Most Americans hadn’t heard of Abbottabad, Pakistan before a team of Navy Seals conducted a raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound there in May 2011. But the Pakistani government is hoping to attract visitors and change the town’s image with plans for a $30 million amusement park.
The 50-acre park is aimed at boosting tourism in the area and has absolutely “nothing to do with Osama bin Laden,” said Syed Aqil Shah, the provincial minister for tourism and sports. In fact, officials claim that the park isn’t a response to bin Laden or the raid at all, but simply part of planned projects to encourage tourism throughout the province. That means it won’t be Al Qaeda World, but something a little more mainstream.
Plans for the park include a zoo, adventure sports facilities like rock climbing and paragliding, an artificial waterfall, jogging tracks, restaurants, and a heritage center. The project, which begins construction in late February or early March and could be open in as early as five years, is being funded through a private-public partnership and may eventually expand from 50 acres to 500 in later phases of development. (By comparison, Disneyland is just 160 acres.)
The compound in Abbottabad where bin Laden was killed was razed by the Pakistani government in early 2012 over concerns that it was attracting bin Laden supporters and could become a sort of shrine. Although a park on that now-empty location was initially suggested, according to Reuters, it was rejected for fear that it too might become a kind of terrorist attraction. The planned park will instead be located on the edge of the town alongside a river, about 30 miles north of Islamabad.
Within Pakistan, the town in the northwest province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, in the foothills of the Himalayas, is known for its lush green hills and as the home of the Pakistani Military Academy. At 4,000 feet elevation, Abbottabad is considerably cooler than the rest of the country during the summer, attracting well-to-do families on vacation with its proximity to attractions like the Silk Road.
Now, outside Pakistan, it’s hoping to be known for its giant amusement park instead of being known as bin Laden’s last hideout.