Louis and I just came back from a wonderful trip to Xian, an ancient city in Shaanxi province, China. We decided to explore this historic city during the 7-day Golden Week holiday celebrating the founding of the People’s Republic of China, or the new China. We stayed at 7 Sages International Youth Hostel, an old army barracks in use hundreds of years ago. It’s unique charm and modern amenities made our stay quite pleasant.
We walked for hours each day exploring the city’s 14 km Ancient Wall (built 194 BCE), Muslim Quarter, modern downtown area, and of course, the museum complex featuring the famous centuries-old Terracotta Warriors, the statues created in 210-209 BCE by China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang who lived from 259-210 BCE.
Actually, we got to the terracotta site on our second attempt. Why? The onslaught of human flesh pressing against each other. In other words, the crowds! Let me explain something. During any holiday Chinese people travel across this vast nation to experience and celebrate their unique culture.
So, just image standing in a queue of about five thousand people waiting to board a bus. Well, we figured it would take us about four hours to reach the front of the line. Not happening! So, we tried our luck the following morning, arriving at the bus depot early in the morning and to our delight the queue was about one thousand, so our wait was just over one hour. Yeah!!! It was worth it; definitely the highlight of the trip.
Adding to the high point of the trip was the vibrancy of this unique city. From morning to late at night people were in the streets dancing, peddling fruits, veggies, clothing, electronics, and just actively enjoying life in China. We even bumped into Michael Jackson. Well actually, fans who so idolize Michael that they became the musical legend.
Moving from the flashy colors of the modern downtown area we stumbled onto the Muslim Quarter, an area inhabited by the city’s Muslim population. Walking down the pedestrian thoroughfare, we experienced a visual feast of colourful foods, crafts, sounds, and costumes.
We even witnessed a traditional Muslim ritual, or rather the preparation phase — the slaughtering of a lamb. During Eid al-Adha, an important religious holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide, a lamb is butchered symbolizing Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son as an act of submission to God. The meat is then shared among family, friends, and neighbours.
Indeed, China is a world of cultures. Traveling to the different provinces is like going to different countries because the traditions and practices are so varied. That’s why we feel so welcome in China; we are part of the rainbow fabric that make up this remarkable east Asian country. Yes, we are different. Hey, we are black people in a field of an estimated 1.4 billion Chinese. In fact, we can’t go anywhere without the paparazzi in tow. Louis certainly has a growing fan base. “You look like a movie star’, say many, referring to him as Morgan Freeman. Really? So, we smile and strike a pose.
See you later, our fans are calling…