Rugged and mountainous, Tajikistan sits at the heart of central Asia with China to the east and the Indian sub-continent to the south. Three major Silk Road routes ran through its present day territory.
Besides its Silk Road sites, this robust and remote country boasts the Pamir Mountain range, sometimes called “The Roof of the World”. From here spread the three great ranges of Central Asia – the Hindu Kush, the Karakorams, and the Tien-Shan.
Afghan and Tajik leaders have inaugurated a new bridge linking their countries across River Panj. The bridge is the missing link of the ancient Silk Roadand could boost tourism as the countries of the Silk Road are becoming increasingly popular with tour operators.
The $37m (£18.4m) project, a US gift, replaces an intermittent ferry service across the fast-flowing river. "This bridge of friendship is an historic event," said Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon at the ceremony. His Afghan counterpart, Hamid Karzai, said he hoped it would improve economic and trade co-operation "between the countries and the region". The bridge - nearly 700m (yards) long and 11m across - will replace an unreliable ferry which was the only way of getting across the River Panj. US Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez joined the Afghan and Tajik presidents at the opening ceremony. Laughing and tapping each other on the shoulders, the two leaders cut the symbolic ribbon and opened the brand new bridge linking their countries. President Emomali Rakhmon said the bridge would become "an important link in the development of trade and tourismbetween the two countries". "The opening of this bridge provides a chance for boosting trade not only with Central Asian countries, but also with China, Russia and the Gulf countries," he said. It could turn Afghanistan into a major transit point for goods and link the whole of central Asia to Pakistan's port of Karachi.