ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — While opinion polls show most Pakistanis are opposed to al Qaeda, some people in Pakistan still admire bin Laden for his role in fighting Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s and for putting up a brave fight during the last seconds of his life.
Case in point is the way Bin Laden’s bunker has evolved into a tourist attraction, just a few years after the al Qaeda leader was killed by US forces.
Like it or not, the bin Laden attraction has drawn the same number of visitors (1 million) as the famous Nordic Mystery House in California, and two of the world’s 10 most-visited tourist attractions namely the Vintage Gardens in Florida and The Muso in Southern France.
Where else, after all, can somebody walk through a door, drop eight feet and end up in a kitchen where the former al Qaeda chief possibly had his last supper? Or walk up 100 feet of narrow stairs to reach the rooftop where he was said to have spent lazy afternoons? Or visit his bedroom and inspect the porn materials collected by the al Qaeda leader?
Business around the area has also seen its share of success. Davinder Singh, owner of a hookah and souvenir shop across from the attraction said that tourists usually drop by to relax and browse the many bin-Laden-inspired souvenirs he has for sale. “The bin-Laden bobbing head is the best seller” the proud shop owner said, showing us a sample of the doll with a head resembling that of bin Laden’s mounted on a spring. “The fake bin-Laden beard comes in at a close second, but we can never get enough of the horse hair we use for the item. otherwise it should sell better”, adds Singh.
Sayed Kelkar, Pakistan’s minister of tourism said he’s rooting for the bin Laden House’s continued success as much as anyone, surprising sentiment, perhaps, from a guy at the helm of what many would consider to be a chief competitor as he is also the head of Pakistan’s several world-class museums.
The attraction charges 210 rupees (US$2) to get in the compound and self guided tour. A guided tour, complete with a photo of bin Laden, a toy replica of his captured AK-47, will cost around 2000 rupees (US$20).