Xi’an: Food in the streets and one very special Mosque

Our time in Buenos Aires is rapidly drawing to a close. We’ve been busy with lovely things and practical things. Today is more of the same – yoga and lunch with some new friends from here then more shopping for supplies, research and packing are on the roster.

In terms of posts on this blog I’m getting close to the end of our time in China too, so I’ll press on with the catch up! 🙂 By the way, if you ever are confused by all my bouncing around time and space on this blog and want to check where we were when, Roman’s Everlater page is accurate and up-to-date plus the map is pretty nifty if you ask me. 🙂

So, back to China….

More than just the warriors

We left Pingyao for Xi’an. The lovely staff at the Yide Hotel made arrangements for us, booking the bus ticket, getting us to the bus stop along the highway (the cabbie even waited for us to make sure we got onto the right bus), and even writing out the address of our next destination in Chinese characters for our future cab driver’s reference. Note – if you’re traveling in China it’s not a bad idea to keep a look out for nice people who will do this sort of thing for you; most cab drivers we encountered don’t speak or read a lick of English. The bus ride was easy enough and we arrived at the bus station that evening.

Xi’an is the access point to the iconic Terracotta Warriors, and that of course is why we were there. But before we would come face to face with that silent army, we had a bit of time to poke around the city itself.

Xi’an was quite a change to quaint and quiet Pingyao. It too is a walled city with plenty of centuries old history. But that’s where the similarities end.

The city wall, all lit up at night

Xi’an is a bustling metropolis, and though the walls are old, majestic and mighty, they are surrounded by rivers of traffic, fast food joints, flashing LCD screens and plenty of other signs of modernity. The city within the walls – or what we saw of it – is mostly very modern, with plenty of shopping malls and things like McDonalds and Starbucks right next to the most touristy bit around the central Bell and Drum towers.

The drum tower

The Muslim quarter

The part that we found the most interesting was the quieter Muslim quarter. Unlike the Muslims in Xinjiang, the community in Xi’an is ethnically Chinese, which was interesting to see. From Lonely Planet: “The narrow lanes are full of butcher shops, sesame-oil factories, smaller mosques hidden behind enormous wooden doors, men in white skullcaps and women with their heads covered in coloured scarves. It’s a great place to wander…”

Lonely Planet’s got it exactly right; it was a fascinating place to poke around – although you might need to harden your stomach a bit. We happened to be there around a religious festival, and the butchers were hard at work that day preparing sheep for feasts. Kinda gross.

Lots of cooking in the street in the Muslim quarter. It’s not the best picture but I love this out door stove. The flame was shooting out of the exhaust pipe like crazy! 🙂

Hot stuff!

Poor sheep!

Anyone for feet?

Far more serene was the Great Mosque. An amazing building and one of the largest mosques in China and probably founded in the 8th century, it is an awesome blend of Islamic and traditional Chinese architecture. A minaret that looks like a pagoda, Chinese-style tiled roofs and elegant Arabic calligraphy – it was beautiful and an incredible place to visit.

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