first venture into xi’an’s muslim quarter

Sunday, April 19:  After my full day with the Terra Cotta Warriors, the emperor and his concubine, and Chiang Kai-Shek, Chelsea drops Andrew and me back at our respective hotels.  I sit in the lobby for a while checking emails and posting some pictures before heading out to check out a restaurant recommended by Chelsea; it sits on the street between the Bell Tower and the south gate of the city walls.  I find when I go inside the restaurant that it’s outrageously expensive, so I decide to leave and head to the Muslim Quarter, which I’ve heard is lively and has some of the best food in the city.

Looking at the Bell Tower from the south gate of the ancient city wall

Looking at the Bell Tower from the south gate of the ancient city wall

I haven’t yet explored the ancient city walls, but I hope to do so tomorrow.  I’ve heard you can rent a bicycle at the top of the wall and can ride all the way around the perimeter if you like.  I can only hope there’s no rain.

the south gate of Xi'an's ancient city wall

the south gate of Xi’an’s ancient city wall

As I walk north on the main street, I can see the fabulous Bell Tower glowing in its golds, greens and reds.

The Bell Tower at night

The Bell Tower at night

At the Bell Tower, I turn to the west and stroll toward the Drum Tower.  It is also lit up beautifully.

The Drum Tower at night

The Drum Tower at night

Just north of the Drum Tower is the Muslim Quarter, home for centuries to Xi’an’s thirty thousand Hui people, said to be descended from 8th century Arab soldiers (Lonely Planet China).  The quarter covers several blocks inhabited by over 20,000 Muslims. There are about ten mosques in this area, among which the Great Mosque is the most famous and popular (China Travel Guide: Muslim Quarter).  I plan to visit the area in greater depth tomorrow.

venturing into the Muslim Quarter

venturing into the Muslim Quarter

Muslim food and souvenir vendors abound on Beiyuanmen, the flagstoned narrow street just north of the Drum Tower.  The buildings on both sides of the street are modeled on architectural styles of both the Ming (1368-1644) and the Qing Dynasties (1644-1911). The owners are all Muslims (China Travel Guide: Muslim Quarter).

the busy Muslim Quarter

the busy Muslim Quarter

Lanterns for sale

Lanterns for sale

The Muslims on Beiyuanmen are devout followers of Islam, so they form a tight-knit community, which maintains its own culture and traditions to this day (China Travel Guide: Muslim Quarter).

As you can see below, the street is very crowded this evening.

Xi'an's Muslim Quarter

Xi’an’s Muslim Quarter

I stop in a restaurant for some dinner. I’ve heard of a delicious soup with beef or lamb that’s poured over unleavened bread, but I have a hard time finding it on the menu, even using my cumbersome WayGo app.

the menu in the restaurant

the menu in the restaurant

I finally settle on some very wide spicy noodles that I see at someone else’s table.  I gesture to the waitress that I’d like whatever the man in the center table is having.

a nice little Muslim restaurant

a nice little Muslim restaurant

I didn’t mention that I’ve had an upset stomach most of the day and, even tonight, my stomach is feeling a little queasy; these stomach problems have accompanied me throughout China over the last year.  That doesn’t stop me from eating every last bite of these oily and spicy noodles, which are fabulous.

wide spicy noodles

wide spicy noodles

The crowds are thick in the Muslim Quarter and I’m tired from my long day today, so I walk back to my hotel, once again passing the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower on my way “home.”

The Drum Tower

The Drum Tower

The Drum Tower in Xi'an

The Drum Tower in Xi’an

It’s been a great two days in Xi’an, and I have another whole day tomorrow, Monday.  My flight back to Nanning isn’t until early Tuesday morning. I plan to visit the Bell and Drum Towers, the Muslim Quarter, the city walls, and in the evening, to attend a performance with Mari, the Finnish lady I met today. The performance is to be accompanied by dinner, in which dumplings of all kinds are served. 🙂

Categories: Asia, Bell Tower, China, Drum Tower, Muslim Quarter, Shaanxi, Travel, Xi'an | Tags: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “first venture into xi’an’s muslim quarter

  1. Those noodles do look good, but form reading both yours and Tess Khan’s China posts have no idea how I’d manage there as I’m so fussy!


  2. When we were in Seoul, Kat and I chose food by the pictures. In China Gep could do it for us. On my own, I’d have to do what you did.


    • If there are pictures, Carol, I definitely am able to order, although the pictures don’t always tell the real story about the food! I use my WayGo app a lot in these situations, but it’s time consuming and Chinese servers tend to hover over you while you look over the menu, so you can’t help but feel rushed. 🙂


  3. I hadn’t thought about ordering food, Cathy! So used to seeing the English version on Chinese menus 🙂 I think it’d have to be noodles with everything, but those do look good 🙂 No dodgy tum afterwards? Lots of ‘street photography’. 🙂


    • You’re really getting into street photography now, Jo, aren’t you? I love it when it works out, but so many of my street photos turn out badly, so I am easily defeated by it.

      It’s difficult for us Westerners eating in China. Some places do show English names or pictures, but most of them don’t. Of course we tend to go to the ones that do! My stomach was dodgy the whole time in Xi’an, but it was already so before I ate these noodles. I didn’t feel any different afterwards! 🙂


  4. It’s such a shame that your stomach isn’t a fan of all the delicacies on offer in China. Pictures on the menu would have been helpful!


  5. I thought the Bell Tower was gorgeous in the other photos. Seeing it at night was even better! Same for the city.



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