Sunday, February 12, 2006

Twilight In Muslim Quarter

Xian's 70,000 plus Muslims live beyond a dark tunnel just north of Master Sun on the other side of the Ancient City Wall. Like the Peking Opera Costume Hutong in Beijing, The Muslim Quarter is another filthy but beautiful place that sits on the verge of extinction. The bright lights perched on the sparse branches punctuate the darkness like tiny pin pricks of neon. In the late twilight hours when few patrons are around, the undiffused, raw lights elongate the shadows of passers-by. People come here to stroll around & soak up the exotic atmosphere at night. The narrow pathways are unfit to host vehicular traffic; yet annoying automobiles still honk and flash their lights into the dense crowd forcing their way through.

The streets are labyrinthine with symbols of Arabian imperialism appearing sporadically. Women are veiled & swirling Arabic script (God is Great) appears everywhere on storefront marquis. The faces of the people here are rounder, paler, and more Caucasian looking with blue & green eyes. They’re the descendents of Persian merchants who came eastward along the Silk Road & settled down here with babes of the Han Empire. The women are spectacular...jumping right off the pages from Arabian Nights. Boutiques sell appropriate clothing for the believers.

We being believers & all had custom tailored traditional suites made for approximately $30 Canadian. A price tag unheard of in Beijing, & most likely laughable in Shanghai. I wasn’t sure if it was operatic training frustration or just regular shopping frenzy, but William played Santa Claus & had 6 Cheongsams made. He probably made the tailor’s year! Merry Christmas…ka-ching $$$$ !

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