Blue Mosque, Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan
In the heart of the Asian continent, where mighty conquerors and trading caravans once strode the Silk Road, the "seven Stans" weave a carpet of many colors. Prior to 1991 maps showed only Afghanistan and Pakistan. Then came the Soviet Union breakup and the birth of five new nations: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Today, these independent states continue to forge identities amid continuing conflicts.
Here, a woman passes the Hazrat Ali mosque (the "Blue Mosque") in Mazar-e Sharif, Afghanistan, where deep ethnic and religious divides are briefly bridged as Sunni and Shiite alike come to pray.
- Photo Gallery
See photos of the "seven Stans" of Central Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) in this travel photo gallery from National Geographic.