Uzbekistan is an Islamic State about the same size as Sweden. Land-locked, it shares borders with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and a sliver of Afghanistan in the south. Most of its population (~ 26 million) are Uzbeks (~ %75), followed by Russians (~ %6) and Kazakhs (~ %4). Most of the territory of Uzbekistan is flat, made of steppes, deserts and semi-deserts with limited reserves of fresh water. The only relief is Amu-Darya River. In the east, however, Uzbekistan has a stretch of mountains with friendly climate and rich soils. Throughout the history, the region was part of several very old Persian states. Alexander the Great passed through and married the daughter of a local chieftain near Samarkand. Under the Kushan Empire, Buddhism took hold. The Silk Road brought wealth and innovation. In the 6th century AD, Western Turks brought Islam and a written alphabet followed by Genghis Khan’s invasion. The 14th century brings a new phase. United by ruthless warrior Timur, the area’s prosperity is rising again with Samarkand city at the heart. Some of the worlds most beautiful examples of Islamic religious buildings are erected during that period. Today, there are about 20 separate good quality tourist destinations in Uzbekistan. These include the capital Tashkent, Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, the mountains in the south, Termiz, Urgench, the Ferghana Valley. Uzbeks are also known for gourmet cooking. It resembles the Middle East or the Mediterranean styles in its use of rice, savoury seasonings, vegetables and legumes, yoghurt and grilled meats. In northern Uzbekistan meals often consist of pilafs, kebabs, noodles and pasta, stews, elaborate breads and pastries. Subtle seasonings and fancy sweets distinguish the cuisine of southern Uzbekistan accompanied by ubiquitous tea ceremonies.