updated 21 Sep 2013, 12:56
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The mystery of Miss Uzbekistan

Like all other Miss World contestants, she's hoping to wear the crown in two weeks' time in Bali.

Miss Rakhima Ganieva, 18, says she represents Uzbekistan. But therein lies the problem. Nobody in the former Soviet state knows about her.

She is at the centre of a bizarre international mystery: Who is she, and where is she from?

Uzbek officials claim they've never crowned a Miss Uzbekistan and that no such competition exists in the Muslim country, Mail Online reported.

An Uzbek newspaper tried to solve the mystery, but failed to establish who she really is.

Ms Gulnara Karimova, daughter of Uzbek president Islom Karimov, tweeted her surprise about the appearance of a Miss Uzbekistan at the Miss World competition.

The businesswoman called Miss Ganieva a "Tajik-looking girl" who "appeared out of nowhere".

When the Uzbek language service of Radio Free Europe contacted the Uzbek Culture and Sports Ministry and the national committee on women, both said they had no knowledge of Miss Ganieva's participation in the Miss World contest.

Anyone laying claim to the title is clearly an imposter, they suggested.

Others were more explicit.

"Miss Ganieva never passed through any special selection process in Uzbekistan," said Mr Zhavlon Komolov, a representative of Tashkent-based Pro Models - a modelling agency that Miss Ganieva briefly trained at as a 15-year-old.

He added: "If there had been a process to choose a young lady for this competition, I can assure you that a much more beautiful model would have been chosen."

In a short video about her on the Miss World website, Miss Ganieva claims she is starting school in autumn at the Tashkent-based University of World Economy and Diplomacy.

The Telegraph, however, reported that the university has no record of her.

According to the website, she was born and raised in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, "is a talented musician", aspires to "further (her) studies in the field of International Relations & Law" and "enjoys many activities, including playing tennis, travelling, and learning history".

Her recent Facebook posts show her hanging out with Miss Russia, Miss Ukraine and Miss Georgia as they prepare for the final on Sept 28.

Writing on, she said: "Like most young people of my age, I have a lot of hobbies and interests. First of all, I am fond of music, classical as well as modern... I lead a healthy lifestyle.

"When I have some free time, I like to read a good book. For example, my favourite Russian writers are Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy... Finally, I'd like to thank all the people who help me and support me. (sic)"

Miss World officials have yet to comment on the mystery of Miss Uzbekistan, who is joining contestants from Kosovo, Cameroon, Guinea and Guinea-Bissau as their countries' first representatives at the competition.

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