Xian is a pure dichotomy experience. It was once the terminus for the Silk Road and had historically hosted poets, monks, courtesans, emperors and warriors of varying nations. Now however it is a modern city gripped by smog.
Walking South from our Hostel we encountered the familiar sight of the Drum and Bell Towers. No Chinese City should be without either of these.
As we were chatting and walking we lost focus on our surroundings. Lost in the gossip and banter we wove through the crowd with no notion of where we were. It was only the sweet perfumery smell on the air that stopped us in our tracks -Oud, a distinctly Arabian smell that felt out of place.
As we looked around we saw men in white skullcaps smoke Shisa pipes on doorsteps, while women, with heads covered, barter with halal butchers and other street vendors. Signs were in Arabic script.
At any moment we expected to see Aladdin run down the street, the Sultan’s guards in pursuit! This is Xian’s Muslim Quarter and it was not that Chinese-y!
Research shows that less than 2% of Chinese people are Muslim so to encounter an entire quarter devoted to them was quite a shock. The Hui Community (Chinese Muslims) have been living here since the 7th Century.
The centre piece of this amazing place is the Great Mosque. One of the largest mosques in China it’s a fascinating mix of Chinese and Islamic architecture complete with pagodas, spirit walls living in harmony with Palm trees and the central minaret.
As non-believers we had to pay an entrance fee but it wasn’t much.This was one of those unique experiences and definitely worth seeing if in Xian.
So is walking around the neighbourhood…