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Bowling for More Treasures

Continuing on the hunt for native handicrafts, Gul took us a few miles outside of Khotan to the small village of Bageqi to meet a famed maker of wooden bowls.

We went on a Monday, and the street leading to our destination was very quiet – their weekly bazaar was to be held the next day and it felt like the whole village was resting up.

The master bowl-maker was out, but we found his eleven-year-old son working away on a pile of rough-cut chunks, using a small, engine-powered lathe to smooth a pile of roughed-out chunks into various-sized serving bowls.

When the inside was finished, he took out a sharp, hand-held adze to chip away the outside edges – with bare feet and no safety glasses. My every maternal instinct was screaming!
But he completed it safely – I let out a sigh of relief – and Sami posed with the finished product.

We needed salad bowls back in Beijing, so we ordered some to pick up the next afternoon. The price seemed pretty high – US$100 for a large salad bowl plus a dozen smaller ones. Gul explained that the new laws protecting walnut trees meant that the supply of wood was limited, which made sense to us. Still cheaper than Williams-Sonoma, at any rate!

We returned to Bageqi on Tuesday for pick up - what a difference a day makes!

The village was packed for the weekly bazaar. Thousands of people clogged the main road. Making our way through the throngs to get to the bowlmaker’s house – a 50-yard walk that had taken us just a minute the day before – took about 10 minutes, trying not to get run over by donkey carts, carpet sellers and overloaded shoppers the whole way
Dozens of vendors selling fresh dates, a Bageqi delicacy, lined the path to the bowlmaker's house.

Opposite the date-sellers, an open-air barber shop had a customer in every chair:

We finally made it to the house, to find the master working away:

Our order was almost ready but first the bowls had to be hand-oiled by the master’s veiled wife.

We picked them up, paid our money, shook hands with everybody in the shop, and slowly wove our way back up the road, dodging donkeys all the way.

After doing our part to stimulate the local economy, we decided it was time for a little off-road adventure, on camels!


Xinjiang chapter shortcuts: Intro Urumqi
Khotan Treasures Toy Bazaar Camel Weaving Shakeer Hats Food Costume Bowls Camel Ride
Overland Kashgar Old City Bazaar Kindergarten Rural Life Reunion

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