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Yiwu hosts China's growing Muslim community, as well as massive mall

Aarne Heikkila / NBC News

Finishing touches have just been made on a 25 million yuan (approximately $4 million) mosque that's being used by Yiwu's estimated 35,000 Muslims, one third of whom can be found at the religious center during its busiest prayer periods.

NBC Producer Aarne Heikkila recently traveled to Yiwu, China, a city renowned for its 70,000 wholesale vendors selling everything from plastic figurines to rubber bands, jewelry to exercise books.

Recently trade between China and the Arab world, in particular, has been booming. The city is home to what is said to be one of the fastest growing Muslim communities in mainland China

We've reported on the excessive amount of consumer goods available in Yiwu's 173 acre wholesale before. See Adrienne Mong's report: Need fridge magnets in bulk? No prob

Aarne Heikkila / NBC News

Many Chinese Muslims in Yiwu come from China's Xinjiang semi-autonomous region in the northwest of the country. The region, home to the Uighur ethnic minority, is known for its separatist movement. The residents who hail from Xinjiang have helped turned this city into a key center for Islam in eastern China.

See some of Aarne’s recent photos showing the Islamic influence on the city. 

Aarne Heikkila / NBC News

Middle Eastern restaurants in Yiwu, like this one called "Sultan's," have sprung up along Yiwu's main boulevard. Most bring in cooks and staff from back home and service a Middle Eastern clientele.

Aarne Heikkila / NBC News

One of the many Chinese vendors in Yiwu sells lamps.