Malam Jabba, Pakistan (CNN) – Pakistan's government is hoping that a former Taliban stronghold can attract tourists and boost business for the country.
Malam Jabba, in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, is a seven-hour drive north of the capital Islamabad. It is Pakistan's winter wonderland, where people live on just dollars a day, surrounded by natural beauty.
It’s also the Pakistan that few see, with scenery that rivals anywhere in the world. Many here hope this natural beauty will help get the Swat Valley back on the map as a leading tourist attraction.
Baghdad (CNN) - As Iraq's capital emerges from almost a decade of conflict and civil strife it is becoming an economic battleground for Turkey and Iran.
Turkish firm Tefirom is contracted to build Baghdad Mall. Featuring a five-star hotel more than 100 meters tall, it is set to be the tallest building in Baghdad. It will also house shops, gyms, a giant parking garage and a state-of-the art medical center.
Ashken Alkgoum is one of the engineers. He told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen: "Our costs are low, our labor quality is very good, and our engineers especially are really good.”
The Iraqi clients paying for the Baghdad Mall, with a budget of nearly $100 million, agree. They say construction is on schedule.
Manzhouli, China (CNN) – In Inner Mongolia – the frozen grasslands between China and Russia – it's hard to imagine anything surviving. Yet in the Chinese border town of Manzhouli, business is thriving.
Manzhouli is now one of China's busiest land ports, with $10 billion dollars-worth of timber and other goods passing through every year.
Traders like Huang Jincai are shipping in Siberian timber, revitalizing this once sleepy outpost. Jincai runs a multi-million dollar business cutting and selling timber all over China – with 10% sales growth every year.
Singapore (CNN) – An export-dependent nation with a strong service sector, Singapore was one of the first nations in Asia to suffer from the global financial crisis. But it aims to recover by becoming a strategic economic hub.
Singapore may be a small country, but thanks to its strategic location it’s one of the world's busiest ports. It is also well positioned to capitalize on growing trade links between other parts of Asia and the Middle East.
Already well known as a global logistics and trans-shipment hub, Singapore says trade with the Middle East has climbed by 36% since 2006. One example is plastics. Borouge – a joint venture between Abu Dhabi's national oil company and Austrian company Borealis – manufactures plastic pellets in Abu Dhabi and sends them to Asia through Singapore.
Umm Qasr, Iraq (CNN) – A former U.S. military detention facility in Iraq could play a major role in making the city of Basra a link for commerce between Asia and Europe.
Basra is Iraq's second largest city, and the main town in the oil rich South. Oppressed and neglected for years under the rule of Saddam Hussein, it could now be set for a revival.
Camp Bucca was once a U.S. military detention facility. Now the Kufan group - an Iraqi-owned development company - wants to turn it into massive a logistics hub called Basra Logistics City.
Dubai, UAE (CNN) – The Middle East’s airlines are venturing into new markets, connecting the region with new and distant destinations.
Emirates Airlines is making its mark on international aviation. Launched in 1985, it's one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, with a fleet of 169 planes serving more than 100 destinations.
At the heart of its success is a strategy that looks east, actively targetting emerging markets that are often unserved by Western carriers.
Istanbul , Turkey (CNN) - After being virtually ignored at home and abroad for decades, Turkish modern art has become a valuable commodity, sought after by international and Turkish collectors.
London’s Sotheby's auction house held its first ever auction of Turkish modern art in 2009. The auction grossed more than $2 million dollars: the next year, those numbers, nearly doubled.
Dozens of new art galleries have sprouted up in Istanbul in the last few years. Industry insiders say a big part of what's driving this growing art market is the rapid growth of the Turkish economy, which has more than doubled in size over the last 10 years.
Varanasi, India (CNN) – The sari is a symbol of Indian style known around the world, but the makers of India’s most coveted saris are losing out to Chinese competition.
Banarasi saris are considered perhaps the finest of all saris. Originating from India's holiest city, Varanasi, they are traditionally worn by brides on their wedding day.
For centuries the silk saris have been made by hand in villages. The government has even given them a geographical identifier to indicate authenticity. But these enclaves of creativity are threatened by cheaper goods made in China.
Baku, Azerbaijan (CNN) – Sitting in the middle of the Caucasus, on the shores of the landlocked Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan is a nexus of trade routes from Asia to Europe. Now, a new port for the capital Baku and huge investment in transport routes mean new potential for the region’s exports.
In Azerbaijan, carpet weaving is a centuries-old tradition, dating back to ancient Persia. Vidadi Muradov, director of the Azer Ilme carpet factory, told CNN’s Becky Anderson: “The new port is being built right now, and it's actually important for us because it gives us more options to open up to the world and export our goods, including carpets. It gives us a proper gateway to the world.”
The Caspian Sea and its shipping lanes were once vital to the region’s exports, part of what was known as the maritime Silk Way.
Sakyra, Turkey (CNN) - Turkey has in the past focussed its trade on Europe, but with Europe's growing economic woes and a new political era in the Middle East, Turkey is slowly turning its political and economic attention east.
Orhan Ozer is president and CEO of Toyota Turkey. He told CNN’s Rima Maktabi: “Turkey has lots of advantages in respect of the geographical advantages, in respect to the location of the country at the middle of Europe, Middle East – even Central Asia.”
“Also the population is young, they are very dedicated, qualified, experienced and they are very ambitious for their work,” he added
Along the Silk Road
“Along the Silk Road” explores the burgeoning trade and investment links from the Middle East to Asia – Beijing, Mumbai, Istanbul, Kabul, Moscow, Hong Kong, Jakarta and Dubai.
The series surveys the export-driven economies, countries with vast capitals of reserve and natural resources, that economic forecasters pinpoint as ringleaders of growth for the next quarter of a century.
Catch “Along the Silk Road” every Wednesday on CNN International within Global Exchange:
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