Silkroad (China Leg) Day 6

Yahximusiz,

Yarkand is a small town with big plans. Anticipating future growth of the desert tourism, there are many ongoing projects to make the town a bustling hub; reconstruction of old buildings and new constructions around the area to make the place more commercialize and tourist friendly.

Yarkand CityWe reached Yarkand City just in time for our lunch. Before that, we did a stop over in Yengisar to look at traditional knives. Alas, we were not fans and left after a quick scan and introduction by the shop owner. We will be entering Taklamakan Desert via Yarkand. We had chicken pizza and spaghetti in a restaurant recommended by Rapkat. He also treated us to some horse meat which was tough as expected. After which, we toured the handicraft market in the vicinity. Rapkat purchased some meat for our kebab barbeque dinner, bread and eggs for breakfast. For dessert, he got us watermelon since he knew we love it.

New Yarkand

Slated to complete next year, this will be the future landmark in Yarkand, a spacious shopping mall.

Sites In YarkandWe also paid a visit to one of the famous female poet’s and the royal Uyghur’s tombs. Just right beside it, is a mosque. You can see the locals praying under the shades of grape vines. It was scorching hot that day, but when we entered the mosque, it was pretty cooling. The people of Yarkand are said to be strict practitioners of Islam. The women are more covered, the shops only sell halal and imported goods from Saudi Arabia as well as other Muslims countries. They are very particular about the authenticity of the halal products.

Taklamakan Desert

From Yarkand to the desert took about 30 minutes. It was my second time doing an overnight in the desert. The first was in the Merzouga, Morocco back in 2010. I thought the camel and desert trek here would be similar but obviously it was not. This is still a new business for the locals. I really felt that I was going for another guides camp. The whole setting – packing logistics, tent set up, fire lighting, outdoor cooking, strike tent and big sweep was no different from a typical school camp. Only exception, a camel ride here and oh, no flushing toilet.

Anyway, Taklamakan Desert was ok, yet still unforgettable. For me, the novelty of sleeping in the desert has worn off. The intent was to let Tqa and Ayah experience the whole idea of sleeping in the desert. I was glad they enjoyed it. Ayah had the most unforgetable moment of his life when his camel broke away from our small caravan of 5 camels.

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Lucky for him, 10 minutes later the camel man was able to ‘reunite’ us. I shudder to think what if the camel had galloped off into the horizon with Ayah. The weather was cool at night and early morning. We were one of the two small groups camping that night but it felt like we were the only ones there. That’s the best thing about Taklamakan desert, peaceful and remote. Imagine lying on the desert floor, beneath a night sky obliterated with hundreds of thousands of twinkling stars, oh well, going on such trips will bring out the poet in anyone.

That night, I slept beneath the a gazillion stars next to the husband but before you say, “awww, so romantic…”, the stillness of the desert was occasionally disturbed by  the husband’s snoring. Nevertheless, Taklamakan desert will still be one of the few places that will always linger in my mind just a little bit longer than the others. Simply because not many people have done it.😉

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