Hami: Palace and Market
September 23, 2016
In 1888, a traveler recorded this description of Hami:
"The kingdom of Ha-mi contains a great number of villages and hamlets; but it has, properly, only one city, which is its capital, and has the same name. It is surrounded by lofty walls which are half a league in circumference (2.7k or 1.6 mi) and has two gates, one of which fronts the east, and the other the west. These gates are exceedingly beautiful and make a fine appearance at a distance.
The streets are straight, and well laid out; but the houses (which contain only a ground-floor, and which are almost all constructed of earth) make very little shew.
This city enjoys a serene sky, and is situated in a beautiful plain, watered by a river, and surrounded by mountains which shelter it from the north winds. It is a most agreeable and delightful residence.
On whatever side one approaches it, gardens may be seen, which contain everything that a fertile and cultivated soil can produce in the mildest climates. All the surrounding fields are enchanting; but they do not extend far; for on several sides they terminate in dry plains, where a number of beautiful horses are fed, and a species of excellent sheep, which have large flat tails which sometimes weigh three pounds.
The country of Ha-mi appears to be very abundant in fossils and valuable minerals: the Chinese have, for a long time, procured diamonds and a great deal of gold from it. At present, it supplies them with a kind of agate, on which they set a great value.”
Marco Polo visited Hami in the mid-14th Century. I assume he lingered here if only for the warm Muslim hospitality, the tasty food and the sweetest melons that can be found in China or for that matter, anywhere along the Silk Road.
By modern Chinese standards Hami is a tiny city with only about half a million inhabitants. I visited the Hami Kings Palace where nine generations of royalty and three Arabian preachers are entombed.
Naturally, I lingered at the local market and chose my own tasty lunch. My smiling and gracious hosts served kebobs of spicy roast mutton and an enormous fresh salad.
Then, to cleanse the palate, tea.
Now, to seek a sweet melon for dessert.