We had the most delicious breakfast at our hotel in Hotan (really, really so bad that we were in a rush because they pulled out all stops with fruits and cakes and what not) and then went off with a guide named Rosi. Rosi turned out to be a friend of Patty and was even less qualified to be a guide since he couldn’t speak English. So whatever information he had for us, he couldn’t share it.
Outside the air was hazy and the aftermath of the storm was still visible. Everything was grey and dusty. Nonetheless we drove to the river with Rosi since Patty had to take care of his German guests. The river was used for jade mining by a Chinese company as well as by locals hoping to hit it big. Here we saw people searching for jade by turning one stone after another. Apparently in spring water floods the river bed and deposits new minerals. After learning about the mining process we went in to the shop next to the river and bought nothing. My problem was that everything was very expensive but the shop didn’t invoke my trust that the pieces were real. I rather buy something fake on the street then (but across the streets I didn’t buy anything from the locals either; I was just not motivated to shop).
Our next stop was a carpet factory where we learned that 4-5 women work a minimum of three weeks on a big carpet. Just looking how they worked sitting in this big room with sometime their children around was impressive. How they could follow the pattern and more importantly weave it was a miracle to me. It just looked difficult. While the weaving was done by the women the cleaning and vacuuming of the finished carpet was done by men. Apparently the uniform didn’t mean anything and was just a convenient clothing article since everyone has to go to the army or so Rosie mumbled.
After a factory always comes a shop and why should it be different here? We looked at a couple of pieces and some were really beautiful but in the end we preferred to use their bathroom instead of buying something. The bathroom as usual was a room of wonder (just looking at the picture again makes me love my job so much more).
Next stop after the carpet factory was the silk manufacture. There was even more to see from how the cocoons of the silk worm were spun into silk threads (by the way my two thin-skinned vegetarian/vegan girls couldn’t watch the boiling of the cocoons since it meant the death of the worms), which were then colored and woven into fabric. I am glad that the whole process was self-explaining because Rosi didn’t manage one straight English sentence. What astonished me though was how old the people were who worked here, really there seemed to be no retirement available.
In the next door store we saw the beautiful end product. I really think Sylvia has the right face for something so colorful!
Our last sight-seeing stop for the day was the Mazar of Imam Asim (tomb of four imams). Already getting there was interesting since the place had been closed down by the Chinese and was not allowed to be used as worship location anymore. Due to the frequent uprisings in the province of Xinjiang all locations of possible unrest are closed. A place where only men meet to pray is especially unwelcome to the Chinese. Therefore no more mass praying here although it is a very important pilgrim site for the Uyghur (and surrounding muslims). Furthermore the desert was already encroaching the street to the tombs because not 200 meters away from the main road the desert was there. Not just visible but on both sides of the road.
The pilgrim site then looked different with lots of flags indicating the tombs, fenced in and with carpets around to pray. Astonishing was also the smell despite a bit of wind. The faithful leave sheep skins and I don’t know what else as a sacrifice which explained it but didn’t make it less strange. It was definitely one of the strangest pilgrim sites I have seen so far. The nearby mosque looked old and worn but was only from the 1980s.
Outside Patty (who had joined us here after an angry text on where he was) was talking to one of the families who lived on site and I manage to sneak a picture. The girls looked happy and had been playing in the front yard of the mosque when we entered.
Then we made it to lunch where I had again laghman (pulled noodles). It was served as usual with meat (lamb or rather mutton) and vegetables. Sylvia was by now sick (literally) of the food and just had noodles without sauce. Don’t really know if she liked it but at least she was ready to go on with the program of the day. And there was still a lot ahead of us. Yours, Pollybert