China's hidden treasure - magnificent Xinjiang Province


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China's dusty northwestern Xinjiang province sits in the heart of Asia, encircled by some of the world's highest mountains and harshest deserts, as though a drawstring had cinched around it like a coin purse. High passes through those snowy mountains funneled ancient traders and travelers along a thoroughfare that famously has become known as the Silk Road.

Long ago, one of the world's most famous merchants and explorers even took a tour of Xinjiang along the Silk Road! "They say it is the highest place in the world," Marco Polo wrote of climbing the Pamir Mountains from the Afghanistan side. When he emerged from the pass, he found the Uygur homeland and marveled: "From this place, many merchants go forth about the world."

Weather And Geography

The weather here is dry and warm in the south and cold with plenty rainfall and snow in the north, while sandstorms often blow in across the Taklamakan Desert. Xinjiang has been a trading center since the time of the Silk Road, and today the region is populated mainly by Uygurs, as well as Han Chinese, Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and a variety of other ethnic groups, spread out over an area of more than 1,709,400 square kilometers (660,000 square miles), ranking as the largest region in China.

Kashgar is one of Xinjiang's most prominent towns, located in the far west of China, in the southwest of Xinjiang province, at a significant junction of two branches of the ancient Silk Road. In Kashgar city, you can pay a visit to the Mor Buddhist Pagoda, see the town's many bustling bazaars, or catch other sights like Id Kah Mosque and Tomb of Mahmud Kashagari.

Another phenomenal attraction in Xinjiang is the "Ghost Town in the Desert," situated in Wuerhe, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away from Karamay city. Being one of the few typical wind erosion physiognomies in the world, the Ghost City has become a famous tourist area for its unique landform and the howling wind.

Customs and Culture

There is a long history of the cotton growing in Xinjiang. Uygurs are very adept at growing cotton even in the region's harsh conditions, as as such, most people usually wear cotton cloth garments. Men sport a long gown called a qiapan, which opens on the right and has a slanted collar. It is buttonless and is bound by a long square cloth band around the waist.

Women wear broad-sleeved dresses and black waist coats with buttons sewn on the front, though some now, both men and women, like to wear Western-style suits and skirts. Uygur men, old and young, like to wear a small four-cornered cap embroidered with black, white, or colored silk threads in traditional Uygur designs in adherence to the regulations of their devout muslim faith. Women adorn themsleves with earrings, bracelets and necklaces - some even paint their eyebrows and fingernails on grand festive occasions.

In addition to growing cotton, wheat, maize, and paddy rice are the Uygurs’ main grain staples. As a result, the Uygur diet is heavy in grains and dairy products - many Xinjiang Uygurs enjoy milk tea with some sort baked maize or wheat cakes. One of the most recognizable dishes amongst the Xinjiang Uygurs is called pilaf - a fried rice dish cooked with mutton, sheep fat, carrots, raisins, and onions

The Uygurs are excellent dancers. During your Xinjiang tour, you will have a chance to listen to a "local concert" - locals playing Uygurs' special musical instruments. The "12 Mukams" (opera) is an epic comprising more than 340 classic songs and folk dances, and recently this musical treasure, which was on the verge of being lost, has been painstakingly compiled, studied, and recorded to preserve this cultural legacy.

The "Daolang Mukams," popular in Korla, Bachu (Maralwexi), Markit and Ruoqiang (Qarkilik), is another suite with distinct Uygur flavor. There is a wide variety of plucked, wind, and percussion Uygur musical instruments, including the dutar, strummed rawap, and dap - is a sheep skin tambourine with many small iron rings attached to the rim used to accompany dancing.

Xinjiang is etched with unique color, from the camel trains to the fanstastic Ghost Town. This rich desert land is sure to amaze you more and more with each step you take through the desert!

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