Right behind the Drum Tower, you can find the Muslim Quarter of Xian. In Chinese, it is also known as Huimin Jie, which is the home of the majority of the Muslim Hui minority. The Hui men are usually easily recognizable by their typical white hats, sitting in front of the houses and enjoying the sun, while the women wear headscarves but don’t cover their faces. Once, Muslim traders traveling the Silk Road settled here with their Chinese wives, had children and formed a tight-knit community which still lives on. If you like oriental markets, you will find tea shops, potteries, produce and much else in this haggling-paradise along the Beiyuanmen Muslim Market. For those visitors looking to recover from the whirlwind bartering sessions, a famously wide array of tasty snack and food stalls line the streets. Try some Yang Ruo Pao Mo, a soup with lamb meat and wheat bread, dig into a savory meat kebab or, if you’re just looking for a snack, purchase some dried fruit, ginger candy or persimmon pies and wash it all down with pomegranate juice.
Apart from the food, the market and oddities such as a bird market and cricket fights, there are several mosques to be found in the Muslim Quarter. It is the biggest one, though, the Great Mosque of Xian, which forms the religious center of the district. At first glance, the building doesn’t seem that much different from the typical Chinese temple architecture - there are no minarets and no domed roofs and instead, pavilions and pagodas take over the religious functions. Still, there are some Islamic elements to be found: the mosque is facing Mekka, paths and buildings are arranged differently and there are delicate Middle-Eastern engravings to be found. But the mosque isn’t only famous for incorporating Chinese and Islamic architecture, but, having been built in 742 AD in the Tang Dynasty, is one of the largest, oldest and best preserved mosques in China.
You can find the Muslim Quarter on the northern side of the drum tower right in Xian’s city center. If you want to visit the Great Mosque, it is open daily from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., but during prayer times, non-Muslims aren’t allowed into the main prayer hall.