overlooked & unexpected

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The desert was so beautiful when we woke up and started walking:

morning in the Gobi

I’ve never pretended to be a big camper. Sleeping outside in a wobbly tent with the wind going and the rain making its drip-dropping sounds on top of everything isn’t the best way to get a good night’s rest for me.

But still, I was wide awake in the morning, simply because I couldn’t get enough from all that beautiful scenery out there:

morning sky

Then all of a sudden, there was this temple:

Wuaisi Gongbei

Wuaisi Gongbei 吾艾斯拱北 is the restored mausoleum of an early Muslim religious teacher from Arabia.

Okay, just like the place we’ve seen before near Pingliang (azzurro) I thought, but then I deciphered some of the inscription: this Wuaisi had come here in the 7th century and was one of the three earliest Muslims in China!

Wow, how could a place like this be so overlooked? I had never even heard of it, and I think most of the other visitors to Jiayuguan hadn’t either.

I sat down for a cup of tea and some finger food with Ma Xueming 马学明, the head of the local Muslim community and a member of the Dongxiang minority 东乡族, who have ethnic ties with the Mongols but are of Islamic faith:

Ma Xueming showed me around Wuaisi Gongbei

What a charming and interesting man! We talked for a long time, mainly about Muslims in Chinese and European societies, about their differences and about the change of times.

He asked me to shoot some pictures around the mausoleum, and he even allowed me to climb up a nearby rooftop to get a better view:

Wuaisi Gongbei from above

I took some shots in the prayer hall:

in the prayer hall

…and even within the mausoleum, while the elders were reciting from the Qur’an:

reading the Qur'an

…and then there were these two who suddenly appeared in my camera frame:

happy one

I spent over three splendid hours in that place.

Teacher Xie (Teacher Xie) had been staying in his cart all the while, resting up and reading some philosophical essay.

I came to think he wasn’t too fond of these social things, but rather preferred the Great Outdoors:

fields

Well, he got his wishes, since we had to get back on the road eventually:

winding road

There were many mysterious old structures, but neither of us could figure out what time these ruins were from or what their original use had been:

a wall

There was also the occasional bunker that we figured to be remainders from the Civil War between the Communist Party (CPC) and the Nationalist Party (KMT) from the 1920s to the 1940s:

bunker ruin

Besides these things, I was a bit surprised by the number of green fertile spots that we passed through on our way through the Gobi desert:

creek

We rested under the highway for a while when it started raining:

bridge

…then we somehow magically stumbled across a modern resting area, 100% complete and carefree with a restaurant, a supermarket and a hotel:

highway rest area

Teacher Xie made camp outside since he didn’t want to leave his cart.
But I went in.
Got a room.
Fell on the bed.
And was happy.



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