A small country town, Zhongwei is 160km and a few hours by bus to the southeast of Yinchuan near the Yellow River. Historically, the old, walled city of Zhongwei was said to have had no north gate - simply because there was nothing more to the north of here. The city is still in a potentially awkward location, between the fickle Yellow River to the south and the sandy Tenger Desert to the north, but today Zhongwei is surrounded by a rich belt of irrigated fields, and the desert is kept at bay through reafforestation projects. The river outside the town, at Shapotou , is a splendid sight and should definitely be visited if you are in the area.
What to see
Tengger Desert & Shapotou Scenic Zone
Tenger means heaven or God in the Mongolian Khalka language. The Tenger Desert and the fine yellow sand is moving in on Shaanxi Province like the Sahara is moving in on Senegal, piling up in dunes right into the river. The Gobi sits just over the dry brown mountains to the north.
Yellow River winds through Ningxia for about 400 kilometers and becomes the main source of irrigation here. It makes an abrupt turn at Zhongwei county upon entering Ningxia from the west, forming the spectacular Shapotou scenic zone. Tengger Desert from the north is stopped at Shapoutou by the Yellow river, resulting in a huge sand dune.
Shapotou now has already become an amusement park in the desert, where people can riding ostrich or camels and slide on the sand. There are many interesting ways to experience the yellow river at Shapotou such as taking a goatskin raft. It used to be the major vehicle to take people across the Yellow river 40, 50 years ago in this area. Now the raft is floating upon 14 pieces of goat skin pumped with air.
Hui people: The Hui people are a Chinese ethnic group, typically distinguished by their practice of Islam. They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People's Republic of China. They are concentrated in Northwestern China (Ningxia, Gansu, Xinjiang), but communities exist across the country. Most Hui are similar in culture to Han Chinese with the exception that they practice Islam, and have some distinctive cultural characteristics as a result. For example, as Muslims, they follow Islamic dietary laws and reject the consumption of pork, the most common meat consumed in Chinese culture, and have also given rise to their variation of Chinese cuisine, Chinese Islamic cuisine. Their mode of dress also differs only in that adult males wear white caps and females wear headscarves or (occasionally) veils, as is the case in most Islamic cultures.
Cuisine: Yinchuan cuisine is predominantly Muslim fare centered around beef and mutton. Chicken, duck and fish are also popular. Food here makes use of fresh ingredients, retaining the food’s delicate flavors with a touch of sugar. If you are not afraid to get your hands dirty then try the shouzhua yangrou, a mutton dish that’s eaten with your hands. Noodles with mutton are a common sight in eateries throughout the area. Braised mutton is cooked with chili and caraway seeds giving it a tasty kick. Sweet and sour Yellow River carp, a local specialty that swims with flavor. During festivals and fairs, fried dough is a popular snack..
Medlar has been is an ingredient used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ningxia has been cultivating it for over 480 years.
Helan Shan, is often carved into ink stones. It's a very hard stone with a glossy finish and a tinge of purple coloring.
Items made from lamb's wool are abundant; they're soft and warm. The West Pagoda Culture Market is a good place to browse for antiques, stoneware and assorted souvenirs, look for it over on Liqun Xi Jie.