“In this series, author and journalist Simon Reeve travels to Central Asia to “meet the Stans” – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. His journey provides viewers with a unique insight into these countries’ culture and politics. As well as discovering a region teeming with Islamic militants, ruthless tyrants and radioactive wastelands, Reeve also finds a more absurd side to these obscure countries, including an American military base that sells Soviet knick-knacks, a desert full of shipwrecks and a first-rate Beatles tribute band.
Part One: Kazakhstan – The country has oil deposits thought to rival those of Saudi Arabia. However, Simon also finds a former biological weapons factory with poor security but still storing a hundred types of plague, what was once the Aral Sea where camels now graze amidst rusting ships, and the region’s best Beatles tribute band.
Part Two: Kyrgyzstan – It is the only country in the world with both an American and a Russian military base and Simon, not wanting to play favorites, visits both of them. Simon also meets a member of a banned radical Islamic group before putting on a (not very) protective suit to visit one of the world’s most highly radioactive sites.
Part Three: Uzbekistan – In the most repressive of the “Stans” he visited, Simon finds himself followed by the secret police as he travels across the country. He meets the country’s most famous pop star, visits a bodyguard training school, breaks the law by playing snooker and meets women at a marriage bureau for Uzbeks wanting western husbands. He then ends his journey in the stunning ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarkand.
Part Four: Tajikistan – Sharing an 800-mile border with Afghanistan, the source for 95% of Europe’s heroin, Tajikistan is on one of the world’s biggest drug trafficking routes. Simon joins the local police on a drugs raid, visits a warehouse with $100 million worth of heroin, and gets drunk with the conscripts. They survive on just $5 a month while patrolling the Afghan border.
The fifth “Stan”, Turkmenistan, refused Reeve and his BBC crew a visit to their country. He will have something to say about that at the end of the fourth program.”