Day 25~ June 25th~ Xinjiang

in the alley

For these children their alley will soon become a distant memory…

We often go back to the places where we grew up and most of us find ourselves surprised at how much smaller they look, how much our imagination added to them over the years, how developed they look or how abandoned. For the children of Kashgar, they will come back to find nothing of the old. The city is under demolition and their homes will soon be gone with no trace of them ever having existed. I feel so lucky to have been one of the photographers who captured a slice of this beautiful old culture before it gets forced to metamorphose completely into something else, somewhere else.

photo taken: children playing in an old Kashgar city alley~ Xinjiang

Day 5~ June 5th~ Xinjiang

the little man and the wheel

As beautiful as the old city of Kashgar is, it is also heartbreaking to visit. The charming old architecture is being demolished systematically by the authorities section by section for the last few years. The reason given: a possible danger from earthquakes the real reason, I leave for you to research. The locals are horrified as they are moved family by family outside the city and in place of their neighborhoods, malls, plazas, and fancy holiday housing is being planned and erected. Every year less and less of this historical city is left to admire and its traditions diluted slowly into the new characterless architecture. Yes, it is most definitely painful to see and to know about.

photo taken: a little family in front of a neighborhood condemned to be demolished in the old city of Kashgar

Day 2~ June 2nd~ Xinjiang

Uyghur gentleman at door of Idkah mosque in Kashgar

The Idkah or in local Uyghur language Heit Kah mosque is the largest in China. Locals in Kashgar gather daily for prayer on the grounds of the old mosque and for celebrations in its large courtyard. The mosque was first built in 1442 as a small structure and was later expanded in different stages.

There is a great kind of dignity with the locals in Kashgar that stares you right in the eyes. I could also feel a sense being content with who they are, a strong belief and a strength from unity emanating from the people that I met during my travels in the region.

 

Day 1~ June 1st~ Xinjiang

the bright Uyghur people of Kashgar

Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, spanning more than 1.6 million square kilometeres in the north western part of China, borders Tibet, Russia, Mongolia, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Kasakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is home to different ethnic groups  like Uyghur, Kazakh, Hui, Kyrgyz, Mongol, Tajik and the Han Chinese. Only about 4,3% of Xinjian is suitable for human habitation. 

Traveling in Xinjiang was an unforgettable adventure. This month’s journey will start in Kashgar, go across the old silk road to the high mountain of Tashkurgan near the Pakistani border and then go back to end in Kashgar again. The people I met on this trip were some of the brightest, most hospitable and unique tribes in this part of the world. The name Uyghur translates to ‘united’ or ‘people coming together’, as these wonderful people demonstrate in their great sense of community and age old traditions.

photo taken: a playful moment between brothers in an old city street in Kashgar.

Day 20~ February 20th~ Lebanon

veiled~ muslim girl in Tripoli

In a geographically small country like Lebanon, people of different religions live side by side. It is so difficult to explain how religions, tradition, cultural norms, rules, and social order organize themselves there. Within each religion are sects, groups, different belief systems, different dress codes and different tolerances.

Having been born to a christian family, the only veils I saw in my village were worn by older aunts and grandmothers who wore them in the church out of respect or from self imposed reverence. With some of our muslim neighbors, the veil was imposed on girls as they reached puberty and it was mandatory.

The veil has become a very hot global issue in the last decade and attached to it is the idea of freedom of choice or the lack of, feminism or living in the shadow of men, a religious statement or a political one and it goes on even to the courts of Europe that had to deal with the issue outside of the muslim world.

The veil originally was only worn by the wives of the prophet Mohammed, and was only much later introduced as a symbol of conformity to a strict religious belief.

veils are not work by muslim girls until puberty

 

Day Two~ February 2nd~ Lebanon

born into faith~ boy in mosque door

In Lebanon, ‘non-religion’ is not recognized by the state. Being familiar with Lebanon, it is totally understood that it is so. Religion is in every grain of sand and in every handful of soil  there and the word ‘God’ is somehow slipped into every conversation. You hear things like “allah ykhallik, (may god keep you)” for “please”, “allah maak”(god be with you) for “see you later”, “iza allah bireed”(god willing) for “maybe”… I can literally count hundreds of these expressions. Religious references go as far back as the epic of Gilgamesh from the Mesopotamian mythology, biblical references to the cedars of Lebanon, among others.

With a majority of various sects of Christians and Moslems currently in Lebanon as well as Druz, it is almost a given that people will guess your religion from a combination of your last name and your village or city quarter. Despite all that, you grow up in Lebanon with deep friendships and ties across the religious boundaries that no war or schism can tarnish. True Religion causes humility in people and I never tire of seeing it translate into genuine smiles and deep penetrating eyes.

faith lives there~ two nuns at a greek orthodox church in Batroun

Day One Hundred Ten, May 12, 2011

the spirit of Kashgar

When I first arrive a new and foreign place, the first thing I am drawn to is what looks at me through the faces of the people. I feel that the spirit of the land lives in its people and through their eyes and their faces it portrays its theater. Kashgar and its people are innocent, friendly, welcoming, hospitable, kind, inviting, humble, simple, religious, traditional, and very childlike. The old city is a magical maze of amazing architecture, carvings, mosques, cobble stone roads, and the people are in tune with their land and its spirits. They live by code and almost everything they do is done with meaning and purpose behind it. Down to how the door of their home is opened, half open, with a curtain, both sides open, or close, all mean different things as to who  (husband, guests, ..etc) is in the house at that moment.

Tomorrow we visit very early a village on the way to the high mountains, called Opal. What secrets does a village like this hold??

shy smile