According to my information, Emin mosque, one of the primary attractions of Turpan, should be open from dawn to dusk. So it was no small surprise to find the gate tightly locked when I arrived well ahead of sunset. I decided to walk along the wall again, to see if there was anywhere to get a good view of the mosque, but it proved to be a well protected mosque. A sturdy wall ran all around it, with shards of glass on top. The only gate I found also seemed geared towards keeping people out, with barbed wire on top. I ended up walking one of the many fields with grapes surrounding the compound and got quite good views from a point where the wall had some decorative openings in it. But still, it was not the real deal, so I returned the next evening on a newly rented bike. I had asked information about opening and closing times, arrived well earlier than the day before, and was looking forward to seeing the mosque. Alas - I again found a closed gate. There was someone at the ticket counter though, so I asked him about the opening times. It appeared just closed. It seemed amazing to me that the mosque would not be open for the best hours of the day - early morning or late afternoon. At least, I now had the official information. Since I had a bike now, I circled the entire area, desperately looking for he best possible view. While there were several points from which the curiously shaped minaret could be fully seen, it was still not the real deal. Instead, i met a friendly grape farmer who was so kind to let me taste some of the famous Turpan grapes - and indeed: they tasted very sweet. A difficult and halting talk followed before the sun was down and I cycled back to the city.
The next morning, I skipped breakfast in order to arrive at the gate a little before opening time. Now, with the information acquired the day before, I was at least sure that I could enter. But alas - to my surprise, I found the gate and ticket counter closed again. I could not believe that the person the day before would not have given me the correct information, so I stayed around for a while. But then, it dawned on me that there was really no one around, the souvenir sellers were all sleeping outside, there was no sign of life in the ticket counter, nor could I see any person coming from inside to open the wooden doors of the compound. Since the weather did not look good and seemed to be getting worse, I ended up deciding to leave again - but could still not believe the fact that I again went back to Turpan without having seen the mosque.
The next day was my last day in Turpan and although I was still determined I wanted to see the mosque, I was also considering that I had at least seen the minaret from all possible angles from outside the mosque walls, and could live without seeing it up close. I was not even surprised anymore to find the gate closed, as well as the souvenir stalls, even though I arrived a little later than the day before. The sun was already getting hot and the gate of the mosque remained closed - really strange. I decided to knock hard on the solid wooden gate - and to my surprise, after a while, someone even opened it! it was the first time for me to see the gate open, and that in itself was an achievement. I indicated I wanted to buy a ticket, but the guy pushed me away, indicating at his watch, and probably saying that it would open only later. But after all the previous experiences, and the fact that according to the ticket vendor the gate should have been open already more than half an hour (Beijing time), I decided to be firm. When he tried to close the gate again, I just pushed it open, and walked through. The poor guy started to protest, joined by someone else (apparently, there were people inside!), but I just walked towards the mosque I had so desperately and vainly tried to visit for the last three days. I heard them laugh as one of the men locked the gate behind me. After finally enjoying the views of the minaret, which is beautifully decorated outside with geometric shapes, I entered the mosque which was partly under reconstruction. It was not possible to reach the stairs to go up the roof - supposedly, one of the better views to be had. I strolled through the pleasant grape gardens surrounding the mosque, wondering whether they really did not use any grapes for producing wine. Then, I realized that the men were waiting for me at the entrance, and did not feel like another confrontation. So, I watched the surroundings carefully, found a second gate overgrown by old grape branches, and since it had no barbed wire, I decided this would be my escape. I broke some of the branches away, left my camera on the floor, climbed the gate, wounding my arms in the thorny branches, and jumped down the other side before retrieving my camera. I calmly walked back to the entrance, unlocked my bike, slowly cycled past the entrance whcih strangely enough was open now - one of the men who had closed the gate behind me thinking the got me trapped, looked incredulous as I waved goodbye.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Emin minaret (China). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Emin minaret.
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