Kalyan Mosque, Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Land of enchantment

Centuries of Silk Road wealth built Uzbekistan into an exotic land of ancient cities filled with domes, minarets, and intricate Islamic tile work, and the atmospheric madrasas and mosques of Bukhara and Samarkand rank among the most glorious of all Central Asia. This is also where Islam collided with communism: the capital of Tashkent grew to be one of the largest cities in the Soviet Union, with predictable results. Entirely surrounded by the Central Asian "Stans," the land ranges from flat, arid plains to the Fergana Valley spread with cotton to eastern mountain peaks that attract mountaineers and backcountry skiers.

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