The Uzbek capital of about 2.5 million residents, once the fourth largest city in the former USSR, is the Central Asia's largest one today. Tashkent boasts the region's only subway system and continues to remain one of the world's largest centers for cotton production. Most visitors agree that Tashkent is the most Soviet city in Central Asia, which gives it a special flavor of splendid mix of old and new. The Arabs remained in control until the arrival of Genghis Khan in the 13th century. With the fall of Mongolian Empire, the city passed to the control of Tamerlain Empire until 1449, when the area falls under the influence of Kokhand Kingdom. By 1865, Russian forces made Tashkent the capital of their new Russian Turkestan colony. Turbulent history followed by massive earthquake in 1966 destroyed many evidence of Tashkent's rich past. Yet, it remains one of the greatest witnesses of our civilization. When in the city, take a walk around the remnants of the old town along narrow dusty streets lined by low, mud brick houses, mosques and medressas (religious schools). Kukeldash Medressa of the 16th century and tiny 15th century Jami mosque would be a good start. The Museum of Fine Arts has a fine collection of the art of pre-Russian Turkestan times, including Zoroastrian artifacts, serene 1000-year-old Buddhist statues and Sogdian murals. The Museum of Applied Arts opened in 1937 as a showcase for turn-of-the-century applied arts. Chorsu Bazaar, a huge open market beside Kukeldash, draws crowds of people from the countryside, many in traditional dress. For cultural activities, check out the Navoi Opera & Ballet Theatre. Within few hours from Tashkent, there are fine hiking trails in the Angren River Valley. The canyon of the upper Angren, in particular, is spectacular.