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Gulmarg, Feb 18 (UNI) Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today said the state is fortunate enough to have enchanting natural beauty as also a rich cultural and religious heritage which makes it a crown of India.

Jammu and Kashmir offers a variety of experiences for the tourists which no other part of the world can offer so much, Mr Azad said after declaring the 5th National Winter Games-2008 open here this afternoon.

He requested the participants and tourists, including those who had come from abroad, to act as ambassadors of Jammu and Kashmir and share their experiences with people of their area.

Tell the people how peaceful, beautiful and hospitable Jammu and Kashmir is, he said and expressed the hope that this would encourage others to visit the state and go back with pleasant memories.

Mr Azad said Kashmir has been the pioneer and backbone of Indian tourism because it offers more than just scenic beauty.

He said more than forty kinds of handicrafts are being made even today.

The Chief Minister said tourists who come to Jammu and Kashmir want to take back a Kashmiri carpet, a world famous shawl, a beautiful wood or paper machie product.

He said our famous chefs called waazaas can make 40 to 50 different types of meat dishes. Tourists, he added, are also fascinated by the experience of living in houseboat and sailing on shikara boats.

''We welcome tourists from every part of the country and abroad'', he said and added that it was a matter of great satisfaction that Gulmarg has always remained peaceful even during the turmoil of which the state is emerging out now.

He said Gulmarg had a reason to be peaceful for it is the valley of flowers and flower is a symbol of peace and love.

Mr Azad said it was the poet-king of Kashmir Yousuf Shah Chak who would come here with the legendary poetess Habba Khatoon and it is he who in 1581 first called this place Gulmarg meaning a meadow of flowers.

Mr Azad invited the tourists to visit this place in spring and summer to have a real view of the meadow of flowers which is also an attraction for the golfers as it is one of the highest, famous and oldest golf course in the world.

The Chief Minister said Gulmarg is a unique resort not only because of its location and surroundings but also because it is only one hour drive from the international airport of Srinagar.

He said no other Ski resort of this grandeur can boost to be so close to an international airport and also be so easily accessible.

UNI BAS BDP KN1713

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