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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 November 2005, 17:18 GMT
Top-end hotel fills gap in Kabul
By Andrew North
BBC News, Kabul

Kabul Serena hotel
The hotel helps fill a shortage of guest accommodation in the city
The Afghan capital, Kabul, has a new, international standard five-star hotel, the first to be built since the fall of the Taleban four years ago.

President Hamid Karzai opened the Serena hotel, which has been built around the remains of another hotel badly damaged by fighting.

It is hoped that it will help attract more business people to invest in the poverty-stricken country and in the longer term attract wealthy tourists.

The Serena looks and feels like a five-star hotel anywhere, with its marble floors and expensive fittings.

It has everything one would expect - swimming pool, gym and 177 luxury rooms.

The starting price for a room is $250 a night - a fortune in a country where most people earn that in a year.

It has taken more than two years to build at a cost of $35m.

Shortage

Much of that has gone on making the original Kabul hotel earthquake resistant but also on making the building total self sufficient because of Kabul's still shattered infrastructure.

Kabul Serena hotel
The hotel has taken more than two years to build at a cost of $35m

The hotel has its own water wells and sewage system. In-house generators provide all its power.

This is not Kabul's first five-star. That title goes to the city's Intercontinental, built in the late 60s but badly hit during the decades of war. It also suffers from being on the city's outskirts.

The Serena is right in the centre near the presidential palace.

Its backer is Prince Aga Khan, leader of the world's Ismaili Muslims whose development foundation built it at the request of the Afghan government.

There is a shortage of hotel accommodation in the city.

Most visitors here stay in guest houses and the government is hoping this new hotel will attract more foreign investors.

Another famous Kabul hotel, the Ariana, is currently off limits to developers even though the building is sound because it has been taken over by the CIA for its local headquarters.


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See inside Kabul's new hotel



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