'He who once enters Khiva abandons all hope, as surely as one who enters Hell. His prison house is girdled with trackless deserts, whose sole inhabitants are the sellers of human flesh.' In the winter of 1875, a young British officer set out across central Asia on a strictly unofficial mission to investigate the latest secret Russian moves in the Great Game. His goal was the mysterious caravan city of Khiva, closed to all European travellers by the Russians following their seizure of it two years earlier. His aim was to discover whether, as many British strategists feared, this remote and dangerous oasis was about to be used as a springboard for an invasion of India. Captain Frederick Burnaby was already something of a legend. For a start he was reputed to be the strongest man in the British Army, standing six-foot-four and weighting fifteen stone. Nor was he simply a Goliath, for he spoke no fewer than seven languages, including Russian and Turkish, and possessed a most vigorous and colourful prose style. Unknown to his superiors, who would have forbidden the venture, he rode for over a thousand miles across steppe and desert, struggling through blizzards and snowdrifts, to reach forbidden Khiva. Ordered home by an alarmed government, Burnaby immediately sat down and wrote this best-selling account of his adventures, which has become a Great Game classic.