These are all lame pics of me among these amazing places. For this last post on Xinjiang, my final thought: The amazing thing about Xinjiang was that it's so far off the current backpacking beaten path and the culture is so rich and vibrant. Staying with a local family who I dearly love really allowed me to get submerged, however briefly, in the culture. At a time when discussions of Islamic/Christian relations were raging in the States, I got to see the celebration of Ramadan begin in a mainly Islamic culture with a lovely Muslim family. My friends were so open with me about their faith and we got to talk for hours about what we share and how we differ. I love them so much for this, and for their great hospitality to me. I love the deep flavors of Uighur food, the fierce spirit of the Uighur people as they try to maintain their culture in the midst of difficult issues threatening both their language and their heritage, the stunning beauty of Islamic art and architecture, the still visible links to their past on the Silk Road, and the amazing warmth that they extended to visitors. I love the sound of the wind in the desert and the early morning calls to prayer. I love the arid dry heat and the ice-capped mountains on the horizon. I love their dances and music.
Although soon I will move on to gushing about Tibet, I must say that despite being in some of the world's most beautiful locations and loving every moment in the high altitude of the Tibetan Plateau--Xinjiang holds the deepest place in my heart due to the connections that I was granted with it through my friends. It was really a wonderful part of my journey.
Me in the night market in Urumqi
Me (tiny at the bottom) in the night bazaar in Urumqi
Being cranky that a french supermarket was set up in the oh-so-cultural night bazaar in Urumqi. Blah to globalization.
In the Jiaohe ancient ruins
in the Taklamakan Desert (oh yes, this pose will reappear throughout the journey...might as well have some consistency to the "look where I was" silly posing pics)