There are many things that run through my mind when I start thinking about my recent trip in Xinjiang, China's far west region, which shares borders with Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and to the south to Tibet.
I don't have to emphasize too much that the place is pretty ethnically mixed and different than the rest of the China.
The second biggest ethnic group in the city after Han are the Uyghur people who originate from south Xinjiang, mostly speak Turkic language and practice Islam.
Urumqi has a long and interesting history and it is known for being a busy hub on an ancient Silk road. Apparently it is also the most remote city from any sea in the world. I can not imagine how many times a kid driving in a car would ask 'are we there yet?!' on the 2500km trip to the closest sea.
The cultural, religious differences and inequalities led to several unrests and terrorist attacks in the region, which led to the current heavy police and army presence.
Wearing beards (for young guys) and vales covering the face veils is now forbidden and I was stopped twice by police for my beard...Luckily without consequences when they saw that I am just a tourist.
Hard to ignore is the amazing food (mostly based on lamb meet) on every corner... Amazing people... great music... street markets... smell of the cinnamon... mosques... naan...