Of melons and deserts

Kasper embarks on the melon trail: Hami and Shanshan in Xinjiang.

Hami melon waste container, hami melon bench, hami melon paintings, hami melon monuments. In Hami, melons are bigger than life. Everyone in China knows these melons, but not everyone knows the namesake town. Hami 哈密 (or Kumul قۇمۇل) is a dusty city on the Gobi Desert with little to no tourist attractions. Its main claim to fame is the eponymous fruit.

The lands spreading from modern Hami prefecture all the way west to the Turpan Basin were famous for various fruits since centuries and millennia. Melons were sent as the tribute to the Chinese emperor, and as they came either from or through Hami, they became known as Hami melons 哈密瓜.

But Shanshan 鄯善 (Piqan پىچان), three hundred kilometers to the east and on the Kumtag Desert, has its own pretension to be the place of origin of Hami melons. So I went there too. It’s a small town. While there, I was stopped by the police. You see, in Xinjiang province every newcomer must immediately register at either hotel or police station. Here, they spotted me themselves and asked to get on board of their patrol car. It sometimes can be quite bothersome, but in this case I didn’t mind at all – this way they unwittingly gave me a ride from the railway station to the town center.

“Hami melon” is “Shanshan melon”

The pictures I am posting here were taken in the Shanshan’s Kumtag Desert Scenic Area tourist center, where there was an exhibition on grapes, melons and naan bread. And the photos of the desert depict the Kumtag Desert itself. I decided to devote this blog entry to melons and melons alone, but both Hami and Shanshan are interesting on their own. Expect a separate articles about these towns in the future.

1 Comment

  1. […] Winter is very severe here, north of the Tianshan range, but the abundant produce of the southern part of the region is easily available in Yining. Diverse landscape, plenty of sunlight and big differences between daytime and nighttime temperatures in southern Xinjiang make it China’s orchard, blessed with delicious and healthy fruits. Among the most highly reputed are grapes, watermelons, pears, apricots and Hami melons. […]

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