Uzbekistan's Vast Wonders


Uzbekistan stretches between the Gissar Mountains and the Aral Sea. The country is characterized by seemingly endless sandy deserts and oases, and was once one of the most important powers in the region.

For thousands of years, here on the Silk Road, there was only one means of transportation: the camel. That changed after Russia annexed the territory of what is now Uzbekistan, building a railroad network there. Today, the Silk Road Express is still the main transport route between the green east of Uzbekistan and the dry deserts of the west. 

Uzbekistan has been an independent republic since 1991. In Samarkand, much has been done in recent years to attract tourists. There’s even a tourist police force in the city. Its most famous policewomen are twins Fatima and Zukhra, who were English teachers before they joined the force. Their beat is the famous Registan Square, and going on patrol among the tourists also means dealing with constant requests for photos.

The Gissar Mountains are actually the westernmost foothills of the Himalayas. Here, over millions of years, the deepest caves in the world have formed. Two speleologists have come here to investigate a legend: The conqueror Timur Lenk is said to have hidden his army in the so-called Timur Cave in the 15th century, before subjugating all of Central Asia. The two researchers want to find out if the legend could be true.

Uzbekistan consists largely of deserts that stretch through the country from Turkmenistan to Kazakhstan. One river, the Amu Darya, has fed the Aral Sea for millions of years. But the cotton that is planted here requires huge amounts of water. As a result, the Aral Sea is nearly dry today. Now, the area around the lake is known as the Aralkum Desert. Sand erosion is the region’s main problem, but a few years ago, a major project was launched to plant the desert with vegetation.


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