The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region forms the western part of China and shares a border with 8 countries, among them Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.
Included is the famous Taklamatan Desert, once a formidable challenge for the caravans that traveled the Northern Silk Road from Xian to Kashgar.
The mysterious Tarim mummies in the Urumqi museum are 4000 year old. Some feature red hair. They are now believed to be isolated ancestors to Holocene Ancient North Eurasian hunter gatherers.
Around 140 BC envoy Zhang Qian explored the region for his emperor Wu. His reports helped the Han dynasty to establish control over the Northern Silk Road.
Over the next centuries Turks, Tang, Tibetans, Uyghurs and Mongols ruled the area until  in 1884 the Qing Empire re-established firm Chinese control.
Xinjiang forms the ethnic border between Caucasoid and Mongoloid people. Apart from Han Chinese, some 55 officially recognized minorities live here. 
Many are  Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group, but there are also Kazakhs, Tajiks and Kyrgyz communities.
Most of them are Muslim, and like everywhere else also here the Islam has bloody borders.
Uyghur attacks on Han Chinese in 2009 triggered severe repressive actions from the Chinese government that continue today.
In 2003 we toured a then quiet Xinjiang with local guides.
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