Kashgar 'Is My Hometown'

ByNan Feng and Jin Jin April 17, 2024

Kashgar, in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, is in the westernmost part of China near the border with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. During ancient times, Kashgar was an important trading center on the Silk Road. It has been revitalized since the BRI was proposed in 2013. It is now a bustling business hub. 

Dilshat Tursun and his wife, Hadiya Msham Abdulla, from Tanzania, run Dili and Diya Cafe, in Kashgar. The cafe is renowned not only for its treats and tasty African coffee, but also for the owners' love story. While brewing a good cup of coffee, the couple loves to tell customers about how they met and fell in love — despite being tens of thousands of kilometers apart. 

As cooperation and exchanges deepened between China and African countries, Abdulla arrived in China, in 2012, to study medicine at Fujian Medical University, in Fuzhou, capital of Southeast China's Fujian Province. 

The next year, Dilshat Tursun left Yecheng, his hometown and a county in Kashgar, to study administrative management at Fuzhou University, also in Fuzhou. At that time, he had no clue he would meet the love of his life within three years. 

Dilshat Tursun laid eyes on Abdulla during an interschool activity. They met on several occasions after that. They had many common interests, and they developed a friendship. They often got together to study, and sometimes to have dinner. 

"Tanzania is an African country, along the Belt and Road. Kashgar is an important region along the Belt and Road too. At that time, we often said it was the BRI that linked us together," Dilshat Tursun recalls. 

In 2018, Abdulla returned to her hometown, to complete a one-year internship, and she became a licensed doctor, while Dilshat Tursun worked in Fuzhou. Being apart made them realize how much they wanted to be together. After she completed her internship, Abdulla told her family she wanted to return to China, to marry Dilshat Tursun. Her family finally agreed, not only because of the couple's profound love, but also because her hometown had benefited from Chinese medical teams and infrastructure projects built by Chinese. Such things caused her family to have sincere feelings toward Chinese. 

After years of being in love, they got married on May 20, 2020, a date that sounds similar to "I love you" when spoken in Chinese. In 2022, when she was pregnant, Dilshat Tursun took Abdulla to his hometown, to take care of her. 

"Kashgar is a place of passion and fantasy. I like it very much. People here are very nice, and they help us with any problems we have. Despite living in a foreign land, I sense the feeling of home from the hospitable people. Kashgar is my husband and son's hometown, and it is my hometown," Abdulla says. 

Bullish on China's soaring coffee consumption potential, and also on the economic prospects in Kashgar, the couple started their coffee-related business. "Since the BRI was proposed, the ancient city of Kashgar has once again been propelled into the limelight as a gateway for opening up. Kashgar has witnessed rapid development in past years. It has huge potential for starting businesses," says Dilshat Tursun. 

In March 2023, the couple opened Dili and Diya Cafe, at the ancient city of Kashgar scenic area. They have poured their hearts and souls into the business, and especially into creating tasty African coffee. Kashgar has a long history of tea culture. Dilshat Tursun has been good at brewing tea since he was young. The cafe also serves local, scented and fruit tea.

"Our latte is made with local milk and African coffee beans, just like Kashgar, a place that embraces cultures from East and West. What's more, our cafe offers both African-flavored coffee and Chinese-flavored tea, just like the cultural interconnection between China and Tanzania," says Dilshat Tursun. 

Thanks to the BRI, African coffee beans have secured a much wider market share in China in recent years. The Tanzanian coffee beans, imported to Kashgar by the couple, have received positive feedback, far exceeding their expectations. They are planning to import more high-quality beans from Tanzania, and from other African countries, to Kashgar and other areas in China. "It takes too long to ship coffee beans from Africa to China, and the cost of air freight is too high. With the help of the BRI, we will make the logistics smoother, at a good price," says Abdulla. 

Dili and Diya Cafe has become a popular place in Kashgar. The cafe and the couple's love story have attracted countless travelers, from all over the country. The couple also shares their stories and products globally, through livestreaming on social media. 

"I hope we can open a chain of stores in every city in Xinjiang, so our fans can enjoy our African coffee wherever they are. We also hope to promote Kashgar's specialties to more people in Africa," says Abdulla.


Photos from Interviewees 

Source: Marriage and Family

(Women of China English Monthly February 2024)


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