Kashgar is an oasis in far western China. It was a former stop on the Silk Road, but modernization has robbed the town of some of its traditional atmosphere. Kashgar is located 300 mi/500 km south of Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

A city of bazaars, two-wheeled carts, dusty streets, camels and numerous mosques, Kashgar reveals a strong Islamic influence. The blue onion-domed Aidkah Mosque is more than 400 years old, and the tomb of 17th-century ruler Abakh Khoja contains the remains of 70 of his descendants.

The Sunday market (held on the river east of town) is an amazing event, featuring vendors of everything from Oriental knives to camels. If you're planning to buy a carpet, know that fakes are ubiquitous but can be spotted by examining the underside; if the pattern there resembles the design on top, the product is likely real. Tightly-knotted weaves generally indicate better quality.

The two main hotels are the former British and Russian consulates, set in large estates shaded by poplar trees, though new hotels are popping up all around town.

An excursion may be made to Yengisar, a center of knife-making that's an interesting example of life in the Tarim Desert.

Note: The Chinese government has become very concerned about Muslim separatist movements, and this has led to Kashgar being closed to tourists periodically. Be sure to check whether the city is open before traveling there.

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