Country: Republic of Uzbekistan

Population: 27.4 million (UN, 2007)

Capital: Tashkent

Language: Uzbek, Russian and Tajik.

Area: 447,400 sq km (172,700 sq miles)

Ethnic groups: Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5% (1996 est.)

Major religion: Muslim and Eastern Orthodox.

Monetary unit: 1 Uzbek som = 100 tiyins

Main exports: Cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, motor vehicles

GNI per capita: US $510 (World Bank, 2006)

International dialing code: +998

Uzbekistan boasts some of oldest cities in the world and the finest architectural jewels among the Silk Road countries; featuring intricate Islamic tile work, turquoise domes, minarets and preserved relics from the time when Central Asia was a centre of empire, learning and commerce. Architectural splendors can be found in the ancient walled city of Khiva in Urgench, the winding narrow streets of the old town of Bukhara and Samarkand, known locally as the ‘Rome of the Orient’.

The Ferghana Valley, surrounded by the Tian Shan and Pamir mountains, still produces silk and is well worth visiting for its friendly bazaars and landscape of cotton fields, mulberry trees and fruit orchards. Uzbekistan’s mountain ranges attract hikers, cyclists and backcountry skiers, while experienced mountaineers come to climb some of the world’s highest peaks.

Today Uzbekistan is bordered by Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.