I would like to bet that "This is also China" is a phrase that is often uttered by tourists on the Xinjiang streets. Urumqi is the capital of China's sometimes seemingly restive Xinjiang province in the far northwest of the country. It has a population of 3 million, of which about 3 quarters Han Chinese, whereas slightly less than 15% are ethnic Uyghurs (in entire Xinjiang province the Uyghurs are the largest group). So expect a Chinese city with a bit of Uyghur culture on the side rather than the other way around.
Famous for being the most inland big city in the world, the city was located on the Silk Road and was a place of importance during Tang and Qing dynasties. Since the 1990s the Chinese center's attention has turned to the city once again, and development has sped up since then. Underlying tension between the Uyghurs and Han Chinese remains tangible, and every now and then sadly erupts into violence. So beware.
Still, Urumqi is an interesting visit as it is a remarkably different major Chinese city than those you will find to the south or the east. Think mosques and bazaars next to pagodas and a more modern Chinese variety of those: skyscrapers.
The Shaanxi Grand Mosque is one of the interesting sights here, as it has a different look to it (decidedly more Chinese) than others around the region. The Grand Bazaar is the other must-see, being the largest islamic bazaar in the world by scale and one of the most famous landmarks of the city. As with many tourist attractions in China nowadays, it's questionable how "authentic" a lot of what you see here still is (think an islamic version of what Yu Gardens in Shanghai is for Chinese culture), but nevertheless its worth a look. Finally, there is a nice regional museum in the city, and if you dare to venture out into the rest of the Province you will find not only more authentic displays of Uyghur lifestyle, but also magnificent natural areas like the Kanas Nature Reserve. [Review by travelindicator]
You can find the best hotel deals in Urumqi here.
- Urumqi is a city in China's region of Xinjiang. It has a population of 3,112,559, is situated at an altitude of 2743ft and the best airport to fly into is URC (Urumqi, Urumqi)
- The currency used in China is the Chinese yuan renminbi (RMB) (CNY)
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Urumqi Attractions (Foursquare)
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