The city of Herat in western Afghanistan long sat at the edge of empires and served as a hub for trade and a conduit for armies. Yet it has been much more than simply a staging post or plaything of political ambition. It has been an imperial capital, a city of extraordinary wealth, and has played host to a cultural renaissance to rival that of Florence. The Pearl of Khorasan tells the history of this storied oasis city, from the invasions of Chingiz Khan in 1221 to the present day. An epilogue assesses the challenges Herat faces in the wake of Afghanistan's recent turmoil. Throughout Herat's cycles of conquest and habitation, several patterns emerge: the primacy of geography; the city's strong identification with the fertility of the banks of the Hari River; and its reputation as a place of theological excellence, tolerance and cultural refinement. From the luminescent genius of the Timurid century to the destruction and cultural vandalism associated with the Taliban's rule of Afghanistan and the post-9/11 conflict, Herat has hosted empires and experienced the cupidity and lust for power of foreign agents. Using Persian, Pashto and British sources, the author paints a vivid picture of a city in which he has lived, presenting a personal vision of its tumultuous history.