This is a travel book on the newly emergent countries of central Asia, which contain the magical cities of Bukhara and Samarkand, the Kazakh Steppes, the deserts of Karakum and the Pamir Mountains. This is an enormous land, as big as Western Europe, secret, turned in on itself, heart of the Great Mongol Empire of Tamerlane, Route of Silk roads and scene of Stalin's cruellest deportations. Colin Thubron travelled by train, bus, car and foot throughout the former Moslem Republics, and this is the story of his encounters with their people, landscape and past. Central Asia, which since 1917 has been almost unknown, has become doubly important with the collapse of the Soviet Union. This book is a search into the region's fragmented identity and the crisis of the many once-dominant Russians who remain. Will central Asia fall prey to the Moslem fundamentalism of its neighbour, Iran, or revert to communism, or push into capitalism?