In remote western China, where from the edge of the Taklamakan desert mountains come into view on the horizon, lies the trading town of Kashgar. The Kashgar livestock market is famed and was a key stop on the Silk Road, it remains an central to trading in the region.
The people who inhabit this vast region are Uyghurs, China’s second largest minority after the Tibetans, and suffer a similar fate to the unstoppable tide of Chinese might. Despite the bulldozing of traditional homes, the suppression in the mosques and unsympathetic building, the Uyghurs cling to their traditions and beliefs. In some ways it seems that the Chinese oppression has preserved a certain way of life in Kashgar. Mosques do not have tannoys here, a top of minarets the muezzin still cups his hands to his month five times a day to give the call to prayer. The sound drifts over the sound of traffic and construction undistorted by the crackles of feedback and interference of electronic magnification.
Every day there is a small animal market on the edge of town but it is on Sunday when the area bursts into a frenzy of activity. Kashgar’s historic livestock market. The pens are stuffed full of fat-tailed sheep, mules and horses are tethered in lines, smoke from charcoal grills fill the air supplies hungry traders with shashlik kebabs, horses are shod and cows break free and career through the traffic.
Animals are examined and prodded before an interested party grasps the hand of the seller. This indicates that negotiations have started. The traders remain locked in a handshake as the price is debated. Once an agreement is met there is a flourish of shakes before hands disengage. Ownership is transferred.
Travel here isn’t easy but it’s rewarding and for me the livestock market was a highlight. The chance to experience a tradition from the times of the silk road, still flourishing amidst so much change in China, is very special.