqi
It’s winter in Urumqi and everyone is out in the streets chipping away at the snow and ice. A huge human effort. Even the local doctor is out in the alley in her white coat and mask, attacking the ice with a spade.
The local government has closed all the major roads downtown until noon, and told the residents to clear the streets. No snowplows here or salting and gritting of roads. Just hordes of people attacking the ice. It’s dirty and grimy, full of soot.
After a token effort, the stall-keepers huddle round tiny coal-fire tin cans, the men wearing Chinese army overcoats and Snoopy sheepskin hats with long earflaps. Only the Uyghurs selling kebabs look warm, with large old-style barbeques for cooking the mutton. Continue reading