Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Xian Postcard Day 7 On the way to the Great Mosque Part 1

Hello Wednesday! We take off to China today to continue on Day 7 of our China journey to see... the Great Mosque, click here to see all posts.

We left the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda and arrived at the Drum Tower by bus, a small path nearby led us to the Muslim quarter where the mosque was located. Fellow travellers said this area is a must see, so we planned to explore it after the Great Mosque. We looked for a sign near the entrance for the mosque but were immediately drawn to the different sights and smells.

The market place by the entrance, numerous merchant stalls under permanent tents filled with ample supplies of goods, bustled with business deals of sorts.
Across from the market place, cages of singing birds lined the main street depicted bird keeping as a popular past time. Archways of light bulbs adorned the cobbled road, we imagined it must be so pretty and romantic at night time.
One of many sidewalk carts, this one was selling a dessert dish made with rock sugar, Chinese pears, kiwi and lemon slices, honey and various other ingredients. The lady in black bought one bowl and was busy munching it down while she stood. The green sign featured the restaurant's best dishes, sweet pear dessert included.
A young attendant saw me pointing the camera at her and started calling out the shop's specialty. She was one of several cooks that would prepare your order fresh on site. Miscellaneous ingredients displayed were onions and pickled vegetables of sorts, used to make flat savory cakes.

The yellow notice on the wall announced red bean rice for 1 RMB. Food in the Muslim quarter had the lowest prices compared to other spots we visited in China. A man from Xian told me the displayed prices were for tourists, locals paid only 20% of the price!
The large awning shaded an outdoor table filled with dried fruits of all kinds. This was the first time I came across dried kiwi and lemon slices, the rest looked like an assortment of dates. The pale green packages, second from the right, were cut sections of winter melon preserved in sugar, a favorite snack of my brother when he was a child.
Two bicycle carts loaded with pomelos and Mandarin oranges, the vendor on the right was surrounded with customers. No difference in produce quality was observed, he presented such a good sales pitch, more and more people gathered around.
A fruit stand stocked with a great mix of healthy treats, the pomegranates were partly peeled to show its juicy flesh. We stood in awe of the grapes that were the size of prunes. The merchant shouted out to potential buyers while he bagged some fresh dates for a waiting client. Local dates seemed to be the most popular fruit, sometimes the whole cart would be filled with it and people would buy big bags of them. I wondered how they tasted.

At this point we were still in search of the Great Mosque, we said to ourselves it couldn't be much further.
Two food stalls parked side by side, their owners sat caught up with the latest gossip. The one on the left was selling assorted nuts and beans. It looked like the brown skinned peanuts were the most sought-after, several bags of it were displayed in the big round basket. On the right, a sweets kiosk with dried dates and sugared pastes.
A bicycle cart filled with coal fuel pellets, they emanated an earthy smell. The vendor rode door to door and yelled out his merchandise. Business was good as he stopped frequently to unload a couple at a time, by the end of the street only a few pieces were left.
A man engrossed in his carving, the design on the small nut shell was very intricate. In the glass case, several finished art miniatures, some in the shapes of Chinese zodiac animals.
One of many needlecraft businesses in the Muslim quarter, I recognized the shoes were similar to the ones this boy was wearing on this post. The 3 red tigers piled in the left back corner were pillows for children. The Chinese believe shoes, hats, pillows crafted in the shapes of tigers would ward off evil and protect the children.
One of the highlights of our day was this amusing scene. He was the only merchant that retailed pottery and dishes. There were lots of interest in his goods, many stopped by and looked, some even picked up and complimented his wares. When asked about the price, he mumbled a disgruntled reply and was either looking up or down and paid no attention to the customers. It went on for a good 20 minutes, not one item was bargained, never mind sold! We wondered what the deal was with this guy, we found it hilarious! We think his wife normally attended to the business, but she decided to take the day off and made him run the store...
Stay tuned next week as we continue to hunt for the ever illusive sign to the Great Mosque!

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