Uzbekistan has always been different from the rest of Central Asia – more settled than nomadic, with patterns of land use and communality that has changed little from the time of the Achaemenids (6th century BC) to the present day. Wherever one treads in Uzbekistan, one follows the footprints of some of the greatest travellers in history-from Chinese pioneers seeking blood-sweating horses or enlightenment from India, to Arab scholars like ibn-Battuta, the Marco Polo of the Muslim world. To Tamerlane's court in 1404 journeyed the Spanish ambassador Clavijo; the English merchant Jenkinson also survived the trials of Transoxiana in the 16th century. But this remained remotest Tartary. It took the Great Game players to carve out western Turkestan and fill in the huge blanks on the map. Growing awareness of the exotic dangers on the road to Samarkand spurred the adventurous and the eccentric; in 1898, Robert Jefferson rode his bicycle 6,000 miles from London to Khiva, "because so many people said it was impossible".