One of the most memorable places I've had the opportunity to visit over the years is the ancient town of "Kashgar in the western-most regions of China. As this New York Times article earlier this week explains:
Traders from Delhi and Samarkand, wearied by frigid treks through the world’s most daunting mountain ranges, unloaded their pack horses here and sold saffron and lutes along the city’s cramped streets.
Chinese traders, their camels laden with silk and porcelain, did the same.
The traders are now joined by tourists exploring the donkey-cart alleys and mud-and-straw buildings once window-shopped, then sacked, by Tamerlane and Genghis Khan.
The piece goes on to explain how this historic town is likely to be changed forever as the central government in Beijing moves forward with it's plans to make the town's residents "earthquake proof" by essentially razing the many parts of Kashgar that make it so special for visitors and those interested in preserving history.
"Over the next few years, city officials say, they will demolish at least 85 percent of this warren of picturesque, if run-down homes and shops. Many of its 13,000 families, Muslims from a Turkic ethnic group called the Uighurs (pronounced WEE-gurs), will be moved.
In its place will rise a new Old City, a mix of midrise apartments, plazas, alleys widened into avenues and reproductions of ancient Islamic architecture “to preserve the Uighur culture,” Kashgar’s vice mayor, Xu Jianrong, said in a phone interview.
Some of the motivation here at the highest levels of the Chinese government may be to control and contain some of the separatist efforts in recent years to carve out a more independent identity for the region. The piece is worth reading in it's entirety.
The place is not very critical in the global scheme of things. But once visited, it remains etched as a very special place in history. Here's hoping some of Kashgar is preserved for generations to come.