Tashkent. Population: 2.2 million (UN estimate 2003).
Republic. Declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Head of state:
President Islam Karimov since 1991.
Head of government:
Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyayev since 2003.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. Round two-pin continental plugs are standard.
Uzbekistan boasts some of 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 and learning. Good examples of this architecture 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.