Great Mosque of Xi'an  Xi'an - China  June.2014

My last stop in China was the ancient capital city Xian. I arrived there at 22.00 after spending 10 hours on a local train. When I left the hotel in the morning, I realized that I was in a Muslim neighborhood. 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 have were built during the Tang dynasty. The emperor's edicts have been immortalized in stone at the mosque courtyard. The 1272-year-old Grand Mosque is an example of traditional Chinese architecture. Surahs from the Quran were written on the wooden walls by burning in Arabic and Chinese. The whole procedure 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. One day later, they said that iftar dinner will be prepared in Ulu Mosque and I could take pictures of this event. But first I had to get permission from the mosque director. Once at the mosque, I first met the director and told him my wish. In China, imams are bound to directors. After listening to me and reviewing my documents, he gave permission. That was a good opportunity for me to see how to prepare a traditional Ramadan Meal in China.

I'm actually in here to get the prize I won with a Ramadan meal in Turkey. After the award ceremony, I decided to travel inside China, and find new photo subjects. Now I am in Xi'an at Grand Mosque. One year later, with this photo work, I would win a new prize in China again with a similar subject. The foods were buying by funds pooled together by Muslim shop owners. The meal was cooked in the kitchen of the mosque with the participation of the public and served to the tables in the mosque courtyard. After the imam opened the meal with a sermon of Ramadan, the fast was broken and prayers are performed. The remaining meals were distributed to those who came in front of the mosque door. I also got my share of the meal in the kitchen. They watched me intently as I was eating with chopsticks, they laughed when they saw that I was unsuccessful, then they gave me a spoon. I missed some scenes the first day, but I visited again the second day to complete the story. 1.July.2014

"The Great Mosque of Xi'an is the largest mosque in China. It was first built in the year 742 AD. The majority of the mosque was built during the early Ming dynasty. 121 It now houses more than twenty buildings in its five courtyards and covers 12,000 square meters. Islam was introduced to China during the Ming Dynasty in the seventeenth century but went into full effect during the Qing Dynasty in 1644. During the 1700s, Muslim freedom of worship was limited, the ritual slaughtering of animals was forbidden, new mosques and the pilgrimage to Mecca was prohibited in the year 1731. After the Chinese Communist Party won the Chinese Civil War the Mosque was shut down and converted into a steel factory. In 1956, the mosque was declared a Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the Shaanxi Province Level, and was later promoted to a Major Historical and Cultural Site Protected at the National Level in 1988. The mosque is still used as a place of worship by Chinese Muslims, primarily the Hui people. ("