Uzbekistan is a Central Asian nation and a former Soviet republic. It's known for its mosques, mausoleums, and other sites linked to the Silk Road, the ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean. Samarkand, a major city on the route, contains a landmark of Islamic architecture: the Registan, a plaza bordered by three ornate, mosaic-covered religious schools dating to the 15th and 17th centuries.
Also in Samarkand are Shah-i-Zinda, a street lined with lavishly decorated mausoleums that are Muslim pilgrimage sites, and Gur-e-Amir, the towering tomb of the Timurid Empire's founder. Bukhara, a Silk Road oasis city, has landmarks including the Ark, ruins of a 5th-century royal compound now housing museums, and the 16th-century mosque Maghoki-Attar, built atop centuries-old sacred sites. To the north and west lie the vast Kyzylkum Desert, the shrinking Aral Sea lake, and the city of Khiva, whose walled old town contains 18th- and 19th-century palaces and mosques.