April 18, 2009

Urumqi, China

It’s official: Uyghur’s are cooool.
The Uyghur people are originally a Turkish-Muslim tribe that settled near the Altai Mountains and over the centuries have mixed with the people of the surrounding regions of Russia, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. At first, Urumqi can make you feel like you have walked into a DNA chemistry testing lab whereby you see some of the most unique examples of human cross-breeding ever and at other times it looks as though there were too many cooks in the kitchen. But the new palette of people had me completely intrigued and I spent my first day in the city just walking through the busy and colorful markets, creepily staring at the bizarre blend of people.
The Uyghur’s live in an “autonomous” region within The People’s Republic of China and suffer from similar circumstances as their Tibetan neighbors, although they have no benefit of media or aid organizations vocalizing or helping their cause. The Han Chinese are given healthy incentives to move into the area, start businesses and built Buddhist temples, creating an ethnic animosity between the two groups. There is a definite neighborhood segregation within the city and there can be no confusion in which you are in.
Only a short train ride from Dunhuang, I went from eating stir fried vegetables to mutton kebabs, from walking in glossy shopping centers to small back alleys lined with local shops where women walk veiled and men wear traditional Islamic dress. Hearing people speaking the local Uyghur language, which sounds like a Turko-Chino-Russian dialect, and seeing Arabic lettering alongside Chinese, It was as if I had passed into an entirely different country, which…… after three months in China,
was a welcomed change.

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