After 28 years in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Asim Muhammad from Pakistan is usually seen as a local by tourists.
Asim, who speaks fluent Chinese and Uygur, regards Urumqi as his second hometown considering his life-changing experience there. "If I hadn't come here, I would have missed out on one of the most important people in my life."
The Pakistani first came to Xinjiang in 1993, at which time he met his wife Sayda Abliz, a Uygur woman. The two soon fell in love and settled down in Urumqi, opening a jewelry shop.
Twenty-eight years of happy marriage have given them three children, and Asim is always full of pride for them. His oldest daughter has just graduated from college and will soon pursue a doctorate. He also has a son who is good at sports and will take the college entrance exam next year. His youngest daughter is a high school student.
"Thanks to favorable policies by the local government, my life is easy even with three kids," he said.
Asim said traveling is one of his favorite family activities. His family has visited Pakistan, the United States, France and many other countries, as well as Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai.
"Many cities have developed a lot in China. So has Urumqi," Asim said. When he first came to the regional capital, there weren't many tall buildings and the transportation facilities were inadequate."
He said that skyscrapers, viaducts, high-speed trains and subways have made life a lot more convenient in the city.
With more tourists pouring into Xinjiang, Asim's jewelry business has also experienced booming development.
In the early years after he and his wife opened their shop at the International Grand Bazaar, it was a marketplace. But gradually, with help of the local government, the bazaar was remodeled to highlight ethnic cultural elements. It has now been turned into one of Xinjiang's most iconic tourist attractions, he said.
Most of the jewelry in Asim's shop is from Pakistan, and what he likes to do most is to stay at the shop alone and admire his collections.
At the bazaar, Asim has made a lot of friends from different ethnic groups. "We are really close and always help each other," he said.
He said that though the pandemic has hit the businesses there to some extent, he is still confident that things will pick up and he has been planning another family trip for when the pandemic clears.
Asim said he has gained a lot in Xinjiang. "My bond with Xinjiang is solid. I'd like to stay here forever."