KASHGAR, Xinjiang, July 6 (Xinhua) -- Chen Liang has decided to have a lamb slaughtered and treat his guests to some delicious meat for Eid al-Fitr, the festival marking the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday.
Chen has operated a youth hostel for eight years in Kashgar, a city with a high concentration of Muslims in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Last year, he had three pots set up in the hostel yard to boil the lamb. "Our guests are very interested in the festival and Uygur culture," he said.
Muslims do not eat or drink from dawn to dusk during Ramadan. They look forward to a feast on Eid al-Fitr.
Chen's guests are not all Muslims, but a varied bunch of travelers hungry for a taste of local culture at this special time of year. Chen describes his hostel as the "United Nations," as the guests, mostly tourists, are from around the world.
"Many of them are Europeans and Americans teaching English in Xinjiang, and some of them are from Central Asia," he said.
Kashgar, meaning "the gathering place of jade" in Uygur, used to be a trading hub along the Silk Road, the 7,000-km-long pathway created by camel-driving merchants who carried silk and porcelain to Western Europe and spices to the Far East 2,000 years ago.
As time has passed, historic sites and the integration of Eastern and Western cultures have attracted numerous tourists to the city. The old Kashgar town, composed of traditional streets featuring Uygur architecture and shops, has become a big draw.
"Kashgar is different from the rest of China. It is safe here, not like what I have heard before I came here," said Angela Perry, a backpacker from California.
Perry quit her job half a year ago to tour the world. Kashgar is her first stop in Xinjiang. She likes the people here, as well as the food, such as naan, a kind of flatbread.
"Naan is a bit like pizza, you can eat it with anything really," she said.
Giorgia Franco, from Italy, enjoyed wandering among the terraced houses most during her two-day stay in the city.
"The seemingly orderless household cluster is actually well designed," she said, observing that houses built with rectangular bricks indicate a dead end while sticking to those built with hexagonal bricks will lead you out of the maze.
Franco, 24, is learning Chinese at Xiamen University. Although she spent two years learning Chinese at a Confucius School back in Italy, she found herself unable to communicate with people in Xinjiang.
"We can't understand each other, but I can feel their kindness from their eyes and smiles," she said.
While the backpackers are gaining valuable life experience from traveling, local youth hostel owners are doing much the same, through interacting with their guests.
Ma Like, from Xinjiang's neighboring Gansu Province, does not make profit out of his hostel as he offers free accommodation to backpackers in return for doing odd jobs. The 37-year-old likes the deal.
"By making friends with them, I can learn about a life I am not able to experience myself," he said.