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Central Asia

Photographs from my May 2009 trip to Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. 

This page is a 'quick tour', with 25 of my favourite pictures. If you would like to see anything in more detail, please follow the links.

 

Tiananmen Square. As there are no direct flights from the UK to Xinjiang, we first flew to Beijing, where there was time for sightseeing. Next day we flew 3 to 4 hours back west to the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi.

Tiananmen Square is an exuberant and exciting place. There is a military/police presence, but everyone else is there to have a good time. Although there are quite a few Westerners, the vast majority of visitors are internal tourists from all over China, excited about their visit to the big city. That's what makes the place so interesting - for just a few moments you cross paths with a huge range of people, whose lives must be unimaginably different from your own.

Click for more pictures of Beijing

Subashi Buddhist temple ruins (3rd century), Xinjiang. The region is of cultural significance to the Han Chinese. It is thought that Central Asian merchants first brought Buddhism to China along the Silk Road , which passes through the area. 

Taklamakan Desert, Xinjiang. One of the most hostile deserts on earth. The name is sometimes said to mean 'go in and you will never come out'.

Click for more pictures taken north of, and in, the desert

Hotan - open-air jade market by Yulongkax River. Precious and semi-precious stones found in the river are offered for sale. The two men on the right are wearing the traditional Uyghur hat. The men on the left are Han Chinese.

Uyghur girls selling bread - Kargilik, a small town where we stopped to buy lunch. Uyghurs are the main ethnic group in Xinjiang, an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China with an area of over 1.6 million sq. km. There is also a large population of Han Chinese and many smaller ethnic groups, including Kazakh, Hui, Kyrgyz and Mongol people.

Yarkand, Xinjiang - Uyghur men in front of Amanni Shahan mausoleum. I was waiting outside the mosque after Friday prayers, taking a few photographs. One of these men, who spoke a little English, welcomed me to Xinjiang and asked me some questions - where was I from, is England a Muslim country etc. A small crowd of onlookers quickly gathered round, curious about this tall, strange-looking person. Finally I shook some hands, said goodbye and, as I was leaving, asked if I could take a photograph.

Yarkand old town. Many of the shops open directly onto the street, such as this workshop in the metalworkers' quarter.

Yengisar, Xinjiang - traditional knife factory

Click for more pictures taken south and west of the desert

Kashgar, Xinjiang old town - market stall selling poster paints

Click to see more of Kashgar old town

Click to see Uyghur woodcarving from the Apakh Hoja mosque complex

Kashgar - livestock market. The market is a huge dusty crush of cattle, fat-tailed sheep, goats, donkeys, horses etc. with bargains being struck by a diverse mix of traders including Uyghurs, Tajiks, Kyrgyz and Uzbeks. This was one of the places on my trip that I most enjoyed photographing.

Kashgar - livestock market

Kashgar - livestock market

Kashgar - livestock market

Click for more from the livestock market

Near Lake Kara Kul, Xinjiang. We travelled along the Karakorum Highway to reach the lake. With the region lying relatively near Afghanistan, security was high along the route. The lake stands at over 3000m.

Kyrgyzstan - landscape in Naryn Province

Click for more from Kyrgyzstan

Tashkent, Uzbekistan - Chorsu market

Khiva, Uzbekistan - city walls

Khiva skyline. Once an important intellectual and religious centre, Khiva is rich in madrasahs, mosques and minarets. The city was an important stopping point on the Silk Road .

Khiva at night

Khiva - Oq Shihbobo bastion

Bukhara, Uzbekistan - Bolo-Hauz mosque (1718). The emir's official place of worship. The pillars are made of elm from Samarkand.

Tajik girl - Nurota, Uzbekistan. Like other countries in the region, and Uzbekistan has populations of various ethnic minorities. The small town of Nurota has a mainly Tajik population.

Lizard - Aydarkul Lake, Uzbekistan

Sher Dor madrassah (17th century) - Registan Square, Samarkand. The Registan is an ensemble of three madrasahs, built between the 15th and 17th centuries. Following an established tourist practice, I went to the complex after hours and 'tipped' a dodgy-looking policeman for access to the precariously leaning north minaret of the Ulug Bek madrassah. Entry was via a small, locked door. From the top of the minaret there were good views of the Registan and the city beyond, attained by pushing oneself up through a small hole in the roof.

Click here for more from Uzbekistan

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