BLOG SURF: Good transport

Legend has it that Amir Timur, the 14th century conqueror of much of Central Asia, ordered his men to hang pieces of meat in several locations of his empire.

The place where the meat took the longest to decay turned out to be the Uzbek city of Samarkand, which was then chosen as capital.

No pieces of meat were left hanging in sight when I visited Uzbekistan last month, but as I disembarked from the plane at Tashkent airport I was struck by how dry the air is in the country, a sign that the sea is thousands of miles away. Indeed, Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in the middle of Central Asia.

The Aral Sea, its largest freshwater body, shrunk considerably since the rivers that fed it were diverted to irrigate cotton fields.

Central Asia was once a region at the heart of a flourishing trade network for nearly 2,000 years, the Silk Road, but now finds itself isolated from the backbone of modern international commerce – sea trade.