Sunday Market – Kashgar, Xinjiang, China

The Crossroads of the Silk Road

At the foot of the Pamir Mountains, where it’s hard to remember you’re still in China, much less the 21st century, the remote city of Kashgar hosts a mind-boggling Sunday market that is any photographer’s dream. By most accounts it is Asia’s (and arguably the world’s) largest market.

Estimates of 100,000 to 150,000 people sound right – a remarkable statistic considering that it’s held weekly, and has been for probably well over 1,000 years. The Muslim Uighurs are the majority popula­tion in China’s Alaska-size Xinjiang Province, and bearded Uighur men and women hidden behind veils of brown gauze come to trade, sell, and haggle over sheep, cattle, horses, dowry chests, fur hats, spices, fruit, daggers, and carpets in a scene not unlike what Marco Polo must have witnessed when he passed through in the 13th century, heading east.

Although the Silk Road that once made Kashgar prosperous died out around the 15th century, when sea routes won most of the lucrative trade, try to explain that to these folks. Kashgar is just east of the Kyrgystan and Tajikistan borders, and its culture has more in common with the Central Asian republics than with Beijing, 2,000 miles east.

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