Monday, September 6, 2010
Day 7: Yengisar and Yarkand - The Old Silk Road
THURSDAY, AUGUST 19
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