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Hidden Gems of Central Asia Captivate Chinese Tourists

Under spotlight of BRI, region's travel boom further fueled by visa-free policy

By YANG RAN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-06-08 11:54
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People perform at the 28th Tashkent International Tourism Fair "Tourism on the Silk Road" in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, on Nov 15. The event was organized by Uzbekistan's Ministry of Ecology, Environmental Protection and Climate Change. [Photo/Xinhua]

It is as old and venerable as Rome, the eternal city, and Athens, the city of wisdom, yet Samarkand, the pearl of the Muslim world, draws only a fraction of the attention that those two capitals do.

Indeed, while most people know that Rome is in Italy and Athens is in Greece, few would have even heard of Samarkand, let alone know that it is in Uzbekistan.

That very anonymity, largely a result of being all but ignored by the world's travelers, may be what is helping fuel a surge of Chinese tourists to the countries of Central Asia, where they are discovering the marvels of Samarkand and other ancient and unheralded treasures.

This new interest in the region was helped 11 years ago when President Xi Jinping unveiled in Astana, Kazakhstan, a proposal that would eventually be known as the Belt and Road Initiative. The spotlight was shone on this corner of the world and sparked travelers' passion to discover new attractions and adventures.

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