Samarkand and the Silk Road Tour

Explore the Silk Road cities at the heart of Central Asia





From $2,020 Land only

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Holiday Overview


  • Delightful walks in the Nurata and Zarafshan mountains
  • Guided sightseeing in the fabled cities of Samarkand and Bukhara
  • Enjoy a warm welcome in an Uzbek mountain village home
  • Great value and simplicity - All meals included in the trip price

Situated at the heart of Central Asia, the republic of Uzbekistan has a richness of history matched by few places on earth. A succession of conquering forces, from Alexander the Great to Ghengis Khan and his descendants, have left their mark on the region's culture and architecture. Starting out in Khiva and journeying on following the Oxus River to the magical Silk Road oasis of Bukhara, which flourished in the 9th and 10th centuries, we also travel to Samarkand, one of the undoubted wonders of the world, with its mosaic-clad and turquoise-tiled monuments. To allow us a better understanding of the region, we hike and ride camels across the steppes and into the high valleys of Zarafshan mountians, where we have the opportunity to meet the Uzbek shepherds and farmers of this rarely-visited part of the greater Pamir range. With a unique blend of sightseeing and straightforward day-hikes, this is a superb adventure holiday at the crossroads of Asia.

Is this holiday for you?

This is principally a Discovery holiday, but we have included 4 days of relatively easy walking to allow us to gain a more full understanding of this fascinating part of the world.  Three of the walking days are relatively short (days 7, 8 and 11).  There are 2 options for the walk on day 9 - either a short walk around the foothills of the Zarafshan foothills near Tepakoul or a longer walk traversing the range  of around 8 - 9 hours. This extended day-hike is entirely optional. All of our walking is on good trails and walking times will vary between 4 - 6 hours. Altitude is not a consideration on this trip. Please note that the sightseeing tours in Khiva and Bukhara will be primarily on foot which alllows for a more personal experience of life in these ancient cities. There will also be some long days of travel by bus or minibus on roads of variable condition.  There are 3 nights where we will use basic but charming 'homestay' accommodation, and 2 nights in yurts where a lightweight sleeping bag will be needed.

Brief Itinerary

View in full
  • Meet at the group hotel in Tashkent. A single transfer from Tashkent Airport is provided. Fly to Khiva.
  • Guided tour of the Silk Road city of Khiva including the Ichkan Kala with its blue-domed madrasahs.
  • Drive along the Oxus River to Bukhara, following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great.
  • Exploration of Bukhara `Pearl of the Desert`, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • A second day in Bukhara, with time for further exploration of this amazing Silk Road city.
  • Drive to Nurata, a desert oasis. Visit to an Alexandrian Fort and then on to a desert yurt camp.
  • Onward to Lake Aydarkul where we take a short walk. Transfer to Urazmat village.
  • Walk across the Nurata Mountains, ascending to a 1500m pass. Drive to Tepakoul village.
  • A morning's walk in the Zarafshan mountains or a traverse of the range. Overnight in Taragay village.
  • A day's excursion to Shakrisabz to visit the remains of Tamerlane's White Palace, Drive to Ayoqchi.
  • Walk to the head of the Zarafshan valley, transfer to Samarkand.
  • Full day guided tour of Samarkand including the Registan, the Gur Emir complex and the Shah-i-Zinda.
  • A free morning for exploration of Samarkand. In the late afternoon transfer by train to Tashkent.
  • Departure day. A single transfer to Tashkent Airport is provided.
Sun 27 Mar - Sat 09 Apr Code SST /01/16/ Adult$2,020 Status Available Book now
Sun 24 Apr - Sat 07 May Code SST /02/16/ Adult$2,020 Status Available Book now
Sun 25 Sep - Sat 08 Oct Code SST /03/16/ Adult$2,020 Status Guaranteed Book now
Sun 09 Oct - Sat 22 Oct Code SST /04/16/ Adult$2,020 Status Available Book now
Sun 26 Mar - Sat 08 Apr Code SST /01/17/ Adult$2,020 Status Available Book now
Sun 23 Apr - Sat 06 May Code SST /02/17/ Adult$2,020 Status Available Book now
The LAND ONLY dates and prices are for the itinerary joining in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. For clients making their own flight arrangements, Tashkent International Airport is the most convenient for transfers to the group hotel. Please refer to 'Joining Arrangements and Transfers' in the trip dossier for further details.

Flights SHOULD NOT be booked until you have received your booking confirmation and the trip is showing 'Guaranteed to Run' or 'Limited'.

BOOK WITH KE CONFIDENCE - No surcharge guarantee*

* Against Land Only services.

Map & Itinerary

The Route

  • airport
  • point
  • trip direction
  • peaks
  • internalflight
  • transfer
  • trek

Holiday Itinerary

  • Meet at the group hotel in Tashkent. A single transfer from Tashkent Airport is provided. Fly to Khiva.

    Rendezvous at Tashkent Airport in the early hours of the morning. After meeting your guide or a representative of the local agent, KE Land Only package services begin with the group transfer to a hotel in the city where hotel rooms are provided for a brief rest and the opportunity to wash and change. After breakfast, there is time for sightseeing in the Uzbek capital, at the Tchorsu Bazaar and the Koukeldash Madrasah. After lunch in the city, later in the afternoon we return to the airport and fly to Urgench, from where we take a short transfer to our hotel accommodation in the town of Khiva, which is close to the border with Turkmenistan.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Guided tour of the Silk Road city of Khiva including the Ichkan Kala with its blue-domed madrasahs.

    We have a day for sightseeing, with a guided tour of the city. Khiva is an ancient settlement, with a long and turbulent history. There may have been a city on this spot for more than 1500 years. More recently, Khiva was the capital of an important Khanate in the 17th century and was a major Silk Road trading centre. The Ichan Kala (historic centre) has more than 50 important monuments, including palaces, mosques, mausoleums and madrasahs (schools of Koranic learning). Later in the day there will be some free time to take it easy or to do some independent exploration. The ancient city looks particularly magical as the rays of the sun fade towards the end of the day. We spend a second night at the hotel in Khiva.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Drive along the Oxus River to Bukhara, following in the footsteps of Alexander the Great.

    Today, we make a reasonably early departure for the long drive back towards the east. After the first hour, our road runs alongside the Oxus River, locally known as the Amu Darya. Here we are following in the traces of Alexander the Great, whose army passed this way in 329BC. Turning away from the river, we cut through the striking landscape of the Kizilkum Desert, stopping off for lunch at a roadside restaurant and reaching our guesthouse in Bukhara in the late afternoon. Journey-time will be around 6 - 7 hours.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

  • Exploration of Bukhara `Pearl of the Desert`, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

    Bukhara is another important Silk Road city and dates back thousands of years. It is the most complete example of a medieval city in Central Asia, with a structure that has remained largely intact. Bukhara was one of the largest cities of central Asia, owing its prosperity to its site on a rich oasis and at the crossroads of ancient trade routes. It became a major cultural centre of the Caliphate of Baghdad in 709, and in 892 the capital of the independent Samanid Kingdom. It was destroyed in 1220 by the Mongol horde of Genghis Khan. Every stage of the city's history can be glimpsed today. The earliest monuments include the 10th century Ismail Samani Tomb, the decorated brick minaret of Poi-Kalyan from the 11th century, along with the Magoki Mosque and the Chasma Ayub Shrine. The Timurid period is represented only by the Ulugbek Madrasah. The most celebrated buildings date from the Shebibanid period - the Poi-Kalyan group, the Lyabi-Khauz ensemble, the Kosh Madrasah, and the Gaukushon Madrasah. The historic part of the city is, in effect, an open-air museum and we will have a full guided tour on this first of our 2 days in this city known as the 'Pearl of the Desert'. Of particular interest is the Ark Fortress, former home of the Bukhara Khans, where, in the 19th century the Emir of Bukhara had the English officers Stoddart and Connolly imprisoned and killed. Much of the "The Great Game", the battle between Imperial Britain and Tsarist Russia for control of the Central Asian states was played out in this part of the world. We spend a second night at our guesthouse in the World Heritage Site of Bukhara.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

  • A second day in Bukhara, with time for further exploration of this amazing Silk Road city.

    After yesterday's guided sightseeing, we will have the opportunity today to do some independent exploration. As well as its famous monuments, Bukhara has excellent bazaars and tranquil squares, such as Lyabi-Hauz, shaded by mulberry trees and a great place to take it easy. Watch the world go by as you sip a cup of green tea in one of the Chaikhanas (tea shops) or visit one of the city's hammomi (baths) for a hammam steam bath and massage. The hammomi in Bukhara are housed in ancient buildings and are amongst the most atmospheric in the country. Bukhara is an excellent place to shop for souvenirs, with a wide range of goods available from street vendors and the shops in the ancient bazaars. Overnight at our Bukhara guesthouse.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

  • Drive to Nurata, a desert oasis. Visit to an Alexandrian Fort and then on to a desert yurt camp.

    It's back into our bus today, for the drive north and east towards the lake of Aydarkul. Our first stop is at the ancient oasis of Nur, now known as Nurata, where the sacred 'Chasma' spring rises close to 2 mosques and flows through the town in a narrow canal. The spring waters are teeming with fish, which are considered sacred and grow to a good size. There is also the ruin of an Alexandrian fort on a low hill above the mosques and visiting it will both stretch our legs and give us great views over the town. Our overnight stop tonight is in a yurt camp at Yanghi-Gazgan, a short drive from Nurata.

    • Accommodation Yurt

    • Meals bld

  • Onward to Lake Aydarkul where we take a short walk. Transfer to Urazmat village.

    This morning, there is the opportunity to take a ride on camelback. Then, we will drive north for an hour or so to Lake Aydar. Amazingly, this 200 kilometre-long lake is a recent development, having arisen as an accidental bi-product of the damming of the Syr Darya River in the late 1960's. This flooded former salt flat now appears to be a permanent feature of the landscape and has been stocked with fish, which thrive in the slightly salty water. We will go for a hike along the shore, meet the local fishermen, take a picnic lunch and maybe even have a swim. Returning to our transport, we drive to the village of Urazmat, where we spend a second night in a yurt.

    • Accommodation Yurt

    • Meals bld

  • Walk across the Nurata Mountains, ascending to a 1500m pass. Drive to Tepakoul village.

    To gain a better appreciation of this culturally rich region, we go for a 6-hour walk across the Nurata Mountains, which form a 200 kilometre-long chain, rising to just over 2000 metres, on the south side of Lake Aydar. Our walk takes us through a picturesque valley, home to shepherding communities, and across a 1500 metre pass. We drop down to the village of Andak. In the late afternoon, we make the 3 hour drive south to the Uzbek village of Tepakoul (travelling via Samarkand), where we stay with the villagers in a homestay

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Meals bld

    • Time 6 hrs walking

  • A morning's walk in the Zarafshan mountains or a traverse of the range. Overnight in Taragay village.

    There are 2 options for today. Option 1 is a morning's walk into the Zarafshan Mountains, the western extension of the Pamir-Alay Range that reaches greater prominence in neighbouring Tajikistan. After lunch at the homestay, we return to Tepakoul and drive (3 hours) to the traditional village of Taragay, the birthplace of Tamerlane's father. Those who wish to take a longer and more arduous walk can undertake a traverse of the Zarafshan Mountains, from Tepakoul directly to Taragay via the Ilonsay Pass (1842m). The ascent of approximately 1000m is gradual, through boulder fields and across high alpine pastureland to the top of the pass where the landscape flattens. The descent route is on steeper terrain initially before reaching the valley floor. There are stupendous views to Samarkand and beyond from the ascent route on the northern side of the mountains. Note that this option is more akin to Moderate trekking and the walk will take at least 8 hours with a local guide who will speak limited English. Once again, we spend the night with the local people in a homestay in the lovely traditional village of Taragay.

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Meals bld

    • Time 3 hrs walking

  • A day's excursion to Shakrisabz to visit the remains of Tamerlane's White Palace, Drive to Ayoqchi.

    After breakfast, we drive to the ancient city of Shakhrisabz, formerly known as Kesh. This is a pleasant place, set within a green landscape of orchards and vineyards and was the summer home of Tamerlane. It has a number of important architectural landmarks linked to Tamerlane, including the ruins of the incredible Ak-Saray Palace, the Jahangir Mausoleum, which dates from the late 14th century and is the resting place off Tamerlane's eldest son. We'll also be able to visit the impressive Kok-Gumbaz Mosque, built by Ulugbek, Tamerlane's son and successor and the mausoleum of Sheikh Shamseddin Kulyal, spiritual guide to Tamerlane and his father. Shakhrisabz is a traditional centre of handicrafts, especially embroidery, and is a good place for souvenir hunting. After our visit, we make the drive to another Zarafshan foothills village, Ayoqchi, for our third night in a homestay.

    • Accommodation Homestay

    • Meals bld

  • Walk to the head of the Zarafshan valley, transfer to Samarkand.

    Today we have a half day walk to Alvastikul, a pool in the river at the head of the valley beyond Ayoqchi. This 5 hour walk takes us through foothills and mountain villages, whose principal crop is potatoes. Higher, we will find open pastureland and meet local shepherds. We return to the Uzbek family for late lunch. In the afternoon, we will meet our transport and drive for to Samarkand and our guesthouse.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

    • Time 4 - 5 hrs walking

  • Full day guided tour of Samarkand including the Registan, the Gur Emir complex and the Shah-i-Zinda.

    Today you can choose to explore independently or to join a guided city tour. Our tour of the city will include the Registan, one of the most magnificent squares in the Islamic world and the undoubted highlight of the tour. The 3 Madrassahs (Islamic colleges); Ulug Beg Madrassah, Tillya-Kari Madrassah and Shir Dor Madrassah, that border the square have been restored to their former glory. We will also visit Gur Emir, where the tomb of Tamerlane lies beneath an enormous slab of dark green jade. The interior of the mausoleum is ornately decorated with blue and gold panels, which shine brightly. Our tour will also include the Bibi-Khanym Mosque built for Tamerlane by his favourite wife, the Chinese Bibi-Khanym, and the Shah-i-Zinda, a mausoleum which is one of Samarkand's most atmospheric sights. We spend a second night at the guesthouse in Samarkand.

    • Accommodation Guesthouse

    • Meals bld

  • A free morning for exploration of Samarkand. In the late afternoon transfer by train to Tashkent.

    Today is free for relaxing or further independent sightseeing. We will also want to spend some time in the fantastic 'souks' or covered markets of the city, with their essence of spices and oriental pastries. In the late afternoon we will return to Tashkent either by train or by road (train schedules are subject to change in Uzbekistan). The journey by train takes around 3.5 hours. Please note that if the train schedule is subject to change, and if it does not fit with our itinerary, the journey may be taken by bus.

    • Accommodation Hotel

    • Meals bld

  • Departure day. A single transfer to Tashkent Airport is provided.

    We make an early morning transfer to Tashkent Airport, where KE Land Only package services end.

Holiday Information

  • A local English-speaking tour guide
  • A single Tashkent Airport transfer at the beginning and end of the trip
  • Domestic flights listed in the trip itinerary
  • A total of 8 nights in hotel or guesthouse accommodation in Khiva Bukhara Samarkand and Tashkent
  • Yurt accommodation in Yanghi-Gazgan and in Urazmat
  • Homestay accommodation at Tekapoul Tarangay and in Zarafshan
  • All meals are included as described in the meal plan
  • All land transport involved in the itinerary
  • Entrance fees for monuments and museums

  • Travel insurance
  • Uzbekistan visa fees
  • Tips for local guides and support staff
  • Fees for using a camera at some of the monuments
  • Miscellaneous expenses - souvenirs and drinks etc

During this holiday the group will spend 2 nights in hotel accommodation in Khiva and 3 nights in guesthouse accommodation in Bukhara. We will then have 2 nights at different yurt camps, followed by 3 homestay nights at different villages in the Nurata and Zarafshan mountains. Please note that the sleeping arrangements in the yurts and homestays are communal, with up to 6 people sharing a room. Toilet and shower facilities are basic, but available in both yurts and homestays. Mattresses and bedding are also provided although we suggest everyone brings a light sleeping bag. The simplicity of arrangements is more than made up for by the warmth of the welcome from the local people. We then have 2 nights at a Samarkand guesthouse and 1 night at a hotel in Tashkent. The hotel and guesthouse accommodation is allocated on a twin-sharing basis and if you are travelling by yourself you will be paired up with another single client of the same sex. It is not possible to pre-book single rooms at any of the guesthouses used during this trip. You may be able to arrange a single room on arrival, depending on availability, and pay the difference to the trek leader.

View the gallery below for images of the style of accommodation used

All meals are included in the trip price from breakfast on Day 1 of the Land Only itinerary to dinner on Day 13.

All meals are included and Uzbek food is delicious. Meals are either taken at our overnight accommodation or in local restaurants. Breakfasts consist of yoghurt or eggs, fruit juices, bread, tea and coffee. Lunch will be mostly taken in in restaurants, although packed lunches will be provided on some occasions. Dinner is a three-course meal and will usually include a selection of salads and bread, sometimes soup, a main course that could be a "pot au feu" style stew or the local plov (rice pilau) speciality followed by cake or fresh fruit for dessert. All meals in Uzbekistan are served with copious amounts of delicious green tea. Please note that vegetarianism is a concept not widely understood in Central Asia. Whilst we can cater for vegetarians on this trip, choices will be limited and a degree of flexibility is required. You must inform us if you wish your diet to be exclusively vegetarian.

A single group transfer will be arranged from Tashkent Airport to the group's hotel in the city. This transfer will meet the arrival of the Aeroflot flight from the UK and will be in the early hours of Day 1 of the Land Only itinerary. At the end of the holiday, there will be a single group transfer from the group hotel to Tashkent Airport timed to meet the check in for the Aeroflot flight back to the UK. This transfer will be in the early morning of Day 14 of the Land Only itinerary. A representative of our local agent will assist with the transfers between the airport and the group hotel. If these transfers do not work with your flights, you will need to make your own transfer arrangements at Tashkent Airport. There are money changing facilities in the airport and at the Tashkent hotel. All clients MUST inform the KE office of their travel details.

The group will be accompanied by a professional, English-speaking local guide. There will also be one or more drivers.

Approximately $200 should be allowed for miscellaneous expenses. This will allow you to pay tips of approximately $50 to the local staff. We recommend that you take your travel money in the form of US dollars cash. Money can be changed at a reasonable rate at the airport or at the hotel in Tashkent. Please note that whilst better rates of exchange can be obtained on the black market in the bazaars, unofficial exchange is illegal and can result in imprisonment. For this reason we advise you change money only at accredited bureaux. Credit cards are of limited use in Tashkent and Samarkand. On arrival in Uzbekistan Airport you will need to complete 2 copies of the Customs Declaration Form (ask for copies of the form in English if none are available). The forms asks for a declaration of the amount of currency you are bringing in to the country - please be careful to state correctly exactly how much money you have with you in different currencies. One form will be retained by Uzbek Customs, you will retain the other copy until departure. On departure you will need to complete another form showing how much currency you are taking out of the country. Once again, please be careful to state the exact amounts and note that it is illegal to take more money out of the country than the sum you arrived with.

In Central Asia, it is usual to tip the members of your trek crew, including your local guide, if you are happy with the services provided. As mentioned above, we estimate that $50 will cover this aspect of your trip expenditure. The guide will help the group to determine an appropriate level of tipping for drivers and other local staff.

Your baggage will be carried in the support vehicle. The packed weight of your trek bag (not including the items that you carry in your daypack) should be no more than 15 kgs.

All KE clients will receive a FREE KE trek bag.  These have been specially made to stand up to the rigours of adventure travel.  Your KE bag will be posted to you when your trip is guaranteed to run or on receipt of your booking if the trip is already guaranteed.  If you have travelled with us before and already have a KE trek bag you can select an alternative free gift in the booking process.

The altitudes attained on this holiday are not extreme and the maximum altitude attained is no more than the equivalent of a pressurised cabin on an international flight. You may ‘feel’ the altitude the first time you trek above 2000 metres but all that is required is a slower pace to compensate. You should pay particular attention to your hydration levels while trekking above 2000 metres.

The following checklist should help you with your packing. As a general rule, you should always try to keep the weight of your equipment to a minimum.

  • The packed weight of your trek bag whilst trekking should be no more than 15 kgs.
  • You must bring the following items:

    • Walking shoes
    • Socks
    • Underwear
    • Trekking trousers / pants
    • Waterproof jacket
    • Lightweight waterproof overtrousers
    • Baselayer shirts (2 short sleeve, 2 long sleeve)
    • T-shirts
    • Casual shirt
    • Fleece jacket or warm jumper
    • Sunhat
    • Eyewear - Sunglasses
    • Small padlock (to lock your KE trek bag)
    • Daypack 20 - 25 litres
    • Headtorch / headlamp with spare batteries
    • Sun protection (including total bloc for lips, nose etc.)
    • Water bottles 1 litre / 1 quart (x2)
    • Washbag and toiletries
    • Antibacterial handwash
    • Small towel
    • Light sleeping bag (+5C comfort rating) for the 'homestay' nights
    • Basic First Aid Kit including: A broad spectrum antibiotic, antiseptic cream, throat lozenges, diarrhoea treatment (Imodium), painkillers, plasters (band-aids) and blister treatment, insect repellent, and re-hydration salts (Dioralite).

    The following items are optional:

    • Trainers / sneakers or sandals
    • Spare laces
    • Trekking poles
    • Penknife (remember to pack sharp objects in hold baggage)
    • Repair kit – (eg. needle, thread, duct tape)
    • Camera, media, spare batteries
    • Travel clothes

    For each holiday there is a minimum number of participants required to enable it to go ahead. Once the minimum number is reached, the trip status will change from 'Available' to 'Guaranteed to run'. You can check the trip status for each departure in ‘Dates and Prices’ table. Other than in exceptional circumstances, we will not cancel a trip once it has achieved this guaranteed to run status and so you are free to proceed with your international flight booking and other travel arrangements.

    A passport with 6 months remaining validity at the end of your stay is generally required. The information that we provide is for UK passport holders. Please check the relevant embassy or consulate for other nationalities. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have the correct travel documents and visas for your holiday. Visa requirements and charges are subject to change without notice. If you are travelling outside the EU you should have at least 2 blank pages in your passport.

    Visa Uzbekistan

    All nationalities require a visa. The visa fee is GBP £50 + £35 visa-agency fee and you need to apply for this prior to departure. Please download the detailed information document: Visa PDF Uzbekistan.

    You should contact your GP or travel clinic to check whether you require any specific vaccinations or other preventive measures. You should be up to date with routine courses and boosters as recommended in the UK e.g. diphtheria-tetanus-polio and measles-mumps-rubella, along with hepatitis A and typhoid. A good online resource is Travel Health Pro.

    We recommend you check if you require an adaptor for your electrical items at:

    As a reputable tour operator, KE supports the British Foreign & Commonwealth Offices ‘Know before you go’ campaign to enable British citizens to prepare for their journeys overseas, and we recommend that all KE travellers take a look at the FCO Travel Advice for their chosen destination on the official FCO website: North Americans can also check out the U.S. Department of State website: for essential travel advice and tips.

    KE treat the safety and security of all clients as the most important aspect of any trip we organise. We would not run any trip that we did not consider reasonably safe.  Should the FCO advise against travel for any reason, we will contact everyone booked to travel to discuss the situation.  We receive regular updates direct from the FCO and are in constant touch with our contacts on the ground.  If you have any questions about government travel advice, please call our office.

    In Tashkent and Samarkand, the daytime temperature in April and May will be around 20 to 30 degrees centigrade. In the mountains it will be cooler, 15 degrees during the day and 10 degrees at night. In September and October, daytime temperatures range from 20 to 35 degrees centigrade in the cities. The temperature can drop to single figures overnight at the desert camp at Yanghi-Gazgan and it can feel chilly in the evenings whilst staying at the mountain villages so you are advised to take a warm fleece jacket. The weather is usually good throughout the summer, with clear skies and little rain or snow.

    The Golden Road to Samarkand, Odyssey Guides. Mcleod and Mayhew. (By far the best guidebook on Uzbekistan) Central Asia. Lonely Planet The Great Game. Peter Hopkirk The Lost Heart of Asia. Colin Thubron Shadow of the Silk Road. Colin Thubron Eastern Approaches. Fitzroy McLean A Carpet Ride to Khiva. Christopher Aslan Alexander Setting the East Ablaze. Peter Hopkirk

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