Friday, July 15, 2011

Kashgar stairway - watercolour

They aren't there anymore, or so I'm told. These stairs climbed up from the springs at the base of the city into the maze like host of tunnels that wound in between and under old family homes. Narrow streets dipped and curved into the heart of the old city, children and elderly women would often sit perched on doorsteps watching the days pass.

The Old City of Kashgar seemed to defy 'progress'. It lay as a reminder of old central Asia. The was the place that little more that a hundred years ago had been a place of intrigue. Russian spies, British agents and their local informants plotted against one another in the bazaars of Kashgar, Samarkand and Kabul. The Great Game as it was called was a struggle between Imperial Russia and the British Empire over the northern approaches to Britain's 'Jewel in the Crown' India.

Legend tells of the parties that Petrovsky, the Russian consul General to Kashgar used to have at his base in what is now the Seman Hotel, revolver's were often drawn on these occasions. George MacCartney, the British consul in the late nineteenth century seems to have been a more sober character, the British Consul building still stands in the city - look for it behind the Chinibag Hotel.

Anyway, a lot of the old city has gone now. There are the usual reasons given for it's destruction; poor quality buildings, poor sanitary conditions, susceptible to earthquake damage etc.. All the same, something unique, old, organic is gone and will never rise again. How long does it take to weave threads of culture, spirituality, art and custom into the fabric of everyday lives, into buildings, neighbourhoods and communities?

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