The Muslim Quarter is a small neighborhood located in the heart of Xi’an inside the fortifying walls that quadrangulate. It is in the old city and two blocks away from Zhong Lou, where the central Bell Tower is. Most of the city’s 60,000 plus Muslims live, work and pray there. It retains a character unexpected of an Islamic enclave this far east or in such a tourist city. Tucked-away mosques and busy marketplaces pulsating with an energy unique to Chinese and Islamic cultures. Backstreets and alleyways are lined with souvenir shops displaying merchandise that spill out from stalls onto the street narrowing pedestrian walkways. Shopkeepers in white skullcaps or shawls call out to those passing by to look at their postcards, silk clothing, chess sets, specious antiques, and various Chairman Mao memorabilia.
At night the marketplaces make way for street side dining. Benches and picnic tables are rolled out on sidewalks and barbecues light up long nights of grilling.