Even before the dust had settled, all I could think about was getting myself to Abbottabad. I justified this travel urge to myself by praising the city’s quirky British heritage, fine, temperate climate and stunning views from the surrounding Sarban Hills. But the reality is, I’d just love to take a look around the bin Laden digs and smell this dramatic, violent moment in history.
And if reports are correct, it appears that local hoteliers have every expectation that the end of bin Laden will be the start of something big for Abbottabad.
All of this has got me wondering…
Why is it that so many places connected to events of immense horror, bloodshed and death become macabre beacons for travellers like me?
- Ground Zero, NYC
- Anzac Cove, Gallipoli
- The Texas Schoolbook Depository, Dallas
- The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, Phnom Penh
- Tiananmen Square, Beijing
- Hotel Chelsea, New York
- The Sari Club, Bali
- The Ghandi Assassination Museum, New Delhi
- The battlefields of Gettysburg
- Pont de l’Alma Tunnel, Paris
- River Kwai Bridge, Thailand
- Countless British dungeons and towers
Some of these places I sought out. Others just drifted into my awareness as I approached them. But all of them pushed an emotional button that I can’t quite put my finger on.
One thing I do know is that it’s not just me. I’m not some creepy loner who seeks out the most gruesome places on the planet for grim kicks. You don’t have to dig too far to find academic papers on this so-called Dark Tourism - travel that puts the grim back in pilgrimage. Most end up asking the same questions:
Is Dark Tourism the dirty little secret of the tourism industry?
And, is it right to cash in on tragedy?
I don’t know the answer to either of those, but I'd be quite happy to part with good money to be shown around the inconspicuous bin Laden hideout in a place I'd never heard of until a few weeks back.
Abbottabad’s place in infamy is assured and it will be a name long remembered. Its future is bound to be significant as it becomes the focal point of some major diplomatic and geopolitical moves yet to be played out.
So even in death, it’s clear Osama bin Laden still has a cold finger on some of the chess pieces. And, with both Abbottabad and Ground Zero on my bucketlist, it appears he has his hand in my wallet, too.