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Central Asia is a land of ancient civilisations. It was in this region that the ancient states of Bactria and Khoresm, Sogd and Parthia thrived. Through these states the famous Great Silk Road passed, linking Europe and Asia. Majestic cities with beautiful palaces, mosques, minarets and medressas were erected over thousands of years. Many of them were ruined, but several withstood the conquerors and passing of time, and today stand as monuments, reflecting their former glory. Many of the artistic delights found in Central Asia are comparable with the architectural masterpieces of Egypt, India, China and ancient Greece and Rome.
Central Asia makes up over 2% of the world's land mass. After the collapse of the USSR, five independent states were proclaimed: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The largest deserts and desert-steppes in all of Asia and the mountains of the Tian Shan and the Pamir are all found here. It is a land of diverse landscapes. Hot deserts give way to oases and valleys of cotton plants, pomegranates, grapes and melons. Immense steppes change smoothly into foothills and rise beyond the clouds to the eternal snows of its highest peaks. Emerald steppes merge into dark-green juniper forests and then, high in the mountains, into the many coloured grasslands of alpine meadows.