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Overview: Central Asia
Moving further around the world in our series looking at popular, and slightly obscure, travel destinations, this time we’re focussing on the region of Central Asia, where the countries all have something in common – their names end in ‘stan’.
- There are seven main countries in the region of Central Asia – Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan – commonly known as the ‘stans’
- The suffix ‘stan’ literally means ‘place of’ in Persian. For example, Pakistan is ‘land of the pure’
- The landscape tends to be wild and rugged, with little arable land
- Turkmenistan, for example, is over 80% desert and despite being much larger than the UK (its land mass is roughly the size of Spain) it has a population of just over five million, compare d to the UK’s 62 million
- The region was traditionally important as a link between Europe and the Far East. The trade routes that used to run through there are known as the Silk Road, which gets its name from the silk that came out of China
- Despite some obvious political problems in the region (in Afghanistan and Pakistan in particular, at the time of writing) it is a fascinating place to visit, with many historical monuments and sites, as well as the famous warmth and hospitality of the people
- Kazakhstan is the largest landlocked country in the world. It covers an area of over one million square miles- more than the whole of western Europe
- The Nurek Dam, in Tajikistan, is the tallest in the world. It provides 98% of the country’s electricity
- On a rock plateau in the Kugitang Reserve in Turkmenistan, there are over 400 dinosaur footprints from the Jurassic period, approximately 150 million years ago
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