The first thing that strikes you when you land is the chalk-dry heat, then the yellow dust and sand that billows across the plains. Yesterday we started our month-long travel adventure in Kashgar, an oasis city in the far-west province of Xinjiang. It took us 6 hours to fly here (via Urumqi) and we landed in a part of China barely recognisable from the rest. For tucked in a far corner of China near borders of Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, Kashgar 喀什 is one of China’s most western cities.
It has both a distinctly Central Asian feel and a rich history that dates back over 2,100 years, as Kashgar was once a strategically important trading post on the Silk Road. From here the trading routes headed south to India and west through the Torugart Pass to Persia and beyond.
When he passed through in 1273, Marco Polo described Kashgar as “the largest and most splendid city in Chinese Turkestan.”
Kashgar today is slowly modernising, and while we lament the thoughtless efforts that have occurred in recent years (like remodelling the famed labrynth of streets in the Old City to make it more “tourist friendly”!), the true heart of this city still belongs to its people.
Kashgar is uniquely a Turkic-speaking Uyghur town, full of friendly people and a rich culture that makes us even more excited about our next stop along the Silk Road. We head west for Kyrgyzstan in the morning, via the Torugart Pass.