Ramadan Meal at Great Mosque, Xi'an China June-2014
Humanity Photo Award in the category of "Living Custom" 2015
My last stop in China was the ancient capital city of Xian. I arrived there at 22.00 after spending 10 hours on a train. When I left the hotel in the morning, I realised that I was in a Muslim neighbourhood. Xian's Muslim population is numbered at about 150 000 and they pray in 17 mosques throughout the city. I visited two mosques, dated at around 1300 years old. They were built during the Tang dynasty. The emperor's edicts have been immortalised in stone at the mosque's courtyard. The 1272-year-old Grand Mosque is an example of traditional Chinese architecture. Surah from the Quran were burned into its wooden walls. Chinese translations of the same phrases were included using the same technique. The whole procedure apparently took 17 years to complete.
Today the mosques are a part of the city's culture.
As I was walking around, I spotted a shop that sold Islam paraphernalia. There were posters of Istanbul in the shop windows. I went inside and asked if they spoke English. When someone said that they did speak English, I explained that I was a photographer from Turkey and that I wanted to document the Islamic culture in Xian. I asked for help.
When I was then informed of an iftar that was to take place the next day at the Grand Mosque. We agreed to go together.
Once at the mosque, I first met the director. The imams answer to the director.
I was able to take photos with the permission of the director. After the permission I worked two days in the mosque kitchen and garden. That was a good opportunity for me to see and how to prepare a traditional Ramadan Meal in China.
Groceries for the food is bought by funds pooled together by Muslim shop owners. The imam opens the meeting with a sermon of Ramadan, after which the fast is broken and people pray. I missed some scenes the first day, but I was able to go back the second day to complete the narrative.