History Rebuilt

15th September 2017

Breakfast of dumplings and currant bunsWith the interesting change of itinerary yesterday we find that we have time on our hands, having missed out on the camel ride this morning returning from the non-existent desert camp. The local agent is still on hand to help our trip to get back on track and provides us with a tasty breakfast at a small local café, as the hotel does not cater for westerners.

Rebuilt palaceWe then head off to Yarkent which has a population of 300,000. Our out of date Lonely Plant guide reminds us of the troubles here in 2014 and to check ahead as at that time foreigners may not be allowed in. However, as there have not been any troubles recently and as it is an important Silk Road market town, famed for cashmere wool and at the end of a major trade route from India so it is included in our tour.

Rebuilt mausoleumTown is very quiet, and the main square seems soulless with the rebuilt palace and the rebuilt mausoleum and few people in sight. Perhaps this is a bit harsh, but I think it could also be that the ‘end of tour blues’ are setting in as we are heading for our last hotel in Kashgar. We dutifully all troop into the mausoleum of Amanisahan, dedicated to a Uighur queen famed for her music and listen to her story.

Red for mother and babeNext door is the 18th Century Altun Mosque surrounded by a cemetery. Here is the tomb of Amanisahan along with her husband Sultan Sayid Khan and founder of Yarkent rulers of 16th Century. The tombs can be distinguished by three steps for female and two for a male, or alternatively red cloth for female and blue for male. Again the tombs nearest the mosque have been restored but further afield are overgrown areas with decaying stones looking completely unloved.

Roasted sweet potatoesAs we walked around the surrounding streets, school has finished, and the children are curious and shy but also keen to try out their English on the lone group of westerners. The stalls of food tempt us and we try some tasty roast mutton, roasted sweet potatoes, which I am definitely going to cook when I get home and of course freshly baked bread. This however is a snack before finding a more substantial lunch choice of samsas or plov. As there was no loo in the restaurant, we headed underground to a shopping mall, a whole new world underground. This could have been a shopping mall in any city – provided that you look past the security guards at the entrance.

Lunchtime lambRefreshed it is off to Kashgar, however the roads seem to have changed so after the driver made a few wrong turns we finally found the highway, only to be thwarted by a fatal accident blocking the slip road to head north. We headed south instead of north and even after a prolonged stop at the checkpoint to explain our 40km deviation from our itinerary we were able to turn back. As we head north we find the original slip road still closed and so we were quicker making the detour rather than sitting in the queue.

Kids having funFor the first time in a while that evening we sat in a “proper” restaurant and could order what we wanted from the menu. It was all so much easier when we let Laura make all the decisions. The menu was a mixed blessing as we had to rely on the not so accurate pictures and a bit of interpretation from Sadiq. It was a bit of pot luck and it turned out Dave and I had ordered a chicken and potato omelette. Others went for our second choice which turned out to be a pizza like dish. We all agreed that our choices were very tasty and it was decreed so good that the group even returned two days later for another meal.

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