Called "the Jewel of Islam", Samarkand is a city as old as Rome, dating to at least the 7th century BC. It is an oasis amongst the steppes of southern Uzbekistan, and was much fought after as a political and trading command post before gaining independence from the former USSR in 1991. Destroyed by Genghis Khan and rebuilt by Amir Timur in the 14th century, the mosques, tombs and Koranic schools of Samarkand defy the centuries with their unique beauty and still recall the glories of the old Silk Road.