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Central Asia


Between these covers, the millennia of mercantile and cultural exchange along the Silk Route are celebrated by travellers and writers from Marco Polo to Sven Hedin, from William of Rubrick to Ella Maillart.  Kathleen Hopkirk has spent a lifetime researching this vital heartland, traversed by five, inhospitable deserts but united by ancient chains of trading oases: from the Buddhist Empire of Kushan, to the scholarly Islamic centre at Bukhara, from the military conquerors massing in both directions to the saintly missionaries and monks who moved between its centres of learning. This mysterious homeland of the Tartars, Turks, Mongols, Uzbeks, Uighurs, Tajiks, Scythians and Sarmatians, gave the world terrifying conquerors of the stature of Gengiz Khan and Tamberlane. Later it became the focus of the Great Game, a rivalry for influence in the area between the empires of Russia and Britain played out by spies, ambassadors, agents and travel writers for 150 years, itself a continuation of the old cultural rivalry between Persia and China for the soul of this vast region.

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