Things to Do in Urumqi
The Big Bazaar, a traditional Islamic market area and the main Uyghur enclave in downtown. In the summer time, wonderful musical songs & dance performance make the Da Bazar at night be a rather lively place than a market.
Most Han Chinese believe that Uighurs, like all Chinese ethnic minorities, love to sing and dance (neng ge shan wu). As one Chinese guidebook notes, "although very few Uighurs speak Chinese well, they will often spontaneously break into song and dance to show their friendship." If you're already not exhausted by all the singing and dancing, the best-known song-and-dance troupe is the Xinjiang Gewu Tuan, which performs at different venues around town.
With the rapid development of the local economy and the tourism industry, the entertainment industry in Urumqi has also been able to prosper. Modern entertainment facilities, such as: bowling alleys, golf courses, billiard hall, nightclubs, dance halls, theaters, bars and cafes can be found throughout Urumqi. However the most unique Urumqi recreational activities are filled with strong ethnic characteristic, these activities include: horse racing, Diaoyang and girl chasing, which can usually be found in the Nanshan Scenic Area.
Horse racing is a famous activity favored by many ethnic groups including the: Kazakh, Uygur, Mongolian, Tajik and Kirgiz. Horse racing in this province is usually held during grand festivals, however some mass horse racing conferences are held throughout the year. The main programs are known as Obstacle Horse Racing, Cross-country Horse Racing, Polo Matches, Riding, Shooting, and Dressage. The winning horses will be known as "Baigaiate" (that is the best horse), and the excellent riders are also rewarded too.
Diaoyang is a traditional sport favored by all nationalities in Xinjiang. The host of the games places a dead sheep at a designated place, issuing the order; all the riders begin to speed towards the sheep together. The rider who grabs the sheep first is supposed to try his best to get to the finish line, while the other riders are supposed to display a variety of techniques to besiege him and rob his sheep. The first one who takes the sheep to the finish line will be the winner and he is supposed to grill the lamb on the spot, and invite other riders to share it, in accordance with the local customs.
Girl chasing is a quite interesting local equestrian sport which is generally held in summer on the open grasslands. In this sport, young men and women are supposed to ride by each other’s side. Boys can confess their love to the girl and the girl cannot get angry. When the girl takes a fancy to a particular young man, on the return path she can ride after the man and beat him with whips, (of course, not really whip). However if the girl does not take a fancy to the young man who provoked her before, she can take severe revenge on the man.
In general Xinjiang is a rather safe place. However, in the bigger bazaars and on public transportation pickpockets do operate so be sure to secure your valuables. Riots in summer 2009 also necessitate extra caution. While there is currently a large police and military presence in the city, protests and other violence have broken out sporadically since then. In the aftermath of the 2009 riots, communications were severely restricted with internet access and all international calls in and out of the region blocked by the government. These restrictions appear to have been lifted (June 2010). In any case, calls are able to be placed from the bianjiang binguan (mentioned above) for ¥5/min and possibly also from post offices for ¥2-3/min. Keep these restrictions in mind before traveling. Also be prepared to be stopped by security personnel suspicious of foreigners.
In most Islamic cultures, naan (bread), is very important. It is not a good idea to throw it away. If you drop it, pick it up and carry it with you. Do not step on naan--It is important to treat it with some respect. Also, if you decide to eat naan while walking, break off a piece, and eat that. Do not bite into the whole loaf.