Monday, 2 May 2011

Osama Bin Laden's Compound in Abbottabad Has Tourist Destination Potential

Last night, when President Barack Obama announced the killing of terrorist al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, history was made at the same time as a town in Pakistan lost its innocence. Abbottabad was named by Barack as the place in which bin Laden had made his mansion hideout home. He wasn't in caves, he wasn't in Afghanistan, and he wasn't going to escape this time. A recently built home, surrounded by walls and within an affluent community, was where the last stand between Osama and the USA took place, with the US' Navy SEALS emerging victorious in under 40 minutes of covert operations.
As such, Abbottabad is today the center of much curiosity; it's even been trending on Twitter all night thanks to Abbottabad-based Twitter user Sohaib Athar@ReallyVirtual—who lives in the town and who unknowingly live-tweeted the mission several days ago, hearing as he did helicopters overhead and bursts. Sohaib moved to the relative calm of Abbottabad to work on his IT business and escape the fighting in Lehore, Pakistan. This isn't all that extraordinary, since Abbottabad is a huge tourist destination; in fact it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Pakistan.

Sohaib's TwitPic of a main road, pretty empty because of roadblocks
If you zoom in on Google Maps, you can get almost near enough to taking a virtual walk around town. Aside from the Arabic names on almost everything and the lack of big-box retail stores, Abbottabad could be a town in California. Tourists love it for its mountain views, attractions (a swinging bridge and cricket stadium!), cooler temperatures when the rest of the country is sizzling, and its location on the Karakoram Highway, which follows the ancient path of the Silk Road. Many, many schools and colleges are located here, as is the Pakistan Military Academy.
Here's yet another view of sunny daily life in Abbottabad. It doesn't seem that bad at all, which comes as a huge surprise since most everyone imagined Osama hiding out in some dirty cave without facilities, or maybe a hole in the ground like Saddam Hussein. But no—here he was enjoying his walled house in a tourist city within walking distance of coffee houses and great restaurants also enjoyed by the town's student, affluent and tourist populations.
Now we're left wondering whether or not Abbottabad's tourism will turn to include the site of Osama's compound. The town actually sounds like a pretty great Spring Break alternative right now; a postcard from Abbottabad this month would be highly collectible, after all...

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