<p>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. <br> <br> 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.</p> <p><a href="http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-of-the-day/hazrat-ali-mosque/">See larger and download wallpaper &gt;&gt;</a></p>

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.

See larger and download wallpaper >>

Photograph by Shashwat Saraf, My Shot

Seven Stans

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.

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