I had a burning thirst as I entered Kashgar. For days, the dust and grit suspended in the Taklamakan’s air got under my clothes, in my hair, in my shoes and in my parched throat. I enjoy a good cold beer. But even this is hard to find. Oh! Beer is in plentiful supply! But cold beer – that seems to be a foreign concept – literally.

After coming to rest at the Barony Tarim Petroleum Hotel on Seman Road, I dropped my gear and set out in the still blinding sun. This large city has a vibe! Here, one shares the sidewalks with different ethnic groups and the dress styles that distinguish them. For me it is exciting, and not a lot different from Toronto – a city with many distinct races and ethnic groups, making for an exciting city. The different cultures provide variety, unique festivals, amazing foods and diverse art & theatre scenes. Here in Kashgar, it may not be as varied, but there is a true cultural blending which is typical of this area so close to so many ancient cultures.

Not far away, as the shadows lengthened is the site of the famed Sunday market. Sadly, I will not be able to extend my visit to attend the market. But standing on the broad steps of the Id Kah Mosque, one can feel the anticipation and almost hear the thousdands of sellers and buyers competing to be heard, and arguing, trying to get the lowest prices for the sheep standing obliviously nearby.

A sight that always intrigues, is a man having his head washed and handsome beard trimmed. The skull cap removed, shows a snow-white scalp, protected by the ever-present cap above a sun-burned face. The man getting a trim is obvioulsy used to the ways of the barber, who with one finger partially missing (not a good omen in my opinion), lathers the virgin scalp with a bar of soap before the gleaming straight razor is whipped out. Fascinated, I continue watching as the barber tips his clients head back by yanking upward on his equally snow-white beard.

As a man who also has a beard – and could do with a trim after days in the desert, I slink away, not noticed, and retreat into the darkening shadows. Perhaps now that I have survived the surgical mastery of an ear cleaning in Chengdu, the next time I find myself in Kashgar, I may pluck up the courage to go under the knife – as it were!

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