Trans Eurasia travel

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The grand dervish of England

Few characters in Uzbekistan's history are more colourful than Joseph Wolff, a Cambridge oriental scholar and Jewish-Christian missionary born in Weilersbach, Germany, who wound his way to central Asia in the mid 19th century.

Wolff began his wanderings in Egypt and the Holy Land in the 1820s and then set out in search of the Lost Tribes of Israel, a journey which took him through Turkey and the Caucasus, to Afghanistan and then on to India. Subsequent travels took him Africa and the Americas, and back again to the Middle East.

Wolff set out for Uzbekistan in the 1840s wondering if the Jews of Bukhara were one of the Lost Tribes. He was by this time ordained as a priest, and he arrived at the court of Nasrullah Khan dressed in full canonical garb. Fully aware of the incarceration of Conolly and Stoddart (who by this time, unbeknown to Wolff, had already been executed) - he attempted to negotiate their release; he escaped with his life only because the emir was so entertained (and, no doubt, bemused) by Wolff's appearance.