After Shipton's Arc (天門), we went back to Kashgar (喀什) for lunch before heading over to the Tomb of Abakh Khoja, otherwise known as "Fragrant Concubine Tomb" (香妃墓). Legend has it the mausoleum was built to house the bodies of one of Emperor Qianlong's concubines and her family. The concubine was said to be Uyghur, but these stories are considered rumours. Real or not, such a grand Islamic traditional mausoleum is worth a visit. There were two other buildings in a neighbouring courtyard, but they were under repair so there wasn't much to see there.
You could pay for a picture on the camel. There was another stand next to the camel where you could pay to dress in traditional clothing for pictures in front of the mausoleum. We couldn't understand why, but there was another tour group there where ladies were paying for the service.
It was a really hot day with not a cloud in the sky, so we were glad to carry on to our next destination. Siu Bo drove us over to the Aitiga'er Mosque (艾提尕尔清真寺). We approached the entrance and looking in, it looked very similar to the other ones we've been to, and on such a hot day, we really didn't want to pay admission. We were more interested in the local square in front and decided to venture there instead. We walked by local stores, a public bathing house, and some smaller photo stands. One really caught my attention in that you could pay for a horseback or camel ride around the square. OR, you could even get one where you sit in a cart pulled by a horse or mountain goat!
It was quite funny thinking back because it was so hot that day, the group of us were thinking how great it'd be if there was a Starbucks nearby where we could get an ice coffee and chill for a bit! We asked Siu Bo when we got back to the car, and of course he told us there was none in Kashgar. :( So instead of looking for a local cafe (realizing it just wouldn't be the same), we decided to head over to check out the Kashgar Bazaar (喀什巴扎) to escape the sun. We found the Kashgar Bazaar to be a lot bigger than the one in Urumqi and everything was neatly organized by categories. One entire row would be strictly of stalls selling spices, while another row would be for fabric. The list goes on from figurines to men's shirts, to children's toys; and this was all inside. It was almost like shopping at a supermarket as there were signs above the aisles at every intersection indicating what one would find in the aisle (not like it wasn't obvious!). Outside, we'd see the food stalls, the butcher and the like.
The spice merchant napping between customers.
The many colourful and intricate fabrics sold at the bazaar.
Left: Outside, we see the roast meat vendors with their chicken and lamb.
Right: We saw a big metal steamer with yummy dumplings and buns. Kel couldn't resist but try a few.
Below: Customers gathered 'round as the merchant prepared flavoured ice. Annie wanted to try, but we warned her of the origin of the ice. And sure enough, later on we found that they'd leave big blocks of random ice on the street under a tree unattended by the parking spots. The merchant would come around and get more ice when he was running low.
By late afternoon, we headed over to Kashgar's Old City(喀什高台民居), where the government is bulldozing it down section by section as it has been deemed as "unsafe". There is a huge debate surrounding this, since the government is destroying thousands of years of Uyghur heritage. However, the Old City has succumbed to many hazards throughout the years and the government is providing alternative housing and compensation to the over 220,000 Uyghur residents being displaced. On the tour, we learned that most of the residents of the Old City are 60%-80% dependent on government funds to sustain their day to day expenses. Part of their current housing is used as a storefront for their traditional handicrafts, which they would no longer be able to do once moved to a modernized apartment building. Our tour guide took us into a few of the local housings to show us the difference between the rich and the poor, as well as the telltale signs from the outside. One thing she pointed out to us on the construction of the Old City, which would be quite useful for anyone venturing without a map was the stones on the ground. The side roads between houses were lined with stones and apparently hexagonal tiles indicate that the path keeps going, whereas rectangular brick like tiles indicates the path is a dead end. What's funny, was that we originally didn't want to take the tour and so entered from a side entrance. It's not that the admission was expensive, but rather, we question where the money goes to. It definitely doesn't go to the locals who needs it most, but probably gets lost with government officials. However, we did find the guide to be quite knowledgeable, and her effort in trying to explain things to us in English was much appreciated.
Aside from the construction of the Old City, we also learnt some interesting customs while on the tour. One was that when entering and leaving the house of a Uyghur, we are to step across the threshold left foot first to signify good fortune. Although, they understand that we are tourists, we tried our best to follow this custom. Another was the way of the doors. A locked door signifies that no one is home. An open door signifies the man of the house is home and visitors are welcome. A half open door signifies that there are only women home, and so only women visitors are welcome. If the door is open and a red cloth is hung, it shows that a pregnant lady is in the house. We found this interesting and made sense as the Uyghur are quite traditional.
Left: While taking the side entrance to the city, we saw some children playing by a pool of water.
Right: Inside the Old City, we see a lot of buildings made from clay, mud, hay, and brick/stones, some reinforced with sticks over the years. We don't know how some of them are still standing, or how anyone can live in them..
Below: More crumbling Uyghur houses in the Old City. They resemble building blocks, randomly stacked by kids at play. It truly is amazing how they sustained for so long, and yet sad that there might not be any left soon.
A nicer looking storefront on one of the "main" streets.
A shy local girl peeking at us from her house.
Left: Note the sign. The community is so poor and neglected, the government doesn't even replace worn out signs.
Right: On another note, one of the bigger mosques (there are several in the Old City), repaired through donations from the richer families in the community.
Below: One of the rich family dwellings we went into. The big room on the left is a dining room. On the right, we were on their second level looking down into their entranceway.
We didn't take a whole lot of pictures of the inside of the poor families' houses. It just didn't feel right. It was like we were exploiting them for nothing better than to satisfy our own curiosity..