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Life and death at Kashgar market

The famous bazaar
The famous bazaar

Chris and Phil put on a show at the legendary Sunday market.

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Our goal in Kashgar was to visit the fabled Sunday market where local life gathers to meet, exchange, barter and haggle. People make long journeys from the outlying regions to attend the market, which echoes with the trading cries of Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Uyghurs.

The shepherd is my shepherd
Sheep waiting for their future to be decided

And as is the habit in Asia… where there is life in abundance, death is never too far away either.

Killing a sheep with a blunt penknife
Killing a sheep with a blunt penknife

At the livestock market, life and death are intertwined. The animals are traded and killed on the spot, with people rarely batting an eyelid at the means of dispatch. To my sheltered western sensibilities (even though they are tempered with years of travel in Asia) this open acknowledgement of the inseparability of life and death still comes as a shock once in a while.

A slow and painful death
Minutes later the sheep is still moving

I watched this creature meet its maker with eyes transfixed by the inadequacy of the killer to do his job. For quite a while, the animal flailed around, its head barely attached to its body, and blood pouring from the gaping wound. A crowd gathered around the spectacle, obviously sensing that a sale would have to ensue.

Finally, merciful rest
Finally, merciful rest

Eventually, the sheep gave up the fight to live, and with a last thrash of its head, flopped into the stillness of death. The crowd dispersed – a sale presumably having been made – and we too wandered onwards, only to be reminded around the corner of the final destination of the sheep’s carcass.

The most common food in Kashgar is ‘laghman’ – noodles with lamb and vegetables. Or rather mutton and vegetables, as it is only the fully grown animal that is killed here. The noodles are prepared by hand (as the following movie clip shows) with great skill, the dough being spun and twisted like a skipping rope in a continuous entrancing rhythm.

Making noodles → click here to download the MPEG movie clip

To see the beginning and the end of the production process, and be vividly reminded of the origins of the food that sat on my plate brought me some comfort… at least I felt connected to what I was eating, in a way that is all too rare in England. A brutal business it may be, but it is an honest one too.

And life goes on too… within minutes of finishing our meal, Phil got the Ball out, and started to play keep-up with a local boy in a Zidane t-shirt. He surprised both of us with his control and solid skills, playing confidently on the rough, rock-strewn surface.

Phil and local lad playing keep-up
Phil and local lad playing keep-up

As we played with the steadily growing crowd of local youth, Luke and Claudia – two travellers we had met on the train from Urumqi – turned up with their guide Abdulwali (who was to become a big feature of our Xinjiang experience) and together we started to try and organise a game for the evening.

Organising the game
Organising the game

Abdulwali translated our plans to the Uyghur children, and asked them to relay the news to their friends as well. We were hoping for a good turnout for the game that evening, but also realised that we had little time to plan for it.

Uyghur enthusiasm
Uyghur enthusiasm

Nevertheless, getting the word out is stage one in any enterprise, and this was a good start. We looked forward to the evening and the big game…

Written by on Monday, May 6th, 2002

7 comments on this post

  1. rachel timmons August 6, 2002 at 8:26 pm

    looking forward to having similar adventures (sans the soccer–i prefer watching it to playing it!) when i make my way o Xinjiang late next month!

    loved the noodle clip….laghman is GOOD

    cheers, r

  2. i think its SICK what those muslims done to that sheep, no heart at all.

  3. I can only assume you’re a vegetarian then, Rhys…

  4. I think this is so sick what they did to that sheep.

    you have to protest!!!!!

    what a motherfuckers!!

    i hate them!!!!

    how loves amimals begin a protest gaddamit!!!!

    stuppit motherfuckers!!!

    stuppit moslims!!!!!!!

    kill those motherfuckers!!

    kill tyhem all!!!!!

  5. Sigh. I’m tempted to remove your offensive comment, Sharon. Do you have no sense of your own hypocrisy? It beggars belief.

  6. Hey Sharon, F**k You. You Dumb Bitch.

    You better watch your words the next time.

    Don’t you ever dear speak that way about my People again!. Twat.

    Chris can you please remove sharon’s vulgar and ignorant comments please. I find it very offensive. cheers.

    And chris..

    I like to thank you my friend.

    Those Uyghur kids there seem happy and enthused about the football game. And it’s good to see them that way, because most through out there daily life they have to suffer the Imperialism of the Chinese Communist Government!, on there own Land!. >:-(

    So it’s good to see them happy.

    Uyghur Turks Forever!!. East Turkestan Forever!!.


    PS.. Im Turkish BTW.

  7. Hi Timur – I’ve been thinking long and hard about your request to remove Sharon’s comment… as you can see from my initial reaction to it, I too was deeply offended by what she wrote. However, I’ve decided to leave the comment as is, because I think that Sharon is merely demonstrating her own ignorance and prejudice, and I think that it reflects worse on her than it does on “your People” whoever and whatever they may be… I, for one, think that we are all one people, one species – homo sapiens.

    I can appreciate that the comment is more offensive to you as a person of Turkish origin than it is to me, but I would ask you to show some forgiveness too – I think your veiled threats were probably written in anger and not meant to be taken too seriously. At least I hope so. Otherwise, you’d be playing the same losing game of tit-for-tat violence that solves nothing. What we need here is game of football and an impartial referee!

    Anyway, I’m glad you enjoyed the story – it was indeed a pleasure and a privilege to meet and play football with those Uyghur kids. I hope that this story gives them a voice and shows that no matter what your cultural background, whatever your cultural taboos, that football can bring understanding and friendship across what can be a very great divide. And that, in the end, is the whole point of this website and the idea of The Ball.

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