September 13th, 2012
10:55 AM GMT
Kazakhstan (CNN) - The thriving east-west trade that once spanned Central Eurasia along the famed Silk Road may soon be restored to its former glory thanks to growing transport and trade links being rolled out.
Central Asian countries have been working closely together to construct transport corridors, promote energy security, and remove trade barriers. They have shed outdated trade policies and adopted new rules to increase commerce.
Kazakhstan is one example where this is happening. Merchants passed through here on the ancient Silk Road hundreds of years ago. And now that trade between East and West is booming again, the government has decided it needs to upgrade its infrastructure.
But a new highway is under construction that will span the entire country and replace many of the bumpy back roads that make travel here such a chore.
Murat Kadyrov is in charge of building a section and says the new road will help boost mobility and safety.
"The speed limit will be 120 kilometers an hour. There will be less crashes because there are no intersections and it will enable Kazakhstan to develop economically and give people a substantial benefit," Kadyrov told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen.
Decades of decay under communist rule have left most of Kazakhstan’s major roads dilapidated.
The road from Almaty, the largest city and former capital, flows through the amazing mountain landscapes of Eastern Kazakhstan, a rural area with interesting traditions which is also believed to have large economic potential – with huge oil, gas and mineral reserves. that already makes Kazakhstan one of the most important countries in the world for raw commodities.
To make it more accessible for businesses, Kazakhstan plans to spend about $19 billion on transport infrastructure by 2014, the government says – especially on links from China to Europe.
Money that could help revive towns like Taraz – once a major hub on the ancient silk road – with a rich islamic history.
In the ruins of the old town is the tomb of its most important son, Karakhan Mohammed, the city's governor in its heyday in the 11th century, who made a major push to convert the population to Islam.
"It was a big merchant city. The ruler of this entire state sat here. It was the capital and the city was very rich. Both Persian and Arabic scripts mention this city, “said Anna Krokosheva.
Kazakhstan still has a long way to go to revitalize its role as a major trade route. But the effort is under way according to the transport minister.
Today the roads are so treacherous most people travel by railroad.
The train makes its way to Turkistan, also once a major waypoint on the silk road and its former wealth can be seen in the massive mausoleum for Ahmed Yasawi - who made Sufi Islam popular in this region in the 11th century.
Millions make a pilgrimage here each year. And the town hopes to attract even more tourists - as Kazakhstan improves the travel infrastructure building a new silk road.
Along the Silk Road
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