It is hard to gauge which city in China is really the most "Chinese," but if I had to make a decision, it would have to be Xi'an. This city of 8.3 million people sums up what the world's most populous country is all about: a proud 5,000 year history, a dynamic march towards the future and struggles with industrialization. Timeless icons and buildings from centuries back vie with ultramodern architecture and the stubborn smog that has made living in urban China a struggle.

All of this is visible in Xi'an's Muslim District, which is a must if you travel to see the city known more for its nearby iconic terracotta warriors. The first city in which Islam found a foothold in China, Xi'an is home to at least 50,000 Hui people who practice Islam. And it is within a 10 minute walk of Xi'an's famed Bell Tower where you can find this culture, and of course, its commerce, still alive almost 24 hours a day.

The best way to explore the Muslim District is with comfortable shoes, a bottle of water and a sense of adventure. This is a great place to grab snacks for the road: fresh roasted walnuts and dried persimmons are a winner. Of course, there are plenty of places that serve up local specialties, which range from dumplings to cold noodles in sesame and chili sauce. The ubiquitous kebabs are available, as well--the meat is quite flavorful, though many westerners may find the bits of meat a bit tough for their taste.

Image credits: Leon Kaye

xian, china, travel, muslim district, islam, Leon Kaye

Pomegranate juice is currently in season

xian, china, travel, muslim district, islam, Leon Kaye

Just about every form of meat is available

xian, china, travel, muslim district, islam, Leon Kaye

Popsicles of many colors

xian, china, travel, muslim district, islam, Leon Kaye

Pan fried tofu, with plenty of chili to burn your taste buds off

xian, china, travel, muslim district, islam, Leon Kaye

Sweets for sale

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.