A taste of a farmers market in Kashgar
An endless stream of Pickup trucks, mopeds and tractors flood through arched gates on to a sandy square. All of them are transporting animals; horses, cows, sheep, goats, donkeys and yaks. A wrinkly faced old man in a traditional Uyghur hat is walking a rather defiant mule on a rope. An old lady with a head scarf has three sheep in her leash. There’s a young man who’s got his work cut out trying to keep up with a huge bull. A long bearded gentleman in a white hat is test riding a magnificent thoroughbred. Shaky legged little calves are being bottle fed. The donkeys are making a right racket, tied up on short leashes by a concrete wall. The sounds of the animals and the rather loud Uyghur haggling all merge in to a mish mash of noise that reaches pretty incredible decibel levels.
We have arrived at the Sunday livestock market just outside Kashgar. We got here from the city centre in a taxi, that cost us a couple of euros for the 15km journey. Now we’re walking amongst the market crowds with our cameras and are both intrigued and excited to observe authentic Uyghur life at its best at their autonomous area in Xin Jin, China. The market place is rammed! Those on foot must watch out so they don’t get ran over by delivery vehicles or get too close to the bigger animals. The bulls roll their eyes rather suspiciously…. It’s also good to check where you step as the square is not only filled with puddles but the droppings of all the animals too.
There’s a smell of smoke and fried meet in the air, as some of the animals have made it straight to the plates of those visiting the market. Whole carcasses hang on hooks and get chopped down to smaller bits with axes etc. Here one can buy a fresh roast to go. A young boy is serving a cloudy, milk based drink from a huge cooking pot to glasses and offers them to us with a big smile on his face. Not feeling too thirsty just now.
Majority of the market goers are men in traditional attire, but some have brought their families too. Mothers carry the smaller babies in their arms, little boys run around chasing goats and a few toddlers have fallen asleep on delivery shelfs. Goats and sheep get their backs checked and the strength of their legs is tested by making them jump. Equestrians get their hooves and teeth checked. Prices are vigorously haggled on and a hand shake seals a successful deal. The salesmen grin happily as they count their takings, while the new owners drag their newly acquired livestock towards various transportation vehicles.
On our way back to the taxi we get a quick look at the trailerfuls of fruit and vegetables for sale around the edges of the market place. We purchase some fresh fruit, unsaturated by preservatives and the likes. As we rush out of the gates, I take a moment to ponder how many different life skills are needed here compared to our digitalized society back home. Instead of computers and mobile devices people know how to handle livestock. The children participate by learning about keeping animals and farming instead of spending their time on computer- or video games. Normal stages of food prep here include the slaughter, skinning and handling of big carcasses, which to us seem rather unfamiliar. Instead of fast food or microwave meals, mothers prepare food for their multi-generational families by slow cooking it on coal or in stone ovens.