Thursday, November 28, 2019

A (Muslim) Trip to Lanzhou, China

This trip was a conference trip, APSIPA 2019. This year APSIPA conference was held in Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, China.


I depart from Kansai Airport. Because the flight is in the morning, at 9 am, I stay one night in Kansai AP (first cabin hotel) before departure. A prayer room is available on the 3rd floor. The halal ざ-udon on the second floor is what I always visited when departing from Kansai. For subuh prayer, I can do it in my bed. Although it is very small, we can use it to stand face to qibla. Another choice is to do it in a private area of the bathroom. One of the bathrooms in First Cabin Kansai has a large space (about 3 x 1.5 m outside shower room).

Transit in Beijing (BCIA, Beijing Capital Int'l Airport)

China is complicated (compared to Japan). The security is very strict. You need to be scanned in a dedicated base. No laptop, tablet, phone, coin, liquid more than 100 ml, should be inside the bag. Separate it. Prohibited items such as a knife, cutter, liquid more than 100 ml, should be moved into the suitcase, not as in cabin baggage.

Prepare the arrival statement card (yellow) in advance before entering the immigration post. The staff (police) also asked about my last boarding pass. Once they passed me to enter China, I can look for space to pray (Dhuhur and Ashr) inside the terminal (T3).

There is no dedicated prayer room in T3. I used the most quite waiting space (near a gate) to pray, behind digital signage advertisements. Some peoples see me when I pray. I think it is no problem. Once finished, I go for waiting the time in a space near my gate.

There is free wifi in BCIA (Beijing Capital Intl Airport). To use it, you must scan your passport in a machine to get id and password. Lanzhou airport also provides free wifi. Note that all Google services are blocked in China. A vpn is required beforehand to use Google service.

Stay in AirBnB rented room

I rent a room via AirBnB. It is cheaper than a hotel, just JPY 16000 for 5 days with a similar facility to the hotel. However, although that apartment is very close to the venue, it needs a digital key to enter. Luckily, a friend from Thailand arrives earlier. We call him via free wifi in Crown Plaza Hotel to pick up.

First Walking Course

On the second day, I take a walking course along the Yellow River. I used two different bridges to go and back to my hotel. This is my first impression of real life in China. They have such facilities as the futsal field, parks, and pavement along the river. However, urban areas still lack proper facilities. Some road is not asphalted yet. The image below is my first walking course path in the Lanzhou area. The distance of my walk is 4.3 km.

First walking course path

Second Walking Course

On the second walking course, my goal is to find the mosque. About 45 minutes walking from Gansu international conference center (GICC), I fount the first mosque: Lanzhou Bridge Mosque, just after crossing the fourth gate from GICC. About 300 m from the mosque, I fount Xiguan mosque, probably the biggest mosque in Lanzhou. There is also Lanzhou Water mosque just after the fourth bridge, without a need to cross the bridge. Here is the path I take on the second walking course. The start point is the same one as the first walking course. The total distance of my walk is about 9.6 km.

Halal food and Masjid in Lanzhou

There is many halal foods and Masjid in Lanzhou as Lanzhou is one of the biggest city in China with the Muslim population, most of them are Hui ethnic. For halal food, you may not find a halal logo. Instead, a Chinese kanji, called Qingzhen Cai (清真菜), is the replacement of the Arabic halal logo. The government abandoned and prohibited the use of the Arabic logo resulting halal restaurant to use the Chinese character of the halal sign.  

For the Masjid, at least three Masjids are located close to the Yellow River (find it on Here are some pictures of halal foods and masjid in Lanzhou.
Xiguan Mosque Area Lanzhou

The main building of Xiguan Mosque 
Inside the Bridge Mosque

The complex of Lanzhou Bridge Mosque

The Gate of Lanzhou Bridge-Gate Mosque

Halal food (qing zheng) in Lanzhou. Even, they didn't provide wine and beer. Those shown in the picture are bought from outside the restaurant (of course, I didn't drink it)

The Sand Palace

On the last day (4rd day), the conference was only held half-day. After that, a tour activity is run to the sand palace. The bus is arranged by the conference organizer. The location may be difficult to be reached by mass transportation. Here are some panorama pictures of the Longfeng sand palace in Lanzhou.

Back to Japan

When going back to Japan, we used the opposite route as the departure, Lanzhou-Beijing-Kansai. The flight departure from Lanzhou is scheduled at 10:20, and the flight to Kansai from Beijing is boarded at 15:30. Therefore, I have time to perform Dhuhr and Ashr prayer at BCIA or on the flight. I choose to pray at BCIA.

There is no dedicated prayer room in Beijing Capital Airport for international departure. But if you go from terminal E, you can use carpet-floored space near gate E-24, see the picture below.
A carpet-floored space in BCIA Terminal E near gate 24, can be used to pray.

Arrived in Kansai, I stayed one more night at First cabin. It is an affordable place to stay, and I also can pray there or in prayer room inside Kansai A.P.

My view about the issue on "China brainwashes Uyghurs at Camps" on this Travel

I traveled to China when there is a big international issue; China brainwashes Uyghurs at Camps. I don't go to Xinjiang (where people of Uyghurs settled), but I met some Uyghurs at the Conference in Lanzhou. Luckily, Lanzhou is the biggest Muslim populated in China. There is also an Islamic boarding school in Gansu.

While the Muslim condition in Lanzhou is well enough -- I see hundreds of women wearing veils  (hijab)  there, Muslim in Xinjiang is not. I met Uyghurs Muslim in Lanzhou, and they confirm that what media said (about persecution and assault) is true. The camp that has been built to 'reeducate' Muslims may also be true.

Moreover, I saw that the main issue is not the religion (as I saw Muslim is in the well circumstance in Lanzhou), but ethnics. Uyghurs is not Chinese, different with Han and Hui. They nor Turkish or  Kyrgyz. They have their own language and race. The reason that makes PRC persecute them is to avoid separatism, more than religious issues. Like other countries in the world, they won't Uyghur and Xinjiang, which is not China/Chinese, separate from PRC. Yes, because they're Muslim, they can argue they want to avoid terrorism (or precisely, separatism). They also utilized the AI-based cameras to recognize Uyghurs' ethnics.
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