Urumqi: The Modern Silk Road

During the golden era of the Silk Road, the urban capital city of Urumqi didn’t even exist. However, now it serves as a big trading and business hub with clients from Baku to Beijing. Walking through the crowded streets with towering skyscrapers, you would never know that you were in Xinjiang Province, typically known for its vast deserts and magnificent mountains. It feels like any other medium to big city in the world with steel and glass structures occupied by well dressed men in suits and very modern infrastructure and facilities. Up until the mid 1700s, Urumqi remained fertile farmland without a lot of commerce, but most of the traders being directed to the hub of Turpan 200 km south.

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Nowadays the city is home to more than 3 million people and steadily growing into a metropolis. Located in the far northwest of China, the city is geographically the furthest place on earth from an ocean. It is often deemed as the central location of the Eurasian continent which really shows just how wide the country of China is. Despite its distance from the ocean, there is still a beauty to its geography. The Hong Shan mountain sits just north of the business district and rewards the 15 minute hike with beautiful sweeping views of the skyline and the surrounding mountains. Right next to the business district and along the highway is peoples park that is filled with locals playing pingpong, badminton, dominoes, and practicing their tai chi. The people of Urumqi must be ready for any kind of weather. In the summer, temperatures can reach the mid 80s but in the winter, they will suffer freezing temperatures hovering close to 0.

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The Xinjiang province is also sometimes considered the home territory of the Uyghur people as mentioned in my previous post. The Uyghurs have a strong presence in the city but have slowly become the minority to the invading Han Chinese. The Uyghurs have a rich culture and heritage in the city. In the south there are many Uyghur markets and residential areas occupied by this minority grou[. However, through the years there have been many racial tensions as the Uyghurs struggle for independence in their homeland.

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