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  • Dubai
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • China
  • Hong Kongs
  • Mauratuis
  • Nepal
  • Azarbaijan


The second largest of the seven emirates which make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is located on the southern shore of the Arabian Gulf. It has an area of some 3,900 square kilometers. Outside the city itself, the emirate is sparsely inhabited and characterized by desert vegetation. Dubai lies between 55°16 East and 25°16 North.

Expatriates and foreign visitors – both male and female – can enjoy a relaxed and pleasant lifestyle in Dubai. There is virtually no crime, the city is clean, apartments and villas are modern and spacious and, surprisingly to many, the climate is not only tolerable, but also extremely pleasant for most of the year.

Dubai is to the Middle East what Hong Kong is to Asia: a capitalist jewel buzzing with activity. Most visitors to the region stop here for at least a day to browse the shops, eat in the restaurants and soak up the atmosphere of a city oozing wealth and a general air of self-satisfied confidence. Split into two by a long creek, a water taxi is an ideal starting point for orientation purposes and an opportunity to admire the modern, palatial architecture, the hallmark of a successful Arab state. There isn’t much here that isn’t glistening new. Even the traditional souks that attract thousands of visitors each year are packed with up-to-the-minute gadgets and the latest designer wear.


Malaysia boasts one of south-east Asia’s most vibrant economies, the fruit of decades of industrial growth and political stability.

Its multi-ethnic, multi-religious society encompasses a majority Muslim population in most of its states and an economically-powerful Chinese community. Consisting of two regions separated by some 640 miles of the South China Sea, Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories.

It is one of the region’s key tourist destinations, offering excellent beaches and brilliant scenery. Dense rainforests in the eastern states of Sarawak and Sabah, on the island of Borneo, are a refuge for wildlife and tribal traditions.

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Singapore is a hi-tech, wealthy city-state in south-east Asia, also known for the conservatism of its leaders and its strict social controls. The country comprises the main island – linked by a causeway and a bridge to the southern tip of Malaysia – and around 50 smaller islands. Once a colonial outpost of Britain, Singapore has become one of the world’s most prosperous places – with glittering skyscrapers and a thriving port. Most of its people live in public-housing tower blocks. They enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living, but also a system of punishments for acts deemed to be anti-social. Singapore is connected to the mainland by a causeway Continue reading the main story At-a-glance • Politics: The People’s Action Party has been the dominant force since independence from Malaysia in 1965 • Economy: Singapore’s strong economy is driven by electronics manufacturing and financial services • International: Several long-running disputes with Malaysia have been settled since 2001 Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring • Special Report: Singapore Direct Government-led initiatives have been aimed at boosting the birth-rate and encouraging Singaporeans to be more courteous. Citizens are urged to “Speak Good English” in place of a local slang known as “Singlish”.


Thailand is the only country in south-east Asia to have escaped colonial rule. Buddhist religion, the monarchy and the military have helped to shape its society and politics. The 1980s brought a boom to its previously agricultural economy and had a significant impact on Thai society as thousands flocked to work in industry and the services sector. Although Thailand’s recent governments have been civilian and democratically-elected, the country has seen turbulent times. The military governed, on and off, between 1947 and 1992 – a period characterised by coups, coup attempts and popular protests. Thailand is famed for its colourful traditional dancers Continue reading the main story At a glance • Politics: Army seized power in May 2014 only seven years after restoring civilian rule • Economy: Thailand has an export-led economy, but tourism is also a major industry • International: There have been clashes between Thai and Cambodian troops over disputed border regions since 2009 Country profile compiled by BBC Monitoring • Special Report: Thailand Direct The collapse of the south-east Asian economic boom in 1997 led to public disillusion with free-market policies and encouraged the rise of populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was reviled by the urban elites but enjoyed widespread support among the poor, particularly in rural areas.


China is the world’s most populous country, with a continuous culture stretching back nearly 4,000 years. Many of the elements that make up the foundation of the modern world originated in China, including paper, gunpowder, credit banking, the compass and paper money. China stagnated for more than two decades under the rigid authoritarianism of early communist rule and its late leader, Chairman Mao. But China now has the world’s fastest-growing economy and is undergoing what has been described as a second industrial revolution. It has also launched an ambitious space exploration programme, involving plans to set up a space station by 2020. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) was founded in 1949 after the Communist Party defeated the previously dominant nationalist Kuomintang in a civil war. The Kuomintang retreated to Taiwan, creating two rival Chinese states – the PRC on the mainland and the Republic of China based on Taiwan.

Hong Kongs

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Mauritius, a volcanic island of lagoons and palm-fringed beaches in the Indian Ocean, has a reputation for stability and racial harmony among its mixed population of Asians, Europeans and Africans. The island has maintained one of the developing world’s most successful democracies and has enjoyed years of constitutional order. It has preserved its image as one of Africa’s few social and economic success stories. Once reliant on sugar as its main crop export, Mauritius was hit by the removal of European trade preferences but has successfully diversified into textiles, upmarket tourism, banking and business outsourcing. The strategy helped the island’s economy weather the world financial crisis of 2008-9 better than expected.


With its ancient culture and the Himalayas as a backdrop, landlocked Nepal has a romantic image. It is nonetheless one of the world’s poorest countries, and is struggling to overcome the legacy of a 10-year Maoist insurrection. Until Nepal became a republic in May 2008, it had been ruled by monarchs or a ruling family for most of its modern history in relative isolation. A brief experiment with multi-party politics in 1959 ended with King Mahendra suspending parliament and taking sole charge in 1962.


Oil-rich Azerbaijan gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 amid political turmoil and against a backdrop of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh. It has been famed for its oil springs and natural gas sources since ancient times, when Zoroastrians, for whom fire is an important symbol, erected temples around burning gas vents in the ground. In the 19th century this part of the Russian empire experienced an unprecedented oil boom which attracted international investment. By the beginning of the 20th century Azerbaijan was supplying almost half of the world’s oil.