We went to Xi’an, China to see the Terracotta Warriors. While we were there we found an area of the old city called the “Muslim Quarter”. The Muslim Quarter is different from the rest of Xi’an because there is a lot of Muslim food, clothes, religion and atmosphere. I picked the Muslim Quarter as a blog post because it was one of my favourite places and one of the most unique… at least that’s what I think. It had tons of culture, people, personality and things to do.
Xi’an is at the end of something call the “Silk Road”. The Silk Road was a major trading route between China and the rest of Asia and Europe. It brought in many different cultures and religions. While Buddism, Taoism and Confucianism are common in China, Islam (Muslims) is mainly in areas near the Silk Road. While some Muslims came into the city, many of the Muslims in the city are local Chinese that were influenced by the people and ideas coming in from the Silk Road. You could tell the Muslims from the way they dressed. The men wore special hats and the women wore head scarves.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think about this Muslim Quarter is the food. The first place we tried to eat was not at all interesting because they were just doing what the tourists want. They were not “authentic”. The second place we went was amazing. That’s where we had dinner. We picked this place because it had a stove on the table and you could cook your own food. We thought “why not?” Let’s have a little adventure!
Cooking your own Dinner
There was no menu at the restaurant. You go to the fridge in the back of the restaurant and pick all the stuff you want to eat. All the food is put on sticks, so you can pick up the raw food without touching it. When you finished getting all you want, the waiter puts a bowl on top of the stove on your table. The bowl has a divider in the middle. One side has clear boiling water and the other side has seasoned boiling water (red-brown colour). You put the food you picked in either side of the pot and let it cook. When it’s cooked, you pull it out and eat it. When you are finished, you pay for the number of sticks on your table. It sounds expensive but it wasn’t. The meals we ate there were cheap, easy, tasty and a super fun experience.
The Muslim Quarter also had lots of food shop and stalls. All the food was local and very unique. One example is the mountain walnuts. There was table after table of these walnuts. They looked like burnt walnuts. When you buy some, they use a little hammer to crack each one. This makes them easier to eat.
Another cool thing they had was candy brittle. Peanut, almond, sesame, plain… you name it. It was all there. The coolest thing about the brittle was not that they were selling it. It was that they were making it by hand right in front of you. They mixed together all the ingredients on a round table that looks like a tree stump. Then they take a huge hammer/mallet and pound the mixture together. They pound it for a long time and stir it occasionally. In the end it sticks together in sheets and that is candy brittle. It seems like everyone was making brittle. There were hammers thumping everywhere.
The Muslim Quarter was a very lively environment. There were so many different people, fabrics, toys, clothes and other things from different parts of Asia. It was fun walking through the markets to see the different things that we could find. The vibrant colours of the fabrics and clothes were really beautiful. It was really different from the rest of the city. Don’t get me wrong, there are other Muslim sites around the city. It is just that the Muslim Quarter was the most busy and colourful.
I found the culture really interesting to see in the Muslim Quarter because the Chinese here are very different then the Chinese I met in the rest of China. Here, they have been influenced by the different Muslim people that came along the Silk Road. Also, the Muslim Chinese here are different than Muslims from other Muslim countries. They are also still very Chinese. All in all, I think visiting Xi’an was totally worth it.
Edited with the help of my Dad