Archive for the ‘Xi’an’ Category

Immersing In The Greatness Of The Great Mosque

Saturday, May 12th, 2012

After our visit to the Small Wild Goose Pagoda we returned to Xi’an’s city centre and made our way to the Great Mosque.

The Great Mosque is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China and its location is northwest of the Drum Tower (Gu Lou) on Huajue Lane – an easy place to find on the local tourist map.

The Great Mosque is definitely worth visiting if you are going to spend anytime in Xi’an.  The centuries-old mosque (circa 724AD) has some wonderful history and the unique mix of architecture (traditional Muslim and Chinese styles in the buildings) is stunning.

We were fortunate enough to arrive at the mosque just as prayer time was commencing.  The presence of dedicated worshippers and the sound of beautiful chanting made the whole mosque area come alive.

History suggests that Islam was introduced into Northwest China by Arab merchants and travelers from Persia and Afghanistan during the mid-7th century. Some of the travelers settled down in China and married women of Han nationality.  Descendants of these marriages became the Muslims of today.

Mosques throughout China were built to honor the role Muslims played in the unification of China during the Yuan and Ming Dynasties and the Great Mosque is obviously one of the most special of these houses of worship.

The Princess and I soaked up the calmness that was very much present inside the mosque walls and we enjoyed the freedom to take photos and video as we walked around the complex. Tourists and locals alike honoured the significance of this ancient place of worship and noise levels were kept low.

The Great Mosque is a must see for anyone visiting Xi’an.  Take a couple of hours to immerse yourself in the beauty and history of this ancient complex and, if you can arrange it, make sure you visit coincides with prayer time.

Footnote:  After you leave the mosque, turn left and walk about 5 metres.  On the right you will find Jessica’s coffee shop.  Jessica, the owner, speaks excellent English and she is the perfect host.  Jessica was very generous with her time and gave us some wonderful tips on what to see and where to eat in Xi’an.  Oh, her coffee and walnut biscuits are excellent too!

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Safest Place To Walk? – On The Road

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Xi’an city is quite well laid out and there are no lack of footpaths for one to walk on.  However, it seems that the locals are more comfortable walking on the road.  This could be due to the fact that some drivers seem to prefer to drive on the footpaths!

The proliferation of cars, bikes, buses and trucks mean that the roads in China are becoming increasingly busy.  However, the average pedestrian has no qualms about sharing the roads with the traffic.  Indeed, we were privy to people wheeling elderly parents in their wheelchairs against the stream of oncoming traffic.

Old men and women pushing cardboard laden pushcarts, bikes stacked with gas bottles and water, wheelchairs with elderly passengers aboard and young and old foot traffic are all commonplace on the streets of Xi’an.  And what’s more – the drivers of the fast moving (and not so orderly procession) of vehicles take this all in their stride.  The incessant beeping of horns reminds the foot traffic that they may become a hood ornament if they are not too careful and, for the most part, they seem to obey.

The streets are not a place for the fainthearted and visitors to Xi’an (and other Chinese cities) should opt for the footpaths (if they are not taken up with cars and bikes) rather than walking on the roads.  The locals seem to be rather accustomed to the practice but tourists probably don’t have the street smarts to compete with the traffic.  Besides, the “gawking” that tourists tend to do leads to even less awareness.

Travel tip – keep your ears open because the friendly reminder from an approaching car may be the only thing that keeps you alive in these parts!

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