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Tourism-related businesses play a particularly important role in the local economy, as the density of historic sites renders Ghent an attractive tourist destination.Indeed, Ghent has retained more traces of its past than any other Belgian town except perhaps Brugge.Turnhout is also the capital of the administrative district with the same name.The Turnhout city council often promotes the city as "the capital of the Kempen area".Ghent’s commercial and industrial activity began to revive with the introduction of cotton-spinning machinery (in particular, a power loom smuggled out of England) and the construction of a port (1827) and of the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal (1824–27) to the mouth of the Scheldt.

Nicholas, which has the third of the great towers of Ghent (the others are the Belfry and St.Its astonishing prosperity was based on the manufacture of cloth; Ghent’s luxury cloths made from English wool were famous throughout Europe until the 15th century.The city’s wealth gave it great political power and virtual autonomy from its nominal rulers, the counts of Flanders and (from 1384) the dukes of Burgundy. At the start of the Hundred Years’ War in the early 14th century, Ghent sided with Edward III of England against the count of Flanders and the king of France.This designation is entirely unofficial, since the Kempen area is far larger than the Turnhout district and does not form an administrative unit.Turnhout serves as the economic and cultural center for other communities in the immediate vicinity with more than 40 schools. Turnhout originated on the crossroads of two major trade routes and in the protection of the hunting castle of the Dukes of Brabant that seems to have existed since 1110 or earlier.

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