Day five on our trip was our last day in Kashgar, as we were boarding the overnight train to Turfan which is back towards Urumqi. We started with a trip to the Id kah Mosque, which is the largest mosque in all of China, it was built in 1442 and holds 7,000 people. It was a dreary overcast day, so the greens and yellows didn’t stand out as much as you could tell that they must when bathed in sunlight… The mosque is in the center of town and the noise of cars, bikes, and people all fades away once you walk through the front gate and around the corner to the courtyard. It’s immense and very peaceful, there were towers near the front where, prior to loudspeakers, men used to stand and repeat the words of the Imam out to the rest of the crowd. During high holidays the masses that are late have to pray out in the giant square outside of the mosque – they used to use additional men to relay the message out to them.
After wandering around the mosque we headed over to the Abakh Khoja Tomb. I didn’t follow the story perfectly, but it sounds like it was built to house the rulers of Kashgar who first brought Islam to the people. However they taught a strange version that forbids marriage and working in the fields, something like that, but people didn’t follow it and instead ran the man and his son out of town. Somehow after another war or problem the man came back and had loosened up on some of his ideas and the people took to it then. It sounds likes the Uyghurs have a slightly different religion, and we were told that they didn’t even have the Koran translated into their local language until 1989.
Once we finished touring the tomb and the nearby mosque and old school we headed back into the old town, this time to visit the touristy section where we had to pay 30 RMB each to get in. But with our entry fee we were provided a guide and had the chance to go into some peoples homes so that we could see their courtyards and how their homes were set up. Overall it was interesting to see both the old town and then the tourist section of the old town.
By 15:00 we had been dropped off at the train station and were sitting in a small sleeper cabin for 4 people. Our guide, Hussein, told us that the train would probably be empty leaving Kashgar but would fill up at one of the next three stops. We enjoyed watching the scenery change to the desert as we left the city, and after 3 stops we were still alone in our cabin. It was perfect, night fell and we enjoyed the two bottles of wine that we had carted with us from Xiamen and played travel Scrabble…