This lushly landscaped mosque with four graceful courtyards may have been established as early as AD 742, during the Tang Dynasty, but the remaining buildings date mostly from the 18th century. Amazingly, it was left standing during the Cultural Revolution. Stone tablets mark the various pavilions, often bearing inscriptions in both Chinese and Arabic. Look above the doors and gates: there are some remarkable designs, including three-dimensional Arabic script that makes the stone look as malleable as cake frosting. Non-Muslims are not allowed in the prayer hall, as the mosque is still an active place of worship. At times local Muslim couples dressed to the nines in brightly colored traditional garb come to take wedding pictures. The place is a bit hard to find, but wandering the Muslim Quarter surrounding the Mosque is a treat, particularly for foodies. The bustling streets are the center of the city's Hui (Chinese Muslim) community. Navigate narrow streets and alleys filled with
endless knick knack and food stalls. Spicy mutton kebabs and chicken wings grilling on coal spits, piles of walnuts, chilli powder, dates and other dried foods and vendors squeezing out pomegrante juice are staples along the way. Step into any well-populated restaurants and try anything from cold sesame noodles to pan-fried dumplings to yang rou pao mo, the local speciality of crumbled bread in a rich lamb broth. To get to the Mosque, after passing through the Drum Tower, follow a small curving market street called Huajue Xiang on the left. (You'll see an English sign posted on a brick wall next to the street's entrance reading "Great Mosque.") When you reach a small intersection, the mosque's entrance is on the left.