One of our reasons for going to Kashgar was to visit the famous Sunday Market. To get there we wandered through the Old Town and happened into the local fruit-and-vegetable market.
Produce was laid out on tarpaulin or the tarps were used for shade and the merchandise piled on the dusty street. Customers, mostly women, almost all in scarves or veils haggled over purchases. In a t-shirt and short skirt there was a constant trickle of sweat down my back. I couldn’t help wondering how the women with heavy brown wool over their heads and a neck-to-ankle-to-wrist over-garment were doing. I was fascinated by the variations of the women’s clothing: eyes-visible or not, dark or bright scarves, with overdress or not and particularly whether accompanying little girls were similarly clothed.
BigB interrupted my thoughts: “Why are the women wearing those funny brown things over their heads?”
“It’s their custom, hon. In many countries women have to have their head and body fully covered especially if they’re Muslim.”
He stared at me suspiciously.
“Are you kidding me?”
Murph had started a sotto voce rant on “backward, repressive customs”. I ignored him.
“Women aren’t equal to men in many Islamic cultures.”
BigB could see I wasn’t having him on. I could see how my progressive Seattlite, used to strong women and blended families sometimes with same-sex parents, was struggling to wrap his head around this reality.
“It’s OK buddy. If we go to Iran, I’ll have to be covered up and I’ll have to walk behind you and your Dad all the time.”
According Abdul, the owner of Abdul Wahab travel – who helped us with logistics in Kashgar – as recently as 10 years ago the Kashgar Sunday Market was laid out on stalls like a bigger version of the street market we’d just walked through. His eyes shone when he described the jostling and hustling between vendors for coveted spots in the older, makeshift market. That’s all gone now, replaced by a cavernous building which takes up a whole city block. Knives, carpets, metalwork, toiletries, household goods, clothing, shoes, I think you could buy anything you need at this market – except t-shirts. We went looking for some souvenirs and drew a blank. It seems that only Westerners buy t-shirts and there aren’t very many of them in Kashgar these days.
Many locals still shop old-style in the stalls set up on the ground in the streets around the market building. There is a crush of mostly women picking through piles of clothes, shoes and scarves. I joined in. Hey, you never know when you’ll need a light, neck-to-knees overdress
Information on traveling to China with Children.