Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 7: Yengisar and Yarkand - The Old Silk Road

While I'd enjoyed the lakes and cities of Xinjiang, my big trip was an overnight trip in the Taklamakan Desert. To get there, we'd spend a day driving down the old Silk Road to Yarkand, a city near the edge of the desert.

The Silk Road was a major trade route from China, through Central Asia and the Middle East to Turkey and Europe. Marco Polo made the route famous.

On the way we stopped at Yengisar, a village known for its elegant knives, and then move on to a weekly city market. I got to see quite a few animals being traded and the process was interesting too -- a buyer and seller would work through a middle man who got a cut after the deal had been made. Sheep, cattle and a few goats changed hands before my eyes. I was tempted to buy one too, but honestly, what would I have done with a goat?

Yarkand was much larger than I thought it would be. We walked around the old city area and found another market street. Check out the last photo for a sample of the things I saw along the street. It was pretty wild.

MAP: Yarkand is about a 4-hour drive from Kashgar, across deserts, and rolling hills. It was a major capital in ancient times for the Uyghur people and a main stopping point for traders traversing the Silk Road

MELONS, MELONS, MELONS: The market along the old Silk Road was similar to farmer's markets back home -- just with 10 times the number of produce

ANIMAL MARKET: On our way to Yarkand we stopped at an animal market and watched people barter and trade livestock

BIG KNIFE: Yengisar is known for its knives. Knives are used for decoration and slitting the throats of livestock (so I was told)

SKILLED CRAFTSMAN: A Uyghur man slowly crafts a knife. A high quality knife takes 15 days to make

DAGGERS GALORE: You can't come to Xinjiang and not buy a knife. The trick is getting it home -- you can't bring them on your carry0=-on baggage. I had mine shipped home via courier

YARKAND TOMBS: The main tombs in Yarkand belongs to Aman Isa Khan, a famous poet. The other tombs were for the Yarkand Khans and other rulers

OPEN-AIR BUTCHER: Looks very, very closely at this guy's stand. He's a butcher, and those are goat, sheep and cattle heads on the table in front of him. He also seems to be blowing into a bag, but (again, looking closely) you'll notice that its no bag... it's a pair of sheep lungs

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting trip, Brandon. I've always wondered what the Silk Road looked like.
    Have a good time.
    Joan Campion

    PS: You might want to check out my stuff at