Kashgar sunday livestock market

Kashgar sunday market negotiations

Kashgar is one of those magical names from history largely because of its Silk Road association as well as its ancient Sunday livestock market, of which more later. Today sinosisation of the wild-west frontier town where Russian influence meets Chinese power is well advanced under the current government policy of moving in Han Chinese people to rebalance the pre-existing indigenous Uyghur ethnic population.

This 'modernisation' programme has almost obliterated the character of the old city as original brown adobe buildings are replaced with concrete, leaving a rather touristified pedestrian area where craftsmen continue to ply their trades bashing out copper or making musical instruments. Visitors are mainly from eastern China and other westerners are thin on the ground. An occasional first-floor highly decorated tea-house still provides refreshment to groups of old men with time on their hands as it did for Silk Road merchants centuries ago.

Just beyond stands the Id Kah Mosque on the city's central square, the biggest in China, providing a haven of peace within its precinct walls and lined with silver poplar trees because this is of course essentially a Muslim city.

Nearby the partly covered bazaar is as usual the centre of daily trade in items from everyday utensils to Asian rugs but with one significant difference: an ubiquitous military and police presence, on every street corner or sitting in police vans every 500 metres in all major streets with flashing red and blue lights. Disturbances some years ago suggest that there is a significant security issue here still.

The image of swarms of bicycles is now very out of date as almost all traffic is now motorised with silent electric Vespa-type scooters, so extreme caution is strongly advised for pedestrians.

Apart from Friday prayers the big day of the week is Sunday when thousands head out of town for the livestock market so if you're in the market for another bull, cow, sheep, goat, yak, camel or donkey this is where the action is.

Outlying roads are clogged with mopeds, motorised tractors or open top trucks stuffed with depressed looking beasts who clearly do not enjoy seeing their antecedents hanging up naked in roadside butchers around the site. A row of a dozen blooded goats' heads lined up on the ground made a particularly grizzly sight.

Cash deal bartering as ownership changes hands is conducted as of old often involving a middle man if negotiation flounders. From the outside the whole process looks utterly chaotic as vehicles are parked with no visible organisation as animals are unloaded or loaded without much dignity amid pools of mud churned up with animal urine. This is not a scene for the faint-hearted

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