CHEN HONG Few vis­i­tors en­joy Kash­gar’s de­lights

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG -

The weather in Kash­gar was de­light­ful in late Oc­to­ber — cool enough in the morn­ing and at night to re­quire a thick coat but warm enough in the day­time for short sleeves to be suit­able.

It should have been the fi­nal stage of the re­gion’s tourist sea­son, with win­ter ap­proach­ing and snow ex­pected to fall soon. How­ever, the sight­see­ing trea­sures of Kash­gar, the big­gest city in the South Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion, were quiet.

Stand­ing in front of the splen­did Id Kah Mosque, one of China’s largest mosques with a his­tory of more than 500 years, I could see no vis­i­tors from other Chi­nese ci­ties in the spa­cious square.

Some lo­cal Uygur peo­ple were en­ter­ing the mosque to pray, while more were sit­ting un­der trees along the side of the square, chat­ting, smoking or drink­ing tea. The square was almost empty.

Just three months ago, Juma Tayier, the 74-year-old imam of the mosque, was at­tacked and killed by three re­li­gious ter­ror­ists after the sun­rise prayer.

The lack of vis­i­tors was almost the same at a nearby grand bazaar, where fresh fruits, dried nuts, lo­cal hand­i­crafts and wool prod­ucts are sold.

Re­li­gious ex­trem­ists have been re­spon­si­ble for four ma­jor bloody in­ci­dents in Xin­jiang since the be­gin­ning of 2014, giv­ing the re­gion, es­pe­cially the south­ern part, a rep­u­ta­tion as be­ing “un­safe”, which scares off po­ten­tial vis­i­tors.

How­ever, Song Zhen’gen, an of­fi­cial from Shen­zhen who has worked as deputy di­rec­tor of the Kash­gar tourism depart­ment since Fe­bru­ary, said he felt safe in the city.

“I of­ten walk alone in the city. The lo­cal peo­ple are very nice and hos­pitable,” he said. “The ter­ror­ist ac­tion so far did not tar­get any tourists or take place in any sight­see­ing places.”

I felt the same dur­ing my week­long stay, as I and other re­porters vis­ited lo­cal com­pa­nies and vil­lagers, dined out­side and joined popular square danc­ing in Markit county, about 160 km from Kash­gar city, late at night.

One of the other prob­lems af­fect­ing tourism is lan­guage dif­fi­culty. Many of the lo­cal Uygur pop­u­lace can­not speak Man­darin, es­pe­cially in ru­ral ar­eas, although the gov­ern­ment has em­pha­sized bilin­gual ed­u­ca­tion. We had to take a trans­la­tor with us when do­ing in­ter­views.

Jo­hann Anger­bauer was one of fthe ew for­eign­ers I could talk to in Kash­gar. The Aus­trian, who is gen­eral man­ager of the Radis­son Blu Kash­gar, said he was fas­ci­nated by the lo­cal cul­ture and cus­toms.

Com­pared with his pre­vi­ous work­place in Su­dan, where war broke out, Anger­bauer said there is noth­ing to worry about in Kash­gar.

His ho­tel, which was still at in a soft open­ingd at the time, is the first in­ter­na­tional five-star brand in the city.

Wed­ding ser­vices have been popular since the ho­tel opened. “It’s in­ter­est­ing to learn that the bride and bride­groom’s fam­i­lies sit sep­a­rately at the wed­ding ban­quet,” he said. Con­tact the writer at chenhong@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

The Kash­gar Air­port, only 10 kilo­me­ters from the down­town area, has han­dled more than 1 mil­lion pass­gengers ev­ery year.

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