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Kuqa was once a bustling town full of Silk Road traders and travelers located about 400km southwest of Urumqi, a good stop over town before continuing a long journey to Kashgar. A town with long history and a largely Uighur population is now a dusty town with little evidence of the past wealth. Divided in two sectors, the new Han-populated is on the east whilst the old Kuqa is largely Uighur old quarter to the west is peppered with mosques, bazaars, blacksmith shops, donkey carts, carpet shops, chayhanas (tea houses) etc. It is really where the main area of interest begins, a true Central Asian atmosphere awaiting to be explored. One can easily lose in the labyrinth of narrow dusty streets and mudbrick houses.
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Every once in a while there rises from within an ethnic group a particular cultural characteristic that tends to represent the group as a whole. Interestingly it has a tendency to be food and for the Uighurs it’s their bread, a part of every meal. It is impossible to walk anywhere in Xinjiang without running into an Uighur bread stand. The stands selling this bread, also referred to as “nan” or “nang“, are more common to this part of China. The stand itself is pretty simple. It usually consists of a small room to mix the dough next to a large stove, called the “tonnir“, right outside to bake the bread. This stove, a big stomach shape with a small mouth is usually made of sun-dried earth bricks and heated by either coal or poplar wood.

For nearly twelve hours a day this stand is occupied by two or more Uighur men – one to make the dough, one to cook the bread and sometimes another to sell or deliver it. For many this is their livelihood, a skill passed down from generation to generation and taught as a specialized trade. Whenever you pass one of these stands you can’t help but be taken in by the aroma of fresh bread. I have been told that there are over 50 different kinds of Uighur breads and usually you rarely see the same kind of bread at two different stands. Here’s few type of different breads that I have seen so far: Flat round bread, flaky bread, small baguette bread, sourdough bread and bagel breads. On top of that, each stand has its own assortment of goodies that they may mix or cover the bread including onions, sesame seeds, hot spices, and meat. It really is amazing to see the creativity that is put into some of these family recipes.


Picture of freshly baked Uighur breads being displayed, shot taken somewhere in Kuqa Uighur old quarter.

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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6680 W: 150 N: 14602] (64343)
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