Endangered spaces: Kashgar’s Old City

Kashgar is an ancient city in the western part of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. It’s origins date back more than 2000 years, when it was an important trade stop on the Silk Road. Over the centuries it has been visited by the likes of Ghenghis Khan and Marco Polo, amongst many others, and it has a rich history as a trade outpost.

Today, Kashgar is no longer the focal point of a major trade route, but it is a fantastic tourist destination, with history around every corner and down every narrow street. More than 220,000 people live and work there, but according to this story, from the U.K. newspaper The Guardian, the Chinese government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to demolish the historic Old City in Kashgar to make way for modern structures, which will take the place of centuries old buildings, many of which are still inhabited by artisans and craftsman.

When the demolition begins next year, more than 85% of Kashgar’s Old City will be destoryed, with thousands of inhabitants being relocated to newer, safer buildings. When the project is complete, Kashgar will practically be a completely new city, and the unique and intresting historical sections will be almost completely gone. The question is, when they are gone, is there any reason for travelers to still make the journey to the city?

If you’re an adventurous traveler who enjoys visiting unique, historical places, and you haven’t made it to Kashgar yet, you may want to book a trip in the next few months. The days are numbered for the Old City, and soon Kashgar will be just like so many other modern cities in China.

Iditarod, the Premiere Dog Sled Race, is Mushing Ahead

And they’re off! The Iditarod is into Day 3 of its 1130 mile race from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska. There are several check points along the way; I counted more than 20. According to last year’s finishing date, there are about 9 more days left. Last year’s winner came in on the 15th.

The race follows the Iditarod National Historic Trail every year, but switches which stretch of it is in the race. One year it’s the northern route. One year it’s the southern. This year is the southern route’s turn. This back and forth switching gives relief to the small towns that that take part in it. Mushers, press and volunteers have a way of taking a toll on small town Alaska. Every other year for a town is plenty.

Years ago, when the trail first opened, not for the race, but for trade and whatnot, dog sleds were used to deliver goods from coastal towns of Seward and Knik to the interior mining camps like Ophir and Ruby and communities like Nome. Everything from the mail to furs and gold made the trip.

The Iditarod website offers a map of the race, a comprehensive history, updated results, videos and photographs, so even if you are in the tropics somewhere you can feel connected to the excitement. Photo is courtesy of Kayak ’49 on Flickr. Check out his other shots of Alaska.