Making taffy in the Muslim quarter with 60lb wooden sledges... not an easy task!
As we waded through the haze of smoke that rose from the endless grills that lined the narrow cobblestone street, incredible smells wafted from every direction reminding us how hungry we were. We checked into our hotel in X’ian just an hour ago, and after a day of traveling, all we wanted to do was relax and enjoy a good meal.
X’ian is most well known for the 8,000 Terracotta Warriors that were discovered in 1974, though right now we have one destination in mind – food – and we know exactly where we want to go.
X’ian is one of China’s oldest cities and was the starting point for the ancient Silk Road and dates back to 221 BCE. As such, one of the main characteristics of X’ian is its large Muslim population, and it was the heart of this busy Muslim quarter that we were now inching our way along. We quickly find ourselves immersed in a unique blend of Chinese and Muslim culture, where tall men with long thick beards and white robes sell endless varieties of nuts, dried fruits, grilled foods and breads while Chinese peddle an infinite numbers of goods packed into tiny roadside
Stopping at one stall we look at a hand-carved set of chopsticks and decide that it would be a great addition to our kitchen back home.
“How much?” I asked in broken Chinese.
“Good pice”, the lady replies in equally broken English. “Pice for you, 45.” And with that continue on through the bustling street, dodging the scooters that insist on plowing through the droves of people.
A few steps further we watch as a pair of strong Muslim men make a taffy-like pastry, pounding the sticky mix with huge wooden sledges. Catching my eye, one of the men stops what he is doing and points to me. Nodding for me to come over, he hands me the sledge and points to the slab where his partner continues to pound away.
I look up. He wants me to try? I am a strong guy and have done my share of work with 20 and 40 pound sledges, but I could hardly lift this thing! What is it, a 60 pound sledge? The solid wooden block at the end has to be about a foot in diameter. If I drop this thing on my foot,
it will be me riding out of here on one of those crazy scooters!
As Erin cheers me on, a crowd of Chinese and Muslims crowd around to watch. “Shit”, I think, “I got my wife, Asia and the Middle East watching. This is how wars start!” Stepping forward onto the platform, I raise the heavy sledge above my head and wait for my Muslim partner to give me the nod that would set our pace.
My hammer sails through the air and hits the taffy with a loud slapping sound; at the same time his raises and we kept the routine going. Five minutes later my arms feel like rubber and I turn to pass the heavy block of wood to the other man who stands back watching. Looking at me he shakes his head and points to the half flattened piece of taffy; he was not letting me off the hook until I finished.
Struggling to raise the sledge above my head again, I quickly pace myself with my partner another few minutes later the taffy is thin and ready to be dried and served. Stumbling off the stand, I stand tall, walk away proud
The Terracotta Warriors
A few of the 8,000 lifesize ancient Terracotta Warriors as far as the eye can see. Incredible and still be excavated as we speak.
and hurry around the corner to cry… well, I didn’t quite cry, but I did give my arms a good shake. I swear I can touch my toes now.
“Can you believe they do that all day long?!” I say to Erin with a newfound respect for this centuries old process.
On we went, weaving our way through the chaotic streets that continues to be the center of so much trade. Very little seems to have changed. As the people crowd by, we feel as if we are immersed within the place where these two ancient cultures mixed. And it is in this place as we turn a corner, I stop. In that very moment, I find Allah…
As it turns out, my Allah is gigantic barbeque grill loaded with meats and stacks of freshly baked naan.
“Erin, we have found the Holy Land; let’s eat!”
The owners, a family of energetic Muslims greet us with big smiles, and we take a table at the edge of the busy roadway where we could eat and watch the crowds stream by.
“Píjiŭ?” the young Muslim boy asked me.
I know my Chinese is not
great, but I know enough to know “beer”.
I look at Erin surprised and whispered, “Did he ask me if I wanted beer?”
Sure enough, this Muslim family was progressive enough to know that if the people wanted to buy beer, they would sell it. Most of the Muslim quarter here had strict rules against serving alcohol.
Sipping on my icy cold píjiŭ, the meal arrives and I realize that not only had I found Allah, I just entered heaven. Spread before me was – no, not a dozen blessed virgins – but thirty-five huge lamb and beef skewers straight off the grill and marinated in the most incredible spices and flavours I have tasted in a long time. And to top it off they brought us a huge freshly fired plate of naan while the icy-cold beer kept coming.
Devouring the skewers, I look up at Erin and admit that while Chinese food may be pretty good, it does not come close to replacing my Canadian love of barbeque!
Over the next few days we venture to the farmlands of X’ian to explore the incredible archeological site were thousands of Terracotta Soldiers were still
being unearthed then back to tour the historic city with its Bell and Drum Towers that for thousands of years have stood as monuments to a distant age.
The day prior to leaving and despite the scorching heat, we decide to walk the thirteen kilometers along the top of the X’ian Ancient City Wall, the massive stone wall that surrounds the old city. Built in the 14th
century, the wall stands 36 feet tall with a width of 54 feet complete with a wide moat; it is truly an incredible feat with a rampart every 120 metres, four huge watchtowers and massive gates mid-way on each side.
At the seven kilometer mark, our bodies drained and our shoes melting in the heat, we decide to cut our walk short at the next gate. As we climb the steep steps, we look up and admire another one of China’s extraordinary feats of engineering. But alas, our time in X’ian is quickly passing.
As the plane leaves the runway of X’ian, I look at Erin. Her eyes are closed having drifted off into a relaxed sleep. She still holds my hand. I smile as I reminisce over another one
Ancient City Wall
After walking 7km across the top of X'ian's ancient city wall in 40 degree heat, we decided to call it quits! The wall is 13km in total.
of our many adventures, each one another reminder of the infinite possibilities that life has around each new corner. Join us in 2016 for our Hawaiian Adventure & Hatha Yoga Retreat. Visit http://myintrinsicwellness.com/retreat for more information!
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