The largest Mosque in all of China, the Great Mosque, is located here. It is Muslim by faith. But with its ornate, eave rooftops, spacious courtyards and stony arches, the architecture is straight Chinese. I’m fascinated by how the Muslims here have co-existed with the Chinese to the point of being absorbed by our culture & yet kept their religion intact & in peace whereas in places like Indonesia, a similar cultural mix have resulted never ending, unresolved race riots. The Great Mosque was probably one of the most authentic untampered sites I’ve visited on this tour. It is pure Tang Dynasty!
I climbed atop a pile of rubbish, peered down a narrow lane with my camera & caught some handsome Muslim boys in starched white skullcaps stirring bubbling cauldrons with floating goats’ heads. Now I know where Mick Jagger got his idea for his Goat’s Head Soup album. The boys shouted at me in Urdu. It was probably something along the lines of “outta my F-ing face with that camera, dude!”. But I couldn’t make anything out other than their breaths in tiny puffs of steam accented by the harsh back light from an overhead street lantern. An elderly man waves his fist at a pack of beautifully sullen adolescent girls walking along holding hands. The festive mood rolled back nostalgic childhood memories of late night flower markets during Lunar New Year in Sham Shui Po, my old hood back home in Kowloon.
The tall bottles of cheap Chinese beer sold in street stalls became rare since the Muslims bypass on alcohol here. But Xian's redeeming quality for me was the food. We happily ate our way through Culture Street and the Muslim Quarters for cheap, stopping every half a block or so to sample yet another delicious and unknown treat from a street vendor. We tried tons of meat skewers, various deep-fried dumpling things, and endless exotic unknown sweets.