China, Kyrgyzstan

The silent hand: China in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

James Willsher was until recently co-publisher of the Times of Central Asia, and has lived in Bishkek.

I become an acquaintance of an Uighur student in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, a decade ago; he pronounces his ethnic nomenclature as Oi-ghur, not Weegerr, as news reports do at the time of Uighur riots taking place in western China around the time of the Beijing Olympics.

Eight years later and I am a guest in a restaurant owned by someone who can be described only as an Uighur Alan Sugar, in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I am in the process of ruining my tie and shirt with spicy noodles and an array of exotic dishes from his ancestral homeland over the border with China.

The restaurant is the cornerstone of his Uighur business centre premises in the Kyrgyz capital, providing countless jobs and a focus for trade and culture. The world empties its pockets for Chinese herbal remedies, so why not traditional Uighur herbal remedies? A new business venture. The enormous, intricately-decorated tea urn outside is exquisitely alien and resembles nothing I have seen previously, nor since. Continue reading

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