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New Development Initiative Launched in Kabul - AFGHANISTAN OPENS LUXURIOUS SERENA HOTEL - 2005-11-08

Tuesday, 2005, November 8

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is pleased to announce that the Kabul Serena Hotel was officially inaugurated today by His Excellency President Karzai and His Highness the Aga Khan. The opening of the restored and expanded Kabul Serena Hotel, the former Kabul Hotel, is a milestone in Afghanistan's post-conflict redevelopment.Designed by award-winning architect Ramesh Khosla, the Kabul Serena Hotel will provide Kabul with much-needed accommodation for visitors to the city and will constitute an important post-war resource for Kabul residents. The hotel will be operated by Serena Hotels, the AKDN unit which builds and operates quality hotel facilities in areas of developing countries not well served by commercial hotel chains. It will employ 400 staff, 90% of whom are Afghan, and will work actively to support local suppliers of goods and services.
In 2002, the Government of Afghanistan asked the AKDN to help in restoring Kabul's hotel capacity, which had been almost totally destroyed by the civil war, so that foreign and local investors, diplomats, government officials, donor agency representatives and tourists travelling to Kabul would have acceptable accommodation. It also will be an important facililty for meetings, conferences and social events. The Kabul Hotel has been a notable landmark and centre of activity in the city since it was built in 1945. But it had become virtually unusable, leaving Kabul with a serious shortage of accommodation for visitors.
In view of the historic significance of the hotel, many of the original architectural elements have been preserved in the restoration, and much of the original landscaping has been saved.
President Karzai called it 'a great, great project' and said he hoped that it would be an inspiration for the future development and beautification of Kabul.
His Highness the Aga Khan added: 'This project has purposefully set out to achieve world standards in the leisure industry. In its design and finishes, its amenities, the seismic-sensitive structure, and the training for staff, the hotel meets the highest international benchmarks. Rather than accept mediocrity, Afghanistan's reconstruction is an opportunity to draw upon the world's state-of-the-art technologies and standards, using them to jump-start the national economy and help bring it to a new and higher plane.'
Prince Amyn Aga Khan, brother of His Highness, and Chairman of Serena Tourism Promotion Services, said he hoped this first Serena Hotel in Afghanistan would become 'a hub of life of this city, the venue of choice for meetings, for relaxation and for business' and that it would pave the way for the hotel group to build more in the region.
Eight development agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network are engaged in a range of economic, social and cultural programmes in support of Afghanistan's redevelopment, in the fields of health, education, microfinance, rural development, infrastructure, and the restoration and preservation of important heritage sites. (See Note 1 for more information about the AKDN).
The Aga Khan Fund of Economic Development (AKFED), an AKDN agency, is making strategic commercial investments in sectors that are important to the development of Afghanistan's economy. In addition to the Kabul Serena Hotel, AKFED also is helping build telecommunications infrastructure in Afghanistan through Roshan, the country's leading mobile phone company. (See Note 2 for more information about AKFED).
The redevelopment of the Kabul Serena Hotel was made possible with the help of equity investments from the Norwegian Investment Fund for Developing Countries (NORFUND) and the Nederlandse Financierings-Maatschappij Voor Ontwikkelingslandeen N.V. (FMO), and a loan from the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank (IFC).
Located in the centre of the city, the Kabul Serena Hotel overlooks the famous Zarnegar Park and is close to Embassies and Ministries. The hotel consists of 177 spacious rooms set around a central garden and swimming pool. It has two restaurants, banqueting and meeting facilities, health facilities, retail stores and a pastry shop. Serena Hotels has 23 properties in Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Tajikistan and now Afghanistan. A Serena Hotel is under construction in Kampala, Uganda, and others are planned for Dushanbe, Tajikistan, as well as Aleppo and Damascus, in Syria. (See Note 3.)

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