Many visitors don't realize that Uzbekistan is a relatively new name for a very ancient culture. Our country's name dates back only to 1924, when the Soviet Union carved up Imperial Russia's former Turkestan colonies into five states and named them based on the dominant language spoken there. History buffs will be more familiar with the names this region was known by in ancient times, among them Bactria, Sogdiana and Transoxiana. There wasn't just one but several overland trade routes between China and Europe but all converged on the territory of present-day Uzbekistan, which was the geographic midpoint between where silk and other goods were picked up by camel caravans and their final destinations. China discovered how to make silk around 2700 BC and -- by threatening death to anyone who revealed the secrets to a foreigner -- managed to retain a monopoly for 3000 years. Ultimately, though, word got out and our people have been producing silk for more than 1000 years. Our fabric, called silk ikat, is made by a complicated technique which involves weaving rather than dyeing the colour into the fabric. Often, this is still done on looms operated by hand. And our ikats, which are now also made in silk/cotton blends, are so distinctive that nothing remotely resembling them is produced anywhere else in the world. Another special experience you'll have that many visitors to Uzbekistan don't: We'll visit a now world-famous art museum in Nukus, capital of the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan, whose history is as extraordinary as its massive art collection.