Uzbekistan is a relatively new sovereign country, having only been freed from Russian rule in 1991. Civilization in this region is certainly no new phenomenon. An ever-changing occupation over thousands of years has born out rich cultural diversity, historic architecture, diverse languages, and fascinating artifacts - all of which captivate even the most intrepid of explorers. The region's long prosperity is partly thanks to its close proximity with the ancient 'Silk Road' that stretched through Europe and Asia. The plethora of intricately-designed houses and luxurious grand palaces throughout the historic cities of Bukhara, Samarkand and Khiva bare witness to these huge economic benefits. The capital, Tashkent, also profited from this lucrative silk trade route, using funds to completely rebuild itself after being destroyed in 1210 by Genghis Khan. The rugged, diverse and often remote landscape of Uzbekistan has, in recent years, been creating quite a buzz among the adventure travel industry. Travel overland, and its easy to stumble upon deserted ancient trade stop-off points, huge Persian fortresses and spectacular villages perched on mountain cliffs. In contrast, the large, sprawling cities offer a vibrant and friendly atmosphere with majestic royal palaces, busy street bazaars, and even busier temple complexes.