The market is a curious and intriguing place to explore and witness life unfold. It is where I get a glimpse of reality: no holds barred, nothing hidden, everything exposed! It is there that one truly gets a sensory experience of local community dynamics, both good and unpleasant. And Beiyuanmen Muslim Culture Street (in Xi’an), located near the Drum Tower, is the perfect place to explore. Its strong muslim atmosphere surprisingly thrives well on Chinese soil and attracts local and foreign visitors alike. Day visits are festive, but evenings are probably more vibrant and zippy. I especially like how the Drum and Bell Towers glow when the lights are on, illuminating its surroundings and providing a striking backdrop for that obligatory selfie.
Personally, I had ambivalent feelings about my experience at the market. I love the variety of goods on display: exotic food, cheap and colorful clothes, decorative pieces and what-not, and the excitement that fills this busy space. I enjoy people-watching and this is one of the best places to do that. However, the place is quite chaotic as any market naturally would be: noise, clutter, haggling, and flies flitting between food stalls. (This is simply my observation at the time of visit. Things may have changed by now.) I did try to keep an open mind, and it wasn’t impossibly hard. After all, I come from a poor country and have seen worse. That being said, if you can’t keep a straight nose amidst the pungent, putrid smell wafting through trash-littered fly-infested streets, then perhaps skipping the market would be a smart choice. But come to think of it, the best part of traveling is getting first hand experience and making it your own. So I would still recommend this little excursion for all its worth.
There is a Grand mosque somewhere around the market. Looking up from the streets, it’s easy to spot the great green dome. But finding the entrance for visitors was a bit of a challenge, like Alice passing through a rabbit hole maze. And just like any place of worship, only those dressed appropriately are allowed entry (admission, by the way, isn’t free). Therefore, if you do intend to visit the mosque, plan your OOTD well or make sure you have something to wrap yourself with in the most modest fashion.
The Muslim Street is about a thousand meters long, so there’s definitely a number of other interesting stuff that can capture one’s fancy. I love how the streets are somewhat canopied by the trees and how the shops, with traditional Chinese architecture designs, have made the place look like an outdoor museum of an ancient Chinese community. Thus, the walk around Muslim Street was over-all a very colorful cultural stroll.