Located in the northwestern corner of China, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is China's largest province. It covers an area that is equal to 1/6 of the entire area of China and the landscape contrasts greatly, from the scorching Taklamakan Desert, and the deep basins of Turpan, to the mammoth mountain ranges of the Heavenly Mountains.
Xinjiang was part of the old Silk Road, and Kashgar and Turpan were once major cities on the route. Although this area has lost importance as a center for trade and commerce, it still remains rich in culture and tradition. The Uighurs are the largest minority population in the province, although roughly a dozen other ethnic groups from the Central Asia region can be found, partly a result of Xinjiang's shared borders with Tibet, India, Kashmir, Afghanistan and Russia.
The Uighur people are ethnically and culturally distinct from the Han Chinese - they have Turkish roots and speak a language that is derived from Turkish. For over 1,000 years their main religious beliefs have been Muslim, which is evidenced by the grand mosques found in the area, such as the Id Kah Mosque in Turpan.
The province is also known for its delicious fruit, produced in spite of the high temperatures and lack of rain. The town of Turpan is devoted to the cultivation of grapes and most families who live there are somehow linked to the grape business. The city Hami is also famous for it's juicy and sweet melons.