A R C H I V E S
Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|China Part 1|
|06/20/05 at 22:55:06|
|So last year I was flipping through the calendar with pictures of Islamic architecture in it. I saw a very strange picture of a round door with some Chinese inscriptions around it. It caught my attention. Underneath the picture it said, Great Mosque of Xi’an. I looked at it for a few minutes. The door was so mysterious. It seemed like it was holding so many secrets. I told myself, one day I have to see this mosque. That was one of my first reason why I decided to spend the last week of my yearly vacation in China. My decision to travel to China was further strengthened by some unlikely reading of the autobiography of Ziauddin Sardar, “Desperately Seeking Paradise – Journey of a Skeptical Muslim” where he talked about his travels through China and his encounter with the local Muslims. A further research gave some links to Nawawi Foundation’s tour of China (www.nawawi.org). By the end of all my readings and research, I was pretty set in mind that I’d want to visit China. But there were few major obstacles. By the time I had decided to go (end of Ramadan last yr), thanksgiving break was very close which I wanted to utilize to add to my vacation. I had to move frantically to get my visa overnight which was pain in itself as I was traveling heavily for work around that time. A last minute deal on United gave a decent airfare to Beijing. But the most important issue was that I knew no Chinese whatsoever. |
I have traveled to many countries and the language barrier was always there but at least I could read other languages (Arabic, French, Spanish, and Turkish). But with Chinese.. god. .. no idea. So I decided to find a friend in China who can help me. I did a quick search in Naseeb and sent mail to many people registered from China. To my surprise, some actually returned my email and were very willing to show me around in their cities. It was a wonderful gesture on their part. With one of them, I finally made the plan to visit Beijing, Xian and Guilin.
Beijing is a huge city. About 12 million people live there and millions are visiting. Even in winter it seemed like it was packed. The weather was chili around 30 F. First I went to the Tiananmen Square. I realized that I had little interest in Chinese political mayhem. Next; the Forbidden City. It is big. I think there are 9,999 rooms, just one short of what Chinese believed to represent divine perfection. I wonder what had stopped them for making just one more room. I don’t think I’ll ever understand some parts of Chinese culture. The palace was highly decorative and luxurious though but I couldn’t help notice the monotony in their formation. After the fifth room, everything else looked the same. Maybe I just don’t have the eye for it.
Next, we went to the Nujie Mosque, the biggest mosque in Beijing. It was on Nujie street that had many muslim establishments on it. It was Friday and the Juma time was coming. We quickly went to a muslim restaurant Turpan and I had one of my best meal of the trip for $2. I found that the more I paid for food, the worse it got. A quick lunch and I was off for Juma and it was a very interesting experience to say the least. Many looked at me with a stare but said nothing. There were other ethnicities there as well as I met some Sudanese students. Nujie mosque is beautiful. My first experience to see Muslim Chinese architecture and I was loving it. There were Arabic and Chinese inscriptions inside the prayer hall. Red was the dominant color. I wish I could take more pictures but I realized that the having peace of mind in praying for someone is more important than my touristy pictures. I spent the rest of the day buying train and airline tickets for the rest of the trip. To my annoyance, none of these places took credit cards so getting cash was rather an interesting experience as you can only use your ATM card and AMEX travelers checks at Bank of China. I had to learn it after running around a little bit. Just walking around I could totally see the American influence on daily life in Beijing. There was a McDs in every other block, American music was playing in malls and even on streets outside and fake American name brands clothes were worn by every young person. Not exactly what I traveled 6500 miles to see. My annoyance of the afternoon was greatly reduced by a spectacular Acrobat show at night. I swear these people have rubber bodies and no bones. Now I actually believe “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” moves after seeing these people do what they do.
Day 3: Today was the day for Great wall. I decided to go to the Badaling side of the great wall. The reason being that its close and most developed but also most crowded. But before the wall, I went to the Saturday early morning market that opens at 4:30AM. Well I got there around 7 AM. It is the market where you will find many unique handicrafts and jade and furniture and jewelry and much more. I bought a few items for gifts. After that, we were off to a bus taking us to the Great wall. It was about a two hour journey. The moment we got off the bus, we realized that we were not appropriately dressed for the weather conditions over there. IT WAS COLD and super windy there in the mountains. We both bought a hat and after a quick bite, we were off to go on our hike. That experience is unbelievable. Just knowing that you are walking on a wonder of the world that can be seen from moon is amazing. The mountains over there are beautiful and you can see the wall crawling on mountains like a fearless snake. The wall spans five provinces (2,587 miles) from Shanhaiguan Pass in the east to Jiayuguan Pass in the west. Like a gigantic dragon, it winds up and down across deserts, grasslands and mountains. It takes about 2 ½ hour to finish that small Badaling section of the hike and be back for the bus. We took the return bus back to northwestern Beijing and then took a taxi to Summer palace. Again, a beautiful palace that takes quite a bit of walking to get to. The view of the palace from the lake bridge was superb. It was sunset time. We walked quickly to the palace when everyone was coming back from it. Once we got there, we had just enough time to see it before it was dark. Our train was at 7:30 so we had very little time to get back to the city, eat dinner, grab our luggage from the hotel and head to the train station. Upon taxi driver’s recommendation, we ate dinner at a famous Muslim restaurant serving Mongolian hot-pot. It is quite an experience for someone who has never bee to or seen Mongolian hot-pot. There’s nothing like cooking your own fine strips of beef in boiling water and do all the work by chop sticks. By that time I was quite proficient in using the chop sticks. We made our train with full 2 minutes to spare. It was the overnight train to Xian. The quality of the train was surprisingly good. It is definitely worth to pay more for the better class of service and it’s definitely recommended to travel by train in China as air travel is quite expensive and almost always non-negotiable. All flight rates are government controlled so you can’t find any deals. Train travel is cheap and more rewarding, assuming you have time. Beijing to Xian 11 hr first class sleeper was about $50. I was heading to the first capital of old Chinese dynasties but more importantly for me, I was excited to see one of the oldest and greatest mosque in China
|06/21/05 at 18:15:51|
|Checkout my pictures of this trip at |
hope you like it and lemme know what you think!
|06/29/05 at 16:50:17|
|I'd love my next stop to be China :-X|
just can't seem to get out of Europe at the moment... 8)
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